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Archive for the ‘Doctor Who’ Category

I May Have an Interlibrary Loan Problem

The funny thing about libraries is, they expect you to give their books back.  And I refuse to give books back if I haven’t read them, or at least beaten my head against them until the blood flows.   Back when I could only get books by physically trawling libraries for them, this wasn’t a problem – I’d check out books, read them, return them, and check out some more.

Thanks to the wonderful interlibrary loan button on the local library website, I can summon books to my branch, pick them up, and watch as my tower of clear-plastic-upholstered tomes grows ever-larger, mocking me.

I need to hurry up and finish these before the new Doctor Who season comes out and I lose all sense of time.

(It’s funny, see?  Because he has a time machine?)

A Taste of Who

Ready for some Doctor Who a month early?  Because I know I am.  Turns out that Team Moffat produced a miniature Who two-parter for Children in Need’s Red Nose Day.  All the usual Moffat-Who stuff is in evidence: banter, weird technology, and time-travel antics.  It’s like one of the miniature Cadbury Creme Eggs: just enough to leave you craving for more.  Only where the “more” doesn’t send you into instant sugar coma.

You can download these on iTunes, or just watch them here:


Interview at Flames Rising

I debated opening with some joke about how the reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated, but I think Mark Twain would personally return from the grave and smack me upside the head for that.

Life’s been busy, but here’s an update:

  • I’m getting married next month!  In case you were wondering why I hadn’t posted in a while.
  • Alana Abbott was kind enough to include me in a group interview of urban fantasists on Flames Rising.  The subject: Vampires!  Check here for my thoughts on why Dexter is the best vampire currently running, as well as a list of underrated pain-in-the-butt vampire weaknesses.  The other panelists have some great answers, too – I haven’t seen Barnabas Collins name-checked in a while, and kudos to Jeri Smith-Ready, whose first exposure to vamps was Love at First Bite.  Awesome film.  Dracula gets kicked out of castle by Transylvanian gymnastics team, comes to New York City!
  • By vote, the most feared vampire power is mind control, either tied with or slightly ahead of immortality.  Good choices.
  • The new book continues apace.  I’m a little over 2/3 of the way through, and the story is about to start Getting Real.  Or, as real as you can possibly get in a story about the California Power Crisis with zombies — which is pretty real actually.
  • Another project I’m involved with just gained (1) new artist!  More here as this develops.
  • The Pandorica opened.  You need to see it.  Matt Smith wins acting forever.

More on all this in the coming days!

Rock on.

“You have to remember what I told you when you were seven…”

I don’t read Doctor Who blogs, generally.  That’s important to understand the following, much as it’s important to know that Marley is dead if you want to understand the beginning of A Christmas Carol.

Watching Flesh & Stone on Saturday, I was struck by one particular sequence of scenes: the Doctor’s sidekick, Amy, must wait crosslegged in a forest clearing with her eyes closed (lest something horrible eat her from the inside out) while the Doctor goes off in his shirtsleeves to solve a problem.  “Later,” the Doctor says, and then, to someone out of screen: “I need your computer!”; “Later,” Amy says, and the Doctor leaves.

A beat passes, in which Amy sits alone and scared, wringing her hands in the silence.

The Doctor’s hands reach in from out of frame and grab hers.  We have not heard him approach, and neither has Amy.  She feels his hands, tries to look at him but cannot open her eyes.  Their faces fill the frame in iterative shots.

“You have to learn to trust me,” the Doctor says.  And then: “Remember what I told you when you were seven.”

“What did you tell me?”

“No, that’s not the point.  I need you to remember.”

Amy is, if anything, even more confused than before.  The Doctor leans forward – the sleeve of his jacket brushes her face – he kisses her on the forehead and is gone.

Cut to: the Doctor in his shirtsleeves, hard on the heels of a soldier and a scholar stomping through the wood in a desperate attempt to save the universe, wisecracking all the way.

The shift in tone struck me as strange, as did that “Remember” line, which was never explained in the episode.  It never seemed critical that Amy remember anything in particular for the plot of this episode, much less anything the Doctor said when she was seven.

So what?  Writers drop threads all the time – but seldom so boldly, and anyway this is Stephen Moffat we’re talking about, not some kid fresh from the typing pool.

My initial thought: what if that was not the Doctor from the timeline of the episode?  What if it was the Doctor from another time entirely?  From the future, perhaps, come back to give Amy a warning, disguised as a reminder – or a crucial piece of advice.  That would explain the out-of-place dialogue, and the Doctor’s whiplash-inducing shift from flip, excitable, adventure mode to deadly serious and emotional mode and back again within the space of a single camera cut.

Then I forgot about this theory, because I don’t like to speculate too far in advance.  Last night, however, I watched the episode again, with friends.  My suspicion deepened, and, at the end of the episode I mentioned my theory.  Rolling back, we played those two minutes again, and there it was, the proof:

The Doctor, in the first scene, is in his shirtsleeves; his green tweed jacket has been stolen by the angels.  He’s also wearing a pale blue shirt.  The Doctor kneeling before Amy, the “Remember” Doctor, is wearing the jacket, and a different shirt to boot.

The future relies on Amy remembering something the Doctor said when she was seven.  Why?  At a guess: The Doctor will, at some point near the end of this season, be wiped from the timeline.  River’s memories of him before she started to travel in time will be erased, but not her memories of those memories.  Those are post-time travel sense experience, and she can access them.

I know some of this stuff has been figured out on other forums (I checked immediately after I saw the jacket), but it’s a thrill to “get it” all by myself, and have my wild suppositions confirmed.

Unresolved Sexual Tension is Lazy

Saturday’s amazing episode of Doctor Who pricked me into thinking about unresolved sexual tension, which is so common in media these days that it has its own acronym (UST).

Unresolved Sexual Tension is a great way to keep stringing your viewers along from week to week, if you have viewers who get off on that sort of thing, but in the end it’s a cop-out:  the characters never talk about their feelings for one another until the last possible moment in the series, which robs us of the chance to see what how their relationship would work – or fail to work.  The tension between the Doctor and Rose is precisely of this kind: the first move in their relationship is also the last (ditto with Doctor/Martha).  It’s not just lazy storytelling – it’s storytelling that renders itself pointless, because we never have time to see the consequences of either character’s choices.

(spoiler warning!)

That’s why Amy out-and-out propositioning the Doctor in Saturday’s episode was great television.  The Time of Angels two-parter was glorious and terrifying, full of near-death experiences and existential horror.  Amy nearly died many times, and in the aftermath any sane person would be asking herself, or himself: what, in my life, have I wanted to do more than anything, but talked myself out of because I was scared?  Of course she tackles the Doctor as soon as she has the chance!  And of course the Doctor rebuffs her – “You’re human!  You’re getting married in the morning!”  And now they can’t un-say these things, or un-do them; they’ll be a part of the characters’ relationships for the rest of the season.  Amy’s actions will affect her relationship with the Doctor, her relationship with her fiancee, and (apparently) the universe as a whole.

In the end, “actions have consequences” may be the overarching theme of this season.  The Doctor doesn’t let the Atraxi just leave after threatening to burn the Earth; he calls them to the carpet.  The Beast Below features a spacefaring Starship UK in which every citizen is torn between two horrible alternatives, and even the Doctor himself almost makes the wrong choice – saying even as he does it that he will live with the consequences.  The Doctor saves London in Victory of the Daleks, but in the process he lets the Cult of Skaro (or whatever) escape, and of course in Time of Angels/Flesh & Stone the military bishop accuses the Doctor of escapism: he gets to run from the massacres in his wake, but the bishop’s men are dead and someone will have to tell their families.  And of course River Song is a prisoner throughout the episode, most likely for killing the Doctor…

So, “Actions have consequences.”  And, “Time can be rewritten.”  Interesting dialectic there, Mr. Moffatt.

More on that later, though.  For now, back to work.

Juxtaposition of the Daleks

This last week’s episode of Doctor Who left me surprisingly cold.

This is partly due to my having just watched John Woo’s Red Cliff, the best war epic I’ve ever seen: casting, pacing, scheming, cinematography, dialogue (it helps that I understand Chinese, naturally), acting (oh the ACTING – Takeshi Kaneshiro and Tony Leung were born to cast knowing looks at one another while having stoic, brilliantly understated conversations), martial arts and rank-and-file action…  No other movie by no other director could mesh superheroic martial arts feats with a hellish, pitched battle without passing into the realm of farce.  As movies go, there are few better ways to spend four and a half hours, and I would watch thirty-six hours more if John Woo were to adapt, with these actors, the rest of the 100 chapter novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms upon 10 chapters of which the film is based.

Juxtaposition of some sort is at fault for my poor reception of this week’s Doctor Who episode, anyway – if not its juxtaposition with Red Cliff, then its juxtaposition with the previous two episodes of the new season, The 11th Hour and The Beast Below, both by Stephen Moffat.  This is the first episode of the new season penned by a writer other than Moffat, and it feels like a flashback to the RTD era.  This is not really the fault of Mark Gatiss, the scribe in question, though he would have done better by writing a location other than a featureless bunker, involving Churchill as an active character rather than a passive bystander, or, I dunno, not allowing the main characters to defuse the bomb with the power of love.  Mostly, the flashback feeling is the fault of the Daleks.

This hurts me to say, but the Daleks deserve to rest.  They appeared so frequently in the RTD era that they became the show’s flagship antagonist, and this weakened them.  The first Dalek (introduced in the episode Dalek!, sensibly enough) shown in the new series could have easily wiped out all of Earth.  Subsequent Daleks never recaptured this initial menace, though they occasionally approached it, in the last two episodes of the first season, or in the hilarious confrontation between the Cybermen and the Cult of Skaro.  By the time the immense Dalek fleet appeared at the end of Season 4, the audience was chilled, but not terrified – an equally-sized band of Sontarans would have been as much of a threat.

Compare this with the Borg , the fiercest enemies bar none in Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Deep Space 9.  The Borg hand the crew their greatest military defeats, they break Picard – think about that for a second – and though they are always thwarted in the end, they remain so terrifying throughout the show that when the Enterprise crew finds a single, abandoned Borg on a distant planet, the immediate reaction is “kill it now, before it does… something!”  The threat does not need to be concrete to terrify our heroes; that it is Borg is sufficient.

Star Trek’s writers built this menace by omission.  The Borg had to be defeated at the end of every episode or two-parter in which they appeared – like the Daleks – and .  TNG’s writers realized this quite early on, and avoided using the Borg as much as possible, to maximize their impact.  The Borg appear in, 7 episodes of TNG, and zero episodes of DS9 – 7 hours total out of a two-series run of about 300 hours – and their shadows are more long and terrifying for all this.

(I’m intentionally ignoring Voyager here.)

Meanwhile, the Daleks, like movie elves, are over-exposed.  Each season of the BBC Wales Doctor Who has featured at least two Dalek episodes, one of which is always a two-parter: fully a quarter of Doctor Who screen time since the reboot six years ago has been Dalek-focused, not counting the 2009 specials.  12 of 48 episodes have been Doctor vs. Daleks, and the Daleks have lost every time.  It’s hard to believe in their threat any more.  They need to rest and recharge.  Hopefully the rest of this season will provide them with much-needed R&R, so they can return to exterminating in the fullness of time.

Whose Motorcycle Is This?

Today I’m writing my last post on “The 11th Hour,” the first episode of Team Moffat’s run on Doctor Who.  (I write “Team Moffat” rather than “Stephen Moffat” because no matter how much control the producer has over a show, there’s a whole team that makes his, or her, vision real: costume designers, carpenters, actors, musicians.)  Previously I waxed on the characterization of Amy Pond, the Doctor’s new companion, and on the identity themes that suffuse the episode, but it’d be silly to make three days of posts on Doctor Who without mentioning the Doctor himself, so here I am.

The Doctor, like everything else in this episode, is trying to change his clothes, which is to say, to try on new identities.  The 11th Doctor  spends the first four acts wearing the suit and tie of the 10th – figuratively as well as literally. 

The very first shot of the Doctor narrowly avoiding a hit to the bait & tackle from Big Ben, hails (as Behind the Sofa mentions) to the cheesiest moments of Team Davies’ run on Who.  “The 11th Hour” isn’t a homage, though.  Rather, it uses elements of previous seasons to undermine the old status quo.  At one point, Amy slams the Doctor’s tie in a car door, trapping him.  Somehow, during all those times when the Doctor was wrestling with the Master or the Ood, nobody ever used his tie against him.  It was there mostly to look cool.  No more. (more…)

Who’s there?

Ten points for the person who knows, without looking at the internet, the name of the play for which that’s the first line.

Today I’m going to talk about costumes.  Specifically, costumes and the way they were used in “The 11th Hour,” the first episode of Team Moffat’s run on Doctor Who, which aired Saturday.

Costumes are everywhere in this episode.  The villain is a shape-changer powered by people’s dreams; the heroine and new Companion, Amelia, is a kiss-o-gram, which is to say she dresses up in costumes, goes into parties, and kisses people.  The newly regenerated Doctor is wearing a different body.  Even the TARDIS changes its “clothes” over the course of the story.

Moffat didn’t do this on accident.  Why the costumes?  Why the disguises?


Who Indeed

Last week was intense: Holy Week, Passover, and the beginning of the new season of Doctor Who!  Also, my friend Marshall’s birthday.  The moon is in the seventh house, and Jupiter aligns with Mars…

Charlie Jane Andrews wrote a great post at io9 about how Matt Smith  owned his role as the new Doctor (Matt Smith is the New Doctor), and comparing “The 11th Hour,” Stephen Moffat’s first episode as showrunner, with the first episode of Russel T Davies’ tenure, “Rose.”

Andrews claims that RTD’s episode benefited from its firm grip on reality – Rose’s job in the shop, football-loving boyfriend, angry shallow mum, and so forth.  Meanwhile, Moffat’s new companion, Amelia Pond, has a job as a “kiss-o-gram” that involves her dressing up as a sexy police officer (among other things) and going into parties to kiss people.  According to Andrews, there’s no “normal” for Amy, which makes it harder to identify with her and by extension to enter the episode.

I didn’t get that sense at all.  (more…)