Pop Between Realities, Home in Time for Tea 75 (Hamlet)

(45 comments)

It’s a time-honored strategy. A skilled actor defined by one major role does some “challenging” work on a serious project to show that they’re flexible in anticipation of moving to a more serious and major level of their career. In the UK, the practice often involves a run in theater. For David Tennant, who had extensive theater experience anyway, it was the natural move - use the gap year opened in the production to do some high profile bit of theater.

Meanwhile, the Royal Shakespeare Company was in a position that could only be described as “in dire need of a hit.” The decision to terminate its relationship with the Barbican Centre in 2002 had left it with a vastly diminished presence in London, which, as it turned out, was not necessarily a great thing for a theater company, especially given that its Stratford-upon-Avon facilities were, at the same time, undergoing a lengthy renovation. The result was several years where the Company hemorrhaged money.

The two were natural partners, in other words. Tennant allowed them to have a high-profile production with a celebrity actor that would amount to a license to print money, and Tennant had a nice, high profile “respectable” role to use as he attempted to transform his post-Doctor Who career into, ideally, something American. And so we got the 2008 production of Hamlet in which Tennant pairs with Patrick Stewart, mostly running in Stratford. Adding respectability to the affair (on Tennant’s end) was him being a good RSC citizen and taking up a production of Love’s Labour Lost alongside Hamlet that, for a variety of reasons, was not treated as nearly as big a deal. 

For all that this makes perfect sense on paper, it was in some ways an awkward marriage. The RSC was in many ways unprepared to handle the sheer popularity that it had, and found itself trying to avoid looking too much like a populist circus, grumpily banning audience members from asking for anything other than RSC memorabilia to be signed and generally acting as though they were a bit annoyed that a bunch of sci-fi fans were giving them piles of money for what rapidly became the summer’s hottest theater ticket. And things got decidedly awkward towards the end of 2008/beginning of 2009 when Tennant suffered a back injury requiring surgery and ruling him out of the bulk of the London run of the play. 

But that this was such a controversy as to get repeated news coverage, and that a theater ticket in Stratford would be the hottest ticket of the summer speaks volumes about just how popular Doctor Who was at the end of 2008/beginning of 2009. Not only is Stratford a hundred miles and a two-hour train ride outside of London, it’s simply not a very big town - its population of 25,000 is smaller than that of Newtown, Connecticut, meaning that anyone wanting to see the production had to travel to a town with little else to do but tour a few museums and churches specifically for it. And they did, en masse, because that’s how major a production this was. Hamlet simply put, is an integral part of the story of Doctor Who in this period.

In many ways what jumps out most is that, for all that the RSC stomped its feet, it wasn’t a bunch of anoraks wanting Tennant to sign sci-fi merchandise that hit Stratford. For all that the production is clearly designed as “Doctor Who vs Captain Picard in Hamlet,” Patrick Stewart almost found himself swallowed off the bill, and, apparently, stopped doing stage door appearances after the first night (when I saw it in Stratford, the owner of the bed and breakfast I stayed at somewhat haughtily asked me if I knew who else was in it, visibly assuming that everyone only knew about Tennant). Tennant, meanwhile, would do about ten minutes of signing a night, such that the only way to actually get to see him was to go on a night you weren’t actually seeing the play or, alternatively, to skip the back half of the play in favor of queuing. 

And yet the focus was clearly on Tennant as a celebrity. The Doctor Who connection was part of the story, yes, but really not part of the marketing or paratext - it is not as though Stratford exploded with long brown coats and sonic screwdrivers during the run. Sure, there was one fish and chips shop that stuck a Dalek in the window with a caption reading “EXTERMINATE YOUR HUNGER,” but that was a lone bit of crass marketing in a town that otherwise retained its status as a second tier tourist trap. Perhaps more tellingly, the simultaneously running production of a play called Under the Blue Sky in London, featuring Catherine Tate, did nothing like this sort of ecstatic business.

There’s a line of argument that suggests that this is primarily driven by female fans attracted to David Tennant who merely watched Doctor Who because he was in it. This is, however, clearly fallacious on several levels. For one, it’s not like Tennant was a major star prior to Doctor Who. He didn’t have a built-in fanbase, and any one he acquired came from people who watched Doctor Who and fell in love with him. With no large ratings boost between the first and second seasons, there’s no real way to argue that there was an influx of Tennant fans who previously hated the show. Beyond that, the underlying argument is bracingly sexist - the usual term is “fangirls,” a term that tacitly emphasizes their gender so as to insinuate that their only real interest is that they fancy the actor, as though male fans of Doctor Who didn’t compile lists of all the times you could see Katy Manning’s knickers. 

But more to the point, it’s visibly untrue - a simplification that ignores the much larger audience Doctor Who actually commands. When I saw it, my then-wife and I were seated next to an older couple who were just RSC regulars, but who also greatly enjoyed Doctor Who. The theater was dotted with fans of various genders, as you would expect from a mass cultural phenomenon. This wasn’t some simple bit of demographics at play, but a subtler interplay. After all, it wasn’t even Love’s Labour Lost that was drawing people in, but the phenomenon of David Tennant being in Hamlet

Hamlet is, of course, the Genesis of the Daleks of Shakespeare - the one that is so canonically the best as to render further discussion oddly superfluous. Like Genesis of the Daleks, it has more than enough oomph to live up to its billing, and yet its status seems oddly out of proportion. Sure, it’s very good, but it’s tough to argue that it’s head and shoulders above King Lear or Othello. But Hamlet is nevertheless the prestige piece - the big one, if you will. Tennant, for his part, is very good at the role. The same skill that makes him a good Doctor - his ability to insert an unusually high volume of decisions into his reading of a given scene - helps him just as well in Shakespeare. He can deliver Shakespearean dialogue at speed in a way that makes the content of the lines clear. This is no mean feat - Shakespeare is brilliant, but the fact that the language is not normal conversational English makes it difficult to pick up on things at conversational speed. Being able to add, in effect, a second channel of communication through gesture and tone of voice helps in a big way. And it’s not particularly distinct from how Tennant is capable of having dialogue about, say, Z-neutrino energy and using it to deliver actual information instead of the patent nonsense that it actually is. 

Tennant also adds an energy to Hamlet that is useful for the character. “I have of late—but wherefore I know not—lost all my mirth,” he says, but in far too many productions it becomes impossible to see where any such mirth might have come from in the first place. The play is about a man who used to be witty, charming, intelligent, and to have a couple of proper rogues as friends, and yet in its ossified status as The Greatest Play by The Greatest Writer all of this is often lost under the play’s seriousness. Tennant pries it out again, and in a way that makes Patrick Stewart’s casting (and particularly the impact of his double role as both Claudius and the ghost) fortuitous. Stewart, in effect, plays Claudius more like the standard issue Hamlet (and the ghost as an over-the-top austere role), giving Tennant room to define his character differently. 

And, of course, there’s a tragic quality to the role that is interesting. Hamlet dies. He does not regenerate. There is no get out of jail free card that extends the narrative. Hamlet is defined by the fact that it has a definite ending. Its status as a play makes this all the more powerful. Movie version or no, the actual events in Stratford in the summer of 2008 cannot be revisited. Hamlet really does have an end, both as a character, a text, and as an event. In this regard it’s telling that Tennant does not pitch the character all that differently from the Doctor. His Hamlet is still manic energy flecked with angry steel - a wheeling performance full of reversals in every line. 

It is of course absurd to suggest that the Royal Shakespeare Company would put on a production of Hamlet to serve as a metaphor for Doctor Who, or that Tennant’s fannishness extends so myopically that he’d play the role that way. And yet equally, whatever the intent of everyone involved, that is clearly what the production was - a story where Tennant plays a version of the Doctor who is not merely mortal, but already dead. Which, in point of fact, his Doctor already was. In this regard, Hamlet became, in effect, the Tenth Doctor’s real regeneration story - the story where his character faces impossible odds and dies in the face of them.

We’ve talked more than once about the unique cultural role the Davies/Tennant era of Doctor Who had. And we’ll keep doing so over the next two months as we get to The End of Time. But for now it’s worth remembering that the end of it was a cultural event in a way that nothing since the end of the Tom Baker era ever had been before. And even then, Tom Baker left decidedly after the peak popularity of his Doctor. Tennant and Davies announced their departures at the peak of their popularity, and at a time when the question of whether there was such a thing as Doctor Who after them was a reasonable one. 


In that context, Hamlet becomes an odd phenomenon. It played the cultural role of showing the end of Tennant’s Doctor. In a real sense, Hamlet ends so that Doctor Who doesn’t have to, giving the fully cathartic and tragic end of one vision of Doctor Who that the series, defined as it is by its immortality, never quite can. This was not, perhaps, what was expected by anyone when the production was put together. And yet it was what happened, and, ultimately, why the production took off where Under the Blue Sky and Love’s Labour Lost didn’t, and why the otherwise quite high profile casting of Patrick Stewart disappeared under the weight of things. All three were marvelous in their own ways, but they were not needed interventions in a larger cultural narrative. The existence of David Tennant, the Tenth Doctor, as Hamlet, Prince of Denmark was. 

Put another way, for one brief summer, Doctor Who was, in terms of its psychochronographic footprint, bigger than Shakespeare.

Comments

Carey 3 years, 3 months ago

Hmm, an interesting entry and, I have to say, a very American view of a British phenomenon. I don't know what the theatre scene is like in the US, but in Britain it is a thriving entity and the visible home of many that would be called stars. And the important thing is that British actors essay big screen roles (whether television or film) to support their theatre work. Hence you have Ian McKellan, Patrick Stewart and now David Tennant essaying their names to essentially pay for a theatre career, where the money is lower. And for all that Tennant's fan base is from Doctor Who, he was an up and coming actor before being cast in that role who had appeared in a secondary role in a critically well received tv series (Blackpool) and headlined a role on one of the BBC's minority channels (Casanova). The big two channels had their eyes on him and would have given him a lead role in something that would have made him a household name anyway. It was fortuitous that Christopher Ecclestone left Doctor Who at the same time that Tennant was finishing off his Casanova work and had a direct link with Russell T Davies and Julie Gardner. But had that not occurred, he would have appeared in something, whether it was a police procedural or [spooks].

Of course, whether that series would have catapulted him into the fame he received with Doctor Who is questionable: but several years later he repeated the trick with Broadchurch.

(As a side note, and jumping ahead a few years in the narrative, but after Day of the Doctor does anyone else really want the BBC to commission a sitcom starring John Hurt, David Tennant and Matt Smith? Probably a flatshare comedy with Tennant and Smith as brothers and Hurt as their irascible but loveable father?)

"Sure, it’s very good, but it’s tough to argue that it’s head and shoulders above King Lear or Othello."

Very true, although in my opinion the most interesting Shakespeare play is The Tempest, primarily because it is the one play that isn't, to anyone's knowledge, based upon any pre-existing text.

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Alex Antonijevic 3 years, 3 months ago

"a sitcom starring John Hurt, David Tennant and Matt Smith? Probably a flatshare comedy with Tennant and Smith as brothers and Hurt as their irascible but loveable father?"

I would watch that show. Peter Davison, Colin Baker and Sylvester McCoy should also be recurring guest stars. Their triple act is brilliant.

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John Binns 3 years, 3 months ago

The thought that occurred to me watching the film version was that, crudely put, Tennant plays both the Doctor and Hamlet as super-bipolar, alternating between manic and depressive phases several times a day.

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Prandeamus 3 years, 3 months ago

"Love's Labours Lost " or am I just being That Guy?

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Prandeamus 3 years, 3 months ago

Regarding the "is Hamlet the greatest play" question, although it's artistically meaningless without context, a lot depends on the age of the lead actor. Hamlet is a young man's leading role, Lear very much the older man's role. Othello, following modern sensibilities, is for aspiring Black actors proving themselves. You can no doubt find counterexamples but that's the general perception.

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David Anderson 3 years, 3 months ago

I saw this in London without David Tennant, on a return ticket. It was an amazing production even without Tennant. I've sat through Shakespeare done much more stodgily that Patrick Stewart's Claudius. (The only part of the production that didn't work was Ophelia's mad scene - I think the current UK tradition is to make mad scenes too fey and zany.)
But the news that Tennant was doing Hamlet did immediately strike me as fitting.

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Nick Smale 3 years, 3 months ago

Not only is Stratford a hundred miles and a two-hour train ride outside of London, it’s simply not a very big town

The RSC is one of the very few "national" arts organisations in the UK based outside of London. In a nation where arts spending in the capital is vastly greater than elsewhere, I think that's something to be valued.

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Katherine Sas 3 years, 3 months ago

That is a fascinating reading. I will keep this in mind in future viewings - it really does make a heck of a lot of sense.

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Spacewarp 3 years, 3 months ago

With a postmodernist wink the title almost writes itself: "Doctors in the House". Future series could see them taking a cruise ("Doctors at Sea"), coping with the fairer sex ("Doctors in Love") and of course the one with Colin attempting to lose weight at that old sitcom staple the Health Farm ("Doctors in Distress"). High jinks ensue.

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Abigail Brady 3 years, 3 months ago

And I know we quite like pretending that market towns in slightly more rural counties are in the middle of nowhere, but you know, it's 20 miles from Coventry and less than an hour from Birmingham by train. People will happily go there of an evening and drive home afterwards - it's no worse than getting home from the wrong side of central London to zone 3 or 4.

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Anton B 3 years, 3 months ago

Hamlet abridged -
"I don't want to go...The rest is silence"

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Kit 3 years, 3 months ago

For one, it’s not like Tennant was a major star prior to Doctor Who. He didn’t have a built-in fanbase,

Not major, and presumably not any kind of organised fanbase, but I knew several adult women who started watching Who because Tennant was in it.

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Anton B 3 years, 3 months ago

It's an actor's truism that when one is young enough to play Hamlet one hasn't the experience or understanding to do it justice and when one is old enough to play Lear one hasn't the energy or strength to do it well. As to Othello...hmmm problematic. Should it be, as you say, a role for 'aspiring Black actors proving themselves.' or should it be as open to 'blind casting' as any other role?

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Bennett 3 years, 3 months ago

"Hamlet dies. He does not regenerate."

True. But if he did, how awesome would that be?

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Anton B 3 years, 3 months ago

If it turns out as bad as the recent sitcom starring Jacobi and McKellan I'll pass.

Anyway surely the humour in those scenes in DotD comes from the fact that they are all the same person with, in fact, the youngest version appearing to be the elder. I don't see how that would work if it was transposed to simply a father and sons relationship. Sorry if I'm just being a humourless pedant.

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Daibhid C 3 years, 3 months ago

There are some roles where the appearance of the actor is relevant. You wouldn't cast Jeff Goldblum as Tyrion Lannister, for example. A white Othello strikes me as much the same - and obviously blackface is unthinkable these days.

There are ways to do it; I believe Stewart starred in a version set in an African country, where he was the only white actor.

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Daibhid C 3 years, 3 months ago

I can vouch for it being less than an hour from Birmingham by train - when we were in Brum for the Discworld Convention last year, Mum said "We've a spare day, do you want to see Shakespeare's house?" So we did. I highly recommend it, by the way, it was fascinating.

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Anton B 3 years, 3 months ago

Yes I've also seen a 'negative print' version of Othello which worked reasonably well. I take your point about Tyrion however the character of Othello is merely described in the text as a 'Moor' which I believe gives a little leeway in the casting.

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David Anderson 3 years, 3 months ago

Iago shouts several insults based on the size of Othello's lips.

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encyclops 3 years, 3 months ago

Tennant also adds an energy to Hamlet that is useful for the character. “I have of late—but wherefore I know not—lost all my mirth,” he says, but in far too many productions it becomes impossible to see where any such mirth might have come from in the first place.

This is a nice observation. I liked this production, but would have appreciated it even more if I'd been looking at Tennant's choices from that angle. I thought Patrick Stewart was pretty tremendous in it as well (that interrogation scene sticks in my mind) and I think you're right that the contrast helps both of them.

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Iain Coleman 3 years, 3 months ago

Racial prejudice, and Othello's racial isolation, are so important to the play that it's one occasion where colour-blind casting is a bad idea. That doesn't mean you have to cast it conventionally - the "negative" version is an interesting variation - but you do have to make deliberate racial choices in the casting.

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Ed Azad 3 years, 3 months ago

An alternate "End of Time", with Sir Pat Stu as Rassilon, eh?

Well, you could do worse.

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storiteller 3 years, 3 months ago

Until recently, I had only seen Tennant in Doctor Who and a bit of the movie version of Hamlet, which as you point out, he plays in a similar style. Which is why it was so striking and out-of-the-blue to see his performance in Broadchurch, where he's very subdued.

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BerserkRL 3 years, 3 months ago

Tennant plays both the Doctor and Hamlet as super-bipolar, alternating between manic and depressive phases several times a day

To be fair, that is pretty much the way Shakespeare wrote Hamlet.

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BerserkRL 3 years, 3 months ago

What's the best Shakespeare play to showcase a female actor?

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AndyRobot800 3 years, 3 months ago

Probably Much Ado About Nothing (Beatrice) or Macbeth (Lady MacB). And, no, I refuse to refer to it as "the Scottish play", because I'm not typing this in a theater, I'm typing it in my apartment, and anyway superstitions are silly.

I'm gonna have to turn around three times and spit now, aren't I? #ihaveaperformingartsdegreecanyoutell

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David Anderson 3 years, 3 months ago

I'd have said As You Like It or Anthony and Cleopatra - Rosalind and Cleopatra are a bit more dominant in their respective plays than Beatrice and Lady Macbeth. But because women weren't allowed on the public stage Shakespeare was working with boy actors. At least one of the boys must have been a brilliant actor but still none of the woman parts get the number of lines of some of the male parts.

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Matthew Celestis 3 years, 3 months ago

Does colour-blind casting actually occur that much?

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Lo-Fi Explosion 3 years, 3 months ago

I saw Tennant in Richard II last night (the day the post went up) and his performance was radically different from anything I'd seen him in before. It wasn't his manic charisma performance or his subdued-boy-is-this-teleplay-really-boring-why-does-he-keep-making-these performance, it was, well, neither of those. It was a strange, fairie like performance completely out of step with the rest of the play, emphasising how out of touch his Richard was.

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peeeeeeet 3 years, 3 months ago

What's the best Shakespeare play to showcase a female actor?

I'd go with Measure for Measure.

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Matthew Blanchette 3 years, 3 months ago

Matthew Celestis, it is apparently a very common thing on the British stage.

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Matthew Blanchette 3 years, 3 months ago

..."and flights of angels sing thee to thy--"
*FWOOOSH* "Horatio! I still have legs, that's good..."

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jkorvin 3 years, 3 months ago

Funnily enough I've always had a theory that Stewart was offered Rassilon in the End of Time. I'm sure around the time of the Hamlet production Stewart was dropping hints that he might turn up in Who opposite Tennant. Rassilon would have been the only obvious role for him in '09, but he turned it down for some reason, and they just gave it to the nearest anglo-hollywood actor who was out of work that week.

Dalton has always struck me as miscast. He would have made a great Omega, but for Rassilon you need an evil wizard, not a posh bruiser.

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Matthew Blanchette 3 years, 3 months ago

...please don't tell me you only see Dalton as "a posh bruiser" just because he played James Bond. That's just stupid. (And, obviously, you've never seen Hot Fuzz...) :-(

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Alan 3 years, 3 months ago

That doesn't mean you have to cast it conventionally - the "negative" version is an interesting variation - but you do have to make deliberate racial choices in the casting.

Has that been done (Othello with a white lead and the rest of the cast black)? I was about to suggest that and thought I was being clever. I've said for years that I would pay good money to see a stage production of Huckleberry Finn with all the races flipped (young black Huck has to save a white slave named Jim from racist blacks).

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Alan 3 years, 3 months ago

This comment has been removed by the author.

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Alan 3 years, 3 months ago

If you're old enough, you see Dalton as "a posh bruiser" because he played Prince Barin of the Forest People in Flash Gordon.:)

"Freeze! Bloody Bastards!" as Barin blasts his way into the control room is, to me, still hilarious and wonderful after almost 30 years.

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Alan 3 years, 3 months ago

And even then, Tom Baker left decidedly after the peak popularity of his Doctor.

I thought that was an interesting comment given that your entries on Baker's last season discussed at lengths the extent to which Baker's bosses tried to actively undermine his popularity as a way of easing him out the door. Saying that he was "decidedly past his peak in popularity" kind of ignores the fact that his peak in popularity (in terms of ratings) probably came just a year earlier with City of Death, as well as the fact that JNT spent most of Season 18 depriving Baker of opportunities to be charming and likeable, the very source of his popularity.

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Iain Coleman 3 years, 3 months ago

Alan:

Yes, with Patrick Stewart as Othello. (And perhaps on other occasions, but that's the best known one.)

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jkorvin 3 years, 3 months ago

I wouldn't say I saw him as a 'posh bruiser' just because he played Commander Bond, it just seems to me how he plays the part of the President/Rassilon.

The Bond connection is interesting because of that scene in which Rassilon executes the one dissenter on the High Council: like a Bond villain.

Regardless of baggage though, Dalton seems to me to have little idea how to play the legendary President of the Time Lords other than as a public school thug with ideas above his station, which I don't feel's apt. Not his fault: I would say it's tough to get a purchase on the character, as the back-story between him and the Doctor isn't substantial as written. It's not at all clear for me what the personal, emotional stakes are between them. Patrick Stewart might have had more to go on given his then recent experience sparring with Tennant, dramatically. Dalton feels interchangeable with any other Name actor that might have been available, whereas with Stewart the fact of the RSC Hamlet would have given his appearance, and his antagonism to the Doctor, and of course Tennants hesitation to kill him at the end, so much interesting resonance.

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Alan 3 years, 2 months ago

Canonically, I don't think we know enough about Rassilon to say what his latest regeneration should be like. Certainly, the Giant Floaty Head from The Five Doctors seems very different from Dalton's character (including a ridiculous mustache and what sounded like a German accent). Beyond that though, canon Rassilon is a figure of legend, simultaneously Arthur, Merlin and Mordred rolled into one.

Anyway, I thought it was a foolish misstep for RTD to even include the single reference to Rassilon's name in End of Time. It was absolutely meaningless to people who weren't fans of Classic DW, but to those of us who recognized the name, the reaction to learning that Rassilon was (1) alive, (2) somehow president of Gallifrey during the Time War, and (3) interested in destroying the whole universe just like Davros the previous series was "Huh? What?!?"

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peeeeeeet 3 years, 2 months ago

What annoys me is that if you are going to use a name from canon that has resonance for fans but will be meaningless to everyone else, Borusa would have been a much better fit. I mean, Rassilon saw immortality as a curse rather than a blessing, that being the whole point of his previous appearance. Resurrecting him and making him a timewarmonger hugely undermines that.

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Ross 3 years, 2 months ago

You object to Rassilon turining out to have been woken from his eternal sleep (Arthur-like, to lead Gallifrey in its hour of greatest need) in a story which begins with the Master being resurrected from the well-n-truly-dead via magic?

(There's a handful of people who maintain that Dalton is actually playing Just Some Time Lord President who's taken "Rassilon" as a sort of regnal name. They're wrong, of course.)

This characterization of Rassilon seems 100% consistent with his depiction in, say, Zagreus, though I admit that this requires remembering that Zagreus is a thing that happened. But there's loads of references to Rassilon maybe having actually been a genocidal madman in the wilderness years stuff (The one that comes to my mind is Sky Pirates!, provided I am actually remembering this and not making it up.)

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jkorvin 3 years, 2 months ago

Never mind the wilderness years, here's the Five Doctors!

The second doc refers to rumours of the Time Lords rebelling against Rassilon's cruelty. Nothwithstanding the eventual, to fan discourse disappointing, appearance of Rassilon (Marc Platt summed up the mood in '83 calling him a 'Jimmy Edwards lookalike' IIRC), the note that Rassilon is aware of immortalities' curse is supposition by the 1st Doctor, possibly reflecting his ethics more that Rassilon's

Rassilon wanted rivals for immortality 'out of the way' is more salient. Certainly the hints of rassilons darkness were said by Terrance to be his take on Holmes' vision of the Time Lords as of Deadly Assassin (you know the drill).

In Assassin Rassilon is precisely ambiguously referenced. The first writer then to tackle the figure was Alan Moore in his back-up strips for Doctor Who Weekly. Here Rassilon appears as a still shadowy figure, physically resembling Moore as an old man, in simple robes, and the character seems wise, cunning, clever and with rather a ruthless streak.

Alan mentions as a
" foolish misstep for RTD to even include the single reference to Rassilon's name in End of Time".

I think the misstep was in delaying the revelation of his identity till the very end - 'back into hell Rassilon' is the line, precisely because it's played as a revelation and for all the reasons Alan suggests it doesn't work. The name is meaningless for most non-fans, so it either feels oddly mispaced to suddenly give the President a funny sounding name, while to fans it is meaningless because the backstory remains totally hidden. It feels like RTD writing himself into a bit of a hole. the dangers of mission creep from council estates to Time Lords in funny hats is underplayed here to some extent, but seems to haunt the central mythic narrative precisely by being very ambiguous. Identifying with the final drama requires not only the abstract threats of the might have been king and his regiment of the couldn't-be-arsed and the ascension of the Time Lords beyond causality, Where's the emotional beef.

A little mild Doctor-Master shipping provides some emotional content, but the only real acknowledgement Rassilon makes of the Doctor is along the lines of 'might have known you'd turn up too' and some generalised bad guy taunting. It's tricky to play and they do to be fair make a fine fist of suggesting worlds of unspoken backstory in a twitch of the eyebrow.

It would have been better I think if the character had remained wither an unnamed President or named as Rassilon early on in PArt Two, again because the name for general viewers is incidental.

I maintain Dalton didn't really work out. Anyone got any advance on Patrick Stewart?

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jkorvin 3 years, 2 months ago

Apart from John Hurt, natch.

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