How old for Doctor Who?

My old high school mate Konrad asked (a little while back now): How old were your boys when you introduced them to Dr Who and do you think it was the right age? I ask as I’m wondering how old my daughter will have to be before I can introduce her to him.

I think it was early-2003 when I first bought the DVD of Carnival of Monsters and showed it to Isaac, who was 7 or 8 at the time (Jeremy would have been 5).

Don't blink!One of the reasons I chose that story was because the boys were first starting to get interested in visual effects, and amongst the extras on the disc was a demonstration of Colour Separation Overlay (the BBC’s name for chroma key, or blue/green screen), with early-70s producer Barry Letts showing off how to use it. The story was pretty good too, with strange alien blokes, dinosaur-like “Drashigs”, and the Doctor and Jo miniaturised and scurrying through the Scope machine.

As I recall it, Jeremy wasn’t particularly interested, but Isaac was. And we dug out The Five Doctors DVD I had. It’s a bit more scary/violent than Carnival of Monsters, and I recall him initially reacting adversely to the massacre of the Cybermen by the Master. I suppose in retrospect it was quite unlike any television or movies he’d watched before then, with the possible exception of Harry Potter.

We started buying a few more DVDs, and when in late 2003 the ABC started showing all the classic episodes, Isaac watched it every night. He was hooked.

And of course when the new series came along, and we’ve all watched that. (For several years the BBC had a “Fear Forecast” panel of kids — which might be useful.)

So, for Isaac, seven was the age. Every kid’s different of course, and like anything of this nature, a parental discretion, supervision and guidance will help.

Doctor Who 2010

So, Doctor Who for 2010 (except the Christmas episode) has finished. I reserved judgement of the new crew (both the cast and the new producers/writers) until their episodes aired. They didn’t disappoint.

[Spoilers below for those of you who have not seen the end of the 2010 series yet.]

The Eleventh Hour — a nice bit of time-travelling from author and new Doctor Who supremo Stephen Moffat, similar to Girl in the Fireplace. The long time fans would have loved the closing scene clipshow, and it prompted us in my house to try Fish Custard the following week.

The Beast Below — interesting idea, a country on a spaceship. Loved new monarch Liz 10. “Basically, I rule.” The scene in the monster’s mouth didn’t quite gel; wouldn’t they have been sucked out into space? And the jump cut when they exit was to be the first of several jarring scenes in this year’s early episodes where you get the feeling they didn’t show some critical moment because they couldn’t afford the special effects.

Victory of the Daleks — throw two British icons together: the war-time spirit (including Churchill, the Blitz, and Spitfires) and Daleks. Some amusing scenes with the Daleks serving tea, but nothing really clever here, though I did like the “Hey! Paisley!” Is it a cynical view to think the new multicoloured Daleks were an invention of the merchandising department to maximise sales? Hey kids, collect all the colours!

The Time of Angels/Flesh and Stone — ooh yeah. Blink meets the Library. River Song (and the crash of the Byzantium, originally mentioned back in the Library) and the Weeping Angels, with armed-to-the-teeth clerics thrown in. Great stuff, and genuinely suspenseful, with an Angel emerging from the video footage, and the crack in time revealed to not just be an in-the-background-until-the-end-of-the-series trope, but instead directly confronting the Doctor. (But again, the jump cut onto the roof of the Byzantium at the start of the second episode.)

Doctor Who finale 2010

Vampires in Venice — an enjoyable-enough romp, but no clever plot or new ideas. Apparently filmed in Trogir, Croatia, where the Veniteans settled and there is still Venitian architecture untouched by the ravages of tourism. I think the idea of the aliens wanting to shut down the city was too far understated, as most of the time it appeared to be thriving, not a threat. Loved the Rory/Francesco sword fight and the Doctor’s library card.

Amy’s Choice — given it was written by the author of Men Behaving Badly, maybe it should have been subtitled Pensioners Behaving Badly. It was something a bit different, and one’s left wondering who really was the Dream Lord — was the Doctor’s hypothesis correct, and will he show up again? (Another jump cut when the Doctor blows up the TARDIS.)

The Hungry Earth/Cold Blood — gotta admit, despite the return of the Silurians (from circa 1970, and again in 1984), this one didn’t really grab me. Until the closing few minutes. Whoa. Not only did they kill off a companion, they twisted the knife extra hard by completely removing him from time. A genuinely surprising moment. I was left wondering if the series finale would somewhow revisit this.

Vincent and the Doctor — RomCom King Richard Curtis’s episode. It could have done without the invisible chicken, but the portrayal of Van Gogh’s depression was uncharted territory for the show, and handled well, I thought. The emotional closing scene grabbed me, too.

The Lodger — more Doctor Who meets Men Behaving Badly. Some very funny scenes with the Doctor trying to fit in with the humans (spot the number 11 on his jersey?). Actually, I wonder if the soccer element was cunningly put-in as a World Cup tie-in. The Confidential (making-of) episode had some very funny footage of James Corden (Craig) telling the audience that actually Matt Smith can’t kick a ball at all; it was added later with CGI.

The Pandorica Opens — ooh yeah. Stonehenge. (The real one, no less, at least for some shots.) Big heapem monsters. River’s back. So’s Rory! But he’s not. Ho boy, a climactic ending.

The Big Bang — Some fun mucking about with time. Fezzes are cool. The suspicion that the moment back in Flesh and Stone where the Doctor “incorrectly” appears wearing his jacket was actually a hint of things to come was proven right. Really loved the use of Something old, something new… at the end; it had me virtually punching the sky (in my mind at least). Good stuff, with only a slight groan when they hinted at what’s in the Christmas special — sounds like previous producer RTD‘s Titanic again.

All in all, some great moments, and yes, I think Matt Smith makes a good Doctor.

By the way, producer/head-writer Stephen Moffat is now on Twitter.

Oh, and well-done ABC1 for managing to air this year’s episodes within a fortnight of their BBC1 broadcast. It rated quite well for them, at just under a million people each week, their top-rated programme most Sundays… and an outstanding result for a scifi series.

Almost sci-fi pictures

There was a bloke on the train covering his eyes. A picture of him could be captioned: Don’t blink!

But it would be wrong to publish such a photo without his permission.

Instead I give you this, found in a street in Footscray. Let’s hope it’s bigger on the inside.
Very small TARDIS, Footscray

And it was nice to see this in Dudley Street, West Melbourne.
Max headroom

Doctor Who birthdate game

Just a game I thought of: what Doctor Who episode aired on or closest to your birthday?

Check this list to find out.

(I guess those born before 1963 or in the 90s will probably gravitate to one of two episodes…)

Me: Inferno, episode 7 (third Doctor, 1970). This was a classic slow burn story (excuse the pun) and episode 7 included the resolution from one of my favourite cliffhangers ever.

If I had the time, I’d whip up an applet to do the hard work for you, but I don’t, sorry.

Brief things

Haven’t blogged for a bit, so here’s a brief catch-up.

I helped Tony and Rae and family move last week. The inevitable comment that pops up when geeks move house: packing the moving van is like Tetris. Of course, when you get a full row of boxes, they don’t disappear and make more space…

FireworksThe kids and I watched the early (9:15pm) NYE fireworks a short distance away from the action — Richmond Station platform 4, which unlike the city centre, was not crowded at all, apart from half-a-dozen Connex security guys also watching. They said their shift was from 5pm to 3am. The view was certainly better than from the park near home, where we watched last year, though of course not as good as being in the thick of it.

My Wii fitness level has been up and down, all over the place. The best: 28, the worst: 56. Marita, it turns out, is very good at Wii boxing, knocking-out virtual people with some enthusiasm.

I’ve been playing Scrabble via Facebook with a few friends, mostly local. I was challenged to a game by a friend in Canada, but stupidly, the North American Scrabble is only available in the US and Canada, while the one we have in Australia is only available outside North America… so much for the global village.

Rose would have been 30 on Friday, and the family gathered to pay their respects. It was doubly sobering to see that in the Nagambie cemetery, she now has a neighbour, apparently a local woman in her 40s who also died in a car accident.

On a happier note, the Doctor Who Christmas special will air in Australia on January 25th. You can watch the first couple of minutes here.

A Doctor Who spoiler follows…
Continue reading

Doctor Who 2008

Doctor and DonnaI enjoyed this season. I know I’ve loved the show for decades, but they do seem to keep coming up with new, clever stuff.

Voyage of the Damned: A little over-long and plodding in places. I suppose it was a Christmas episode.

Partners in Crime: Got the shock of my life at the end when Rose appeared, even though I had heard she’d be coming back. Other than that, not a spectacular story, but enjoyable enough.

The Fires of Pompeii: Good stuff. Liked the Roman name and Celtic gags. The Confidential episode that went with it showed David Tennant walking around the ruins of Pompeii, which was interesting.

Planet of the Ood: The Simpsons reference had the kids laughing. I was scratching my head until I worked out the boss character was Tim McInnerny. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one to think Eww when he turned into an Ood.

The Sontaran Stratagem / The Poison Sky: Hooray, the Sontarans! Hooray, Martha’s back! Hooray, so is UNIT! Laughed at the reference to the UNIT dating controversy. Chief Sontaran played by Christopher “Mike Thecoolperson” Ryan. Naturally I liked the transport politics references too.

The Doctor’s Daughter: Given the name and premise, I thought I was going to hate this, until I saw how she was created. Some neat stuff with the dating on the city sections. I’m assuming we’ll see more of Jenny in the future.

The Unicorn and the Wasp: What, two historical stories in one season? Good stuff, it kept me guessing until the end. I liked the idea of the alien basing its activities around Agatha Christie’s plots.

Silence in the Library / Forest of the Dead: Oh Stephen Moffat, you are a genius, and not just because you managed to again use wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey stuff and childhood fears made real. The whole thing had me guessing until right near the end, Doctor Moon had me creeped out at first, and the Vashta Nerada is pure brilliance. The River Song character was terrific too, though I wonder if we’ll ever see her past when she meets the Doctor.

Midnight: This year they did the main actor’s time-off over two stories. I thought this story was interesting, both for the alien that was invisible, and the way they played the “trapped in a room” plot, involving people who might consider themselves normally civilised going feral on each other.

Turn Left: Best story of the year, I thought. Bringing back the last year or two’s events and seeing how they would have played without the Doctor being involved — very clever. The acting — including minor characters like the Italian housemate bloke — was great, and it really brought out how much Donna matured throughout the series. The only thing that let it down slightly was the beetle. What a cliffhanger!

The Stolen Earth / Journey’s End: There’s no doubt about it, executive producer Russell T Davies loves a shock-and-awe season finale; he does them every year. But just when I thought I was tiring of them, this had some clever stuff, plenty of returning friends and villains, celebs like Richard Dawkins, tying up a multitude of plot threads and… well, the ultimate in nostalgia, Sarah Jane meeting Davros again for the first time since 1975. I found the ending poignant — the “loss” of Donna (or at least that whole aspect of her) was quite sad. Let’s just hope she doesn’t run into Martha or Sarah Jane or Mickey or Jack in the street…

The year’s episodes might have started a little slowly, but they built up to a great conclusion. (Go look at the early ones again and you’ll find clever forward references, like mentions of the missing planets, bees, and Lucius in the Pompeii episode telling Donna “There’s something on your back!”)

Looking forward to what happens next.