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The 10th Doctor and Martha Jones, photo courtesy the BBC    

Doctor Who is the longest running science fiction series in TV history, and very soon, David Tennant’s tenure as the 10th incarnation of the Doctor will come to a close and Matt Smith’s turn as the 11th will begin. A new incarnation of the Doctor always means a new direction for the series, and I’m looking forward to seeing what Smith does with the part.

 

 But Tennant hasn’t finished his run yet; and his latest adventure, “The Waters of Mars”- the third of five Doctor Who stand-alone specials that mark the 2009 “season”- finds the Doctor taking a somewhat disturbing turn toward the dark side.

     Keeping this vague to avoid spoilers as much as possible, I’ll just say that the Doctor decides to take certain actions that he knows he shouldn’t take, actions that would have serious impacts on the course of future history. When asked why he did this, the Doctor points out that as the last of the Timelords, he’s not a survivor, as he’d initially thought, he’s the winner. And as the last of the Timelords, he now gets to make the rules, since there’s no one to stop him.

     And he’s very pleased with himself, and refers to himself as “The Timelord victorious.” But his triumph is short-lived, as a character “helped” by him declares that “The Timelord victorious is wrong”, and takes drastic steps to undercut his “victory.” History follows the same general path it originally had, but for some very minor details.

     The Doctor seems shaken to the core about what happened, perhaps horrified at both his actions and his cavalier attitude; and wonders, based on something he sees, if he’s at or near the moment of his “death”, having twice been told recently that his “song is ending soon.”

     And so the story ends with the Doctor rushing into the TARDIS and departing. What happens next we’ll find out in the final two-part story, “The End of Time”, which will air around Christmas and New Year’s Day, and culminate with the Doctor’s regeneration.

The 11th Doctor and Amy Pond, photo courtesy the BBC     

     In the previous story, “Planet of the Dead”, the Doctor refuses to take on Lady Christina de Souza as a companion, stating that he’d had people traveling with him, but he’s lost them all. “Never again,” he told her. Now we know the 11th Doctor will have a companion- Amy Pond, as played by Karen Gillan- so obviously the Doctor changes his mind about having someone along for the ride. Why? Well, in terms of Doctor Who as a TV series, the main character needs someone to talk to; he can’t go around talking to himself. But why, in the context of the narrative, would the Doctor once again take on a companion?

     Part of the answer is that each incarnation of the Doctor has a different personality. But I think another reason might turn out to be because, as Donna Noble said in “The Runaway Bride”, the Doctor sometimes needs someone to stop him. Perhaps the Doctor, in either his 10th or 11th incarnation, will recognize that he could one day again find himself embracing an “I can do anything I want because I’m the last of the Timelords” mentality, and giving in to the temptation to play the God of Time. And so decides he needs someone to keep him grounded.

     I’m looking forward to seeing these next two specials, and to seeing how Smith, who breaks Peter Davison’s record as the youngest actor to play the Doctor, will interpret the part.

 

     Well, Smallville, Supernatural and Heroes have all settled down for their long winter’s naps, returning in January. Why they’re taking such long breaks is beyond me. With so many other forms of entertainment competing for people’s attention, it seems crazy to take a TV show off the air for such a long stretch during the regular season.

     Speaking of Heroes, as I said in the past, the season 3 finale was so annoying (and lacking in story logic) that I doubt I’ll buy the DVDs. To review, Sylar, who had recently gained shape-shifting abilities, killed Sen. Nathan Petrelli. Then, under the direction of Nathan’s mother, Matt Parkman gave Sylar a telepathic command to not only assume Nathan’s form, but to believe he was Nathan.

     Well, that didn’t work out too well, with Sylar’s mind knocking about in Parkman’s brain and “Nathan” feeling something was somehow off. Just in time for the Petrelli family thanksgiving, where both Peter and Nathan confront their mother with “what the hell did you think you were doing?” questions- questions I’m sure the viewers want to know, too- Sylar’s mind is returned to  his body, and a battle of wills between the Nathan and Sylar personas takes place.

     But as we saw in the most recent episode, it’s one that Nathan ultimately loses. As he tells Peter, he’s tired, and doesn’t have the strength to keep fighting. Hard to blame him, given the circumstances. Probably just as well we didn’t have an ongoing “Dr. Nathan and Mr. Sylar” subplot; but when Nathan “died”, couldn’t he have taken Sylar with him?

     Unfortunately not. As I’ve said before, Sylar shouldn’t still be around. He was the “Big Bad” of season 1. He should’ve died at the end of that season (or when he was powerless in season 2, though I think the first option would’ve been better, from a storytelling point of view). Sylar, again, is overused. He’s become the Joker of Heroes– the mass murderer who should either have long since been locked away for life or killed.

 

     Starman Omnibus Vol. 1

  

     Recommended reading: The Starman Omnibus (DC Comics) by James Robinson (writer), Tony Harris (penciller) and Wade Von Grawbadger (inker). Originally published in single magazine form beginning in 1994, Starman tells the story of Jack Knight, son of Golden Age Starman Ted Knight, who finds himself taking on the mantle of Opal City’s resident protector, following the murder of his brother, David.

     Except, Jack, unlike David, has no desire to play superhero (or any other kind of hero), much less wear his father’s old costume. However, he reluctantly agrees to be Opal City’s protector, though he won’t wear a costume. The closest he comes is a dark jacket and a pair of World War II era goggles.

     And just as Jack isn’t a traditional superhero, his adventures thus far haven’t been traditional superhero fare, either. A great deal of it has concerned the supernatural.

     The Starman Omnibus will eventually comprise six volumes, three of which have been released to date. So far, I’ve only read up to issue #11, but I plan to read the entire series.

 

     Robinson also wrote the excellent, but sadly short-lived 1990’s Image Comics series Leave it to Chance, which concerned 14-year-old Chance Falconer, daughter of paranormal investigator Lucas Falconer. A Falconer has always protected the town of Devil’s Echo, and Chance is ready to begin her training. Except her father decides it’s not a job for a girl; and that he’ll wait until a grandson comes along, and train him.

     Chance is having none of that, and along with her pet miniature dragon, St. George, she gets involved in paranormal goings-on, sometimes deliberately, sometimes not.

     Eleven of the 13 issues of this all-ages series (which has an obvious appeal to girls) are collected in three trade paperbacks. They (and the individual issues) are well worth keeping an eye out for at your local comic shop.

 

Copyright 2009 Patrick Keating

  

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