Doctor Who, “Robot of Sherwood”; or, Mark Gatiss Wins

“Stories make us fly.”

I think that’s about all that need be said about Robot, yes?

No, seriously, I do have more thoughts but no time — check back in on Wednesday, ‘kay?

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Doctor Who, “Into the Dalek”; or, Manicheanism on the Hoof

Okay, I’m a little tired and slightly grumpy this weekend so I’m going to keep this short and simple with a ‘solid bulleted list!’

RAYOR as always.

Afterthoughts from Deep Breath:

  • Missy. What the hell. I hear rumours — sweet, sweet rumours — that she may be the Master on some level. I’m also seeing a resemblance to Madame Kevarian: are we back to another splinter group of the Mother Church?
  • Re-used set from The Girl Who Waited. Also what the hell. Also please dear Dagon don’t make me go back there, Steve.
  • Gave your pocketwatch to a tramp, huh? Interesting choice. Probably not a good one but — interesting.

Afterthoughts from Into the Dalek:

  • Coal Hill School. Jesus-fucking-God. Is Clara going to open a shop at 76 Totters Lane next? (And was I the only one half-hoping that when she opened the stationary cupboard for the second time she’d be in 1963? Or thereabouts?)
  • Danny. Can we keep him?
  • Journey. Can we keep her, too? Please?
  • Is the Doctor a good man. Well — no. I thought we settled this back in season 6.
  • Clara gettin’ fiesty. Yeah, bring it on! Much better than the dewy-eyed look.

Um, and that’s kind of it, sorry. My brain is feeling rather like fudge. If I think of anything else, I’ll get back to you.

An Opportunity!

So back on the Blog That Was Before This One, I was doing a Doctor Who rewatch blog commentary thing that was so far behind it wasn’t even funny. I think I bogged sometime around the end of season 6? Pretty sure I never made it to season 7. (Having checked, I guess I didn’t even make it to the middle of 6. Oy.)

Anyway, I really want to go back and finish it at some point because it was a lot of fun but that would also mean re-watching episodes that kinda hurt the first time and, post-Trenzalore, might leave scratch marks. And since I find myself in the really unusual position of actually being caught up with a show (seriously, this never happens), I thought I’d simply skip ahead and talk about Deep Breath.

A couple of disclaimers just to make sure we all know the ground rules.

If you hate Moffatt, we are unlikely to be friends. If you stopped watching when David Tennant left, then why did you even read this far? And if you think Peter Capaldi is ‘too old,’ go. the hell. away.

Have we all got that? Good. I don’t want to have to repeat myself. And, no, I will not talk with you about the Bechdel test or that godawful infographic that did the rounds this summer.

And RAYOR: that is, Read AYour Own Risk. I do not guarantee to be spoiler-free, but I try to be spoiler-light and inspecific where I can at all possibly do so: I like to think that people who have seen the episode will get it but those who haven’t won’t have the story spoiled.

So! :claps hands: Regeneration, huh? Bad trip all ’round — can’t remember one of these that’s really gone smoothly. Of course, not all of us take it as far as 10 did but — this pretty much rotted from beginning to end.

(Oh, can I skip ahead for a minute and say the whole phone call thing? (Yes, I know it was a cheap trick.) Owch for one thing and “tell me I didn’t get old.” Oh, 11…No, of course you didn’t. You never will and you always have been. And I just remembered so much World War I poetry that my brain hurts.)

Is there rubbish in here? Yes, of course, there’s rubbish: faking out leaving Clara; the last interview with the Half-Faced Man (not my fault: that’s what they called him in the cast list) had a faint dusting of cheese; and the voice-over/mind-to-mind communication or whatever the hell it was supposed to be between Jenny and Vastra was cover I don’t think the scene required. (Since I hear the BBC is getting a ton of complaints anyway, I don’t think it helped much either.)

However. Was there gold? Oh, baby. The step back to Girl in the Fireplace was a lovely piece of nostalgia; I’m very glad we resisted the urge to make this an old home week, though, and bring 10 or Mme Pompadour back. They were wonderful; it was a glorious episode; but it doesn’t need a rehash.

Jenny, Vastra, and Strax can just be taken as read; I admit to a tiny little regret that we didn’t see Ada — but maybe she’ll hop on board later. I surely hope so.

I like Clara now more than I have since her introduction: her interview with Half-Faced Man was excellent: strong, independent, clever, fast-thinking — everything a companion should be. She stood up to Vastra, she stood up to H-F M — I like her. If her storyline keeps going like this, I’ll be willing to get on board with her and be sad when she goes. Up to this point, I’ve felt pretty null about her — not that this was really Jenna-Louise Coleman’s fault: she got handed inconsistent stories that didn’t make up their mind about a character arc until too late.

Capaldi as 13. (Yes, 13; I’m not taking John Hurt out of the line-up of Doctors because are you fucking kidding me — if nothing else, I’d be worried he’d show up and bitch-slap me.) Plus I think Moffatt did some really clever-clogs fancy dancing around the whole 12 regenerations issue and I’m willing to respect the levels of bafflegab he went to.

Was Capaldi my number one choice? No (Paterson Joseph or Barbara Flynn. I have lovely, lovely moments where the Doctor is Helen Mirren but, alas, I know this won’t happen). Was he my head canon? No. Did I actually think he was seriously in the running? No. I honestly thought Moffatt was going to fuck us over and take Billie Piper after her appearance in the 50th. I can’t say this led me to have nightmares or anything but when we do get a female Doctor, I would like someone with slightly more impressive acting chops.

I could not believe the reaction among a small, vocal number of fans once Capaldi was announced, though, that he was ‘too old’ or ‘unattractive’ or just ‘wrong’ for the part. This is where I, as an old-series fan, start to get a little bit huffy with the young ‘uns. The Doctor has been quite young enough for quite long enough — and if you think 11 was as young as his face, I’m sorry, but I don’t think we’ve been watching the same show at all.

I’m delighted to see Capaldi take a strong, capable take on the part right out of the gate, no messing around, very little fuff around the regeneration — although Neve McIntosh’s recession into Scots was marvellous — and just getting right down to it. I like the intensity; I like the focus; I like the seemingly wide-focus-while-still-being-narrow-focus gaze. I love the quieter physicality — 11 was so much about flail and flash (most often to disguise what he was really doing) that I think something different will be very welcome.

As to rumours that this is the ‘dark’ Doctor… I admit to being a bit baffled by them. What has he been up ’til now? Did we all miss 9 talking to the Nestene Consciousness? “I couldn’t save your world: I couldn’t save any of them!”

Or what 10 and Donna at Journey’s End? “Because there can’t be.”

Or, indeed, what 11 was willing to do to the star whale? “Nobody human has anything to say to me today!”

So I’m not on board with the people who are all ‘oooh! new direction!’ but I am looking forward to seeing where we go with an older Doctor — particularly if we’re going to try and tie in Capaldi’s other Who and Torchwood appearances. I’m particularly intrigued to see what, if anything, happens with the Torchwood character because Children of Earth was pretty much pain from one end to the other and Capaldi brought a lot of it. It’s an incredible performance but trying to wrap that character into the Doctor — could get interesting.

I think I had more coherent thoughts when I started this but it’s 10.20 pm, I’ve been up since 7 am, and I have to get up at 6 am. I believe the short version would be that I am (almost) entirely content with this opener and I’m delighted to see some old friends turning up so soon in the season as next week.

TV Shows: Fringe (season 1)

So it basically went like this: eh, fun, fun, fun, ew, fun, what the fuck, fun, feels!, fun, fun, fun, ew again, fun, boring, fun, how the fuck stupid do you think I am!

I mean, really. That season finale? Who are we kidding, Mr. Abrams, sir? I mean, anyone who didn’t have those ‘reveals’ figured out from about the middle of the season — possibly a show or two earlier — simply wasn’t watching with his or her eyes open. You couldn’t have telegraphed it any more clearly: is this a you don’t trust your actors to convey the story thing? or a Leonard Nimoy had a free weekend thing? or a the season was running short thing? I mean, what was this!

Okay, that little mini-rant aside, this was pretty fun. 90% of the episodes were a good time; watching the pre-Walking Dead work of Orci and Kurtzman is fun and I assume they’re the ones keeping the make-up shiny. (By the way, I just started season 3 of Walking Dead and oh my fucking God but we can talk about that another time.) Jean the Cow may be my favorite character; either her, or Astrid with her endless name variations. Oh, or Charlie — love him; he took being impregnated with giant mutant scorpion babies so well. Also Nina Sharpe; I don’t think Blair Brown really has any idea what the hell is going on around her but she’s having a lot of fun with it plus she has a Darth Vader hand.

It’s got plenty of fun one-liners (“It’s the friendliest of fruit!”) and Anna Torv as Olivia Dunham is a good straight man for the combined forces of John Noble and Joshua Jackson as a father/son unit of crazy. The crazy is a little forced at times, I must say, but the core cast still makes it look fun.

I have to say, as a resident of Boston, the writing staff’s idea of Boston geography is always good for at least a howler an episode. For instance, I work in the Countway Library — riiiiiight next to Kresge Hall. And there are no cows.

I can’t say I have any deeply serious thoughts about Fringe — it doesn’t really seem to ask for them. It’s fun, pretty popcorn TV; I’m told by sources who have seen later seasons that it turns into “The Walter-and-Peter Show” and I’m totally okay with that.

Does This Sound Like Fandom To You?

So here’s the thing. I write fan fiction. (If you don’t know what this is, go here.1)

I’ve been writing fanfic for years, really, starting with a long, long, desperately long and self-indulgent Star Wars…thing or things that just has so many disturbing overtones of my abusive ex that I kind of can’t deal with it; middling with Gundam Wing because I had a friend who was into it and then she turned out to be a duplicitous individual and that went south; and now I mostly write Supernatural fic although I read all sorts of fandoms and pairings.

At the minute, I exclusively write a pairing known in the fandom (for the sake of brevity) as Destiel.2 I’ve written almost 100 fanfics in this pairing. I love doing it. It’s fun, it’s harmless, other people enjoy them, and the pairing makes a very happy space in my head and, to be quite honest with you, I don’t have that many of those. I’m not saying it’s a philosophically unalloyed uber-good or anything; I’m saying it makes me happy and it’s fun and that’s why I do it.

I do not do it so a 15-year-old boy can get bullied so badly for not being a fan of Destiel that he becomes withdrawn, and his mother and teachers are worried about him.

I do not do it so that people can become so frustrated with a few — a very few — loud obnoxious voices in the pairing’s fandom that they are ready to dismiss all of us as antisocial nutbags.

I have found some of the kindest people I have met in this fandom. People who would never dream of insulting someone else based on what character he likes or doesn’t like. But over the last few months, I have also noticed this trend towards what I can only call extreme fandom bullying. Bullying that leads to people leaving a fandom they love, something that they found support or comfort or straight-up amusement in and that’s not right. I have heard stories about people having their Twitter accounts wiped or banned; I have heard about people being reported at ‘cons because they said they liked a ‘ship someone else did not; and I have heard more times than I want to about someone getting shit online for saying what they like.

I can’t answer the ‘What is the point?’ question about bullying. I have no idea what the point is meant to be or even if there is one. Why would you want to make someone else who enjoys the same things you do miserable? Yes, we all go back and forth over favorite characters, favorite episodes, favorite moments — but the point is to share, to appreciate, to enjoy, not to mock or belittle or abuse.

I can’t answer this question, but I can say, as a Destiel shipper, as a Supernatural fan, as a Doctor Who fan, as a general fandom person, that I think this is wrong. This is not how we should be engaging with each other over things that we love. Fandom is about loving something — maybe a little more than someone not in the fandom understands — but that’s what the rest of the fandom is here for: we understand. We know what it’s like to stay up all night watching a season on DVD because you just have to know what happens to your favorite character. We know what it’s like to need a box of tissues to mourn the death of someone who never existed. And we know what it’s like to cheer because your heroes finally get the good moment they deserve.

So I think this kind of bullying, harassing, cruel behavior has no place in Supernatural fandom or in any other fandom. I have my own ideas about what we could do to intervene; I think a good start might be something like a fandom ‘safe space,’ analogous to those created in the “real world” for at-risk folks. I also want to hear from you. This isn’t something that I — or anyone else — can fix on her own, so lets figure it out.  Have you been fan-bullied? fan-policed out of enjoying yourself? have you seen it happen to your friends? what do we need in order to stop it, lessen it, or support those to whom it has happened?

~~~

1. A few other terms that might come in handy: ‘slash’ indicates a pairing as in ‘Mulder/Scully.’ It’s just shorthand, don’t freak out. These days, folks mostly seem to run with mashups of character names: Johnlock (John Watson/Sherlock Holmes, Sherlock), Polivia (Peter Bishop/Oliva Dunham, Fringe), Thoki (Thor/Loki, Thor), Naudrey (Nathan Wuornos/Audrey Parker, Haven), etc. This habit can lead to unfortunateness; work out for yourself what the canon pairing in The Hunger Games ‘verse, Peeta and Katniss, comes to. A pairing may also be referred to as a ‘ship — short of ‘relationship.’ This has also been turned into a verb as in “I ship Peter/Olivia” or “I shipped that so hard.”

Back in the day when I started reading fic — the late ’90s — ‘slash’ almost always referred to male/male pairings. Use has changed and ‘slash’ refers to pretty much any pairing but I tend to regress and use it for m/m out of habit. ‘M/M’ is ‘male/male’; betcha can’t guess what ‘f/f’ is and if you don’t know what a fandom is, then why are you here?

2. For those not in the fandom, this translates to Dean Winchester/Castiel. If you need an explanation of what Supernatural is, go Google it and don’t say I didn’t warn you. (But take my advice and don’t do an image search until you’re fully prepared to face the consequences.)

There are plenty of other pairings in Supernatural, including Wincest (Dean Winchester/Sam Winchester); Sabriel (Sam Winchester/Gabriel); Wincestiel (Sam Winchester/Dean Winchester/Castiel); and Megstiel (Meg/Castiel) to name a few. Yes, they’re all a little silly sounding but, like all shorthand things, they’re also pretty fun. And we don’t have a Peeta/Katniss problem.

“Doctor Who: The Doctor, The Widow, and the Wardrobe” – So. That Happened.

It isn’t that I disliked this Christmas special.

It’s just that it wasn’t A Christmas Carol.

Spoilers are quite possibly lurking herein.

And I know, I know, I know, that’s not fair of me and I agree with you — it isn’t fair at all. I wish I liked it more — I wanted to like it more!

But Carol was so outstanding and this was so…not.

It was a clever conceit for which I had serious hope at points — the nursery, the trees growing ornaments, the Green Man and Green Lady — and it never rose to the hope which I had for it and, by the end, it fell well below, sadly.

It wasn’t frightening, it wasn’t sweet, it wasn’t transformation, it was just…all right.

I have to say, the outstanding moment for me was the identification of the planet as Androzani because motherfucking  hello?! That was seriously cool and I was totally down with that.

The ending with Amy and Rory, too, was beyond sweet. That was lovely — a wonderful character-building moment for all three that made a beautiful cap to the mid-season.

The rest of the special? Well. Meh?

World War II nostalgia? check.

Heroic father figure? check. (He’s even a fighter pilot.)

Charming, idiosyncratic children? check. (One of them even wears thick glasses.)

Heroic, self-sacrificing, adoring mother who wants nothing more than to see her family reunited? check. Disgustingly enough.

It was all rather pat. Even with the introduction of the Green Man and Green Lady — genuinely terrifying characters in their native mythologies — was turned into a vehicle to make the mother more of a heroic mother. Hindsight being what it is, of course this special now looks like the bleedingly obvious segue into the Amy/River/Madame Kevarian storyline that it so obviously is, but viewed as a standalone it’s just kind of…predictable. It isn’t even a particularly helpful segue because, well, we’ve gone there already! A Good Man Goes To War took us there quite nicely and then booted our asses up, down, around, and over for awhile. After that…well, Wardrobe just doesn’t really have the chops.

There’s no moment of transformation here, no moment of wonder or pain or beauty akin to anything in the Carol or even in the regular season episodes. It’s all very watchable, very charming Who but it lacks that step beyond that Moffat and Davies before him have done such a good job of reaching for.

“Doctor Who” – Thoughts on Companions

Some time ago, someone — I think perhaps Anna — mentioned to me a post that she had read where an old-school Whovian was expressing the confusion that I feel many of us OSW (for short) feel at the angst around the departure of companions in the new series.

I can’t remember where this post was or who wrote it or even reliably who told me about it. If you are either of these people — or this post, gone sentient and websurfing on your own — please leave me a comment so I can credit you appropriately.

I don’t have a conclusive answer to this — who has the conclusive answer to anything Who-related? — but I do have some thoughts.

Chief among them is the fact that the series was resuscitated and is currently being run by fanboys. Huge, ginormous, garguantic lolloping fanboys. And I say that with the utmost of love, respect, and devotion because they brought my Doctor back to me. How could I do anything but wish alternately to break their kneecaps and worship them sexually?

Anyway, not the point.

The point is that the show is being run largely by people who remember the old series and the discomfort — hell, the outright distress —  we all felt when our favorite companions departed unmarked. The Green Death (Jo Grant), anyone? The Invasion of Time (Leela)? Dalek Invasion of Earth (Susan Foreman)? Terror of the Zygons (Harry Sullivan)? War Games (Zoe and Jamie?) The Hand of Fear (Sarah Jane Smith, the first time)? Hell, you didn’t even get to say goodbye to Romana I because they cheated and regenerated her between seasons!

These were people we spent a lot of time with and were emotionally invested in and they just sort of…go. It’s very quiet and very British but a little unsatisfying.

Okay, admittedly, so the Doctor has a whole ‘I will suck it up’ moment as Jo departs with her Welsh environmentalist but — still, it’s not a lot. And the first Doctor does have his lovely “…just go forward in all your beliefs” speech but… And Sarah Jane — hell, we’d spent whole Doctors with Sarah Jane (practically)! And, yes, if you read between the lines there’s a lot going on in her last scenes in the TARDIS but you’ve got to squint! And that’s even with knowing that Lis Sladen loved being Sarah Jane, enjoyed her time with the show, and was happy working with both Jon Pertwee and Tom Baker which says a great deal for any woman’s resilience of spirit. And ability to keep her temper.

But for those of us who grew up loving some of these companions and really attached to them, it’s rather nice for a change to have the Doctor seem to at least notice that someone has left the TARDIS.

And, yes, the angst does hit rather operatic levels at times — my opinion on Rose Tyler is an open secret and I have a feeling that Oswin Oswald may be trending in the same direction but here’s hoping — but it’s good to have the companions coming and going feel like something, like it matters: to the Doctor, to the TARDIS, River, hell, even if just to the writers.

I think this is all part of the new Who approach in bringing consequences to the story: Choice A is made, therefore Thing B happens. And I’m not saying that this always makes for great — or consistent — storytelling or character development because it doesn’t. But it does make for a new trend in the show which is lovely to see at least 90% of the time. Because for every time I thought, ‘God, Rose a-fucking-gain?’ there was ‘So he does still think about Donna’ or ‘He remembers what he did to Jack.’ It’s nice to know that those characters are being recognized more fully in the show for what they do.