Archive for November 2015
The internet is a dangerous place. I’ve been spoiled for each of the last two episodes, in spite of careful avoidance of Tumblr and Twitter. An ordinary news page was the first culprit, and BBC America’s Facebook page the second. BBC America has done it before: they announced the anniversary special’s secret guest the day after the special aired, in spite of the time lag many of its own fans experience. You’d think they’d know better.
On that note:
SPOILER ALERT! ALERT! ALERT!
This is the first episode in a long time that had me wondering whether it was too scary to finish. If I’d been on my own, I might have been tempted to wait at least for daylight. As it was, with my husband by my side, I was able to power through. I’m very glad I did.
I really enjoy the experimental direction the show has taken this season. The series of two-parters; the documentary format of ‘Sleep No More;’ and now this: a single character in a single location, talking to the audience and the ghosts that inhabit his dreams. Capaldi is a master class, both as an actor and as the Doctor. I’ve heard him described as “definitive,” and I really can’t argue.
I like Clara as a memory ghost. Of course the Doctor would continue to talk to her as if she were there. He’s known her a good chunk of his life, even if they did spend a lot of that time apart. Her voice in his mind is by now almost second nature. I’ve been getting tired of her, but she was well used in this episode.
The ending on Gallifrey was spoiled on Facebook, but it wasn’t a surprise – we’d guessed the Time Lords were involved as soon as Lady Me referred to a mysterious “they,” and the Time Ring lookalike cemented them in our minds. The rotating gears and the Doctor’s repeated use of the word “confess” gave away the location miles in advance. The ending was a surprise, though it shouldn’t have been; he did say he would never, ever stop. I love when the show is smart, and clever, and buries relevant clues right where the audience can see. It feels like we’re adventuring WITH the Doctor, instead of being told the story later.
The series finale promises resolution of the hybrid arc – weak, I suppose, but an improvement on the impossible girl. My husband points out that Lady Me – whose appearance is teased in the promo – is a warrior hybrid: part Viking and part Mire, thanks to the chip that provides her immortality. The prophecy – one who will break a world of hearts to heal its own – sounds very like her. The Doctor even says her name: “The hybrid is Me.” We’re almost certain he isn’t talking about himself.
Of course Lady Me is a little bit obvious. Maybe we’ll be surprised after all.
On the titles: The phrase “heaven sent” usually refers to a pleasant surprise, a timely intervention of fate, a gift from the gods. Nothing in the episode seems particularly fortuitous. “Hell bent” refers to an unstoppable determination. The Doctor is most certainly hell bent in this episode, sufficiently to repeat himself for millions of years in order to reach his goal. That’s practically the definition. There have been a lot of Christian afterlife references from Moffat lately, counting last year’s Promised Land; I guess he can’t fully let go his obsession with the Doctor’s death. But this season he can do what he likes: with a result this good, I’m not going to complain.
In case I haven’t posted it before, here’s the Doctor’s rock-n-roll rendition of his own theme tune:
The raven is a larger cousin of the crow. A group of them is called an unkindness. European Christians, with their dim view of the dark-complected, saw them as harbingers of death and woe. Earlier people considered them gods specializing in knowledge and mischief.
In real life, ravens are intelligent, social birds. They are omnivores, attracted to human settlement by trash and road kill. They are known to play with toys, to defend their territory, to trick one another, to torment lesser animals. Adolescent ravens roam in gangs; adults mate for life. Famous ravens include Edgar Allen Poe’s late-night visitor, the dream lord Morpheus’ friend Matthew, and Terry Pratchett’s Quoth.
There is a superstition that Great Britain will fall if there are ever fewer than six ravens at the Tower of London. Today the Tower ravens are domesticated: their wings are clipped, they have names, they are fed a carefully managed diet including vitamin supplements, and some live longer than 40 years. Their care and function has been compared to that of British royalty. They may or may not be battery operated.
More ravens, and other things, here. (SPOILERS at the link!)
Possible minor spoilers for S9 below.
How about this guy?
“Gallows humor can be tricky.”
Lady Me’s journey through immortality is fraught. Heartbreak, memory loss, rage and blame all hamper her adventure. Ashildr cared, and was broken by her caring, and goes too far in the other direction. We’ve gone with her there, and may yet see her again.
But Sam? Sam is potentially immortal too, having received the same treatment. Maybe, as the Doctor said, its potency was lessened by time and circumstance – but he never believed it, and neither do I. Sam Swift wanders the world still.
And his story? He is unlikely to follow Ashildr’s arc. Being older at the time of conversion, and having faced death already more than once, he has a greater appreciation for the gifts long life can offer. He’s also unburdened by caring, having likely experienced and given up on love long ago. He lives for himself; he lives in the moment. I doubt he’ll be cowed by an infinity of moments. To Sam, every one is fresh and new, and every one is to be cherished.
Still, I hope we’ll see him again. I imagine Rufus Hound feels the same.
Warning: Possible minor spoilers ahead for S9.
In the craziness that has been the last few weeks, I’ve neglected to comment on the item from the Zygon pair that affected me the most: the death of Jac.
Jac – played by Jaye Griffiths – is not a major character. Kate’s second-in-command (or something) at UNIT, she appears in only a handful of episodes, all of them this season, and doesn’t get so much as a last name. She’s an older woman of color in a heavily youth-oriented and white-male show. She’s smart, serious, and a tiny bit sarcastic. She’s not Malcolm or Osgood or Captain Magambo; she’s nerdy but not fannish, she’s good at her job and takes it seriously, she has faith in the Doctor as well as in UNIT. She’s real, solid, and human, and I love her.
Her death passed without comment. Clara didn’t notice, being a Zygon, but even Kate failed to observe her absence. I on the other hand was very hurt. Most deaths in the Moffat era have little if any impact: Rory and Clara died many times, and River and Amy died without dying, and the Doctor’s death headlined many episodes; Danny died and came back and no one cared but Clara; Osgood died, poorly, and no one quite believed it, and it turns out rightly so. Moffat built up all these deaths and then took them away. Jac’s death was a throwaway, almost an afterthought, and yet somehow matters more than all these others combined.
Jac, we hardly knew ye.
I’ll miss you, Jac, and I hope the adventure was worthwhile.
SPOILER ALERT! ALERT! ALERT!
‘Face the Raven’
And so we bid adieu to Clara Oswald.
In truth I was ready for her to go. I’ve enjoyed her energy and her smart talk, but she hasn’t really been interesting since ‘The Snowmen.’ She’s never had any consistency of characterization, she’s never been really relatable, she’s never been as human as the Doctor’s other modern companions. I’m looking forward to who’s next.
But it was a good death, a fine farewell. The Doctor will miss her, and his grief will make for some lovely character stuff over the next few stories. Capaldi’s reactions in the episode are perfectly understated, and unmistakeable. It’s been a long time since a companion truly died, and Clara does it well. “Let me be brave” are excellent last words, moving and powerful, and potentially a lifeline for those facing difficulty in real life.
“Let me be brave” in the face of a cancer diagnosis.
“Let me be brave” in the face of the loss of a loved one.
“Let me be brave” in the face of a divorce.
“Let me be brave” as children leave home, or jobs end, or best friends move away. Clara’s courage – and the Doctor’s, as he honors her wish and watches her go – can be an example to anyone. No tears for these two, no melodrama – though surely that will come. For now, they face the raven with strength.
That of course is the dominating storyline, but there’s much more to like in this episode. Lady Me’s arc continues to intrigue: the consequences of immortality on the slow road. The idea of refugee aliens huddled together, a hidden world alongside our own, has excellent potential. Rigsy is a treat – grown up now, with wife and child but still the soul of an artist. Seeing the TARDIS through his eyes is an experience we’ve long missed with jaded Clara on board. And who are the ‘they’ demanding the Doctor’s presence? Having just re-watched ‘Genesis of the Daleks,’ we can’t help but be reminded of the Time Ring, and the Time Lords’ underhanded and convoluted demands.
We shall see – though I think we’ll have to wait for episode 12 to find out for sure.
I’ve been really delighted with our new writers this season. Tregenna’s ‘The Woman Who Lived’ was no less heart-wrenching than I’d expect from the writer of Torchwood‘s ‘Out of Time.’ Dollard is full of fantastic ideas, and I love how much interesting stuff she got to do in this story. How many first-timers get to kill a companion? I was sure Moffat would save that stunt for himself, but I’m so glad he let Dollard do it. She gave it just the right touch.
Only two left, and next week’s looks amazing. On to ‘Heaven Sent.’
SPOILER ALERT! ALERT! ALERT!
‘Sleep No More’
Every once in a while, Doctor Who does something completely different.
I for one thoroughly enjoyed this week’s contribution by Mark Gatiss. This relentlessly paced, claustrophobic adventure is Gatiss’ first trip to the future, and the result is one of his best. “Mr. Sandman” has never been creepier. Doctor Who has a longstanding tradition of turning ordinary things evil; I wonder if young fans now find themselves afraid of sleep?
I like that we don’t really know what’s going on in this episode. Getting only crumbs of the adventure makes it more fascinating. Who is Rassmussen really? Are we now all infected with sleep monsters? Is that what’s going on with Rigsy? I understood that all stories were to be two-parters, but this one feels like it might be a bit of a stretch. Can the death of sleep really take over the universe?
It doesn’t matter, because next week is Sarah Dollard and Rigsy. I’m massively looking forward to it.