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Doctor Who; A Look at the New Season
The newest season of Doctor Who is underway, and fans of the series, both old and new, have a lot to look forward to in the upcoming months. Being a Whovian for several years now, I've been fortunate enough to see most every episode that's come out, barring episodes from the William Hartnell and Patrick Troughton era of the series that are potentially lost, ironically enough, to time. I've seen everything from the First Doctor's triumph against the Daleks in the 22nd century to the Seventh's defeat against the ancient evil known as Fenric, from the deadly Sutekh in the Fourth Doctor series "The Pyramids of Mars" to the final end of Satan himself in "The Beast and the Pit".
I say this because this new season of Doctor Who has managed to excite me for the future of the series in ways that are hard to describe. We have a Doctor, still reeling from the loss of his previous companions Amy Pond and Rory Williams, becoming rather enamored with a mysterious new woman that has somehow existed in multiple incarnations over several hundred years that eventually becomes his new companion. We have a brand new internal TARDIS design far removed from the "steampunk"-esque design prevalent since the 1996 TV movie, instead being more in line with the streamlined look of the Fourth through Seventh Doctors' control room.
Perhaps most importantly though is the upcoming 50th anniversary special to the series, which will be featuring a number of Doctor Who alumni, including the Tenth Doctor, played by David Tennant, and his closest companion Rose Tyler, played by Billie Piper.
This season has be waiting eagerly for more, but let's take a look at just some of the things in particular that have me so excited.
The Girl Twice Dead. Who is Clara?
Traveling with the Doctor this season is a mysterious woman named Clara Oswald, whom the Doctor has somehow encountered twice before but she's never met him before. In the first episode of Series 7, the Asylum of the Daleks, we were introduced to the character Oswin Oswald, played by Jenna-Louise Coleman, an individual that crash landed on a planet that the Daleks used as an asylum for the most uncontrollable, most violent of their race, seeing their hated as "too beautiful" to be destroyed. Throughout the episode, we see "Oswin" seemingly trapped inside what we are to believe is a crashed space ship, fending off repeated attacks from Daleks we hear beating at the door. In the end though, we find out that "Oswin" isn't the individual she thought she was, but was just how she remembered herself to be. The Daleks had converted her into one of them due to her intelligence, and the "ship" she was in was simply her Dalek shell. At the end of the episode, she sacrificed herself to give the Doctor, Amy, and Rory time to escape the Asylum, while at the same time erasing the history of the Doctor from the collective consciousness of the entire Dalek race.
In the past Christmas special, the Doctor found himself in confrontation with an old enemy of his, the Great Intelligence, which first appeared in the Second Doctor serial, the Abominable Snowmen. In seclusion from saving the world after losing Amy and Rory forever in the previous episode, the Doctor is suddenly thrust back into action thanks to a barmaid moonlighting as a governess named Clara Oswin Oswald. In the wake of defeating the Great Intelligence, Clara dies, uttering the phrase, "Run, you clever boy...and remember". It was at that moment that the Doctor makes the connection between Clara and Oswin, who had uttered the same phrase just before the Doctor was teleported from the Asylum. Realizing that there is something impossible about Clara, the Doctor makes it his goal to find her again, resulting in the episode "The Bells of St. John".
What could possibly be the secret behind Clara? Each time she's met the Doctor, she has no idea who he is, so it can't possibly be the same person each time. However, each incarnation has uttered the phrase "Run, you clever boy...and remember" in one form or another; Oswin and Clara Oswin using it just before their deaths, and Clara using it as a way of remembering a Wi-fi password given to her at the beginning of "The Bells of St. John". Given this, their respective cleverness, and their identical appearance, there seems to be some degree of copying going on over the timeline.
I believe that it will be potentially linked to the Great Intelligence again. In "The Bells of St. John", her mind was downloaded twice into a database created by him to house the minds of all the people on Earth. The Doctor was able to prevent a complete download the first time, which resulted in a significant boost to her intelligence and cleverness, resembling the Oswin incarnation, and then was downloaded again towards the end of the episode before being freed by the Doctor. It's possible that a fragment of her remained within the database as a result of one of the downloads, and it was this data fragment that somehow becomes Oswin, but that still wouldn't explain the Clara Oswin incarnation or how there's such a significant gap in when they appear.
Steven Moffat has shown a knack for completely blowing me away with his ideas and the intricacies of the overall story he's writing, so despite my speculation, at best I should just wait to see how his story unfolds.
The Return of the Ice Warriors
Saturday's episode will mark the return of one of the more iconic aliens in the Doctor Who universe, the Martian species known as the Ice Warriors. Mentioned by name briefly in the Tenth Doctor special "Waters of Mars", the Ice Warriors haven't appeared on screen since the Third Doctor serial, "The Monster of Peladon". Despite appearing in only four serials in total during the Second and Third Doctor eras, the Ice Warriors have been one of the more endearing races to appear in the series, and while not achieving the same popularity as the Daleks and the Cybermen, they've still been considered a fan favorite.
Much like all other aliens to make the leap from the classic to revived series, the Ice Warriors have seen some adjustments to their design. Fortunately, unlike the Silurians, who appeared in two different serials in the classic series before appearing multiple times during the run of the Eleventh Doctor, the design has remained far truer to the original look. When I heard that the Ice Warriors were making a return in the new series, I was initially very worried, since I was not a fan of the very human design of the new Silurian tribe introduced and was afraid that the Ice Warriors would follow suit. Luckily, their design was released a little while back and still strongly resembles their original look, just with some much needed improvements in the quality of their appearance. They look less like people in the rough, rubbery suits of the past, and more like an amalgamation of lizards and robots that the design tried conveying from the start.
As for the episode itself, we see that the Doctor will be facing against the Ice Warriors in a sinking submarine armed with nuclear weapons. Apart from that, this episode, titled "Cold War", pays several homages to the serial where they were first introduced, "The Ice Warriors". While I want to avoid spoilers since the episode just came out today, the plot involves the discovery of an Ice Warrior, named Skaldak, frozen in a block of ice, only to have it wreak havoc within a Russian submarine after thawed out by an impatient crewman.
For those fans of the series who are unfamiliar with the Ice Warriors as a whole, this new iteration of them closely resembles, in both appearance and mannerisms, their classic incarnations, so I recommend this episode very highly for its nostalgic value.
Connections to Past Doctors
A theme I've noticed in all the episodes so far since the Christmas special is references to previous adventures of the Doctor, both significant and subtle. Given that 2013 is the 50th anniversary of the Doctor Who franchise, these references are likely intentional little Easter eggs for fans of the series.
1) The Bells of Saint John - At the end of the episode, the "client" that Miss Kislet and her associates work for is revealed to be "The Great Intelligence", a being of immense power belonging to a group of god-like entities known as the Old Ones. Also known as Yog-Sothoth, the Great Intelligence appeared a number of times in serials starring the Second Doctor, first appearing in "The Abominable Snowmen" and again in "The Web of Fear".
2) The Rings of Akhaten - The Doctor tells Clara that he has previously visited the alien market place with his granddaughter, a reference to the companion of the First Doctor, Susan Foreman, and the first female Gallifreyan to ever appear on screen.
3) Cold War - The Ice Warriors appeared multiple times in Second and Third Doctor serials, first appearing in "The Ice Warriors" and last appearing in "The Monster of Peladon".
4) Hide - The Doctor uses a crystal from Metebelis III in order to augment the empathic powers of Emma Grayling in order to enter a pocket universe. In the Third Doctor serial, "The Green Death", the Doctor visited Metebelis III to get a crystal in order to defeat the computer known as BOSS. Later, in the last Third Doctor serial "Planet of the Spiders", the Doctor used the crystal to complete a telepathic crystal web created by a giant spider known as "The Great One", overloading her telepathic powers and killing her.
5) Journey to the Center of the TARDIS - The TARDIS, having been damaged from a wreck, began to leak time. During this moment, voices from previous incarnations of the Doctor and his companions can be heard emanating from the wreckage, including Susan Foreman and Ian Chesterton from the First Doctor era, the Third Doctor and Jo Grant, the Fourth Doctor, the Ninth Doctor, Martha Jones from the Tenth Doctor era, and the Eleventh Doctor and Amy Pond.
Likewise, an umbrella belonging to, and frequently used by, the Seventh Doctor makes a brief appearance.
6) The Crimson Horror - The Doctor makes a comment about having failed to return Tegan Jovanka to Heathrow Airport. This is in reference to the Fifth Doctor serial "The Visitation".
Likewise, the Doctor tells Clara "Brave heart...", which is a phrase often used by the Fifth Doctor whenever he's trying to encourage someone, often his companions, to rise up to the occasion should their resolve ever falter.
7) Nightmare in Silver - When under the control of the Cyber-Planner, the Doctor briefly imitates the Ninth Doctor when uttering his catchphrase "Fantastic!" in a similar accent to his, and then soon after utters the French phrase "Allons-y!", one of the catchphrases of the Tenth Doctor.
Additionally, when the Doctor is speaking with the Cyber-Planner inside his mind, at one point images of the previous ten Doctors quickly flash behind him.
The Return of the Tenth
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the series, and, like so many anniversary specials before it, will feature the return of a previous Doctor to aid the current in some event far bigger than he can handle on his own. This tradition began with the 10th anniversary special, "The Three Doctors", which brought back William Hartnell and Patrick Troughton (the first and second Doctors, respectively) to aid the current Third Doctor, John Pertwee, in defeating the threat of the renegade Time Lord, Omega. This tradition continued with the 20th anniversary special, "The Five Doctors", bringing the First, Second, and Third Doctors together to assist the Fifth Doctor in a plot involving the Lord President of Gallifrey and the founder of Time Lord society, Rasillon.
This new special, which has had rumors circulating around it for a long time now, has been officially established as a story bringing Matt Smith's predecessor, David Tennant, and his closest companion, Rose Tyler, back into the picture to assist the Eleventh Doctor and Clara in saving the universe from some currently unknown threat. Though bending the "wibbly wobbly, timey wimey" rules to allow for the true Tenth Doctor to return at some point before his eventual regeneration, given that both the Tenth and Rose are involved, I personally believe that this story will somehow involve the Metacrisis Doctor from "Journey's End", a half-human, half-Time Lord living with Rose Tyler in an alternate universe.
This would allow for any animosity between the two Doctors as well as the Eleventh and Rose to flourish. There may be some lingering resentment about leaving the Metacrisis Doctor trapped without a TARDIS to explore the universe in and forcing him to live the life of a human (which at the time he wanted but he may have come to regret).
The Wrap Up
With the overall story arc involving Clara, the return of the Ice Warriors, the 50th anniversary special being just a hint at what will come, I can't wait for these new episodes. Each Saturday, I'll be switching to the BBC to see my favorite Time Lord and his companion, traveling about in his magic blue box, saving the universe in new, exciting ways.