Doctor Who 5.13 – The Big Bang

And so we come to yet another season finale of the greatest science fiction series ever created. This is the recap I’ve been both anticipating and dreading writing in equal parts since first seeing “The Big Bang” some weeks ago; anticipating because of how much I adored this finale, and dreading because there’s no way I can do it justice in a mere recap. It’s not even an issue of space or time (or is it?), it’s a matter of the story, as well as the 12 episodes prior to it, being too dense to dissect thoroughly. You’ll have to forgive that this doesn’t resemble a recap proper, and I instead ramble on about other issues.

I didn’t go into “The Pandorica Opens” and “The Big Bang” expecting a whole lot, conditioned as I am on Russell T Davies’s extravagant-yet-ultimately-lightweight season finales. Don’t get me wrong, they were most always a great deal of fun, but they most always left me somewhat wanting – excepting Season Three’s Master trilogy, although I’m not sure that’s in line with popular opinion. Oh, and “The Parting of the Ways.” Wait a minute…I loved most of his finales! But I often felt as if they didn’t go as far as they could. Part of the way through the current season the Pandoricrack, as I’ve come to call it, started to annoy me, and I began not so much resenting the thread, but rather simply dismissing it – assuming that whatever it was about wouldn’t be terribly thrilling. It turned out to be not only thrilling, but strange and deep and stimulating. This was Steven Moffat’s trademark “Wibbly-Wobbly, Timey-Wimey” taken up to 11. (Maybe next year will go to 12?) This two-part finale forces viewers to go back and reexamine most of the season, and that isn’t something that can really be said for the Davies finales, which isn’t to imply they’re inferior. More on that later…

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Doctor Who 5.7 – Amy’s Choice

Here we are, more or less mid-season, and as someone who’s recapping this block of episodes week in and out, as well as someone who’s been deconstructing this series for years now, I’m frankly a bit flummoxed by Steven Moffat’s inaugural year. It’s starting to feel as if the season is only going to make total sense once it’s over and done with. Some time ago, long before the season began, Moffat was saying that he wanted the season to be referred to as Season One, rather than Season Five, and that’s starting to make a whole lot more sense. Aside from the occasional references to the past, everything about this year feels as if some kind of reset button has been hit, and yet it remains difficult to watch without bringing the baggage of the last five years into the equation, even though I’m fairly certain Moffat would prefer that we didn’t. I mean, it’s hard to picture a character like Mickey Smith, for instance, fitting into any part of this narrative in any kind of believable manner, and yet you almost want somebody like him to turn up in a scene just to remind you that you’re still watching the same show.

I continue to want to compare this material to stuff from seasons’ past, and yet this nagging feeling keeps telling me that’s just an unfair thing to do. I wonder if Moffat’s even got some kind of grand master plan that extends beyond this block of 13 episodes? None of this means I’m not enjoying the season, just that it’s a much different kind of enjoyment than what I’ve become accustomed to during the Davies years, which began feeling predictable about three years in. Say what you will about this season, but, at least at this stage, it is most certainly not predictable. In some ways watching this season is as disorienting as the predicament in which our heroes find themselves in this week’s episode. As viewers, we’re experiencing a new reality of the series, while we keep thinking back on what we came to know prior to this season’s start. Which is the real “Doctor Who?” The Davies or the Moffat era? Both, or maybe neither? I’ll likely elaborate on all of this further during the final recap of the season.

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TV of the 2000s: 5 British Series That Didn’t Translate Nearly As Well As “The Office”

In “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan,” Spock casually observed, “As a matter of cosmic history, it has always been easier to destroy than create.” As such, it should come as no surprise that, when the networks have the opportunity to avoid creating something new in favor of destroying something old, they damned well take it. As we continue our look back at the TV of the 2000s, we decided to revisit several of the networks’ attempts to adapt popular British series to match American sensibilities. As “The Office” has proven, they can sometimes make it work, but as these five shows remind us, they very often can’t.

5. Eleventh Hour (CBS): In 2006, ITV broadcast a four-part series entitled “Eleventh Hour,” starring Patrick Stewart as Professor Ian Hood, a special advisor of the British government’s Joint Science Committee who investigated threats related to various scientific developments and experiments. Each episode was 90 minutes in length, and it was received well enough in the UK that CBS immediately set forth on a quest to develop the concept into a weekly series in the States. Stewart was switched out for another talented Brit – Rufus Sewell – and even though he dropped his accent in favor of going “American” with his character (now renamed Jacob Hood), we were still optimistic about the series. Alas, despite an intriguing premise, the adaptation suffered from a couple of major problems.

First off, critics perceived the show as “troubled” before its premiere because of the delay in releasing the first episode for review, but, fair enough, many series have managed to survive that particular issue. The bigger problem came from CBS’s steadfast determination to make “Eleventh Hour” fit into the same procedural mold utilized by all of its other series. As such, the predominant thrust tended to be about the crime of the week, leaving not nearly enough focus on Dr. Hood, whose considerable knowledge on scientific matters makes him an enigma. Viewers should’ve been left wondering, “Who is this guy? What’s his story?” But just as we were starting to learn about Hood’s past and getting the impression that he might actually be able to find romance for the first time since the death of his wife, the series steered back into a let’s-stick-to-the-case mindset, making its cancellation after only 18 episodes less disappointing than it might otherwise have been.

4. Worst Week (CBS): The original series – which bore the slightly longer title of “The Worst Week of My Life” – had three incarnations. The first focused on the week leading up to the marriage of its two lead characters, the second shone the spotlight on the week before the birth of their first child, and the whole thing culminated in a three-part holiday special entitled “The Worst Christmas of My Life.” Anyone who enjoys a good bit of slapstick would see the merit in trying to adapt the series for an American audience, but after watching the pilot, I wrote, “Despite the first episode being thoroughly hilarious, it’s hard to imagine how they’re going to keep up that kind of momentum on a weekly basis.” What I didn’t write – but what I did indeed wonder – was why, given how much testing goes into television nowadays, they didn’t change the title. I mean, c’mon, if you watched the show, then don’t tell me you didn’t find yourself wondering from Episode #1 just how long they were planning to drag things out. In the end, “Worst Week” ran for 16 episodes, and given that its final episode* was entitled “The Epidural,” it’s clear that the series never had a chance to expand much beyond its source material. Not that they could’ve managed it much faster: getting from premiere to bringing the pregnancy to fruition within five months is certainly nothing to sneeze at. Still, with all British-adapted series, the rule of thumb is that you should create your own identity as quickly as possible…and they didn’t.

* As far as the show’s chronology is concerned, anyway. The actual final episode was entitled “The Party,” and it should’ve actually been the fifth episode. Instead, it was held back from the initial run and was later (and somewhat inexplicably) thrown into the network’s Saturday night schedule some four months after “The Epidiural” aired.

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