...with a few very quick thoughts on the big news which broke last weekend...the biggest news to hit DOCTOR WHO in some time. Namely: the departure of Matt Smith from the show in this December (details HERE). We won’t get into the ‘hows’ and ‘whys’ of his departure at the moment - as not many details are clear, and...at the end of the day...such a journey would only bring us to the same destination - the reality that he’s leaving.
So, looking forward a bit, I thought it might be fun to consider the elements we HOPE to find in whichever Doctor will follow Smith’s iteration. Here are my thoughts in brief - by all means discuss your own hopes and fears and preferences in the Docback below!
I think it would be extremely interesting to keep John Hurt in play as the Doctor for a while. His somber gravity could serve as an amazing counterbalance to Matt Smith’s rambunctiousness, could play well against Clara’s ceaseless effervescence and independence, and might go a long way towards ‘legitimizing’ the show in the eyes of prospective or hesitant viewers.
Perhaps, as Ken Plume suggests, Hurt could undertake a ‘redemptive arc’ of some sort - set out to clear the name of the Doctor and atone for the character’s voluminous missteps both seen and unseen. Perhaps Matt Smith remains in the Doctor’s time stream eternally, and John Hurt simply steps out to take the lead? I.e. perhaps Smith won’t regenerate at all, but will simply be replaced?
Do I think this is possible? Absolutely.
Do I think it’s likely? Not terribly. I suspect we’ll get a new Doctor.
If so, what kind of Doctor should we have next?
When thinking back over the past few iterations of the character (beginning with McGann), there’s a certain through line - a certain charm - a certain safety running beneath each interpretation of the role. McGann, Eccleston, Tennant, and Smith are all profoundly different actors to be sure - but if you look closely, you’ll find certain similarities ...a youthfulness, a comfortable quality, casting which does not challenge. In short...as much as I like each of the actors for very disparate reasons, their casting in the role has been a tad undaring.
While my PERSONAL preference would be to next skew towards an older actor than has played the part in a while, in this instance I think age matters less than quality. NOT quality of performance ability - but objective quality. Is he an angry Doctor? A funny one? A tortured soul? A desperate man? A Casanova? An aspergery genius like Cumberbatch’s Sherlock? A punk kid who shoulders the burden of hundreds and hundreds of years of life, but lacks the maturity to understand their meaning or consequence? The possibilities are limitless.
One thing I think ALL iterations of the show has been missing (or not fully exploiting) since its relaunch is a an element ‘classic’ WHO handled very, very well - that each Doctor is a radically different personae from his last go-round. I am desperately hoping that whatever new Doctor we’ll soon be meeting brings the same kind of “wow - what a different person!” reaction that used to characterize regenerations in the old days. Colin Baker was as far as one could get from Peter Davison, for example. And Sylvester McCoy was a radical departure from C. Baker. The same can be said for Pertwee out of Troughton. Or Troughton out of Hartnell, for that matter.
Let the new Doctor take us back a little...let him/her shock the audience, and shock Clara (supposing she remains the companion in the wake of Smith's departure). And, take a page from the book of Colin Baker, who’d imagined his often unlikeable Doctor as an ever-shifting work in progress...who would start out in a not very grand place regarding the way he perceived himself and the people and world around him...and was hoping to move his Doctor towards more heroic, and more approachable spin as the years went on. He never really got the chance to play this arc to fruition.
Why not approach the next Doctor the same way? As someone who has flaws or abilities which define him/her uniquely - but also as someone who must come to terms with their flaws or abilities. Not a literal example, but an illustration: imagine a huge fucking badass Doctor who is essentially a wrecking ball, but must slowly find and adapt to the heart and intellect and capabilities within him...a journey which sometimes rubs up against his more primal or forceful nature? I.e. perhaps the next Doctor could be a Worf or Data or a Spock? Someone on a voyage of self-discovery and self-definition and in search of...balance?
These are all just thoughts which I’m rattling off in an undeveloped stream-of-consciousness. What do YOU think?
Big Finish Companion Chronicles 4.05. Ringpullworld
Companion Chronicles 5.03. Find and Replace
By Paul Magrs
This week, as I do my monthly look back to old Big Finish audios, I am giving a review of two different “Companion Chronicles” stories. The Companion Chronicles are written and performed to highlight the Doctor’s companions rather than the Doctor. They can be adventures they had with the Doctor, or stories about who and what they are later in life remembering something of their time with the Doctor. The style of the series is mixed: some are barely more than an audio book, while others, like these two, are experimental in style and execution, allowing for something different (and rather enjoyable). The “audio book” style stories are ones I generally dislike (there are exceptions to this), and for this reason I don’t buy many Companion Chronicles stories. The story has to promise something special for me to buy it, and these two, though told by different companions, contain a common conceit between the two of them, making them a perfect pair of Companion Chronicles to listen to together (as well as to review them together).
The conceit is Huxley, a “novelizer” from Verbatim Six, played by Alex Lowe. These novelizers are a race which likes to attach themselves to subjects and give running narratives of the lives of their subject, as if writing a book about the events happening around them. They can and often do annoy their subject, and even try to brainwash them (if need be, for the story). They have a psychic link with the subject of their tale, making it so they can’t be easily dismissed – the novelizer has to leave on his own (and this link allows them to know what their subject is thinking, so as to be able to narrate well).
Now, in many ways, the novelizer can and does act like a narrator of a normal story, so one might wonder, how does their presence make the audios different from a normal audio book? It’s because they are an actor in the story, interacting with their subject (and the events surrounding them). They can fulfill the role of a typical audio book narrator but they do it in such a way that brings into question the reliability (and sanity) of the narrator, creating a different kind of meta-story. And it works in these audios. Moreover, Huxley has his own voice, his own persona, and his interaction with his subject differs according to his subject and the adventure itself – not in a way which contradicts Huxley’s nature but highlights the questions one can and should have with any and every narrator in any story.
Ringpullworld is a Turlough-based story. It also introduces the concept of the “narrators,” and even gives us a glimpse of more than one of them (because the Doctor and all his companions get one in this story). It is the first Huxley story, though, obviously, one doesn’t need to listen to this story to listen to his second tale (Find and Replace).
Huxley forms a rather interesting relationship with Turlough because Turlough sees in Huxley his old “friend” Hippo and treats Huxley like he would treat Hippo, sometimes listening to him, sometimes telling him off. He even engages the practice of ‘narrating’ to show his own skill with it at one point of the story. The way they engage each other is a part of what makes this story entertaining. The story itself has some interesting conceits, better than what the description Big Finish gives would lead one to expect:
Vislor Turlough is in trouble again: piloting a stolen ship through a pocket universe on a mission that is strictly forbidden by the Doctor. He would be going it alone, but there is unwelcome company in the form of Huxley, one of the legendary novelisors of Verbatim Six, who is narrating and recording Turlough’s life.
As they hurtle towards unknown peril, Turlough recalls his arrival in the TARDIS, and the circumstances that propelled himself, the Doctor and Tegan into the Ringpull universe. He has a story to tell. But only Huxley knows how it might end…
I like the way the story enfolds, especially the second half when Turlough is shown possible outcomes to the tale. We end with Turlough about to discover which it will be (and it should be obvious to the listener which outcome actually happened). This is a treat for a Turlough fan like myself, and this story is one of my favorites of the Companion Chronicles. I give it an 8/10.
Find and Replace brings the return of Huxley, but he comes with a new, interesting mix: he has put himself upon an elderly Jo Grant, and tries to convince Jo that she once was the companion and associate of Iris Wildthyme (and not the Doctor!). He tells her that she was brainwashed into believing she was with UNIT in order to protect Iris, and he uses his mental connection with Jo to confuse her, to make her remember things which didn’t happen, to make it seem plausible (except for what she remembers of the Doctor, elements which keep her wanting to confirm who she is and what she did).
For those who do not know the character, Iris is a rather amusing (though over the top) character created in Doctor Who spinoffs. She is a Time Lord whose TARDIS is in the shape of a Red London Double-Decker bus, which happens to be “slightly smaller on the inside” than out (due to its own malfunctions). She is rather loopy and has a big crush on the Doctor. She often tries to get the Doctor’s attention through adventures she has which are similar to (and in imitation of, even in parody of) his own. She is sort of an eccentric, drunken, auntie going through time and space. And she is played by Katy Manning (just as Jo Grant is), in many of the audios. For those who have ever met or seen Katy, there is more of Katy in Iris than in Jo Grant (and so when Katy does Jo, it shows how good an actress she can be, calming things down while Iris allows Katy to be as crazy as she seems in person – a good kind of crazy, but crazy nonetheless).
Thus, this audio has more than one conceit: not only do we see the return of Huxley (who has taken a darker, more dominating and controlling turn since his adventure with Turlough), we see Katy Manning doing two characters, and doing them quite well. Jo is taken to Iris, and Iris, knowing what the novelizer is, tells Jo to play along until they can find some way to get rid of him. Iris takes them all back in time so that Jo can prove to herself her memory is indeed correct – she is taken to 1970s UNIT. And here, the story can be, and is quite charming, as she encounters Benton and eventually, the Doctor. The story does a good job at bringing Jo and her life in focus all the while being fun and entertaining. I give it a 8/10 though really, the two audios, despite how different the stories actually are, I think work great as a double-billing and really show what the Companion Chronicles could do when done right. I highly recommend both of them.
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