“It is returning and he is returning and they are returning…”

Doctor Who, “The End of Time, Pt. 1”

I will be the first to admit that this post is long overdue. Russell T Davies was announced as the new Doctor Who showrunner months ago, but, since receiving my Masters in Film and Television Studies last May, my brain has been on a bit of a vacation. (I can tell you, however, that crocheting elephants should not be as difficult as the patterns make it.)

I also want to take a quick second to acknowledge and speak about my mental health (because I started writing this blog post in October and am only now finishing it). I love writing, but depression, anxiety, and ADHD sometimes make it difficult to engage in some of the activities I enjoy (we’ve all seen those commercials, right?). The COVID-19 pandemic has had a major impact on everyone’s mental and physical health. Now is the time to be both open about our own issues and supportive of others. You are not alone and neither am I. 

A quick summary of the last two years: I had the privilege of studying film, television, and fandom with some amazing professors. It was amazing. I also got married, which was nice too. My Master’s Thesis was on Doctor Who, the very show that first got me interested in television studies way back in 2008 (almost a full decade before I knew what television studies is). One of the chapters in my thesis actually examines the revival’s showrunners, Davies, Steven Moffat, and Chris Chibnall. On September 24 it was announced that when Chris Chibnall steps down as showrunner, RTD will be returning and I have many thoughts on this. (This is my first blog post in 2 years and I have ADHD, so please bear with me.)

First, one thing I recognize is the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, which is still very much part of our lives. (I feel confident generalizing since this has literally impacted the entire world.) Specifically, it has had a large impact on media production. In the case of Doctor Who, the most recent season was delayed and also shortened from 10 episodes to 8, and now 6. Following the pattern, 13th Doctor Jodie Whittaker will be leaving after 3 seasons (and 2 specials airing this year in addition to the most recent New Years Day special). This means that Davies and his new Doctor will be making their return/debut in 2023, just in time for the 60th anniversary of Doctor Who.

In the 50th Anniversary Special of Doctor Who, Steven Moffat reversed what Davies did from his first episode: he saved the time lords. He also had a huge budget and a global simulcast. When Davies was showrunner, the budget was significantly smaller and no one expected Who to become the global property it is now. While Davies was acknowledged as a fan of the series, this was not a central feature of the marketing, however, it is difficult to ignore as he makes his return. One specific quote regarding his return notes that there is content for him to enjoy as a viewer before he makes his return. Davies has always demonstrated appreciation and respect for the work of previous Doctor Who creatives. When he originally revived the series, he deliberately built on what was already there rather than trying to retcon and I think this is another opportunity for him to do that. I believe that it is because he is a fan that he is making his return.

There is also so much more money to work with. The 50th Anniversary, which occurred 3 years after Davies’s departure, was given blockbuster treatment both in terms of marketing and production values. Since then, the quality has only continued to improve. I would think that it was frustrating to miss out on working on such an exciting anniversary, which is why he will be back just in time for the 60th. There’s also so many more resources to play with. Although Doctor Who was historically a show that works with a limited budget– and Davies can obviously work within those constraints (did you know he invented the psychic paper?!) – a larger budget obviously increases the narrative possibilities.

The show is also no longer just a British staple, but has worldwide relevance now and these anniversaries receive far more attention and build up than they did when Davies first revived the series in 2005 (when there were supposedly only 8000 dedicated Doctor Who fans). Davies is responsible not only for the successful revival, but for one of the best eras of the series (Tenth Doctor David Tennant is still voted favorite Doctor over a decade after his departure). He is also the only showrunner to create a Doctor Who spin-off that lasts more than one season (The Sarah Jane Adventures and Torchwood). To the BBC, Davies has already proven to be a profitable entity. Therefore it makes sense that he would jump at the chance to return and that the BBC would be eager to have him.

Tl;dr: Davies loves Doctor Who and is good at making Doctor Who content, so it makes sense that Davies and the BBC would both welcome this return. 

In the weeks following the Davies announcement, I had a lot of thoughts as to what this era would look like, along with many questions. For example, I was certain that David Tennant would not be the Fourteenth Doctor, but that is now rumored to be the case. (Apparently, there is precedence as the Second Doctor, Patrick Troughton almost returned as the Seventh Doctor.) I’ve also learned recently that this year is the BBC’s 100th birthday, which has added an additional element of pomp and circumstance. So I have to wonder how long Davies will be at the helm this time. Will he only be around for the 60th anniversary or will he have another multi-season tenure? The announcement suggests that the latter will be the case, but for some reason, I cannot help having doubts, especially now that David Tennant is rumored to return as the official Fourteenth Doctor.

Regardless of whether or not he is the Fourteenth Doctor, I do believe that Tennant will be part of the 60th Anniversary Special. Actually, I think Davies is going to get as many Doctors as he can. During the 50th Anniversary, Davies had a brief cameo in the short film, “The Five(ish) Doctors,” which was made by Fifth Doctor Peter Davison and depicts his attempts to be part of the 50th Anniversary Special, along with Sixth Doctor Colin Baker and Seventh Doctor Sylvester McCoy. So, I have to wonder if the joke will be on everyone else when they do appear in the next anniversary special. Although, these Doctors could be recast, as was the case with First Doctor William Hartnell.

As part of the 50th Anniversary, the BBC produced a biopic depicting Doctor Who’s creation and starring David Bradley as Hartnell. Later, Bradley went on to play the First Doctor in the Christmas Special “Twice Upon a Time.” So there is precedence– although the First Doctor was also recast in the 20th Anniversary Special, following Hartnell’s death. I don’t think it would be surprising if the only recast Doctors were those whose actors have died. With The Sarah Jane Adventures, Davies demonstrated his fondness for the Classic Era, so I can totally see him indulging once again in bringing back all available Doctors (as was also the case during the Classic Era Anniversaries).

I don’t know if this is something we can expect, but I, personally, am hoping for the return of Mark Gatiss both as a writer and as an actor. His most recent Doctor Who performance was in “Twice Upon a Time” as the implied ancestor of Brigadier Sir Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart, a recurring Classic Era character, who also appeared in The Sarah Jane Adventures and has been referenced multiple times in the Revived Series. Gatiss is also known to be a huge Doctor Who fan, and has written Doctor Who novels. The episodes he’s written (although they are really hit or miss) include “The Idiot’s Lantern,” “The Crimson Horror,” “Sleep No More,” and “Empress of Mars.” I’m not going to lie, I deeply enjoy Gatiss’s chaotic energy and wondered if he would be the one to take over for Chris Chibnall (although it seems unlikely as he seems to flit around a lot; he also played Mycroft in Sherlock and served as a writer and producer).

I’d also like to see the return of Toby Whithouse (“School Reunion” and “Under the Lake” / “Before the Flood” are two of his) and the more recent addition, Maxine Alderton (“The Haunting of Villa Diodati” and “Village of the Angels”). If I’m going to speculate on writers, I have to wonder if Steven Moffat will contribute. In addition to being showrunner he wrote “The Girl in the Fireplace,” “Blink,” and “Silence in the Library” / “Forest of the Dead” under Davies, which are still considered some of the best. Chibnall also wrote for both Davies and Moffat before becoming showrunner, although I suspect he will likely take a break from Doctor Who for a while (“42” and Torchwood with Davies and “Dinosaurs on a Spaceship” under Moffat).

I am far from the only person speculating on what Davies’s return will bring. From what I’ve read, the BBC will be handing control of Doctor Who over to Bad Wolf, a production company founded by Julie Gardner and Jane Tranter who served as producers in 2005. If that’s the case, I wonder how the budget will be affected. How will Davies’s next era compare to his first, before the pop culture explosion that Moffat played up during his era?  Or, to the more subdued, but visually stunning Chibnall era? It’s clear that the showrunner has a huge impact on how Doctor Who is perceived worldwide, and it seems many are looking forward to the next Davies Era.

Supernatural, Slice-of-life, Comedy Anime

This blog entry is about what I’ve been watching lately: Supernatural, Slice-of-life, Comedy Anime. They have been my escape from the stress of the world, my home life, and my MFA program (anime is not my focus). So, I am going to share these gems with you, because I’ve really enjoyed them. They are comedy, so they are light-hearted; slice-of-life, so there’s no big conflicts; supernatural, so they’re more interesting (to me at least)

The Disastrous Life of Saiki K (Netflix)

All three seasons are available subbed, but season 1 is also dubbed with solid voice casting. Netflix produced Reawakened, a six-episode follow up that covers the remainder of the manga, which is available subbed and dubbed. Seasons 1 and 2 are 24 episodes each, while season 3 is only 2 episodes (I believe it was aired as a holiday special).

Kusuo Saiki is a teenage psychic with near limitless power, whose greatest desire is for an anonymous normal life. This is challenged not only by his insane powers (that he strives to keep secret) but by the people in his life. While his family is full of dramatic and immature individuals, his friends are just odd– at the beginning this includes a self-proclaimed best friend who is literally too dumb for telepathy and a teenager with a hero complex and a rich fantasy life. Kusuo just attracts these odd people, despite his monotone demeanor. Over time it becomes clear that his sarcastic attitude and dry sense of humor hide a person capable of true kindness and of being fond of others.

Episodes are set up as segments, 4-5 per episode, that may or may not connect to each other. All but a couple of episodes take place during Kusuo’s second year of high school, and this is something that gets addressed as they seem to celebrate the same holiday or vacation period multiple times per season. Kusuo often speaks directly to the audience, offering explanations for his world, a lot of which is his fault.

The first season is the best place to start and the dub can make for solid background noise (although you may miss some key details or visual gags). If you like season 1, you’ll like seasons 2-3, but they will require more attention since there is no dub available. Reawakened is dubbed (by a different voice cast) but some things may be confusing without seasons 2-3 as reference– particularly the last episode, which is a direct follow up to season 3.

Gugure! Kokkuri-san (Crunchyroll; previously on Hulu)

The single-season anime is made up of 12 episodes and only available subbed. It is available on Crunchyroll and was on Hulu for a little while before rotating out.

Kohina Ichimatsu is an elementary school girl living alone in a big house. One night she plays “the Kokkuri game”, which is reminiscent of a ouji board, but played with a ¥10 coin and a piece of paper, acting as the pointer and board respectively. There is a warning not to play this game alone because otherwise a spirit will come and haunt/possess you (depending on the translation). Kohina summons Kokkuri, a fox spirit and former deity. To his surprise, Kohina is not afraid because she is a doll and therefore incapable of emotion. Upon discovering this poor girl living all alone and pretending to be a doll, Kokkuri takes on the role of a responsible adult and decides to move in and take care of her. This opens the door for other supernatural creatures to come into Kohina’s life. 

This show is absolute shenanigans. Although it is clear that Kohina’s determination to be a doll is a result of trauma, it is used to comedic effect as Kokkuri tries to help her become a real girl again. Additionally, Kohina’s greatest love is cup noodles. They are perhaps the only thing she will openly admit to having an attachment to and refers to them as “fuel for dolls” in the first episode. Later, we learn that Kohina is being bullied with a vase of flowers on her desk (a vase of flowers is typically placed on the desk of a student who has died) in part because her mind is almost always focused on cup noodles and begins the show caring little for anything else.

There is one element I am not so fond of. Eventually a dog spirit and a tanuki spirit move in as well. The tanuki is a trickster and a layabout, mostly interested in girls and gambling, but proves to be secretly kind and becomes a protective uncle to Kohina. The dog spirit has a much more complicated role. The manga explains it a little better: dog spirits are curses created by torturing a dog to death. This dog spirit is said to have died cold and alone, resulting in a curse. The only person kind to this dog when they were alive was Kohina and as a result this dog spirit is obsessed with her. Claiming that Kohina is the only thing they like (including themself), this dog spirit wants to marry Kohina and desires nothing but her love, but it’s in a very sexual way. The dog spirit is recognized by the cast as a pervert, but still lives with Kohina. It is so much ick, no matter how much justification is given. The situation is meant to be comedic, but it is just uncomfortable. I feel, however, that the rest of the show makes up for this comic misstep.

Like Saiki K, Gugure! is set up in segments, though they are more interrelated and follow some kind of chronology. Kokkuri proves to be an admirable stay-at-home father and a father-daughter bond definitely forms between himself and Kohina. Aside from some truly problematic instances of sexual humor, the focus is really more on how this little girl’s life improves with these supernatural creatures. There is no explanation for why Kohina decided to be a doll, but it is clear that their presence is healing some serious trauma. 

Special Mention: Ghost Stories (Crunchyroll)

Not exactly slice-of-life, but shenanigans galore. Available subbed and dubbed on Crunchyroll, but you’re going to want to watch the dub.

The story behind the production of Ghost Stories is shenanigans. So, Ghost Stories was a show that aired in Japan before making its way to the US. With less than stellar success, the team behind the dub was given very little direction on the translation (no one had high hopes for the property and no one cared), so the dub deviates in a number of areas from the original, with much of the dialogue ad-libbed by the voice actors. If you are familiar with “abridged” series on YouTube, you’ll get an idea, but basically include American cultural references and mature humor not originally found in this Japanese Childrens’ Program. (And all the political incorrectness. Do not take anything seriously.

This show does follow a plot. An elementary school girl named Satsuki, her younger brother, and her father move back to the town where her late mother grew up. As a youngster, the mother sealed away a number of spirits that are now being released. Satsuki now has to seal them away again. She is helped by her neighbor, their classmate, a girl from the grade above, and a previously sealed away ghost. 

Like Saiki K and Gugure!, Ghost Stories are half-hour episodes (so anywhere between 22-25 minutes). Unlike these other shows, each episode follows one ghost and sealing it away again. Some of the episodes are truly spooky, but balanced well with the juvenile humor. Overall, it’s shenanigans all around, but a little more plot and a little less slice-of-life. One important note: the opening song is cute and sweet, but you want to stay for the closing song, which, surprisingly, is original to the version originally aired in Japan.

Other light anime:

Fruits Basket (a 2019 remake based on a manga, available on Hulu and Crunchyroll)
A family is cursed to turn into animals based around the Chinese zodiac (plus the cat) when hugged by a non-family member of the opposite sex. A high school girl comes to live with them after the death of her mother and romantic comedy ensues. Believe it or not, more of a realistic show than a supernatural one, aside from the ever-present curse. The main focus is on the relationships between the characters.

My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom! (available on Crunchyroll)
A teenage girl gets reincarnated as the villain of an otome game (a romance video game where the lead follows a path to end up with one of a number of suitors). She realizes this as a child and does her best to avoid “doom endings”, which are those in which the villainess gets exiled or killed.

Ouran High School Host Club (available on Netflix)
A teenager is attending an over-the-top wealthy private school on scholarship when they accidently break a multi-million dollar vase belonging to the school’s host club (a club where people go to be romanced or kept company– not sexually) and therefore has to become a member of the club– one of the hosts– in order to pay off their debt. However, this student turns out to be biologically female, leading to shenanigans surrounding keeping her secret as well as romance between herself and the other members.

Note: Crunchyroll is an anime streaming service similar to Hulu. A lot of what is on Hulu is on Crunchyroll, plus a LOT more– including a few Japanese dramas.

Other News…

Right now, a lot of what I’m doing is trying to relax. I’m currently on an anime kick, and have been watching other things, but it is the sort of light-hearted silliness I talk about above that I’ve really been drawn to and enjoying. I’ll note some of the other light programs I’ve been watching at the end of this post– heavier stuff can wait for another time. Although next week, I begin working with the same Superheroes in Film class I took two years ago. I’ve spent so much of this blog discussing the Marvel Cinematic Universe… so… that might come back.

August Update

This summer has flown by! I still have the list of planned posts I made back in June, but I hope to get them out sooner rather than later. Since then here’s a little bit about what I’ve been up to…

Recent Release: She-Ra and the Princesses of Power Season 3

Season 3 released on August 2 on Netflix with a whopping SIX episodes– down one from season 2’s SEVEN. I have a lot of thoughts about this. In one of my earliest posts, I expressed my frustrations with Miraculous Ladybug’s release schedule, and it’s no secret that Steven Universe dragged its feet, so I’ve actually found this rather refreshing. Since releasing season 1’s thirteen episodes November 18, 2018, season 2 dropped seven episodes on April 26. Although the episode count is still low, She-Ra has kept my interest piqued.

The problem with long wait times between new content is that it’s easy to get caught up in something else. Doctor Who is perhaps my favorite franchise, but these days I’m much more interested in the Marvel Cinematic Universe with its fairly constant stream of content and announcements, but even now that those have slowed and become increasingly unclear or ambiguous, I am looking for new content to keep me occupied.

Marathoning: RuPaul’s Drag Race

I may have done some marathoning while cleaning out my house and crafting like crazy and most recently I’ve been catching up with RuPaul and the several seasons I’ve missed over the last few years. The thing I like about this particular competitive reality television program is RuPaul’s commitment to promoting loving oneself and one’s weirdness.

The show routinely depicts contestants overcoming their own personal demons or how the show lead to family reconciliations. Regardless of the veracity of reality TV, these heartwarming messages are the kind of thing that we should see more of. With so much hate-speak and anger, promoting love and acceptance is hugely important.

Also, I just love drag queens and have a lot of connections to the LGBTQ+ community. While Drag Race was originally more concerned with poking fun at the question of gender, it has since become a safe space for all forms of gender expression. In recent years, former contestants have come out as transgender and there have even been openly trans contestants. At the start of season 9 (which is what I’m currently on) Lady Gaga makes an appearance and explains how drag has affected her life, elevating it as an art form and an important form of self-expression.

Personal Note

Next week I start grad school (again!) and begin working towards an MFA in Film & TV Studies (hopefully with more emphasis on the TV). I’m very excited, but also nervous. I still have a long list of blog entries to write and publish but have no idea how much time I’ll actually have. To those who keep reading, I deeply appreciate it. I don’t know if I can quite explain what it means to me.

This blog has been a way for me to find my voice and put it out there. Confidence is something I’ve struggled with for a long time and having this platform has been a way for me to work on raising my voice. Learning people are actually reading has been even more exciting. Hopefully, my next post will be a proper review rather than another update!

July Update

Over a week ago I announced my intention to post a review of Spider-Man: Far From Home. This is not that post. (The movie is excellent, though.) I had intended on a great many posts, but this is my first since May 26th. Honestly, I’ve just been incredibly busy and overwhelmed with home renovations and planning my wedding. It’s something that I’ve been really frustrated with, though I did find the time to make some updates to my site. Moving forward I hope to get through my backlog of posts and get back to posting regularly, but first I have some exciting news!

I’ve been published!

Yes, it is so small as to be considered micro-press, but a piece of mine is now in an anthology called Tales of the Dawnline. Tales of is a companion short story anthology to a tabletop role-playing game created by the very talented Richard Kelly. The premise is a world where sunlight is lethal and due to some messed up planetary alignment, the sun’s movements on the planet are highly irregular. Humans live in nomadic villages, and many opt to find guardians, vampires to help protect the village from threats beyond nature itself.

What’s really interesting about the world Kelly has created is the wide variety of vampires and monsters that inhabit this world. These are not Bram Stoker’s or Joss Whedon’s vampires, but something much more varied, mysterious, and otherworldly. Even if you aren’t interested in Table Top Role-Playing, the short story anthology presents a really fascinating world– one I’m excited to be a part of.

So this housekeeping/update post is one I’ve been planning for a couple of days, but it was the arrival of the physical book (with my name and words in it!) that inspired me to share this exciting news. Kelly and I have talked about future collaborations, but for now, this is an achievement of a dream I’ve had since I was a kid. While I had hoped to publish a full novel by age 13 like Amelia Atwater-Rhodes did, the story and work I contributed is something I’m incredibly proud of and very excited about!

I hope to have more posts out soon, but for now, I want to say that being published is surreal and I’m excited to have my words live on someone’s bookshelf! Also, I have a new air conditioner which is almost as equally exciting and life-changing!

Tales of the Dawnline is available for purchase both digitally and in print at DriveThruRPG.com and published by Voidspiral Entertainment.