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.

“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.

“Doctor Who: The Wedding of River Song” – Oh, Boy

See, here’s the thing (spoilers follow almost immediately): The Wedding of River Song is, in many ways, a hot mess.

It’s tangled and confused and, as Chode McBlob said about something else, “This is all pretty darn visually stimulating, but it doesn’t make a stitch of sense.” There’s painful chess and floating cars, pyramids full of Silence, the weird eye-things finally get explained, the nice Silurian doctor gets a comeback to nurse Churchill. Amy and Rory are having problems (again); and River is being difficult (again).

It mostly hangs together in the end but it’s as close to the ‘And it was all a dream’ cop-out as I’ve ever seen Moffatt get and that’s a deal too close: turns out the Doctor’s a huge liar (oh, that’s news, thanks) and everything’s fine after all. Uh-huh. Suuuuuuure it is.

Anyway, the episode is a lot of fun. All the actors get to play other-world versions of their characters — Amy as a kind of souped-up Agent Scully is a wondrous thing — and whoever designed the look of the ‘broken time’ world was having a lot of fun.

Wedding also has a honestly sweet nod to an old series character — Brigadier Alastair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart. Nicholas Courtney, who appeared in his first Who in the 1968 Troughton episode The Web of Fear (remember this title; it will be relevant again) and last appeared in the Sarah Jane Adventures episode Enemy of the Bane in 2008.

A moment of silence, please: in TV, print, or radio drama, the Brigadier met every Doctor from Troughton to Tennant, travelled in the TARDIS, fought Cybermen, Daleks, Ogrons, Gell Guards, Omega, the Master, dinosaurs, the Loch Ness Monster, Autons, Morgaine, the Bane, and even got to be his own evil universe alter ego in Inferno (fucking terrifying episode but we can talk about this another time). The Brigadier was made of solid-gold awesome.

Nicholas Courtney, who played the Brigadier in every appearance from 1968 to 2008, died in 2011. As a mark of respect to a fan-favorite actor and a grand character, 11’s phone call to the home where the Brigadier had been living and his evident pain at hearing of his friend’s death could not have been bettered. The Brigadier himself would have appreciated the quietness of it and he would have highly approved of the Doctor’s subsequent decision to face up to his responsibilities. He also would have loved Amy.

I must say that at the time I watched this, the disembodied head’s last demand of the Doctor — “Doctor who?” — struck fear into my heart. If there ever was a question we didn’t need answered in the series, that’s it. At least in the obvious sense of the question. Thank goodness that Moffatt seems to have taken a somewhat lateral interpretation of his own script and we’re not headed full-speed for some mitichlorion-like hell.

Next time: The Doctor, The Widow, and the Wardrobe. Look away if this was your idea of a fantastic Christmas special. 🙂