Thursday, September 17, 2015

Recap: "Doctor Who: The TV Movie" Part 3: The Beginning

This is where it all ends. After this, Paul McGann never appears on televised Doctor Who again.

Oh, and there's a final battle. I guess.

As Lee drives the Doctor, Master, and Grace through the city, the Doctor grows more and more worried about getting there in time.

Grace: “Don’t worry, I’m on the board of trustees at the Institute.”


Doctor: “Grace, why did you not say you had access to a beryllium clock?”
Grace: “I was more concerned about the Eye of Destruction.”
Doctor: “Harmony.”

Luckily for Grace, she has somebody to talk to about this delusional man.

Grace: “He likes me to I call him ‘Doctor.’”
Master: “Well…”
Grace: “You know, Freud had a name for that.”
Master: “Transference.”

Uh, no. “Transference” is where somebody transfers their feelings for one person onto another person. Like if you meet a stranger who reminds you of your beloved Gram-Gram, so you put an extra quarter in her parking meter.

The Doctor continues to insist that not only is he telling the truth, but he met Freud and they became friends.

Grace: “Did you know Madame Curie, too?”
Doctor: “Intimately.”
Grace: “She kiss as good as me?”
Master: “As well as you.”

Kudos to Eric Roberts. He might not have known much about the character going in, but that was a very Master-ish ad-lib on his part.

Due to a traffic jam, the ambulance is forced to stop in a hurry, knocking the Master’s sunglasses off. As it turns out, a truck full of chickens had a bit of an accident, backing up traffic. Fowl play was not suspected. I’d love to take credit for that pun, but Paul McGann beat me to it on the commentary track. Speaking of Paul McGann, the Doctor reaches over and nabs the Master’s sunglasses. In retaliation, he spits up acidic goo all over Grace’s arm.

I'm not making the obvious joke.
The Doctor sprays the Master with a fire extinguisher and escapes the ambulance with Grace. The Master garbles something along the lines of “I can’t be hurt like this,” which the subtitles translate as “I’d be delighted.” As Chang Lee helps the Master wipe off the flame-retardant foam, Grace and the Doctor run ahead to the police officer at the front of the jam. The Doctor reaches into his coat, alarming the trigger-happy cop, but the situation is defused when the Doctor pulls out a bag of jelly babies.

But… the Doctor’s possessions were stolen by Chang. And jelly babies aren’t available in America. Was the Doctor keeping those jelly babies up his….

No wonder Grace looks so grossed out.
The cop takes a bite of one, allowing the Doctor to refuse the situation by stealing the officer’s gun and threatening to shoot himself unless the officer hands over his motorcycle. Except for the part where he talks to Grace and points the gun at the cop. After a short speech to the hesitant Grace about holding back the destruction of every life on Earth, Grace takes the gun, accidentally shoots the motorcycle, and demands the keys. He complies.

So as the Doctor and Grace have a new vehicle, the Master is wondering why Lee isn’t driving their vehicle after them.

Chang Lee: “The road’s still blocked.”
Master:This! Is! An ambulaaaaaance!”

Wow, people were even parodying 300 years before it came out.

Lee activates the siren and starts driving as the Doctor and Grace drive off. Sharp-eared viewers might notice that the background music here sounds a bit like the 11th Doctor’s theme, “I am the Doctor.” That’s not really relevant to the movie, but I thought I’d mention that instead of what happens next. Because what happens next is a chase scene. I mean, it’s a good chase scene, and an okay shout-out to Terminator 2 again, but nothing really happens except for our heroes giving the villains the slip and arriving at the Institute.

And so, they arrive a few minutes later, where it’s revealed that they didn’t actually so much give the villains the slip as give the villains an opportunity to get to the institute first. Whoops. So with the Master and Chang Lee already inside the building, the Doctor and Grace will have to attract as little attention as possible. Which is why they’re wearing a Wild Bill Hickok costume and a trench coat, respectively.

Grace tries to pass the Doctor off as “Doctor Bowman from London” to get him into the restricted area where the clock is kept, but the Doctor won’t have his credential-forging psychic paper until his ninth incarnation, so they’re forced to wait until everybody gets let in. Once in, they take a look at the giant thing as the Doctor explains that they don’t need the whole clock, just a single component of it. Grace starts asking common Doctor Who fan questions, like how the laws of time travel work and whether or not the Doctor can make himself look like other species. But they soon run into Professor Wagg, the man behind the project, so after the Doctor tries and fails to get a peek behind the scenes, he decides to perpetuate the line that angered so many.

Doctor: “I’m half-human. On my mother’s side.”

But the Doctor pilfers Wagg’s security pass and he and Grace use it to get that closer look. After stealing the necessary component, their hasty exit is interrupted by the young security guard.

Doctor: “I know you.”
Guard: “You do, huh?”
Doctor: “Gareth, answer the second question on your midterm exam, not the third. The third may look easier, but you’ll mess it up.”

Gareth is a bit confused by this, but still asks to see what’s in the Doctor’s hand. Turns out, the Doctor already pocketed the component and was holding a jelly baby. He gives it to Gareth, and they leave the area as the Doctor explains’ what that was all about.

Doctor: “Ten years from now, Gareth will head the seismology unit at the UCLA task force and devise a system for accurately predicting earthquakes.”

Yeah, remember when we learned how to predict earthquakes in 2010?

But Grace spots the Master who spots them back, necessitating a quick escape past some security guards who were on the receiving end of the Master’s slime attack.

Nope. Still not going to make the obvious joke.
The Doctor hits a nearby fire alarm, and the whole building evacuates in a panic, instead of what happens in real life where everybody mutters for a bit over whether or not this is a drill before shuffling outside. Once near the roof, the Doctor and Grace improvise an escape by rappelling down the building using a fire hose.

Doctor: “You’re not afraid of heights, are you?”
Grace: “Yeah.”
Doctor: “So am I.”

Falling off a radio telescope and dying will do that to you.
Grace and the Doctor take off on the police motorcycle once again. After Grace fails to get some hints about her own future from the Doctor, they arrive at the TARDIS and use the spare key above the police box sign to unlock the door. After a gag where another policeman rides in and out thanks to some faulty brakes, the Doctor and Grace enter and get to work on closing the Eye while he explains how the TARDIS works.

Grace: “Oh, you mean like interdimensional transference? That would explain the spatial displacement we experienced as we crossed over the threshold.”

Um, those are not the correct words a human would say in this situation. Clearly, something’s up.

The Doctor manages to wire in the component and close the Eye, but there’s still something wrong. And honestly, I’m not sure what’s going on.

Doctor: “I have a horrible feeling we’re already too late.”
Grace: “Well, it’s 11:48, we still have eleven minutes!”
Doctor: “Yes, but there is no context.”

You got that right. As near as I can tell, the TARDIS’s “timing malfunction” means that the TARDIS is incorrectly synced with its surroundings, meaning that “11:48” is meaningless. The Doctor takes the TARDIS to one minute after midnight, and watches the destruction of the solar system on the overhead viewer.

Some men just want to watch the worlds burn.
So, wrap your head around this. In order to solve the problem, the Doctor plans to head back in time to before the Eye was opened. Which is impossible, since the TARDIS can’t go into its own past or future, just the past or future of the external universe. So now the problem is that the Eye is drained and TARDIS has no power, which the Doctor tries to fix through technobabble before getting a neutron ram to the head. Grace is now possessed, which explain why she was using knowledge that wasn’t her own earlier.

And why she suddenly looks like a Betazoid.
Chang Lee and the Master arrive to set the evil plan into motion by taking the Doctor to the Cloister Room. As the Doctor tries to talk his way out of the situation by turning Lee and Grace to his side, the Master makes his entrance.

His fabulous, fabulous entrance.
So, I know this is a minor point compared to the others I’ve made, so I won’t belabor it, but that getup is all kinds of inaccurate. Ignoring the fact that no Time Lord robes had those designs or stylings, no Time Lords wear black; they wear the colors of their house. Like Hogwarts.

The Master claims that when all is said and done, he’ll escape the planet with Lee, who he claims is the son he never had.

Yeah, looks like Chang Lee just realized that a fairly-convincing Liberace cosplayer is kissing him in San Francisco.
The Master orders Grace to put the restraints on the Doctor.

Grace: “I suspect you know how.”

Ignoring the implications of Grace knowing how to work bondage gear, she sticks the not-at-all symbolic crown of nails on the Doctor’s head while he yells to Chang about how obviously evil everything the Master does is.

The time is 11:55.

Bill and Ted celebrate at a costume party.

Professor Wagg meditates.

The Doctor is cuffed and subjected to the Ludovico technique.

Why, yes, that device is actually holding Paul McGann's eyes open.
Doctor: “In seven hundred years, no one has managed to open they Eye! How did you do it?”

Well, according to the redundantly-named Fourth Doctor episode “The Deadly Assassin,” you need to use the Rod of Rassilon to open it. Which the various mirrored staffs in the Cloister Room seem to be, even though the writer seems to have failed to remember that the Rod of Rassilon is in the perpetual ownership of the President of Gallifrey, which the Doctor is not. Anymore.

Second, you need to wear the Sash of Rassilon which will protect you from the powerful forces of the black hole, which the Master is distinctly not wearing.

Third, the Master already opened the Eye in “The Deadly Assassin,” just not all the way before he was stopped.

Fourthly, the Doctor was there for all of this.

He was a different person then, but still.
The reason I bring all this up is because the episode the episode I’m referencing is the episode that featured the debut of the Eye of Harmony. The writer seems to remember that the Eye of Harmony exists and that opening it is bad, but literally nothing else about it. Which is doubly bad when you consider that the “Time Lords have 12 lives idea” they keep reiterating originated in the very same episode. Well, actually, there’s another possible explanation, but I’ll get to that in the Review portion.

Anyway, the Master tells Lee to open the Eye of Harmony again as we inch closer to midnight. Professor Wagg is informed by Gareth that his life’s work won’t turn on as the clock strikes 11:58.

His life's work, down the crapper. Hooray for the Doctor...?
The Doctor and the Master yell at each other for a bit, and the Master declares that he’s wasted all his lives with his feud with the Doctor. The Doctor points out how this contradicts the Master’s previous claims of having his lives stolen.

Chang Lee: “You lied to me!”

“You’re a murderous monster, but I didn’t think you were a liar!”
The Master responds by snapping Lee’s neck, meaning that if he wants to open the Eye now, he’ll have to un-possess Grace to return her eyes to normal. He shoves her face into the opening, temporarily blinding her and allowing…. something to happen.

Well, this sure is happening.
It’s not really explained, but the mirrors are set up to reflect beams of light onto the Doctor and the Master, transferring the Doctor’s lives into the Master’s body. The Doctor yells at Grace to go reroute the power in the console room, and she runs off to do so because it’s not like reprogramming alien technology is difficult.

The music swells.

Stock footage of a thunderstorm plays outside.

San Francisco counts down to midnight.

Over in another TV show, Alex Hopkins has just murdered his own team at the Torchwood Three Hub and hands command over to Captain Jack Harkness.

And the Master turns into Paul McGann for a brief moment.
But in the last second, Grace connects two random wires and successfully saves the day, sending the TARDIS back in time with a quick montage of various Earth landmarks that seem to inexplicably be in the same time zone. And when she returns to the Cloister Room to free the Doctor, the Master has his revenge by tossing her off the balcony. The Master and the Doctor then proceed to have a fight that was barely outlined in the script, meaning that the only thing keeping their short scuffle tense is the frantic editing. They soon end up grappling over the Eye of Harmony like Sherlock and Moriarty at Reichenbach Falls.

Doctor: “You want dominion over the living, yet all you do is kill!”
Master: “Life is wasted on the living!”

But right now, the Doctor needs Douglas Adams quotes like a hole in his head. So he blinds the Master with one of the mirrored staffs as he lunges, causing him to lose his balance and fall into the Eye of Harmony, despite the Doctor’s attempt to save his old foe in the end.

Having finally defeated his old foe until the writers decide to bring him back, the Doctor lays Lee and Grace together on the floor of the TARDIS. The music swells, it’s all sad, blah blah blah. Then the Eye opens up, spits out some golden energy that brings the two back to life, and closes again.

Doctor: “What a sentimental old thing this TARDIS is.”

And what a convenient way to undo two character deaths. Apparently, it had something to do with winding back time, like in Superman.

Doctor: “Well, congratulations. You’ve both been somewhere I’ve never been.”
Grace: “It’s nothing to be scared of, Doctor.”

Huh. Makes you wonder exactly what Grace saw on the other side….

"Hello? I'm... I'm sorry, but where am I?"
“Welcome to the Underworld. Otherwise known as the Nethersphere, or the Promised Land.”
The Doctor takes them into the control room and turns on the overhead viewer, showing them Gallifrey on the other side of the galaxy.

Doctor: “250 million light years away.”

Neat trick, considering that the galaxy is only around 100 thousand light years across at most. The Milky Way must be bigger on the inside.

The date is December 29th, so after hitting the TARDIS to make it go, the Doctor takes them to 12:01 AM on January 1st, 2000. As they all exit the TARDIS, Lee gives the Doctor back his things. He takes the bag graciously, but tells Lee he can keep the bags of gold dust. But before Lee leaves….

Doctor: “Next Christmas, take a vacation. Just don’t be here.”

Don’t look the date up, people. I checked. Nothing happened.

The Doctor almost tells Grace something about her own future, but she stops him.

Grace: “I know who I am. And that’s enough.”

And so, the Doctor never told her that her glass door was still unstable.
Two days later, she would fall through it, hit her head, and die.
Moral of the story: Listen to time travelers.
Doctor: “Come with me.”
Grace: “You come with me.”
Doctor: “Me come with you?”
Grace: “Yes.”

It was pointed out in the commentary that this movie is absolutely terrible at introducing first-time viewers to the series. In fact, they brought up that if you honestly had no clue what Doctor Who was, the focus on Grace here might lead you to believe that it was about a cardiologist who meets strange people every week.

And with one last kiss, the two part ways.

Grace: “Thank you, Doctor.”
Doctor: “No, no, thank you, Doctor.”

And after the TARDIS vworps into the time vortex, the Doctor puts his record back on and continues his book where his seventh incarnation left off. As the record skips on the word “time” once again, the movie ends.

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