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Mâvarin and Other Inspirations

A Fantasy Writer's Journal

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My Comments on the DWM 2010 Season Survey
Crack, Doctor Who, Cayenne
I've just emailed my Doctor Who Magazine Season Survey, filled out in plenty of time now that I'm a subscriber. (The time lag for DWM to reach U.S. bookstores is pretty horrendous and getting worse!)

Does the body of an email count as "comments on a separate sheet of paper"? Here are mine:

Best Overall Story: Some of my personal ratings have changed since I voted on the Gallifrey Base rate threads, in both directions. I initially liked The Hungry Earth, but the mother's behavior in Cold Blood is so upsettingly awful that I'm unwilling to watch the story as often as I normally would. I've been watching just the last ten minutes of the story, for Rory's death and its aftermath. I initially found it hard to rate The Pandorica Opens at all; I just wasn't sure what I thought or felt about it in advance of The Big Bang. Then I realized I was obsessed with the story. When The Big Bang aired, both parts rated an easy 10 - even if most of the fan theories about Amy's house and other conundrums went unconfirmed (so far!). Victory of the Daleks is destroyed by the premise of sending Spitfires into space with about 10 minutes from theory to launch, along with the lack of even a vague explanation how mention of Dorabella can stop Bracewell from exploding.

Best Writer: Steven Moffat's captivating scripts that bookend the series make him the only choice for this award, and his other two stories are only slightly less successful for me. If I could nominate a runner-up, it would be Richard Curtis, writer of the year's best Who script by someone not nicknamed the Moff (Vincent and the Doctor).

Best Director: This year, the choice of best director is "a tricky one." I gave Toby Haynes the nod for great visuals in several places (especially at the openings and closings of the Pandorica) and for encouraging truly outstanding performances from Matt Smith and Arthur Darvill, enhanced by great choices in lighting, shots used, and music or lack thereof. That said, Catherine Morshead did an outstanding job on Amy's Choice (especially scenes of the frozen TARDIS) and Jonny Campbell painted his own beautiful pictures in Vincent and the Doctor. The scene with Amy and the sunflowers (as opposed to The Sunflowers) was just lovely, as were the field with crows, Vincent's flawlessly-recreated bedroom (with the despairing Vincent on the bed) and the cafe.

Best Actor: Matt Smith utterly deserves the #1 spot in the acting category this year. He's been a revelation, every bit as good as Steven Moffat promised if not better. How can a man that young convey great age so utterly convincingly? He's the world's most graceful klutz, at once goofy and dignified. Whether he is shouting his anger and frustration, teasing or testing a friend, or barely able to speak at all, he is utterly captivating and believable. The Doctor's essential qualities shine through Matt Smith at every moment of his performance. Every time he appears on the screen, it becomes a little harder for me to continue to claim that David Tennant is "my Doctor." Arthur Darvill as Rory is no slouch, either. He has excellent comic timing and a core of believability, and by the end of the series his character is utterly heroic as well as lovable. Tony Curran's Vincent is engaging and tragic and real, especially during the character's high and low points. If I could nominate a fourth actor it would be Toby Jones as the Dream Lord, the Valeyard reimagined as the King of Snark.

Best Actress: Karen Gillan and Alex Kingston are a lot of fun to watch, although it must be said that neither approaches the quality of Matt Smith. Fortunately, they don't have to. I went with Sophie Okonedo in the third spot because she's just so engaging as Liz Ten. I could almost as easily have selected Meera Syal, who was the main highlight of the Silurians two-parter.

Best Monster: It wasn't that monster-y a year, despite the cast of thousands shutting the Doctor up in the Pandorica near the end of the season. Aside from the under-Henge walk-ons, the only monsters that posed a real threat were the army of Weeping Angels. The expansions to their modus operandi were interesting and caused viewers some seriously tense moments, especially when Amy was trapped with the Angel from the recording. The premise of Angel Bob, although basically an extension of the data ghost idea of two years ago, was nevertheless inspired. The one thing that didn't quite work with the Angels this year was it was very difficult to believe that they were following the old rules as well, in terms of when they could and could not move.

Best Villain: The Dream Lord was sinister and funny, a great personification of the Doctor's inner critic, that nasty voice inside each of us that whispers we're no good and should give up now. Cross the Valeyard at his strangest with a sarcastic Doctor Who fan, and you end up with a character very much like the Dream Lord.

Best Male Supporting Character: There's no question on this one: it has to be Rory Williams. Rory is funny and likable from his first moments on screen, and just grows from there. Even as a relatively unadventurous stay-at-home in this early stories, he's reacting with intelligence and common sense to all he sees, noticing what others do not. He proves himself when defending Amy with a broom, and later hauls her to safety with an apology for every bump up a flight of stairs. He tries to save the Doctor from Restac, overcomes his Auton programming (just a little too late) at Stonehenge, protects Amy in the Pandorica for nearly 2000 years, and by the end of the series is nearly as adventurous as Amy and utterly worthy of her (but is she worthy of him?). What's not to love?

Best Female Supporting Character: Caitlin Blackwood's Young Amelia was utterly perfect in The Eleventh Hour, and almost as good in The Big Bang. Amelia deserved a ride in the TARDIS much more than her older self did, although a seven-year-old companion would undoubtedly invite criticism and nasty accusations. I suppose the series was largely about restoring adult Amy to the person Amelia could have grown into were it not for the losses she suffered along the way.

Best Special Effect: This wasn't a really effects-heavy season. I don't think there was anything wrong with such images as Prisoner Zero as itself, the stars and galaxies being destroyed, etc., but they didn't really stand out, either. The sky about Provence morphing into a version of The Starry Night was magical, though, not so much visually but in the context of the scene. My honorable mention  would go to the dilapidated exterior of Starship UK.

Best Music: Murray Gold's most memorable music this year was introduced in The Eleventh Hour and reappeared throughout the season. I'd love to know the names of the individual pieces. I wasn't a big fan of using pop songs in later episodes - well, except Crazy Little Thing Called Love at the wedding!

Greatest Contribution: I put Steven Moffat just ahead of Matt Smith here, but on another day I might have swapped them around. They were both outstanding. The number 3 spot is tougher. As good as Karen Gillan is, did she contribute more than the other executive producers? I don't really know. On the assumption that others will vote for Karen because her contribution is a highly visible one, I went with Piers Wenger instead.


(Mavarin Karen on Gallifrey Base)