The latest in my series of Reviews of the Matt Smith Doctor Who years

Summary: The Doctor takes Clara on her first trip to another planet but will a fun cultural ceremony mean doom?

Plot: After traveling through Clara’s pass The Doctor takes her they enjoy a market place and a ceremony where Clara meets and befriends the young girl at the center of the event, when the event starts to go wrong the Doctor and Clara find themselves the only thing between not only a young girls life, but of thousands of others.

Writing: The oddest thing about Neil Cross’ story is just how formulaic is it. Watching it was like watching so many run of the mill episodes of the series over the decades, wonder, danger, threat impossible task, resolution, except the actual finish frankly seems weak.

Acting: This is an odd one to judge, there are no bad performances in this episode yet absolutely nothing that stands out. This is not the result you want as an actor.

Anniversary Flashback 1st Doctor: The Reference to his granddaughter.

Memorable Moments: the ball, the “taxi”

Oddities: The doctor hesitates giving up his sonic screwdriver but it’s well established that not only can build himself another one but the TARDIS can too.

Pet Peeves: If the potential of an unlived live was too much for the villain to manage doesn’t that mean almost anyone could have destroyed it?

Great Quote:

The Doctor: I have lived a long life and I have seen a few things. I walked away from the last great Time War, I marked the passing of the Time Lords, I saw the birth of the universe and I watched as time ran out, moment by moment until nothing remained, no time, no space, just me. I walked in universes where the laws of physics were devised by the mind of a mad man.I watched universes freeze and creations burn,I have seen things you wouldn’t believe, I have lost things you will never understand – and I know things, secrets that must never be told, knowledge that must never be spoken… knowledge that will make parasite gods blaze! So come on then! Take it!


Final Verdict: 3 1/2 stars not a bad episode, not a great episode very ordinary

Ranking of Season 7 8th of 9

1. The Bells of St. John
2. The Power of three
3. The Snowmen
4. The Doctor, The Widow and the Wardrobe
5. Dinosaurs on a Spaceship
6. A Town Called Mercy
7. Asylum of the Daleks
8. The Rings of Akhaten
9. The Angels Take Manhattan

Ranking in Matt Smith Era to this point (top 10 shown)

1. The Bells of St. John
2. Let’s Kill Hitler
3. The Girl who waited
4. The Doctor’s Wife
5. The Pandorica Opens
6. A Good Man Goes to War
7. The Eleventh Hour
8. The Big Bang
9. The Lodger
10. A Christmas Carol

IAN: If only you could stand away from this thing, you’d see it clearly. Autloc’s the extraordinary man here. He’s the reasonable one, the civilised one, the one that’s prepared to listen to advice. But he’s one man, Barbara. One man.

Doctor Who The Aztecs 1964

“Be it so. This burning of widows is your custom; prepare the funeral pile. But my nation has also a custom. When men burn women alive we hang them, and confiscate all their property. My carpenters shall therefore erect gibbets on which to hang all concerned when the widow is consumed. Let us all act according to national customs.”

General Charles Napier 1843.”

One of the most amazing terms that has become prevalent among the left is something they call cultural imperialism. The idea that all cultures and all practices are equally good and equally right and to impose one set of beliefs upon another people is a moral wrong.

The left unites on this subject as they do on few others, using it as a club against both Christianity and Western Civilization in general.  I recall the outrage when Ann Coulter a few days after September 11th with close friends newly slaughtered had this to say:

We should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity. We weren’t punctilious about locating and punishing only Hitler and his top officers. We carpet-bombed German cities; we killed civilians. That’s war

No doubt such sentiments were fueled by the newly dead in NY and Washington but a dozen years after she was pilloried for her statements as we prepare to leave the Afghan women to the tender mercies of the Taliban, Egypt to the tender mercies of the Muslim Brotherhood, Algeria, Syria and Libya to the tender mercies of Islamsts, the oil states to the tender mercies of an atomic Iran and debate aiding France in Mali against Radical Islamsits the time has come to re-consider our thinking about Islam in general and radical Islam in particular.

That being the case the thing that naturally comes to my mind to understand what is going on is…Doctor Who.

When the series was first launched the choice of a Science Teach and a History Teacher in the TARDIS was deliberate as stories would go from history based to science or sci-fi based.  In the current series whenever the Doctor and his friends end up in Earth history it’s invariably to deal with some kind of alien invasion or space threat threatening to change history, but in the early years of Dr. Who it was just interacting with the people of the time and dealing with whatever came up.

Yesterday BBC America played the 1964 1st Doctor Episode The Aztecs. With only 17 stories available in their entirety and not all of them 2 hours or less, the use of a historical story (meaning the cheesy special effects of 1964 are bypassed) combined with the reputation of the story as one of the best of the era it was an easy choice, but there is not a single story more relevant to events taking place today then this one.

The following contains spoilers so if you don’t want to know details about the episode skip to page 3, otherwise go to page 2 for a summary of Doctor Who and the Aztecs.

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and so we return to the present day. What were the lessons of that episode?

Barbara’s expertise on the Aztecs was in the classroom, when she said:

BARBARA: Ah, well, that was one of my specialties, Susan.

what she knew about the Aztecs came from her studies and while she was aware of the violent and bloodthirsty side of them, her civilized upbringing making it difficult to visualize the more brutal aspects of Aztec cultures (Considering her age and proximity to WW 2 that’s actually odd.  That she meets an exceptional man (Autloc) makes it all the more difficult for her to see the Aztecs as they are, yet even she doesn’t catch that while he is willing to consider her words he doesn’t reflexively reject their ways:

BARBARA:  To say there shall be no more human sacrifice?
AUTLOC:   I shall not oppose the gods if it is their will that such sacrifices cease.

Note the phraseology I shall not oppose, not:  “I believe it’s wrong,” or “I see what you mean.”  He is willing to reject human sacrifice because he sees it as the command of a god, not because it is inhumanity to his fellow-man.

And while Barbara doesn’t see the Aztec world as it is.  Ian who would have been of age for national service does and has been outside the temple does:

IAN: … If only you could stand away from this thing, you’d see it clearly. Autloc’s the extraordinary man here. He’s the reasonable one, the civilized one, the one that’s prepared to listen to advice. But he’s one man, Barbara. One man.

While the Dr. Who special notes the implications of history, the real story here is the difference between an abstract academic knowledge of a culture and practical experience living within it…

…and that neatly summarizes the educated and diplomatic left and the young fools they teach when it comes to Islam in general and Radical Islam in particular.

Islam has certain set of teachings, and they do not change.  Consider the recent case of a female Islamic Teacher who taught in school  that homosexuals should be incinerated:

The Islamic Religious Community presumes that after having spent a whole year near Mecca, she has lost sense of what one can say in a Western society.”

Note what the community doesn’t say:  “Incinerating Homosexuals is wrong“,  “We don’t believe in incinerating homosexuals” they say “she has lost the sense of what one can say in a Western Society“.

Let’s note that these are members of the Islamic community IN THE WEST, not in the Middle east.

Or consider the stoning in Dearborn here is a comment from the group that was stoned:

This is a police officer in uniform cheering the crowd on as they throw us out. Now, let me explain something. We preach to a lot of venues. We go to Mardi Gras, spring break, the Academy Awards, baseball games, plus we preach to a lot of religious people as well. Such as Salt Lake City, when the Pope comes to America, we have signs for him and we follow him in the city that he is in; some of the Evangelicals that are on TV that are nothing more than money hungry devils, we preach to them too.

Nobody gets violent except the Muslims. Yet they are under the umbrella of the ‘Religion of Peace.’ They are nothing more than people just waiting to attack us and because the sheriff’s department did nothing to those little kids throwing debris at us, all that did was fuel fire for these kids because they feel invincible. They throw things at us for an hour and a half, they got away with it, they screamed and hollered and we got kicked out of the event. They just fueled a monster that one day is going to strap a bomb on themselves and blow themselves up for their god and this sheriff’s department actually fueled that monster.

Again this is in an American City where this takes place, with Muslims who live in America, not in Iran or Egypt.

The bottom line is this:  diplomats, academics and celebrities tend to encounter a sanitized version of Islam if they actually encounter it at all. They are an army of Barbaras who see only what they’ve read and been told. Granted some of them do understand and don’t care for reasons I describe here, but most will never encounter Muslims as they are in their own land (as Lara Logan did) or in their own language as translated by MEMRI.

Let me give a personal example:

I will be having the Imam of the Fitchburg Mosque on my show next month (Feb 23rd 1 pm. I’ve interviewed him before and talked to him. He’s a pretty nice guy and the local Muslims have never been anything but friendly, but they are also in a Muslim sect called the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community.

In many ways the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community is what academic west dreams Islam to be:  they eschew violence and advocate Islam through argument and persuasion “Jihad of the tongue” per their founder.

He (Mirza Ghulam Ahmad) advocated a peaceful propagation of Islam and emphatically argued against the necessity of Jihad in its military form in the present age.

They believe Ahmad to be the messiah and like Autloc, obey said messiah.

Whenever radical Islamists or CAIR need an example of peaceful Islam the Ahmadiyya Muslims are pushed to the forefront however outside of the US in Muslim lands Ahmadiyya Muslims are a tiny sect considered non-believers by almost all mainstream Muslims and widely and at times violently persecuted outside of the west.

Yet these facts are ignored by the Army of Barbaras in the west. The fact that they are non-representative of Islam both in the US and internationally would shatter the image of Islam that they carry and they simply don’t want to accept it.

The time will come when their Ian will come along and acquaint them with the reality. Whether that Ian will be in the form of an argument such as the one I’ve made today or of an action that can’t be denied remains to be seen.

Hopefully said action will not be as fatal as the sacrifices made by the Aztecs.

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The TARDIS lands in pre-conquistador Mexico inside a tomb as the crew go outside they examine the area.  The Doctor’s grandchild Susan comments on the barbarism of the Aztecs but Barbara while putting on a bracelet counters:

BARBARA: Oh, that was only one side to their nature. The other side was highly civilized.
SUSAN: The Spanish didn’t think so.
BARBARA: They only saw the acts of sacrifice. That was the tragedy of the Aztecs. The whole civilization was completely destroyed, the good as well as the evil.

as Susan returns to the TARDIS to get the others a section of the wall opens and Barbara goes through it.  The Aztec high priest of knowledge Autloc sees her and orders her seized until they spot the bracelet.  When the other come through the door looking for her they are shocked to discover that Barbara is thought to be the reincarnation of the priest Yetaxa, but also discover there is no way to open the door from their side of the wall to the sealed tomb.

The Doctor takes advantage convincing Autloc and  the priest of sacrifice Tlotoxl to let them mingle with the people in the hopes of finding a way back through the temple to the TARDIS meanwhile Barbara is scheduled by the priests to appear at a ceremony to the Aztec rain god.

When the Doctor discovers a human sacrifice is to be made at the ceremony he quickly goes to Barbara to warn her not to interfere but Barbara, having none of it, decides to use her place as a God to stop human sacrifice once and for all.  Things don’t quite work out as planned:

BARBARA:   Stop. I, Yetaxa, command you. There shall be no more blood split.
MAN:   You have denied me honour.
TLOTOXL:   Honour us then with your death.
(the man jumps off the platform to his death)

This brings her under the suspicion of Tlotoxl who deems her a false goddess..  He demands the punishment of Susan who cried out at the impending sacrifice.  Autloc backs Barbara (Yetaxa) that Susan be instead schooled in proper Aztec ways.  When alone the Doctor scolds Barbara and suggests she play Autloc who still has faith in her off of Tlotoxl while he continues to look for a way back in the temple.

While Tlotoxl hatches plots to destroy or discredit  Barbara and the “servants of Yetaxa” who he sees as rivals to his power,  Autloc already impressed by Susan’s intelligence, speaks to Barbara.  She again tries to convince him that Human Sacrifice must end:

BARBARA:  Were you not angry when I forbade the sacrifice to the Rain God?
BARBARA: Do you question the value of such sacrifice?
AUTLOC:   I accepted it. But we send messengers to the gods, why should the gods not send a messenger to us?
BARBARA:  To say there shall be no more human sacrifice?
AUTLOC:   I shall not oppose the gods if it is their will that such sacrifices cease.

BARBARA: The High Priest of Knowledge speaks with great wisdom.
AUTLOC: If your words are denied, shall we not be living in defiance of the gods?

The Doctor befriends a woman Cameca who introduces him to the builder of the temple’s son Ixta, who unknown to the Doctor, has become Ian’s rival for command of the Aztec armies.  In exchange for aid to defeat “an enemy” (Ian) in combat The Doctor gains Ixta’s promise to see the temple plans

Meanwhile things continue to go poorly for Barbara as she has to overrule Aztec law to save the Doctor from punishment for violating an Aztec law while needing to resort to a knife to Tlotoxl throat to foil his and Ixta’s scheme to slay Ian when the Doctors slow acting drug takes effect.  That public embarrassment goes over poorly and continues to put Autloc, who still backs Barbara on the spot:

BARBARA: There’s to be an eclipse. And Tlotoxl will offer human blood so that the sun will shine again.
AUTLOC:   Yes.
BARBARA:   But it’s a trick! As the High Priest of Knowledge, you know the sun will shine again.
AUTLOC:   Unless the gods withdraw their favour from us.
BARBARA:   Am I not a god? Support me. Tlotoxl won’t dare defy us both.
AUTLOC:   If I take that course, there is no way back for me. In all humility, I beg you, do not deceive me or prove false to me.

After Ian overhears Tlotoxl conspiring with a 3rd priest Tonla to harm Barbara he goes to warn with her:

BARBARA:   I’ll watch them both. Tlotoxl’s dangerous. He seems able to bring people around to his way of thinking.
IAN:   You’ve got it all wrong, Barbara. All the people here share Tlotoxl’s views.
BARBARA: What about Autloc? I’m sick and tired of all this arguing and quarreling. First the Doctor and now you. Why can’t you see what I’m trying to do?

Barbara has been only in the temple with regular contact with Tlotoxl & Autloc while Ian has been among the people and sees thing differently

BARBARA:   Well you’re not helping. Tlotoxl’s evil and he’ll make everyone else the same.
IAN: They are the same, Barbara. That’s the whole point. You keep on insisting that Tlotoxl’s the odd man out, but he isn’t.
BARBARA:   I don’t believe it.
IAN:   Well, you must. If only you could stand away from this thing, you’d see it clearly. Autloc’s the extraordinary man here. He’s the reasonable one, the civilized one, the one that’s prepared to listen to advice. But he’s one man, Barbara. One man.
BARBARA: Then everything I’ve tried to do. Oh, I thought I could alter them.
IAN: You can’t fight a whole way of life, Barbara.
BARBARA:   I suppose not. I’ve just been fooling myself.

Ian’s warning foils an attempt to poison Barbara, but Susan’s refusal to marry the “perfect victim” (scheduled to be sacrificed thus all his requests must be obeyed) puts her in Tlotolx’s power for punishment.  Meanwhile the Doctor’s attempts to get discover not only leads to his accidental engagement to Cameca but allows Ixta to trap Ian behind a heavy stone which is regularly flooded.

The death trap for Ian turns into a way back into the tomb.  He with the Doctor help secures a method of opening the sealed passage from the outside and aids Susan in her escape with the help of the Doctor’s affianced.  Autloc disillusioned by all removes himself to the wilderness, no longer believing in the Aztec way,  and after a climatic battle between Ian and Ixta the TARDIS crew escapes behind the wall.   Tlotoxl sacrifices the perfect victim to the Gods as scheduled and history resumes its course.  Barbara is despondent:

BARBARA: What’s the point of traveling through time and space if we can’t change anything? Nothing. Tlotoxl had to win.
BARBARA: And the one man I had respect for, I deceived. Poor Autloc. I gave him false hope and in the end he lost his faith.
DOCTOR: He found another faith, a better, and that’s the good you’ve done. You failed to save a civilization, but at least you helped one man.

and with that they enter the TARDIS and leave with the doctor keeping a keepsake of the first human women he ever was attracted to.

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Tonight comes the first of the BBC specials celebrating the 50th Anniversary of Doctor Who

BBC America plans to do a doctor a month starting with the 1st Doctor William Hartnell.

After the Special they will show an episode from the Hartnell era. I had expected them to go with the very first Dr. Who episode but instead they are picking my favorite of the Hartnell era The Aztecs.

It is not only one of the best written and best acted of the era, it is the most provocative, at least it’s provocative if you live in 2013.

Watch the episode tonight (10 PM EST) and lets see if you spot the allegory to take with you.

For Doctor Who fans the gap between the end of the season and the Christmas special is a time in the wilderness, made slightly worse because Rich’s Comic Blog is also on hiatus until 2012.

However there is joy in the Doctor Who Universe as two episodes that have been lost for over 45 years are as the BBC has announced lost no more:

The broadcaster announced to fans last night that the two episodes had been uncovered at the Missing Believed Wiped event at the BFI in London before it was released in a series of messages on Twitter.

Galaxy Four, part three, was first broadcast in 1965 while The Underwater Menace part two, was aired in 1967 and both had been thought to be lost.

The returned episodes originated from the ABC Channel in Australia.

If you are an American sci-fi fan, just imagine if 1/4 of the original Star Trek series just didn’t exist in video anymore, simply the sound tracks.

Of 253 instalments transmitted in the 1960s (when William Hartnell and Patrick Troughton played the Doctor) 108 were – until now – missing from the BBC archive. Indeed, all the original black-and-white videotapes were wiped long ago;

Since these episodes are all serials we neither completes a story, In fact the Galaxy four episode gives us the first glimpse of the episode that has been unseen since the British paid their bills in shillings and pence.

More details are available here but the bottom line: 2 down 106 to go.

The BBC has made a concerted effort this year to push Doctor Who in America. One of the things that might confuse people are the different faces.

Doctor Who has been around almost as long as I have. The First episode premiered just six months after I was born. The series the actor in the lead role William Hartnell was an elderly man and when it became plain that he couldn’t continue the brilliant idea of having the Doctor “regenerate” into a totally new body (and a new personality) came up.

Each doctor is the same man, with the same memories, but with a different appearance and personality.

So to those of my readers who are not familiar with the history of the Doctor Who here is the complete history of Regeneration from Daily Motion via user regenerating Tardis who did a marvelous job putting it together (sorry about the ads they come with the package).

Regenerations: An Extened Look – Part 1 by RegeneratingTardis

The second set of regenerations 4-6

Regenerations: An Extened Look – Part 2 by RegeneratingTardis

These videos were first put on YouTube but were blocked there all except for this one which was ironically blocked by Daily Motion

And this last one brings you up to date:

Regenerations: An Extened Look – Part FNARG… by RegeneratingTardis

If that doesn’t get you interested in the series I don’t know what will.

When you see polls of the most popular doctors William Hartnell seem to be often forgotten, very few of his episodes survive as a whole and although we have seen glimpses of him in the current series he remains largely ignored as the generation that watched his episodes are in their late 50’s or above.

As I discovered the series with Tom Baker I had not seen him period, my first glimpse was an image in The Brain of Morbius, the Five Doctors featured a different actor in the role. It wasn’t until I saw the three doctors on WENH 11 that I actually saw him perform in a limited role.

Every other actor who has been on the show has had the burden of living up to an iconic role, but each one of them also had the advantage of an established franchise. An actor who is cast as a companion of the Doctor has a ready source of income for their entire life, the actors who play the doctor even more so. Doctor Who is a multi million dollar worldwide industry that supports and entertains millions upon millions of people.

None of that would be true without the performance of Hartnell. He had none of the history to carry him nor the existing fan base. Like any actor with a new series it was up to him as the primary star to carry the show. A show totally unique in the history of Television. He needed to carry off the role of an almost all knowing and commanding presence while still being appealing to young children. And all of this is done without the special effects and CGI of the modern days.

The combination of knowledge and courage combined with a fatherly figure made him iconic. It is very true that excellent writing and the creation of the Daleks made a huge difference, but if Hartnell failed this would be at best just another set of $1 DVD in a bin if the episodes were saved at all.

Get your hands on an episode or two if you can. Ignore the limited special effects and lack of CGI look at the performances, and let yourself appreciate the grand bequest given first to the British people and then the world

Considering the Vampire Craze it was inevitable that we would have a vampire episode in Doctor who.

Way back in Season 18 (Tom Baker era) it was established that there was a war between the Time Lords and the “minions of the great one” (vampires) so for us old timers this was no surprise, but there question is, are these Vampires stalking Venice of 1580 or is something worse going on?

Around this conundrum we have Rory Williams. Introduced in episode 1 we found out last episode that he was the person Amy was due to marry the night she took off with the Doctor. The time lord decides that what is necessary is to take Rory along so they can have a “date” together, so its off to Venice and the tension begins.

More important and interesting than the actual adventure is the clash between Rory and Amy and Rory and the Doctor. There is plenty of humor in this episode from cakes to Library cards.

The Doctor's Library card via the Doctor Who Wiki
Rory in a lot of ways represents, we; the geeks who watch the show, and the people who are left behind. Unfortunately the resolution is a little weak and some of the logic is so so. (Yes I’ll risk the irreplaceable members of the group when I have 10,000 others to choose from. I guess even blue blood is thick than water)

Matt Smith’s confrontation scene with Rosanna Calvierri is a real high point in terms of drama and range. It is here where we get a glimpse of the fury of a time lord that we saw a lot of in the past 5 years.

The strengths outnumber the weaknesses and the introduction of Rory as a semi regular holds great potential, but I expected a better ending.

Rating ****

Last Episode: Flesh and Stone

Next Episode: Amy’s Choice

It’s moments like this:

Yes my inner geek is really shining today, it’s been highly repressed for a bit.

Update: Is there a line better than “Basically, RUN!”?

Update 2: Yes I had to use a 2nd video the first one was pulled.