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Doctor Who Magazine Special Edition: 200 Golden Moments

May 23rd, 2009 (12:39 am)

200 Golden Moments, if you forgive the somewhat cloying title, is perhaps the happiest publication Doctor Who Magazine has brought out. It's appropriate for a summer special, of course, in a period between the almost relentlessly fluffy Planet of the Dead and the funereal note which will strike from The Waters of Mars until David Tennant transforms into Matt Smith (or not, as RTD has been teasing) at the end of the final special. The format of this special demands that one moment (sometimes two, and four from The Trial of a Time Lord) from each story is selected and a Doctor Who pro-fan writer contributes a reflection on the moment and argues its case - whether it's particularly amusing or chilling or whether it manages to capture something arguably essential about the series.

Such a fundamentally impressionistic exercise is bound to be subjective, but there are some clear missed opportunities to my eyes: The Sensorites is represented by the "It all started out as a mild curiosity in a junk yard" exchange at the very start of the story and not by one of the many moments of uncanny but well-considered alienness that pepper this underrated serial. The War Machines sees episode 3's cliffhanger, with the Doctor confronting the War Machine, compared to a scene in Voyage of the Damned with the phrase "It's the iconic hero shot, the Doctor standing bravely between the world and the monsters, keeping us all safe. And really, isn't that what Doctor Who is all about?" which seems to me to misread the scene and the potency of the combination of the first Doctor's vulnerability and his largely unknown and unknowable genius against a threat which, for once, is nakedly domestic in origins. A really surprising omission, to me, is the ninth Doctor's regeneration scene, which seems essential to the arc of the 2005 series; I wasn't the only viewer to be left wondering how far the Doctor's blaming the regeneration on his absorption of the time vortex was an excuse, and that the real cause was the psychological catharsis the events of The Parting of the Ways had provided for this war-scarred soldier-Doctor. Still, it's impossible for a publication like this to be exhaustive; and Jeremy Bentham's interpretation of the cliffhanger ending of Bad Wolf, that it leaves us frightened on behalf of the Daleks, is worth reading.

There's a lot which is new. Nev Fountain offers a reassessment of Troughton's Doctor's comedy roots in his piece on the Doctor-Zoe-teaching machine scene in The Krotons, for example. There's a lot which is familiar, in a new way: James Moran contributes a few paragraphs on the second 'Golden Moment' in Survival, the final scene with the overdubbed "Worlds out there..." speech as the Doctor and Ace make their way down Horsenden Hill, away from the camera and from the viewers. Moran, like many of us at the time, somehow knew from the grammar of the scene, the way it was edited, that this was the end. As one of the children my sister was babysitting that night said, "I think it's finished"; and as far as a lot of decision-makers at the BBC were concerned, she was right.

Such a publication as this is bound to be uneven in tone and there are some comparable treatments of different stories by different writers which make different points: it could be argued that the discovery of the secondary control room in The Masque of Mandragora and the Doctor's "That's how it all started!" exclamation at the end of The Five Doctors are both cases of the authors of the series seizing control of the audience's memory: as Masque tries to suggest that the Hartnell, Troughton and Pertwee Doctors had used the secondary control room, when they had never been seen to do so on screen, Five Doctors asserts that the beginning of Doctor Who was the Doctor's flight from his own people in a TARDIS that doesn't work properly, thereby displacing the programme's original mystery. Yet while Jonathan Blum emphasises how Masque convinces the audience that Doctor Who was 'always like this' when a glance at earlier episodes shows that it wasn't, Graham Kibble-White sees the close of The Five Doctors as a thank you to "those who were there at the beginning", when it's celebrating elements of the format which weren't actually there.

Still, this special edition remains a great achievement for the team at Panini Magazines - an intricate but precise and clear design from Peri Godbold, as usual, and a range of writers many of whom haven't been seen in DWM for a long time - though obviously we will be seeing a lot of one Steven Moffat, who writes on Dragonfire, in the future.


Posted by: Virgers! How are we doing with those explosives? (tree_and_leaf)
Posted at: May 23rd, 2009 08:35 am (UTC)

I must get hold of thise!

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: May 23rd, 2009 09:01 am (UTC)

Do! There were a few copies in WHsmith yesterday, and more in Borders. Hours and hours of fun can be had with it. I'd utterly forgotten about the moment chosen for Kinda/i>; and Tom Baker's ad lib deserves the full page it gets for The Face of Evil.

Posted by: El Staplador (el_staplador)
Posted at: May 23rd, 2009 09:42 am (UTC)

I must admit that, for me, the most memorable moment of The War Machines was the shot of the bicycle, front wheel spinning, reflected in a puddle - but it was a lovely shot. Also the way Dodo Chaplet went off without a second glance - something Rose could learn from, methinks. But I'll have a look for this; it sounds rather interesting.

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: May 23rd, 2009 09:49 am (UTC)

That period of the programme treated outgoing companions as disposable without disguising this; and I'd forgotten that moment in The War Machines. It's the sort of thing which is repeated throughout the 'alien invasion/mass possession' stories, but I think that this is the first occasion.

Posted by: daniel_saunders (daniel_saunders)
Posted at: May 23rd, 2009 10:21 pm (UTC)
Doctor Who

I haven't finished this yet, but I also thought it was very good. DWM has improved in my estimation recently, and this was the best thing they have produced in a long time. I was particularly glad that most of the authors stuck to analysing their chosen scenes (even if a couple essentially just described the scene) without the nostalgic reminiscing that characterised some previous specials, which always made me feel a little out of place as someone who became a fan when the programme was no longer being made.

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: May 23rd, 2009 11:14 pm (UTC)

Until 2005 a lot of the DWM writers did treat it as a house journal for fans who had been born before 1980; this was acknowledged, really, in Gareth Roberts's piece in DWM 351 waving goodbye to the inter-series period.

The next issue is going to have the first three Doctors as the main cover stars, which is revolutionary in the modern era.