Saturday, June 18, 2016

Each Doctor is Unique

Reading about the lawsuit brought against Led Zeppelin recently claiming "Stairway to Heaven" rips off a song called "Taurus" by Spirit, I was amused by the fact that Jimmy Page has apparently invoked "Chim Chim Cher-ee" from Mary Poppins on the witness stand. A music expert brought on by Zeppelin's lawyers testified that the chord progression at issue has been in use for 300 years. It seems like a lot of unnecessary trouble--listening to "Taurus" I can hear a slight resemblance but suggesting Led Zeppelin ripped off Spirit seems like saying The Sopranos ripped off Johnny Eager. I'm no music expert but it seems like an argument only capable of swaying people much more ignorant than me. But that doesn't stop me from trying to hear "Stairway to Heaven" in "Chim Chim Cher-ee".

Here's a pretty fascinating video that walks through the very long history of songs that use the chord progression:

The Sixth Doctor continues to improve his reputation thanks to good writing in the Doctor Who audio plays. I listened to 100 last night, an anthology audio play from 2007 that features four approximately thirty minute stories by different writers, including one by Robert Shearman--in fact his latest one to date. I am still truly puzzled as to why he hasn't written more for the television series given how well received his Ninth Doctor episode "Dalek" was--and the audio play he wrote, Jubilee, which "Dalek" was based on, is even better. I can just imagine what he'd do with a two part episode of the kind that the 2015 season was made of.

Shearman wrote "My Own Private Wolfgang", the second story in the 100 set, which features John Sessions as Mozart. The story begins with the Doctor (Colin Baker) dragging his companion Evelyn (Maggie Stables) to a Mozart concert despite the fact that she's not interested in the mediocre musician whose latest CDs end up in the bargain bin. The story thus begins with the amusing idea that our timeline, the actual timeline, is one that's going to be created by the end of this Doctor Who story. But it ends up being more delightfully complex than that and before the end the Doctor and Evelyn find an argument that's not very clear involving futuristic clones of Mozart and scones. It's a very funny audio, different from Shearman's others which tend to be effectively scary.

"Bedtime Story" by Joseph Lidster follows and is a bit more nightmarish--also very clever having the Doctor and Evelyn visit the family of one of Evelyn's former students to find that this family has for generations lived with the fact that every time a new one of them is born one of the older members of the family simultaneously dies. It's an interesting metaphor for the sentimentalised "circle of life". It has Frank Finlay as an older member of the family.

The first story in the set is "100 BC" by Jacqueline Rayner, another of the nice history nerd stories I've been digging in the monthly audios. This one begins with the Doctor and Evelyn strolling through ancient Rome, 101 BC, as the Doctor tells her who is and isn't born yet. When Evelyn wants to see Cicero, the Doctor remarks Cicero wouldn't have much to discuss beyond toys being at this time only five. But the story mainly revolves around Julius Caesar and the Doctor and Evelyn's apparent accidental creation of a female variant called Julia Caesar, an error that is quickly illuminated for anyone listening who already knows a lot about Julius Caesar's family (I wasn't aware of the pertinent facts and was pretty amused at the climax).

Only the final story, "The 100 Days of the Doctor" by Paul Cornell, was a disappointment. Coming off as a bit too fannish, it has the Sixth Doctor, in the effort to cure some mysterious virus he's contracted from an assassin, secretly watching his Fifth, Seventh, and Eighth incarnations--though none of the other Doctor actors feature in this audio. He tells Evelyn about each of them and his commentary isn't that interesting, being mainly self-pity about how he doesn't measure up to Seven always being a step ahead and Five being so dashing.

I also listened to the third episode of the Nicholas Briggs scripted War Doctor stories. As expected, it wasn't very good. I look forward to hearing John Hurt performing scripts by other writers, though. It's a shame there aren't any by Robert Shearman.

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