Doctor Who… The Dark Side of Regeneration?

WARNING: This article contains almost no spoilers!

In the wake of BBC introducing a promising new Companion and the most recent face of the Doctor getting only one more season to play out his amusing blend of mid-life crisis and cranky grandpa (with a healthy dash of teenage angst), I’d like to talk to the Whovians out there about the plot hook that has made it possible for 13 men (15 if we’re looking outside the show canon) to play the role of our favourite TV Doc! (Sorry to all the McDreamies and Quinns and Browns out there).

Regeneration is a HUGE part of the Doctor Who shtick. Yet, so many fans don’t seem to be able to really reconcile the device with their expectations of the show. We’ve all done that thing where we watch an actor play a role and then he/she just forever becomes that character… I mean I defy you to ever watch NPH in anything and not think of him as Barney, the creator of ‘The Playbook’ and ‘The Bro Code’. Funnily enough, with the Doctor many of us tend to do the reverse. Having related to a Tennant or a Smith in the role we just can’t help thinking to ourselves as we watch Capaldi… “this isn’t the Doctor” or “this isn’t my Doctor”. That latter line has some pretty rooted significance if you’ve followed the show over the years (watch this clip to the end for a particularly moving evocation, though you may have to Google the back story a bit. Well, you’re not going to like it, but I’m here to tell you how you’re doing yourself and the show an injustice by thinking like that…



Doctor Who – The Good, The Bad and The Timey-Wimey

I first got into Doctor Who in 2006-07 when BBC Entertainment brought to the eyes of the budding viewers in India a strange leather clad adventurer with a blue box. Almost immediately I was captured by Christopher Eccleston’s portrayal of what would become one of my most beloved characters of all time (pun intended!) – a manic and excitable genius, who seemed to also be hiding a darker side. While I had to bid goodbye to my first Doctor all too soon, with Eccleston only getting the one season (the second shortest reign of any Doctor), I shall never forget what he awakened in me – a great love for all things Who and a slight man-crush on his successor David Tennant.

Let me stop myself there. I seem to have started on a line of thought that could go on forever (or at least roughly 1304 years, if you get my drift.) Let’s get to what we’re here to talk about – the 50th Anniversary. But before you read on, let me warn you… Spoilers sweety! (I really hope you read that to yourself in the voice of River Song, otherwise it was just creepy!)

** For the rest of this article make your way to the full version on the Comic Addicts website run by my fellow geek, author and imagineer Akshay Dhar **

Doctor Who Turns 50 – 6 Months To Go

With filming on the 50th Anniversary mega-sode having begun, I thought I’d do a quick post about what it looks like it’s shaping up to be. All the speculation and gossip is definitely building it up to be an event that Whovians the world round are awaiting with bated breath. The biggest and most enticing of these was of course the possibility of the episode featuring all 11 Doctors – with the dearly departed being fit in with a combination of CGI and stock footage. I must admit, that would be terribly exciting! I remember watching the episode where the first three doctors were brought together in Season 10 of the original series. I can’t imagine how incrementally more awesome 11 would be! But this is of course, just rumor. It seems BBC seems to be rather delighting in leaking these little speculative teasers to keep fans interested. Well, its working!

Here’s a few things that seem to be for certain (for now):

  • Captain Jack Harkness (John Barrowman) won’t be making an appearance in the special celebration episode.
  • The Tenth, and one of my (if not the) favorite Doctor(s) (David Tenant) has been confirmed. Woo hoo!
  • Rose (Billie Piper) is back too!
  • As for the “monsters” that the episode will feature – It seems the writers are going with The Zygons (WHAAAAAT?!) Though I’m a bit disappointed not to hear of the familiar Daleks or Cybermen making an appearance, it is interesting to see they’ve picked up such a fringe race for the episode. I suppose it will have the advantage of giving a lot of scope to run with. Fans of the new series might not be familiar with them, they made their first appearance in Season 13 of the original show and though they’ve been hinted at, have not been seen in their true form in the new show.

Now here is who/what I personally would love to see in the special episode – I know some of these aren’t possible, but a boy can dream…

  • Brigadier Alistair Gordon Lethbridge Stewart (Nicholas Courtney)- One of my favorite recurring characters. Though he was never a “companion” technically, he outlasted many of them, appearing in 108 episodes of the show. I think that the most any individual character has played, other than the Doctor himself.
  • The Master – The arch nemesis – How can we have a mega-sode without this guy?! Find a way to bring him back!
  • K-9 – I know technically he blew up in the “School Reunion” episode helping the Tenth Doctor escape from The Krillitanes, but surely they can find a loophole? He is a machine after all, he can be repaired! Plus, he was surprisingly funny for robot dog : )
  • How about some surprise companion cameos? – Leela (Louise Jameson), Jamie McCrimmon (Frazer Hines) or Jo Grant (Katy Manning)

With 6 months still left to go there’s still plenty of time to speculate, gossip, hope and dream. But one thing is for sure, it’s going to be quite an event in space and time…

10 Ways to Enjoy London – No Money Down!

No one can argue with the fact that London is an expensive city – between rent, provisions, getting around and a couple of pints a week, it hard to find room in the budget for some fun. Don’t get me wrong, it’s definitely a bit easier if you’re a student. With an NUS Card, or even just your college ID, you have access to discounts at the Cinema, your local Grocery Store, Tourist attractions and many other places. But that will only get you so far won’t it? But have no fear, my dear, there are ways to circumvent a lack of cask flow. If you do your research and plan right, you can have a fun or culture filled day, without spending a penny. Here’s 10 ways to help you start:

1. Visit a Museum/Gallery: London has several wonderful museums. From the expansive Museum of Natural History (that’s one of my favorites – I spent the entire day there once – They even have an animatronic T-Rex!) to the National Gallery or the Tate Modern. You can get your fill of History, Technology or Art, just for the cost of bus/tube fare. Here’s Time Out magazine’s list of museums you can visit for free – Museums in London. But remember to check ahead, there may be admission for particular exhibits/attractions.

2. Check out a TV Show taping: I went for a taping once for a BBC Show. It was quite a great experience. It’s amazing to see just how they film an ensemble comedy (and how many times you have to laugh at the same joke ; p). But you might be more inclined to check out a News Show or maybe a Quiz? Who knows, if they have audience participation you may even get your 15 minutes of fame. Apply now and go watch TV being made at the BBC – BBC Tapings

3. Take A Walking Tour: There are several exciting walking tours you can take in London. You can get entails on any hostel site or on Time Out. Most of them cost a few quid though. However, Sandemans New Europe does FREE tours of London every day. That’s right, it’s absolutely free. You’re welcome to tip your guide at the end, but that’s on you. You can book the tour for any number of people, so whether you’re on your own, with a few friends, or taking the entire extended family (that’s a lot of people if you’re Indian like me ; p), it’s all good! Book Now

4. Check out the Street Markets: There are some fantastic street markets to check out in the city. While they all tend to have the standard tourist goods, like Bobby Hats, Sunglasses or Fedoras, they also have their own uniqueness. For example, the Portobello Road Market is rather known for having quant antique shops and even stalls where people sell some really cool old stuff. Camden Town is another well-known market, the down side of course is that it’s a perfect tourist trap. Still, it has some nice cafes and stalls that are worth checking out, even if you don;t buy any of that rubbish. If you’re a foodie you should definitely check out Borough Market. It has a reputation as one of the best food markets in the city and you can find choice local and international produce.

5. Catch a free Concert: There are many venues throughout the city where you can sit and enjoy an evening of music with your mates. If you’re into rock I would suggest one of the many pubs in Camden Town, where there are regularly local bands playing in the evenings and entry is usually free before 10-11 PM. If you’d like to enjoy something a bit more classical head over to The National Theatre where they regularly have free events open to the general public, first come first served of course. Another option is for you to check out the Royal College of Music. All of their events, unless stated otherwise, are free.

6. A Free Comedy Gig: There are dozens of comedy clubs in the capital (Alliteration. Love it!) that host free nights. They feature regular local comics as well as new comers and fresh faces. So check out Angel Comedy in Camden Walk, which features the best of the open mic circuit as well as a professional headliner. Or check out the various free shows offered by The Comedy Bin.

7. Visit A Park: If you find yourself experiencing a beautiful sunny day (they’re rare, but they do happen), you might want to get out and take in the green. So why not visit one of the exquisite, and for the most part, massive parks in and around London. They are beautifully maintained, with mini-attractions like play areas, statues and carved shrubs and some even have some wildlife. You may have to rent a car or take a bus to some of them, but a day out of the city might be just what the doctor ordered, because trust me, if there’s sun, Londoners will flock to the Parks to get some much-needed Vitamin D. Here’s Time Out’s helpful list of London’s Major Parks.

8. Star Gaze: Head on over to the Astronomy Centre, located in the Royal Observatory to see the history of the universe in 4 minutes or touch 4.5 billion year old meteorite (yes you can actually touch it!). The Astronomy Centre and galleries are open daily from 10 to 5 and admission is free.

9. Watch A Movie: There are quiet a few organizations that organize free film screenings on a regular basis/hand out free tickets to screenings in the city. You just have to do your homework and be quick, and a little bit lucky. The Radio Station LBC 97.3 FM hands out tickets for monthly screenings by its LBC Film Club. In the past they’ve done popular titles such as The Hangover, Frost/Nixon and RocknRolla. So check back regularly. Or sign up to Free Movies UK to get the chance to attend preview screenings of new movies at your local cinema.

10. Explore: Last but not least, just get off your butt and walk around. There are so many beautiful and breathtaking sights to see in London. Some might have an admission cost to see the inside, but they are beautiful to look at even if you don’t go in. Go see the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace; see St. Paul’s Cathedral; walk along the river Thames; go visit Shakespeare’s Globe. There’s literally no end to the things you can see.

Well I hope this small, but nowhere close to exhaustive, list of things helps some of you branch out and load up on some fun, without putting any additional drain on your purse strings. I hope you’ll buy me a pint one day with the additional beer money ; )

You ARE Welcome – Why Aspiring Students Need To Re-Think Not Applying To The UK

Last month the BBC news, through a correspondent in Mumbai, did a piece stating that more students from India are re-thinking coming to the United Kingdom to study because “[They] don’t feel welcome”. Now its true that frequent (or at the least more frequent than preferable) changes to Visa rules and the recent problem with the London Met has led to a feeling that coming to the UK to study as a full-time student may be more trouble than its worth. Well on behalf of myself and other students studying here in London, I’d like to tell you that this is not the case, but I do agree that the process for applying for a Tier-4 Student Visa can be quite frustrating, so here are a few tips from my own experience to help you along the way – a lot of these tips may apply to you specifically for Post-Graduate Degrees or if you’re coming from India, but even if you don’t fall in those categories, read through, hopefully they will help:

  1. Get Ready Early: Most of you will hear from your desired Universities between January-March, so that actually gives you a lot of time to get your application ready, but most of us tend to think, “arre yaar, bohat time hai!” (Aww man, there’s plenty of time) and we let a lot of the stuff slide till a month or so before our Term starts. Don’t! There are some documents which you need to get closer to the application date, such as your Bank Statements and Health Certificates, but get the rest of it done early and you’ll be a lot less stressed later on.
  2. Clarify your doubts: In India the applications are not made directly to the Embassy, rather you go to a collection agency that accepts the documents and passport on your behalf and then forwards them to the Embassy. The problem here is that the people looking through your documents when they collect them aren’t going to make any decisions, and they may not actually know the specifics of each required document. So if you’re not sure if something is just right, email the Embassy early on and ask for clarification. In my experience, they are quite about responding, but since they probably get bogged down by a lot of queries around the same time, make sure and give them enough time to respond.
  3. Read the Fine Print: The consideration process, unfortunately, is very detail strict. That is to say, that it works on a point/list system – so if a document isn’t exactly how it’s supposed to be you might get an automatic rejection. Now there is an appeal process, so it can be corrected, but prevention is better than cure. I was rejected myself because the required funds were in the account I linked to my application for 20 instead of the required 24 days – you can imagine that I was quite peeved about this – don’t let it happen to you.
  4. Dealing with D.U: Dealing with the bureaucratic procedures of Delhi University or one of the many other Universities in India,can be a bit slow and annoying. So remember to apply for the required provisional degrees or certificates right away, should something go wrong and you need to re-apply.
  5. Back-Track: My approach to dealing with deadlines is to look at the final one and then move backwards in terms of what I need to do and how long it will take. Try this. Make a timeline so you can track your progress and know what needs to be done. And put it down on paper – I’m sure you’ve got a great memory but at some point something will fall through the cracks and you’ll just end up shooting yourself in the foot.
  6. Don’t Panic: The worst thing that you can do to yourself is freak out. Just be sure to read all the information thoroughly and make sure your documents are in the proper formats and proper letterheads. Make a list so you can tick stuff off – trust me, it’ll help you feel more prepared as the process continues. Keep everything together and create bundles so you don’t end up tossing your room around last-minute. And breath.

But it’s not just about the Visa – You should also know what you’re through the process for. Studying in the UK, particularly in London, can be a very rewarding and eye-opening experience. And there are many reasons to come study here, some of which you may not have considered, but may be more important than you know – some of these may be targeted specifically at Law students, as I myself am currently doing my LLM at Queen Mary, University of London and so that is the experience that I’m speaking from:

  1. Cultural/Social Life: London has an infinite amount to offer when it comes to Music and the Arts. It has several Museums that are dedicated to niche topics and issues, which may give you an outlook you never encountered before. It has a host of venues that offer something for everyone, making it easy to immerse yourself in new cultures and experiences. And there’s really no point going abroad to study if you don’t make this an important part of your time – don’t just go to a new country to bury your head in a book – live and grow!
  2. Networking: The exciting part of studying in a Metropolitan city is that you will have access, both through and independent of your university/college, to immense networking opportunities. As a student of the University of London you have free access to several events every month, whether they are organised by your own college or one of the other ones. These can be a great place to meet people from various backgrounds/jurisdictions, which not only provides you with perspectives towards your field you may have not considered before, but future professional also contacts from around the globe.
  3. A Cure for Homesickness: London has a significant Indian, Pakistani and Bengali presence, so if you feel homesick or want to celebrate your favourite religious or cultural rites or just want some authentic native cuisine, you will not go wanting. Walking around in Southhall you’d almost forget that you weren’t back home in India and the city even had an immense Diwali celebration in Central London last year – I suppose these are the benefits of having had a vast number of Indians migrate here during/after the British Raj ; p
  4. Working Opportunities:One of the main complaints that people are making is the changing of the Visa rules that earlier allowed Indian students to stay on in the UK for two years to look for work post-study. Admittedly this is a significant factor, but people are under the wrong impression that the UK has taken away the opportunity all-together. Students can still apply to stay on by changing their Visa from a Tier 4 to a Tier 2 visa and they need not fly back home to do so. Yes it is more difficult than earlier but Prime Minister David Cameron, during his recent trip to Mumbai, assured the public that genuine students wishing to come to London to study would be given Visas and also allowed to stay on if they secured proper employment.
  5. Getting Around: London has one the best public transport systems in the world. From 6 am to about 12:15 am you can easily get to any part of the city using the intricate system of Underground or Overground lines. And if you’re out having a late one with friends, no need to worry, certain bus lines run 24 hours so no matter which part of the city you’re at, you can still get home safely – having taken the bus home at 4 am more often than I’d like to admit, I can vouch for that ; p
  6. The People: Possibly the most important – the people here are friendly and considerate. Sure they have their eccentricities, as any culture does, and you need to learn the everyday etiquette or you may annoy someone – but other than that people are always happy to hear you out and point you in the right direction. Coming specifically to the LLM Department at Queen Mary, they were immensely helpful in getting us settled in and helping us ease into our courses. The college provides a lot of academic and non-academic support and they make it a concern to make sure that students don’t get bogged down or fall through the cracks.
  7. Opportunity to Travel: Another great thing about studying in the UK is that the rest of Europe is just a bus or train ride away. Yes you have to get a Schengen Visa, but it’s not that difficult if you’re residing here full-time. I recently applied for an Irish Visa and got in just 7 days. I was even exempted from making any payment. Later this year my friend and I are planning to go through France, Italy, Spain, Hungary and the Netherlands on a proper back-packing trip – I can’t wait!

Well I don’t want to prattle on forever. I hope I’ve given you prospective applicants out there some food for thought. It’s understandable that a lot of people are going to Australia or the US for their degrees now, but personally I’m really happy I made the decision to come to London. I just feel so much more at home here. And its close enough that once in a while my family from back home still comes and visits. Good luck to all you applying for your visas. And remember – Relax! : )