Geoffrey Dow's blog

December 2013

Blogging Doctor Who, New Series 7


The Day of the Doctor:

Flawed redemption still a happy anniversary


Screenshot from 'The Day of the Doctor', Doctor Who copyright 2013 BBC

December 5, 2013, OTTAWA — It was 1978 or 1979. I was in grade 8 and quite liked my home-room teacher. Mr. Pritchard also liked me, the bright, nerdly kid who had made the school's "newspaper" his own, contributing articles, editorials, cartoons — and (yes) even reviews.

One afternoon after class, as I watched over the Gestetner machine chunking out its blue mimeo pages and Mr. Pritchard watched over me, I mentioned I was looking forward to Saturday, when another episode of Doctor Who, this British television program I'd recently discovered, was going to be broadcast, right before the hockey game.

Mr. Pritchard looked up and laughed, his moustache bristling his delight. "Really!" he said, "Is that still on the air? I used to watch it when I was your age!" He was probably about 30 then, meaning I had barely been born when he was my age!

Learning of that long continuity delighted me as much as — and maybe more than — it did Mr. Pritchard. And now that 15 years of the program's history has become 50, and my personal continuity with it is twice what my teacher's was, the fact that Doctor Who is still on the air delights me even more.

All of which makes me doubly-pleased that the program's 50th anniversary episode, "The Day of the Doctor", exceeded my (admittedly, low) expectations by a wide margin. While not without some significant flaws, Steven Moffat's long-awaited 2013 series finale (of sorts; the upcoming Christmas special will probably mark the real series end, as well as the transition to the next) was a well-crafted entertainment, that balanced humour, drama and nostalgia and, even, pathos, without getting bogged down by the Enormous Anniversariness of it all.

Though some nonsensical elements demonstrated yet again Moffat's tendency to confuse plot with story and maguffin with plot, structurally, "The Day of the Doctor" was a happy anniversary present for this jaded and weary viewer.

Certainly it was the most entertaining multi-Doctor special to come down the pike since, well, forever. I really did laugh and I really did cry, on both first and second viewings — and it's been quite a while since a Moffat-scripted episode of Doctor Who hit me like that.

As usual, my full review is liberal with spoilers. And yes, I spend quite a lot of time exploring those "significant flaws". If you don't want your pleasure challenged, I recommend staying away; if you want in read on click here for The Day of the Doctor: The Bad, the Good, and the Meta.


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November 2013

Blogging Doctor Who, New Series 7

The Night Before the Day of the Doctor

Resurgence of hope?

Screenshot from Doctor Who mini episode, Night of the Doctor, Doctor Who copyright 2013 BBC

November 22, 2013, OTTAWA — Doctor Who returns tomorrow, in yet another special, this one to be simulcast all over the world, the better to prevent the spilling of spoilers before their time.

Do I sound cynical? Those (few) of you who have been wondering what happened to my long-promised review of "The Name of The Doctor", first broadcast last spring, might well expect me to be.

I won't disappoint you: I still am.

But I ran across a bit of a surprise a couple of nights back, in the form of an eight-minute (mini) episode called "The Night of the Doctor." I don't suppose many of you reading this are still in the dark about it, but just in case, I'll offer no details here. Beware the spoilers that lurk in my review!

The surprising pleasure I received from the above-noted short film, saw my cynicism tempered, a little, by hope that this Saturday's long-awaited extravaganza might also surprise me. That hope saw me finally re-visit last spring's ostensible finale, "The Name of the Doctor" — and, yes, to also finally review it. That review is behind this cut. Spoilers, of course, and also a return to much wailing and gnashing of critical teeth. You've been warned on both counts.


Note to local readers:

The Old Man's Last Sauna celebrations

November 20, 2013, OTTAWA — I'm very pleased to announce that The Old Man's Last Sauna is now available at Brittons in Ottawa's Glebe at the corner of Bank and Fifth. If you can't make it out to our launch party at Daniel O'Connell's Irish Pub this coming Sunday, then Brittons is the place to be!


Catching up, or trying to

The Old Man's Last Sauna is was born

The Old Man's Last Sauna,
delivered at last!

November 17, 2013, OTTAWA — This entry was supposed to have been written nearly a month ago. In fact, it mostly was written very early on the morning of October 26, but careless user-error on the part of yours truly — due in large part to extreme exhaustion (I ain't taking the fall for this one, your honour!) — saw it eaten up when I closed my text-editor without first saving my deathless prose.

Image: poster for launch part of The Old Man's Last Sauna

And so it was that the front page of Edifice Rex Online completely ignored what is quite possibly the most important even in its pretty long (internet) life: the launching of The BumblePuppy Press as an actual publisher, with an actual book in print and ebook editions!

Yes, Carl Dow's first book, The Old Man's Last Sauna cried its first on the morning of October 25th, 2013, when five cartoons containing the proof were delivered to my door, a mere 24 hours before Mr. Dow (yeah, he's my dad) and I were due to take our places at a table at the Ottawa Independent Writers' annual Author's Fair.

I'll have lots more to say when I get the chance, but for now, I'll just let you know that we're having a launch part this coming Sunday (November 24, 2013), at Daniel O'Connell's Irish Pub here in Ottawa. The details and a chance to register for tickets (they're free!) are at our EventBrite page. There will be readings, a chance to meet the author, book give-aways and live music provided by Kevin Dooley & Friends!

If you're in town, forget about the Grey cup and come out to celebrate with us!

(And if you want to know how I reacted to the book delivery back on the 26th, read The cavalry came in five cardboard cartons (but be warned: salty language ensues).


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The cavalry came in five cardboard cartons

The Old Man's Last Sauna

Is young(ish) man's autumnal delight

The Old Man's Last Sauna,
delivered at last!

It came down to the fucking wire. Through first-timer's errors, customer rep change-overs and any number of instances of Murphy's Law, nevertheless the buzzer rang around 0930 hours, rousing me from a troubled sleep.

And lo! There was a delivery.

And Young Geoffrey Saw that it was Good.

Probably not quite so exciting for you guys, but pretty exciting for yours truly. (And if you're wondering, possibly even more exciting for dear old Dad; the similarity in last names in no coincidence.) It seems I have joined the illustrious ranks of the small press publishers.

The Old Man's Last Sauna is a collection — a truly eclectic collection! — of short fiction that runs the gamut from a half-dirty shaggy dog story, to a loving look at the relationship between a father and his very imaginative child, to a powerful story about the psychological torture of good man by our own country's secret service. And much more besides ...

Anyway, the book is in print and available in most e-formats (DRM-free, 'natch!) via Smashwords (and soon, if not already, through the usual suspects as well). Within a week or two (keep watching this space!) it will be available as a print-on-demand edition throughout over 50 countries around the world.

Yes, I'm risking what is, for me, a fair chuck of change, but it's a far cry from what would have been necessary even a decade ago to accomplish the same ends. My dad has been saying "thanks a lot" to me quite a few times recently, which makes me uncomfortable, because I actually think it's a pretty damned good book and I hope to make money with it over the longer term (him too, of course).

But time will tell. I know that more than one of you (who might be) reading this has ventured into the self-publishing/small press world, and that it's no easy row to hoe. I'm not quitting my day job just yet.

Meanwhile, if you're local, you should come out to the Ottawa Independent Writers Author's Fair near Billings Bridge tomorrow or Sunday. I'll be there, the author of The Old Man's Last Sauna will be there and so will a bunch of other folks. Buy a book, stay to meet Young Geoffrey in the flesh! How better to spend (a part of) one's Saturday or Sunday as October draws to a conclusion?

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August 2013

The prodigal blogger returns (again)

Kick-Ass 2 poster

August 29, 2013, OTTAWA — I hate the fact that I am so often making excuses and apologies for this site's less-than irregular schedule, so I am not going to bother this time. The three months that have passed since I last updated have been busy ones for me, and even productive ones, but not much of the evidence is yet ready for pixelation.

I would like to wax elequent about the criminality behind the West's latest march to war in the Middle East, or the police states being revealed on our shores, but for now I can only commend you to my Twitter feed if you want my take on the state of the world.

As for Rex, I can offer only my sole venture into the wasteland of this year's summer blockbusters — not the new Star Trek or E-Men (was there an X-Men movie this year?), but a sequel to a minor hit from a few years back that I liked quite a lot. The original, that is. The sequel? Not so much. Kick-Ass 2 wears sneakers, not steel-toed boots.


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May 2013

Blogging Doctor Who, New Series 7

Nightmare In Tedium

Neil Gaiman channels Stephen Thompson

(Which is never a good thing)

Screenshot from 'Nightmare in Silver', Doctor Who copyright 2013 BBC

May 16, 2013, OTTAWA — On more than one occasion, the writer Harlan Ellsion insisted his name be removed from a movie or television program and replaced with that of Cordwainer Bird in place of his own. He did it when he believed his script had been butchered: changed to the point where the on-screen result would in some way make him look bad. It was his way of "flipping the bird" at those who had ruined his work and, more, of protecting his own reputation as a screen-writer.

If Neil Gaiman doesn't have a pseudonym for similar circumstances, he should get one — and apply it retroactively to his sophomore entry as a screen-writer for Doctor Who.

"Nightmare in Silver" isn't the worst episode of this year's often-dreadful half-series (far from it) but it isn't very good, either.

It is almost inconceivable that the the writer of "The Doctor's Wife" (not to mention of the Sandman graphic novels) could have handed in a script as dramatically disjointed, as illogical and as frankly boring, as that which showed up on our television screens this past weekend. And surely, it wasn't Neil Gaiman who closed the episode with the appalling spectacle of the Doctor almost literally drooling as he ponders the sight of Clara in a skirt just "a little bit too tight".

A nightmare in silver? More like pewter, or even tin. Spoilers and snark, as usual.


Blogging Doctor Who, New Series 7

The Crimson Horror:

Patterns of abuse

Screenshot from, The Crimson Horror, Doctor Who copyright 2013 BBC

May 12, 2013, OTTAWA — I know a lot of you enjoyed "The Crimson Horror" and, in comparison to the previous week's travesty, you had every right to.

Nevertheless, what you enjoyed was still pretty lousy television and I guarantee that, unless you make a real study of it, you won't remember a damned thing about it a year from now.

Don't believe me?

Read "Carry On Up the Tardis!" to find out why it was the idea of "The Crimson Horror" you liked, and not the show itself.

As usual, both plot- and fun-spoilers abound, so enter at your own risk.


Blogging Doctor Who, New Series 7

Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS:

The contempt of the show-runner

The Hisotry of the Time War, screenshot, copyright BBC

May 4, 2013, OTTAWA — An insult. A slap in the face. Or should I say, another insult, another slap in the face?

What more is there to say? The whole of Steven Moffat's Doctor Who has been a long series of insults dressed up as Big Ideas, punctuated by apologies from the likes of Richard Curtis and Neil Gaiman.

But how long can we point to "Vincent and the Doctor" or "The Doctor's Wife" and tell ourselves that Steven Moffat actually cares about the cultural institution in his charge?

The truth is, we have become so used to terrible television that when the merely mediocre happens along, people like me nearly start preaching the second coming.

It's time we face the truth: Steven Moffat holds us, his audience, in utter contempt. Take as Exhibit 37, the latest mess of a program broadcast under the name of Doctor Who.

"Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS" begins with an implausible and arbitrary set-up and is propelled by a plot that works only through the unlikely stupidity of its guest characters, the even more unlikely (and dumb) decisions of its regulars and a resolution that re-uses — yet again! — one of Moffat's now tired and tiresome time-travel tropes — and which then cheats on its own rules. The BBC brain-trust ought to be ashamed to have allowed it to air.

My full review is behind this link, but be warned: I am not happy and sometimes I say so in language unfit for ears of the young and tender, or for eyes of work-mates reading over one's shoulder. Also, there are spoilers, as per normal.

Finally, if you want to suggest that I hate this show so much I shouldn't be reviewing it, you may be right. But I committed myself to seeing Series 7 through to the end, and so I will. But after that? If Steven Moffat is still in charge, I rather suspect I'll be done with the show for the duration. Those of you as sick of my opinions as I am sick of Steven Moffat's stories probably have more reason for hope than I do.


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