Morning Mixtape: ‘Tom Baker’ By The Human League

Daniel P. Finney:

morning mixtape logoToday’s Morning Mixtape is a rerun from Sept. 26. 2013.

Originally posted on General Tso's Revenge:

I discovered this terrific track several years ago when reading about Tom Baker, the actor best known for playing the fourth incarnation of the Doctor in the classic sci-fi adventure series “Doctor Who.” “Tom Baker” is an homage to the wonderful work of Ron Grainer and the BBC Radiophonics Workshop, which created the signature theme for “Doctor Who” nearly 50 years ago. The instrumental, off the group’s 1980 album “Travelogue,” incorporates the driving base notes similar to the “Doctor Who” theme and also stirs in the creepy noises that often felt like a theremin run amok and usually signaled a creepy monster or nefarious act onscreen. The song is probably best enjoyed by “Doctor Who” fans, but I’ve gotten good response sneaking it onto mix CDs for non-Whovian pals who appreciate the occasional unusual sound.

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Morning Mixtape: 2 minutes from upcoming ‘Doctor Who’ Christmas special

morning mixtape logo

I’m not one to make a big fuss over Christmas. I’m almost 40. Christmas, in a secular sense anyway, is for children. That’s fine. I enjoyed a lot of Christmases as a boy. But as an adult, if I can properly lay claim to the title, the one thing that makes me giddy is the annual “Doctor Who” Christmas special, which has been a tradition for 10 years running. Here’s 2 minutes, 20 seconds from this year’s special via BBC America. Enjoy, my fellow Whovians.

5-sentence review of ‘Doctor Who: Death in Heaven’


Doctor Who” | Series 8, Episode 12: “Death in Heaven” | Date: Nov. 8, 2014

  1. “Death in Heaven” was another head-scratching, heartbreaking series finale from showrunner Steven Moffat, with a high body count courtesy of Missy (Michelle Gomez), the gender-swapped reincarnation of the Doctor’s (Peter Capaldi) former friend and longtime nemesis, the Master.
  2. Gomez played Missy as a sort of homicidal Mary Poppins, and she murders the sweet-natured Osgood (Ingrid Oliver) as easily as she floats on an umbrella, which she inexplicably also does.
  3. Missy’s plan was to turn all of humanity into Cybermen by using Cyber-pollen to raise the dead — including poor Danny Pink (Samuel Anderson), who was run over by a car when Clara (Jenna Coleman) declared her love for him — and then give the Doctor the army as a force for good … or something, it’s rather complicated.
  4. Danny’s love for Clara saves the day when the Doctor gives Danny control of the Cybermen and orders them to blow themselves up, preventing further conversion of the human race into Cybermen.
  5. The series ends with Danny returning the boy he accidentally killed as a soldier to earth from some afterlife and Clara lying to the Doctor about Danny coming home and the Doctor lying to Clara about finding Gallifrey and then Santa Claus showed up.

5-sentence review of ‘Doctor Who: Dark Water’


Doctor Who” | Series 8, Episode 11: “Dark Water” | Date: Nov. 1, 2014

  1. I just loved “Dark Water.”
  2. It really reached the deep, abiding love I have for “Doctor Who.”
  3. In a span of 11 minutes to start the episode, Danny Pink (Samuel Anderson) is killed, Clara (Jenna Coleman) betrays the Doctor (Peter Capaldi) and the Doctor proves why he’s the best friend anyone could ever have.
  4. Oh, and there were such wonderful twists: the first of which were the lovely reveal of the Cybermen via the signature eye patterns on the elevator doors.
  5. And the second, well, I didn’t see that coming at all: Missy (Michelle Gomez) is actually Mistress, or by another gender, the renegade Time Lord known as the Master.

5-sentence review of ‘Doctor Who: In The Forest Of The Night’


Doctor Who” | Series 8, Episode 10: “In The Forest Of The Night” | Date: Oct. 25, 2014

  1. In interviews before Series 8 began, Peter Capaldi mentioned that we would struggle to understand his incarnation of the Doctor until midway through the series and that has proven to be spot on.
  2. In both “Flatline” and this week’s “In The Forest Of The Night,” we finally begin to understand the testiness that accompanies the 12th incarnation of the Doctor: He’s got a lot on his mind, what with always averting the end of the world and often the universe.
  3. Clara (Jenna Coleman) received rare insight into the stresses that beset the Doctor in “Flatline” and by “In The Forest Of The Night,” she seems more empathetic to his burdens.
  4. I enjoyed the Coal Hill School children’s interaction with the Doctor and his seemingly lack of interest yet passionate effort to rescue them, especially the special girl who sees the visions of Earth’s magical tree protectors.
  5. I liked “In The Forest Of The Night” perhaps the best of Series 8 so far and the teaser for next time suggests I might have been onto something with Clara being the villain behind the scenes this season.

5-sentence review of ‘Doctor Who: Flatline’


Doctor Who” | Series 8, Episode 9: “Flatline” | Date: Oct. 18, 2014

  1. The two-dimensional creatures that terrorize Bristol in “Flatline” were the most inventive monsters since the Weeping Angels and produced the scariest of the eighth series.
  2. We know the Doctor (Peter Capaldi) lies, but so does Clara (Clara Oswald) — and quite a lot, especially to her love Danny (Samuel Anderson), who specifically told her that was the one thing he would not tolerate.
  3. The twelfth incarnation of the Doctor finally has his hero moment — bursting forth from the newly restored TARDIS to banish the murderous two-dimensional monsters.
  4. It was a scene they gave the 11th Doctor in his first episode, but really made the audience wait for Capaldi in the role and, boy, it was worth it.
  5. Missy (Michelle Gomez), referred to in reports as “the Gatekeeper of the Nethersphere,” watches the Doctor and Clara argue after the adventure and makes a vague comment that leads me to wonder: Is Clara the true villain of Series 8?

On TV: 5-sentence review of ‘Doctor Who: Mummy on the Orient Express’


Doctor Who” | Series 8, Episode 8: “Mummy on the Orient Express”
| Date: Oct. 11, 2014

  1. I had hoped after her blow out with the Doctor (Peter Capaldi) in the previous episode that this might be a Clara (Jenna Coleman) lite episode, but alas this was the time-travelling equivalent of break-up sex.
  2. The Doctor and Clara land on the Orient Express, a train that travels through space in homage to the famous European rail service.
  3. A mummy is killing people — once they see it they have 66 seconds to live — and some big bad named Gus is manipulating the Doctor and other experts aboard to try and capture the mummy.
  4. There’s a lot of “I wish I could quit you” out of Clara, which is tiresome, and a lot of “Sometimes I’m mean, but I’m just doing the best I can” out of the Doctor, which is a little bit more fun, but the note has been played enough that it’s time for it to mean something more than simple refrain.
  5. Clara lies and decides to keep travelling with the Doctor against her own instincts and the wishes of boyfriend, Danny Pink (Samuel Anderson), which is an interesting hypocrisy given her scolding the Doctor for his lies and manipulations.

On TV: Review of ‘Doctor Who: Kill the Moon’


Doctor Who” | Series 8, Episode 7:Kill the Moon” | Date: Oct. 4, 2014

“Kill the Moon” continued the improving trend of episode quality for the eighth series of the revived “Doctor Who.”

In the present day, Clara (Jenna Coleman) scolds the Doctor (Peter Capaldi) for making young Courtney (Ellis George) feel unspecial. Courtney has been acting out in school after her brief trip in the TARDIS. Apparently all youths need to be made to feel special or they’ll go all haywire.

The Doctor takes Courtney and Clara to the moon in an effort to make Courtney fell special as the first woman on the moon. But they overshoot into 2049, where they come into contact with some astronauts on a grim mission.

In 2049, the moon is gaining weight and breaking apart, causing all kinds of havoc with the tides on earth. Mankind has given up space travel. The last surviving Space Shuttle is sent to the moon with a classic human solution: Blow it up with nuclear weapons.

The Doctor and company explore an abandoned space station and are attacked by red-eyed spider-like creatures. Courtney cleverly (or accidentally) discovers how to kill them: anti-bacterial spray. The shifts in light and darkness and “what’s around the corner” bits are worthy the series’ more intense and frightening moments.

The story shifts into a moral dilemma. The Doctor discovers the moon is, in fact, a giant egg for a beautiful space dragon. The humans must decide: murder the space dragon and maybe earth survives or don’t murder it and maybe earth is destroyed. Or maybe it survives. They really don’t know.

And the Doctor isn’t telling. He says he cannot see the future. He may be lying. He does that. But he refuses to help Clara make the decision. In fact, he packs up in the TARDIS and leaves Courtney, the last surviving astronaut and Clara decide the fate of the moon and possibly human kind.

Clara uses a TV satellite to appeal to the world. If they want the unborn creature blown up, turn off their lights. If they want it to live, turn the lights on. The earth goes dark. Kill the creature. At the last moment, Clara stops the countdown on the nuclear missiles. The Doctor arrives and whisks away the trio.

The Doctor reveals that because humanity didn’t destroy the space dragon, they become curious about space again. They travel to the ends of the universe and survive to the end of time. Courtney participated in the salvation of the human race. How’s that for special?, the Doctor asks.

Clara, however, is furious. She feels as if the new Doctor is cold-hearted and manipulative. He looks down on humans and she’s had quite enough of it. She tells him to go away and leave her be. She returns to Coal Hill School and vents to Danny (Samuel Anderson), who tells her she is not quite ready to leave the Doctor yet because she’s angry. You can’t be done with someone who can still make you angry, Danny wisely says.

The drama is well-played and, as usual, Capaldi and Coleman are top-flight. But I have grown weary of the self-righteous Clara. I could do with an episode away from her. In fact, I would be too tearful if she were to leave outright at Christmas as has been rumored.

The writers have woven Clara into the Doctor’s mythos so deeply that he seems less of a heroic character and more of an expression of Clara’s forceful personality. Clara wants the Doctor to be more empathetic to humans. But she lacks empathy for him.

She didn’t like the fact that he didn’t look like a boyfriend upon his regeneration. And she seems to forget that the Doctor once decided the fate of his own planet. It went poorly until he got a do-over through some timey-wimey business. Perhaps he simply wasn’t up for deciding the fate of an alien world.

A lot of critics, both mainstream and amateurs like me, have been rapturous in their praise of Coleman’s work as Clara and the overall in the eighth series. I am more measured. Coleman is great, to be sure. But this idea of her whispering courage into a young Doctor’s ear as cowered in his family barn on Gallifrey ticks me off.

This effort to make Clara the most important companion — the most important person — in the history of the Doctor rubs me the wrong way. It undermines the spirit of the Doctor. He could not, apparently, have come to any moral base of his own without the influence of Clara. How conceited on the part of the writers to feel the need to build up a character by hollowing out another.

Still, I’m 800 words deep in a blog post about the series. It is, at least, inspiring me to think. This is far more than most of the TV I watch. And I still dearly love seeing my favorite hero each week.

But somebody please stop Capaldi from wearing those polka-dotted shirts. If he thought the scarf was silly, those things are abysmal.

On TV: Review of ‘Doctor Who: The Caretaker’


Doctor Who” | Series 8, Episode 6: “The Caretaker” | Date: Sept. 27, 2014

The Caretaker” brought together some of the plot threads of the eight series of “Doctor Who.” The Doctor (Peter Capaldi) finally meets Clara’s (Jenna Coleman) boyfriend, Danny Pink (Samuel Anderson), and disapproves of the soldier.

Danny offers Clara an interesting perspective on the Doctor: He’s aristocracy, an officer who pushes beyond their limits and puts her in danger without her realizing the potential consequences.

The Doctor’s newfound prejudice against soldiers remains murky. The revelations of the high cost of the Time War in “Day of the Doctor” may help decode this myster. Perhaps the Doctor feels self-loathing given he nearly obliterated his own people to end the war that threatened the world.

It was interesting that Danny instantly saw the good in the Doctor despite the Doctor’s bluster. He immediately noted that the Doctor scorned Danny so much because the Doctor wanted to make sure Danny was good enough for Clara.

Oh, there was also a giant killer robot that threatened the whole world. It was stopped, but it was largely a distraction from the Doctor-Clara-Danny plot.

I enjoyed “The Caretaker” the best of any episode so far this season. The title even had a double entendre, with the Doctor pretending to be the Coal Hill School’s caretaker and his larger role of caretaker for both earth and Clara.

The only nit I have to pick is this marks the halfway point of the season. I’m always in the mood for more Doctor.