River’s Run: The Unofficial And Unauthorised Guide To Doctor Who 2011 by Stephen James Walker (book review).
As should be surmised from the title, ‘River’s Run: The Unofficial And Unauthorised Guide To Doctor Who 2011’, Stephen James Walker’s book is an examination of not only the 2011 season and specials of ‘Doctor Who’ but the events leading up to and surrounding it both in its universe and ours. As such, this book makes for an interesting time capsule so that if you’ve missed anything significant, then you should be able to find it in here.
This is also Steven Moffat’s second year as show-runner and where he describes ‘Doctor Who’ as a similarity to a fairground with 2010 being the roller-coaster and 2011 being the ghost ride. What I also found fascinating was the couple times that actor Matt Smith said in interviews that he was looking at the possibilities for work in America, which as we know now brought in his forthcoming regeneration in 2013 and avoiding doing a year of specials for the Beeb. There is also a lot of discussion of producers being moved on and then the BBC wondering why they can’t re-hire them. I suspect like me, you’re wondering if this had any effect on the latter seasons considering what we also know about the present. I’ve always felt with any production company that stability at the top will also reflect on the work below them, more so with long-running SF shows where knowledge is king.
Picking out things of interest is a question of where to start based off how much I know or remembered and there’s a lot to pick from here to react to. If you’re out for looking for production errors, then you’re going to be a happy bunny. If anything, it tends to cast a poor light on the continuity boy or girl although they might not have any control over which take the editors think is the best take. If anything the various directors need to match takes better so, for example, shirts out of trousers connect to the next scene. This isn’t the same as plot inconsistencies and Walker’s criticisms match my own. Some things I can justify. Take Rory’s resuscitation in ‘The Curse Of The Black Spot’ and the lack of the Doctor’s help. I tend to see that because the Doctor isn’t sure that Rory should be there after dying so many times and might be a variation of Jack Harkness in being someone who shouldn’t really exist and wanted to see what was going on.
With ‘The Doctor’s Wife’, I thought the story the Doctor was explaining about reattaching the robot king’s head to was a reference to ‘The Androids Of Tara’. Saying that, Walker cross-references all the notations for other events and such that Neil Gaiman gives in his story and points out the complete script was edited down to fit the time allocated. Considering that Gaiman should know how to write to a 50 minute story requirement by now, this does tend to imply over-writing on his part. Then again, this is more SF than what he did for ‘Babylon 5’. The reference to Corsair’s body parts does raise an interesting point, especially in light of ‘The Impossible Astronaut’ story in how many times can a Time Lord be chopped up before its tissue can’t regenerate.
With ‘The Almost People’, I’m sure the Jon Pertwee Doctor said the ‘reverse the neutron flow’ line more than twice. Beyond that, Walker points out the contractions in the story as to how could the Gangers reproduce without a human hand. I would have thought that they would have worked out a way to keep one human sufficiently alive to plant his hand on the activator.
‘A Good Man Goes To War’ has Walker exploring the decisions the Doctor goes through as he led a combative team to rescue Amy Pond and the implications of River Song’s knowledge. One thing I wish he’d explored is whether or not the Doctor really did leave the Ponds to search for Melody Pond for a few years or gave that impression to them because he knew that if he interfered with her life then it would have a drastic effect on River Song herself and his own time-line. He does do this with the last episode, ‘The Wedding Of River Song’, but as I drew this conclusion this early when I was doing spot analysis when I watched the season originally, maybe I was just a little quicker. Whatever, the body count attributed to the Doctor is certainly grown too much for him to deny his responsibility in all of this. The one thing I doubt they’ll really test on a family show is what happens if he kills an innocent which is often the dividing point between being a murderer and a combatant. As Walker points out, many races see the Doctor now as a warrior and battles like this will only re-enforce this image. I’m wondering if there is a need for some debate on this. After all, if a species feared doing something to come to his notice, wouldn’t they try to stay on his good side?
Speaking of River Pond, I still find her ability to regenerate for a while, simply because her parents were in the TARDIS…er…reproducing odd considering she isn’t actually a Time Lord. Granted all previous companions, especially with assorted males and females at the same time, have been celibate but if there was that much temporal energy about, then surely there would be other side-effects like prolonged life, etc. Maybe there is a lot more to that statement by Sarah Jane Smith in her last story that other companions have extended lives. Maybe this is actually one of the reasons why the TARDIS was being repaired in the first place because of temporal leakage. That being the case, isn’t it about time the Doctor gave the TARDIS a proper MOT. For Gallifreyans themselves, how much time travel must they do before they develop the ability to regenerate?
Walker’s analysis of Steve Moffat’s over-use of father/son relationships across this season given in ‘Closing Time’ is a deserving point that someone in the production team should have spotted and at least questioned as being something that was being over done. Going back or forward to ‘The Wedding Of River Song’ and the death of Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart and that the Doctor able to visit him at any time in his time-line is a bit dubious. Granted the Brigadier has met several regenerations, there is always the complication he would have said the wrong remark to the wrong Doctor. There has to be a limit to how many times a long-lived being like the Doctor can visit the life-line of a short-lived being, let alone out of order, without causing problems for them. One can easily use the example with the Ponds in that he always progressed through their time-line than pop back a few moments for them and a longer time for him. Saying that and going back to a previous point, I don’t entirely believe he went travelling on his own for two hundred years looking for Melody Pond. I mean, could he possibly be without a companion for so long, let alone have other adventures that would change him during this time and not be shown by the BBC? As Walker points out, he and the Ponds know there are set points in Melody’s time-line that will lead her to becoming River Song which would affect their own time-lines and that of others so they can’t interfere/
As you can see from the above, this is just my reaction to the material. I’m pretty sure if you’re a ‘Who’ fan then you’re going to analyse even more than this. Apart from the TV stories, there is also a look at his other adventures elsewhere and the viewing statistics. I’m glad that Walker has touched on how these numbers compare to other shows but hope this will progress to how this compares to the weekly figures. Saying that, I do doubt if a soap opera audience is the same as the kind of audience who watches as SF show, so maybe it should be compared to other SF shows on the other channels to see if there are any other watching patterns.
Don’t forget to buy your own copy.
(pub: Telos. 399 page small enlarged paperback. Price: £15.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-84583-078-6)
check out websites: www.telos.co.uk