This pinball machine can be found at the Asheville Pinball Museum in Asheville, North Carolina. We spent our spring break up in the Appalachian Mountains hiking and looking at waterfalls. However, we also spent every afternoon and evening listening to the kids beg to go to the pinball museum. It was only after they stopped begging and lost all hope of going that we finally took them. This museum usually has a waiting line. For us it was about an hour. We passed the time at a used bookstore across the street. Once inside there was plenty of Star Trek, Game of Thrones, KISS, Star Wars and other pinball machines to enjoy. There were also retro video games in the back, including my favorite, Dragon’s Lair.
Of course, I would spend the majority of my time on the Doctor Who pinball game, wracking up millions of points (because it was a whole lot easier than some other pinball games.) It features the first seven Doctors, their companions along with the Delgado Master. At certain point totals there are mini video games. The bumpers are soft and respond quickly. The ball bounces far on every hit. It feels like a game that was designed with younger, childhood age players in mind, despite the older nostalgia factor.
We’ve wrestled with which Doctor’s are which Pokémon. Now, it’s time to take on the companions. While I have a spot on entry waiting for Adric, I thought I would start with the Season 11 companions.
There was a great debate amongst my children and myself over this one. There were immediate feelings that Growlithe would be perfect for Yaz. However, a certain Doctor fits that Pokemon so well in both the attitude and the hair that it wasn’t going to change. Then what about Ryan? Is there awkward enough Pokémon that is also adventurous and endearing? I could claim there was a debate about Graham, but there wasn’t. This companion’s Pokémon was too obvious and fun to realize. So, let’s get started:
Yaz is a logical, sensible police officer who is always looking to solve the puzzle and keep everyone around her calm. However, do not, for an instant, believe that means she is a pushover who will not protect her pack… I mean her friends, fiercely (Tsuranga Conundrum.) She’ll even give you a warning before she lets loose. That is why Yaz is Mightyena. Her loyalty and desire to protect those she loves is fierce. It could be her family (Arachnids in the UK,) or her new adopted traveling mates (Kerblam!) No matter what, she will stand up and fight for them if you refuse to back down.
Finding a Pokémon as awkward as Ryan was difficult. He can be a nerd. Not in your traditional geeky sense. More just in his compact pockets of knowledge and interactions with others due to his self confidence. There are plenty to choose from. However, Ryan is anything but a clown. He’s kind, compassionate and just like Yaz, loyal. That is why Ryan is a Togakiss. The ability of the Togakiss is Super Luck. While loosing his aunt to a murderous alien is not lucky (The Woman Who Fell To Earth,) everything that has happened to Ryan since fits the bill. Working with Rosa Parks and MLK Jr. (Rosa,)not having his head blown off when he went storming after robot soldiers and his gun ran out of power (Ghost Monument,) plus having King James fall in love (or lust) with him so he can have unprecedented influence to help out his friends (The Witchfinders!) Ryan Sinclair has had some amazing luck while traveling with the Doctor. I’m sure it helps that he’s super adorable and fun, just like the Togakiss.
And last, but not least: Graham/Drampa
Graham is Ryan’s grandpa. He fought hard over the course of the season to earn that title (The Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos.) He also spent a large amount of time dishing out wisdom, conviction and doses of reality to traveling mates, those caught in the crosshairs of history and even the occasional villian or two. Plus, let’s not forget when Graham essentially gave himself a lecture about not holding onto things that are not real, while trying to work out what game was being played by a being that would eventually take the form of a frog (It Takes You Away– 2018.) Plus, when Ryan’s dad shows up Graham, hurt as he is by his step-son’s actions, knows how important it is for Ryan (Resolution.) Drampa is a Pokémon that evolves from a rather silly line. Graham has been known to be silly (Tsrunga Conundrum.) However, Drampa loves to communicate, children and is fiercely protective of them. They might as well just rename this Pokémon, “Graham.”
What do you think? Did I miss the mark? What Pokemon do you see these three companions? Leave a comment and let’s get the discussion flowing.
Spearhead from Space was in my top list of serials I avoided like a plague for years. If I was going to watch a Third Doctor story, dealing with the Nestene, I was going to watch Terror of the Autons. With the first apperance of The Master and Jo Grant, plus couches eating people and killer flowers, what wasn’t to love. But, Spearhead? Just, eeewww, no. Boring Liz Shaw, rambling, expositional Brigadier, random old poacher dude? Creepy doll factory? Just, NO!
Looking back on it, I think my negative view of Spearhead stemmed from several places. To begin with, my first viewing came when I had taken ill and was home from work. I was in and out of consciousness, missing half the story, except for aforementioned “boring” expositional points. It was also during a very contrary opinionated point in my thirties. Everything that every famous “superfan” loved, I found something to hate about it. I really was a petulant pedantic pessimist. Okay, so I’m still pedantic, at certain times.
As vague as my “hatred” for Spearhead was, my love of it is much more exacting. It began slowly and out of desperation. Hulu and BBC had parted ways and there was no legal streaming service for Classic Doctor Who in America. My early days of diving into Doctor Who DVD hunting quickly had me run across a copy of Spearhead from Space. Truly, Third and Fifth Doctor serials were the easiest for me to find during that year. You have to understand, just because there was a plethora of Classic Who that had been released didn’t mean it was within my reach. A choice to no longer produce certain stories as well as generally availability made prices skyrocket. To put it in perspective: my favorite Classic serial, The Two Doctors was $260+ on DVD. It was near impossible to track down at an affordable price. With so little to choose from in my library, those Third Doctor serials I could afford became my staples. That became especially true of Spearhead.
Constant rewatches, viewing other stories, as well as perspectives from some amazing podcasts helped change the way I saw the story.
Liz Shaw is brought in as a superwoman of science. Dozens of degrees, all science based, the writers were covering future stories well, to make sure her expositional shortcut ability would work well. That first viewing, it made her seem pretentious and haughty. A skeptic for the sake of being a skeptic, despite what she witnessed for herself. I completely missed how the Doctor was able to play to her vanity and win her over. Liz was the Doctor’s equal on an intellectual level; yet willing to call him out on his hokum. The day when it hit me how much of a bridge or combination of Zoe Heriot ( Doctor’s equal or superior in intellect) and Jo Grant (flatterer who would hold his feet to the fire when he was full of it) I nearly lost it. How amazing, that in 1970, Doctor Who would be so gutsy as to have a companion like this.
Gutsy is a great descriptor for this entire serial: an untrustful and shadowy corporation, a government without all the answers, and companion who saves the Doctor when he can’t save himself (more on that later.) Don’t get me wrong, there is plenty eye squinting in doubt about this story. Every negative that happens to the “little man” seems to be their own fault for being too greedy (the porter, the poacher, the doll maker.) There is also the idea that it takes the affluent to save the masses that can be troubling. However, that is an ongoing theme throughout the Third Doctor’s tenure.
Here is where I will give my general shout-out to TV Tropes website: if you want a blow-by-blow breakdown of the serial and all of it’s cliches or tropes I highly recommend their Spearhead from Space article. It points out the painful and obvious like how in the world does the Doctor only get a burn from getting shot in the head (Regeneration energy.)
What lead me back to Spearhead this week was having just finished my rewatch of Rose. The realization that the latter was a modern retelling of the former gave me so much excitement that I had to go on yet another rewatch. Which brings us to the companion who saves the Doctor and the idea of the elite saving the poorer masses.
Just as a reminder: Rose saves the Doctor, who is being restrained by Nestene Autons. She doesn’t have A levels, but she does have a bronze in gymnastics. Aware of this knowledge and the realization that she’s the only one who is willing to do anything (because Mickey has been reduced to a cowering mass,) she jumps on a convenient chain and swing across and end the violence being perpetrated outside. This isn’t as revolutionary an ending for those familiar with Spearhead before seeing Rose because it’s essentially a more Everyman (woman) version of what Liz Shaw accomplished. The Doctor was being restrained by the tenticals of the Nestene Consciousness, unable to save the day as people were being gunned down in the streets.
There a couple of key differences in the stories. The first is the level of violence spurred by the Nestene. In Rose (2005) the Autons attack during a busy shopping evening. The mall is clearly bustling and full. In Spearhead (1970) it is early in the morning. stores are not open. People who are in danger are either walking on a sparse road or in a que to go to work, for the day. However, in the 1970 episode, we see people more directly hit, with greenish-brown smoke pouring from them. In the more modern Rose, the gun shots can be heard and seeing coming from the Auton handguns. However, the direct hits happen more off screen.
The second big difference is the socioeconomic status of the companion saving the Doctor. In the modern version, Rose is just a shop girl. She could be anyone who saves the Doctor, as long as they’re willing to be brave and put to use their individual skill set. However, in Spearhead, there are few besides Liz Shaw who could have saved the Doctor. Liz’s scientific knowledge, her elite training was what was necessary to save the Doctor. No random person could have walked off the street and been as helpful. The machine that shuts the Nestene down is a complicated piece of equipment. This plays more into the idea of the elite or the intellectual saving the masses. There are two very different types of audiences being appealed to with these stories, with this one story choice.
By putting myself into that mindset, before going into a viewing of Spearhead from Space I am able to enjoy the serial in a completely different way than how I enjoy New Who. It is a story I cannot put on and allow my brain to go into autopilot. Instead, I have to read the smallest of facial expressions, I have to interpret the repercussions of seemingly inocuious choices by side characters. It is much like a Second Doctor story, in that there is a lot of “fluffy” happening to expand the allotted time. However, those “fluffy moments” can have impacts into the characterization and feel of the story beyond just a single episode and can come back later in the serial.
What are your big takeaways from Spearhead from Space? Leave a comment!
I’ve written about Rose before. It was one of the first episodes I wrote about, on this blog, when I had grandiose ideas of writing about each serial and episode of Doctor Who in order for Classic and New Who. Thankfully, after just two entries (Rose and An Unearthly Child,) I quickly realized that just wasn’t going to work and moved on to other attempts at scheduling posts. Those, too, failed miserably.
So, after I finished watching or listening to every Doctor Who episode, ever, yesterday, I decided to start from my beginning. I turned on Rose and about halfway through the episode got out a clipboard and proceeded to take over two pages of notes of things I wondered or noticed. Afterward, I went about trying to see if who had the answers or saw made the same connections that I did. Of course, since this episode has been around for 14 years, there was plenty to find. I’m not going to go into all the pieces and parts. If you want a break down of the episode, the tropes and where to find all the spoilery connections to other media, I highly recommend the TV Tropes article on Rose. It has EVERYTHING: a summary of everything that happens as well as a breakdown of all the tropes that can be found in the episode. There are a lot.
I have only one or two observations that I’d like to add or extend upon what I previously said about this story.
The first is the extremely intense and violent nature of an opening episode for a beloved family show that had been off the air for 16 years. My own children love Doctor Who. However, there are some episodes that can be just too much for them. They’ve sat through all of New Who with me, on multiple occasions. So, I was rather shocked that my youngest, who is eight years old, decided to take himself out of the room during this particular review of Rose. The Autons, in particular, hold a horror level response for him. Combined with the creepy, dark basement of the department store and action music, he declared, “I don’t like this one. It is just too scary!” Perhaps it’s because I grew up with movies like Mannequin orI’ve just watched the episode too many times, but I never really thought about the episode being too intense in a long while. Yet, it’s all there: expressionless killer beings, mass shootings, loss of a side character that breaks your heart. From the very first episode of the relaunch, Doctor Who belies what it will later become, by declaring that no one is safe and people could die at any moment.
The second, I feel rather moronic about not realizing how much this episode is a reflection of Spearhead from Space. I often think about Jo Grant’s first episode, Terror of the Autons, when I watch this episode. However, that was not the first time the Nestene appeared in the show. Instead, it was Spearhead, the third Doctor’s first episode. The TV Tropes article, that I mentioned before, goes into how this episode is a modern retelling of the Third Doctor’s first venture out. Now, it has none of the regeneration sickness, cute looks at how the Doctor came into his wardrobe or work with the military that the Third Doctor did… that will actually come more into play with our next Doctor, Ten. However, it does have the premise of the Doctor trying to save the Earth from an alien invasion, feeling superior to the beings that surround him and the need to be slightly humbled in the face of great obstacles.
Rose has a clear thesis on what the show is all about, “Run.” Like Spearhead, this episode has the Doctor being attracted to companions that make him think, push him when he’s wrong and have them save the day when the Doctor is just not enough. It is so exciting because it claims, “Even superheroes need to be rescued and often by everyday people.” That is such an empowering statement.
On a quick note, I will say that my least favorite part of this episode is the mean spirited remark Rose gives her boyfriend, Mickey, just as she leaves. It is such and odd and cruel way to leave someone you cared for just a short time ago. I get that perhaps R.T. Davies was attempting to provide some sort of emotional distance between them in an attempt to make Rose leaving the the Doctor more palatable. For me, it actually undercuts that joyous run to the Tardis by leaving us with a sour and unkind taste in our mouths. My heart breaks for Mickey, especially knowing what he will later endure with the police, after Rose has been declared missing. It’s an uncomfortable feeling that this post is also going to end with, just like the episode.
What are your favorite takeaways from Rose? Be sure to leave a comment!
I hit a major milestone today: I have now watched or listened to ALL of the television Doctor Who episodes. That’s both New Who and Classic Who. I’ve been watching Doctor Who since just before the 50th anniversary. That means I’ve taken approximately 6 years of so to do this.
It wasn’t easy, especially given my disposition to not care for many Classic Doctors when I first began watching Classic Who. I had been home sick and a large portion of the Classic Who library was available on Hulu. Having watched and rewatched all of the New Doctor Who that was available on Netflix, I felt that it was the only place left to turn.
I immediately fell in love with Patrick Troughton. To this day I still name my electronics after his legendary line in Tomb of the Cybermen, “There is no one else in the universe who can do what we are doing.” Meanwhile, the Fourth, Fifth and Seventh Doctors were making my skin crawl or only existed in my feverish inability to stay awake. It would take several years and a desperation for never experienced stories before I would finally fall in love with the Happiness Patrol or discover how amazing Jo Grant could be, when not screaming. Once my new favorite binging pasttime disappeared from those streaming services I became a DVD hunting fiend, pouring all my entertainment budget into hunting down what I could over the course of a year.
The roughest episodes were not even the Lost Stories. Yes, you have to listen to a lot of audio or watch plenty of reconstructions, which can make for a boring affair. In the end, while I saved them for last, I enjoyed those quiet a bit. My growing love for the first Doctor’s character arc probably played a huge role in that. What was most painful for me was the never ending seasons of the Fourth Doctor. There was just SO MUCH. It didn’t help that the stories so many older fans celebrated were some of the most problematic and boring for me. It took me multiple tries to finish Pyramids of Mars and Talons of When-Chiang. After watching and falling in love with State of Decay, and honestly, the whole E-Space series, I could not fathom what made people love the problematic and slow moving stories that were lauded from earlier seasons.
I also didn’t understand the argumentative and condescending Daddy that was the Fifth Doctor. While I did come to love the concept of a crowded TARDIS, I never could love that doctor the way I would others.
On the flip side, the ground shaking and sometimes nonsensical stories of Seven and Ace were thrilling and the righteous fury of Sixie had me watching and rewatching, especially after Twelve came along, looking to complete the story arc Six was never allowed to have. The Eighth Doctor, whom I loved in audio plays, threw me for a loop when I finally got my hands on his television movie.
I am beginning to contemplate what I should do next. There are podcasts, books and blogs already dedicated to watching all the episodes in order. I feel I never would have finished watching them all if I had gone down that road. There is something in the variety of style and story between each era that helps to break it all up and make it more enticing to watch for extended periods. Breaking things up thematically in rewatching creates a large amount of frontload work to find the connections and threads and hope that nothing is left out.
Each of the Classic Doctors consumed various spaces in my life. I know I will continue to rewatch, relisten, and continue to have new experiences consuming their stories for second, third or more times. However, I can never say again that there is a Classic Doctor Who serial in my life that I have not experienced in some form or fashion. It is bitter sweet moment that I hope I can hold on to and cherish.