Doctor Who and the Series 7 conundrum- Some New Evidence

Today we’re casting away the restraints of a theatre blog altogether and letting Jack Synnott write 700 words on something we’d all much rather be hearing about anyway: Doctor Who!

Doctor Who first aired on BBC1 at 5.15 P.M. on the 23rd of November 1963. From the first adventure, the eerie, creeping an Unearthly Child, fans were taken on an extraordinary adventure through time and space. Occasionally however, the opportunity presents itself for fans to dig deeper, to look deeper and ultimately to do what fans love best: theorise.

One such theory, and one that has particular grabbed my attention is one involving the entirety of Series 7A ( or Season 33 part 1, if we’re to be particular). These 5 episodes, originally screened in the latter part of 2012 see Matt Smith’s Eleventh Doctor and his then-companions Amy and Rory Pond travel from a dangerous Dalek asylum to a Weeping Angel filled New York, facing Dinosaurs, Cowboys and killer cubes along the way (it’s a lot better than I make it sound).

The theory goes, that the five episodes (Asylum of the Daleks through to The Angels Take Manhattan) take place in reverse order to that in which they were screened. In other words, from The Doctor’s perspective, The Angel’s Take Manhattan comes first, and Asylum of the Daleks last.

There is a huge amount of evidence to support this theory, all of which sadly trivial and in no way definitive, but it is evidence nonetheless. I’ll take the most obvious example, this exchange from episode 3, A Town Called Mercy:

RORY: It’s a street lamp.

DOCTOR: An electric street lamp about ten years too early.

RORY: It’s only a few years out.

DOCTOR: That’s what you said when you left your phone charger in Henry the Eighth’s en-suite.

This could simply be construed as a humourous throwaway line, a silly exchange thrown in for comic relief. And this would be an acceptable viewpoint, if it weren’t for episode 4, The Power of Three. In this episode, we see a montage of The Doctor and the Pond’s adventures. One of the clips takes place in Henry the Eighth’s bedroom, and what does Rory leave behind? A phone charger.

There are other clues as well. Lights continuously flicker without explanation in the first 3 episodes, a classic visual indication of a disturbance in time, and potentially, a visual clue that The Doctor is crossing his own timeline.

To flesh the idea out a bit more, the theory goes that The Doctor, after witnessing the eventual demise of the Ponds in The Angels Take Manhattan, travels back through his own past to enjoy a last few adventures with his good friends. This explains his melancholy nature in many of the series’ episodes, and also his new found viscous streak throughout this series. Having “lost” the two people closest to him, The Doctor becomes cold, unforgiving and harsh. This ideas are summed up in episode 2, Dinosaurs On a Spaceship, when The Doctor converses with the brutal space trader Solomon:

SOLOMON: Those are very emotive words Doctor.

DOCTOR: I’m a very emotive man.

Here we get a fleeting insight into The Doctor’s psyche at this late stage in his own personal Series 7 timeline. The Doctor knows that he has only a few trips left with The Ponds, in fact this could even be his last.  He has no time for criminals or villains, so consumed is he by his grief that he will kill without a thought, and won’t let anyone stand in the way of his adventures with his friends.

To find more conclusive proof of what I will from here-on call the Angels to Asylum theory, we need to go beyond Series 7A. Or indeed, before.

Pond Life is a series of online mini episodes (later shown on the BBC Red Button) that details the everyday lives of Amy and Rory before in the run up to Asylum of the Daleks. In this mini series, The Doctor contacts Amy and Rory mainly by telephone ( barring one brief interruption, which I’ll get to in a minute). Through these telephone conversations we get a glimpse of The Doctor’s adventures, while seeing Rory and Amy’s home life in detail. We also, crucially, see The Doctor changing the bulb on top of the TARDIS. This may seem like an insignificant event but, when we consider the ending of The Angels Take Manhattan it becomes infinitely important.

In the final moments of Angels, River Song, The Doctor’s long time friend and sometime wife informs him that the bulb on the top of the TARDIS needs changing. This is the exact event that we witness in Pond Life. Also, it is during this phone call that The Doctor learns the Ponds have divorced, the event that leads into Asylum. The look of dismay on The Doctor’s face upon making this realisation could easily be read as sympathy for his friends, but it could also be seen as the realisation that he will never see his friends again. Upon phoning the Ponds during their divorce proceedings, The Doctor has reached a point in the Ponds’ timeline where he can never visit them again, he has gone too far, and sealed his own fate. Knowing that changing time would be catastrophic and aware that he has reached a point in the Ponds’ timeline where there are no more “gaps” for him to take them on a trip, The Doctor has finally lost his friends.

The Doctor can only travel with the Ponds’ at certain points in time, points when he knows that no established facts prevent him from taking them on adventures. In Asylum we learn that The Doctor hasn’t seen the Ponds since before they split up, so upon realising that their marriage is breaking down, The Doctor has sealed his own fate.

But this is not the only kernel of evidence that Pond Life offers us. The Doctor also bursts in on the Ponds in the middle of the night telling them that he needs their help. He is alluding to the events of Dinosaurs On a Spaceship, but when the Ponds respond in bemusement, The Doctor realises that he has come at the wrong time. He tells them that “It happens sometimes” but also seems to imply that he chooses the times to bring them on specifc adventures. The Ponds don’t require any prior knowledge to help The Doctor on this adventure, but he knows that in travelling back through their timeline he must tread carefully. All of this gels perrfectly with the Angels to Asylum theory, and if anything almost completely reinforces it.

To conclude, if we look to Pond Life, we can find hordes of conclusive evidence that the Angels to Asylum theory is true. And if it is, we can look on series 7A, and The Doctor, in an entirely new light.

Salt Mountain by Carmel Winters- A review

After taking some time to deliberate, we have Aoife Gallagher and Andy McLoughlin this week giving their two cents on National Youth Theatre and their production of Salt Mountain by Carmel Winters last month!

The story told in Carmel Winters’ Salt Mountain is as familiar as it is topical. The play focuses on a community thrown out of their homes and left to survive with nothing but the community around them, occasionally showing the aloof and apathetic response of the powers deciding their fate. The play is performed by NAYD and featuring our very own Lorna Kettle.

Now, the first thing which struck me about this play was of course, the set. It just can’t be ignored for as soon as one walks in they immediately notice this unusual set, featuring huge mounds of real salt in the middle of the stage, resembling mountains. This in itself was unusual, to me at least because as well as this, people were seated around all corners of the room, like a colosseum. I thought it was innovative, the use of the salt, And the sound of it softly squelching when stood on or touched roughly, it’s hard to describe why that in itself is so captivating from an audiences perspective but the real sand made the whole production grittier.

And I was then wondering how the cast would possibly manoeuvre themselves to allow each audience member to have a clear view of everything happening in the play because of this. However, director Jo Mangan, was able to make the most of the challenge. She demonstrated an understanding of the importance of the group dynamic between our band of refugees. She makes excellent use of the traverse stage, putting all the villagers on an even plane, where blocking is subjective and upstaging is impossible.

  In a play which is all about power and respect, this is a very savvy move, and one which makes it all the more important for characters to be part of a strong, complex ensemble. Any worries I had about the set were quelled as the casts movements were clever, lithe and subtly synchronised, them being in the middle of the room actually funnily enough helped me to be more engaged with what was occurring. Everyone was natural with their characters, whether it was a comedic moment or something more desperate, more primal, like for example, the human struggle to survive that was shown so well by everyone at some point in the play. All in all the cast really made good use of what they had to work with, especially with props, like the teddy bears and goat bell, simple things but with theatre you can create and make a story and an underlying meaning from anything really which they did.

The script, on the other hand, seems more interested in making a political point than in the individual lives of the characters themselves. It is at its strongest when satirising the powerful elite, condemning their simplification of the people they persecute. In this sense, the play is reminiscent of Brecht’s Caucasian Chalk Circle, which was the NYT play a few years ago and depicted authority figures as bumbling fools. Unlike Chalk Circle, This play is more concerned with criticising the wealthy people who distort and simplify the image of the downtrodden, than with actually painting a complex emotional picture for our actors to bring to life.

In fact, the only time the production itself slipped up, was itself an example of an individual idea taking precedence over what actually suited the context of the play. Music played a significant part in this story, and it was mostly great, especially the flute playing and the singing. Wow…… But I must say, the heavy metal….uhh…you know, I wasn’t crazy about it being honest but good on them for being a bit out there and trying different things. For me personally, the metal music really upset the flow of the play .

A play like this serves as a reminder of what youth theatre productions should be doing. First and foremost, performances like these act as an introduction to the world of professional theatre for the actors involved. As with professional theatre, NYT plays are not written by the young people who star in them, and the actors do not get to decide what kind of a show they are in. For these two reasons alone it is vital that the plays at least be written for the people who star in them.

 At their best, these plays inspire commitment to the world of theatre, by raising the bar for the actors, and by showing what is possible when those high expectations are met. But when that doesn’t happen, when the play is more concerned with its own artistic goals than with showing the actors the potential of their passions, then it has failed in its aims. Perhaps the best thing this play did was to show both sides of that coin, and that to me is as valuable as any political message.

-Andy McLoughlin and Aoife Gallagher.

How To Melt: A Meditation on Stress Relief While Directing a Play

Following the smash success of “The Departed” last month, director and DYT member Aaron Finnegan gives his exposé on the highs and lows of life as a director.

August:

 The cast and I are standing on-stage in the Little Duke theatre receiving a rapturous applause as our second showing of our stage adaptation of The Departed comes to an end. The performance went as smoothly as anybody could’ve hoped for, and we’re all feeling rather chipper, proud of what we’ve accomplished and aching to get home and sleep off all of the restlessness and fake blood. We’ve all had a good day and the elation I feel is indescribable.

 July:

 Another fruitless rehearsal. A number of the crew are sitting around a Monopoly Junior game board, boasting about their winnings or lamenting their losses. Meanwhile the rest of the crew console me, as I have been broken down and beaten by this play. I have retreated into the safety and complete darkness of my turtleneck jumper, like an armadillo about to be hit by a car. Within the confines of the woolly jumper, I manage to forget the fact that, with only a few weeks until show time, the lead opposite me has dropped out, we have nobody to operate our lights and sound, and no sound design to speak of. I have affectionately dubbed this practice of hiding within the confines of the turtleneck, “melting”. I melt a lot in the month of July.

May, 2014:

  You see, a year ago, after I had finished directing a stage production of Reservoir Dogs, my co-director turned to me and asked “what’s next?”. I suggested The Departed as our next project, not knowing how hard it would be to translate such a colossal film to the stage. Not knowing that a year from now I would be pulling my hair out, severely doubting the quality of my play.

June:

 I have just been informed that the fellow acting opposite me has dropped out of the play. After punching a wardrobe and shouting numerous profanities, I bury my head back in the woolly jumper and meditate again. I no longer believe in the slightest that this play will go smoothly.

  For a long time I thought only of the finished product, imagining how brilliant it would be. Not once did I stop and think that perhaps the road there could be rather shaky. You see, when undertaking such a thing as a play, one must prepare for the worst. And when the worst comes, don’t waste time running around like a headless chicken, just look for solutions to the problem. If I can say anything about my experience on The Departed, it has to be that my knack for problem solving has greatly improved. The practice of melting can only be put into use so many times and eventually, it comes the time to emerge from the woolly jumper and troubleshoot. Niall Gibbons was placed in the role once occupied by the fellow who dropped out. While wishing a happy birthday to somebody, I inadvertently asked them to operate our tech. My back garden ended up looking like a crime scene as we experimented with fake blood. Colin and Sophie were more than happy to go from backstage crew to pivotal roles. It was all a very messy jigsaw on the sitting room floor which only needed a bit of assembling. Regardless of what came up during our production process, we kept moving forward. There were times when we lost hope, and times where we considered postponing the play indefinitely. But we got there, by some feat of dedication that can only be described as biblical. We got there somehow.

 August:

 On stage in T-minus ten minutes. We’re making sure we have props, costumes, blood packs, and the like. I’m telling Niall that he was the right man for the job the whole time, thanking him for his dedication. I approach all of the latecomers, the backstage crew, and thank them each in turn, for taking a chance on this play. I tell Louis, before he goes to give his welcoming speech to the audience, that I’m immensely happy with the quality of this play, and he simply nods in agreement. For the first time in a long while I’m not worried. I think about those days when I would melt and laugh to myself quietly.

 April:

 Our first production meeting. A group of us sit around a table and discuss the play. We agree there will challenges, that the script has its flaws, but that ultimately the end result will be phenomenal. It will all be great in the end. Little did we suspect, we were perfectly correct.

-Aaron Finnegan

-Aaron Finnegan