Monthly Archives: February 2016

Some Thoughts on “Doctor Who: Vengeance on Varos”

This Sixth Doctor serial from 1985 has quite the reputation among Whovians; people seem to either love it or hate it with no middle ground. I have heard it denounced as the worst of the Colin Baker era if not of all of classic Who‘s twenty-six years, and I have heard it praised as an underrated and under-appreciated gem. As I’ve learned with so many of the Sixth Doctor’s other stories, the only way to form an honest opinion about this episode was to watch it for myself.

The Doctor and Peri land on the planet Varos to procure a fresh supply of the mineral zeiton-7, which is vital for the TARDIS’s operations. When they arrive, they are shocked to learn that Varos is a 1984-like planet with an oppressed population, spying guards, and entertainment that consists solely of watching prisoners being tortured. And because it’s Doctor Who, it’s not long at all before they get involved in a resistance that aims to free the people from their oppression

Yes, it’s a plot that’s been recycled a lot in Doctor Who‘s history. That being said, this was probably my favorite interpretation of that plot. I lose patience with a lot of these grungy, heavy, Big Brother stories, whether they’re in Doctor Who or not, because they are so blatantly trying to emulate George Orwell’s 1984. 1984 is a classic all its own and can never truly be copied, but Doctor Who took a cliched story line and made it unique. Part of what made the setting work so well were the characters, especially Sil and the Governor. I was already familiar with Sil because I had previously seen “The Trial of a Time Lord”, so it was really interesting to see Sil’s first Who appearance. What surprised me the most was that he seemed like such an important personage in this episode while in “Trial” he came across a little fish trying to be important.

As fascinated as I was by Sil, it was the Governor who really captured my attention. Here was a man who had lost all hope and was thoroughly disgusted with his culture but saw no way out. I was convinced he was going to die for his principles in some noble manner, so I was pleased to see that he didn’t die, that he listened to the Doctor’s advice and was able to lead his planet into a prosperous new era.

Long story short? “Vengeance on Varos” does not deserve all of the hate it receives. Yes, it is dark in tone, but a lot of the 80’s episodes were dark, so it seems unfair to single this one out specifically. It starts out a bit slowly, but when the plot picks up, it really grabs your attention. I wholeheartedly recommend this installment of classic Doctor Who; you’ll be missing out on something special if you pass it by.

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Remembering That We are Dust

Last week was Ash Wednesday, and I got ashes for the first time in a long time. It’s been several years since I did anything special for Ash Wednesday, so I’d forgotten precisely how it felt to have the Sign of the Cross traced on my forehead in ash. I felt…proud. I was happy to be carrying that ash on my face. I was glad to know that everyone I encountered that day would know what I believed and that I thought it was important to get to church that day. It was nice to have a visible statement of my Faith. Granted, I always try to live out the Faith in regular, everyday life, no special ashes required, but having a visible statement for just one day felt good.

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The Obligatory St. Valentine’s Day Post

St. Valentine’s Day isn’t my favorite of holidays, but I tolerate its existence for the chocolate it provides. Still, though, I think it’s important to take a day to celebrate those we love most–it doesn’t even have to be a significant other; it can (and should) include family and friends as well (although St. Valentine still wants his feast day back).

This year I decided to post something different for the occasion. I’m currently re-reading Victor Hugo’s Hunchback of Notre Dame, and in the course of reading, I found a song that Quasimodo would occasionally sing, which Esmeralda would overhear as she fell asleep in the bell tower of Notre Dame. Since it’s been a couple of years since I’ve read Hunchback, I’d forgotten about the existence of this poem, but I realized I liked it and decided to share it here with you.

Look not at the face,
Young maiden, look at the heart:
The heart of a handsome man is often deformed.
There are hearts that cannot hold love for long.

Young maiden, the pine tree is not handsome
Nor fair like the poplar;
But it keeps its leaves in wintertime.

Alas, why say that?
Beauty loves only beauty–What is not fair ought not to be–
April turns her back on January.

Beauty is perfect;
Beauty can do all.
Beauty is the only thing that does not live by halves.
The raven flies only by day,
The owl, only by night,
The swan flies night and day.

“But, Emerald,” you say, “it doesn’t rhyme; how can you call it a poem?” Well, in the book Hugo comes out and says that the poem had no rhyme “such as a deaf man might make.” Quasimodo was deaf, which would explain why it didn’t rhyme. Of course, considering how this is a translation from French, I wouldn’t be surprised if the original did rhyme in French but can’t rhyme in English without completely reworking how the poem is structured.

I’m not sure why this captured my attention, especially since I’m not a poem person–maybe it has something to do with the fact that Victor Hugo was simply a good writer.

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So I’ve Discovered “The X-Files”…

…and I’m trying to figure out how I’ve gone so long without realize how good this show is. I’ve always known it as the weird show about aliens–which, in all honesty, it is, but it’s also really good.

I started watching the rebooted series when it premiered a few weeks ago, mostly out of curiosity. I remembered seeing commercials for the original show long ago, but I had never watched it; now that it was coming back, I decided to see what it was like. Yes, it’s strange and full of off-the-wall conspiracy theories, but the strangeness and conspiracy theories are packaged in good writing. To top it all off, the other day I watched the pilot episode of the original X-Files series, and I have officially decided that qualifies as A Very Awesome Show.

I must say that the decision to carry on with the original characters and scenarios reminds me of how the BBC brought back Doctor Who in 2005–both series picked up where they left off (more or less), and they kept the same theme song. I think this helps to illustrate how both Doctor Who and The X-Files are not supposed to be reboots in the usual sense; they are extensions and continuations of the original shows, which, of course, encourages fans to come back and watch.

Anyway, I’ve really enjoyed what I’ve seen of The X-Files so far, and I suppose it and Legends of Tomorrow will be helping to fill the TARDIS-shaped void in my life that comes from not having new¬†Doctor Who episodes until Christmas.

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