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Ghost of a Machine   Leave a comment

It goes without saying:

Daleks-May-Return-Doctor-Who-Season-8

SPOILER ALERT! ALERT! ALERT!

All this time and I never once had the thought: We’re going to get a new TARDIS! And what a TARDIS she is!

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Reminiscent of Nine’s warm, organic control room, but all new and original. Hourglass! Biscuit dispenser! Round – or more accurately, hexagonal – things! It’s beautiful and exciting, and I can’t wait to spend more time in it.

“You’ve redecorated! I really like it!”

Other fun this episode:

  • New titles! Full of life-giving yonic imagery, pulsing bass, and throwback electronica (in a good way!) It’s Orphan Black in space!
  • Given how the last story ended, I was expecting the Heart of Gold. Infinite or not, we got improbability – complete with “don’t panic!”
  • The Amazing Race in space! How has no one done this before?*
  • Fantastic guest stars! I don’t know Susan Lynch but I love her Angstrom. Art Malik’s famous face was featured on Sherlock, and Shaun Dooley played an even more vile character on Broadchurch S2.
  • Video game skilz completely fail to save the day

A few questions:

  • The shades: The Doctor spent all of last episode complaining of empty pockets, so how did she get her hands on Pythagoras’ sunglasses?
  • Desert + no water yet no one gets thirsty? There’s an opportunity missed here for messy red-shirt death or last-minute rescue of desperate friend from killer microbes.
  • Acetylene: How hot does it burn, really? I enjoyed the moment of science, but is this escape plausible?

The Doctor:

  • She’s very Ten in her emotional dynamic, and in her expressiveness to her friends. No one else showed such care so openly.
  • The Doctor crashes a spaceship, Firefly-style
  • Brains beat bullets, every time.
  • TARDIS love! I ship it now more than ever. ❤ ❤

“Come to daddy! Er, mummy!”

The Companions:

  • Graham is very much living on borrowed time. He misses Grace, but chooses to see things through her eyes instead of through his loss.
  • Ryan is very much the young man who’s lost the last person he can count on. Still, Yaz and the Doctor – and Graham in his gruff parental way – stand by him.
  • Yaz! I wanted more Yaz this episode. It’s nice to get a glimpse of her family, and to see her looking out for Ryan, but I want more Action Yaz.

Next time: Rosa Parks, and hopefully a lot more Yaz.

*Okay, they have – sort of.

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Posted October 16, 2018 by Elisabeth in Season 11

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It Begins… Again   Leave a comment

Daleks-May-Return-Doctor-Who-Season-8

SPOILER ALERT! ALERT! ALERT!

The Doctor has landed.

There’s so much to say about this latest foray, I’m reduced to bullet points.

  • “Not exciting… Worrying.”
  • “New nose, so unreliable!”
  • “Empty pockets!”

The Doctor is the Doctor, as she has been since she first laid new eyes on that old blue box. She arrives in the nick of time, solves mysteries, answers questions, faints, and saves the day. Twelve’s clothes hang off her body, literal remnants of another life. She builds things and she builds up people. She echoes Ten in her instant charm; Eleven in her flailing; Nine in her Northern inflection – a memento of Clara, perhaps? But she’s free of all their grief, and Twelve’s dourness. She’s someone new.

The setup echoes “Rose,” “The Eleventh Hour,” and to a lesser degree, “The Pilot.” Ryan and Yaz are dealing with the challenges and frustrations of ordinary life when something extraordinary happens. The Doctor crashes – in this case literally – into their lives.

  • Ryan, the Thinker: Quiet, introspective, perceptive; doesn’t see himself as particularly intelligent and isn’t quickly seen that way by others, yet he’s the one making the connections.
  • Yaz, the Doer: Courageous, even brash; determined, passionate, unstoppable. For her, meeting the Doctor was love at first sight: this is the life she never knew she always wanted.
  • Graham, the Voice of Caution: We’re not accustomed to companions who say no to aliens and adventure. Graham will do what needs doing, but he’d much rather leave the trouble to someone else.

The Music:

The shift from Murray Gold to Segun Akinola could not be more stark. I adore Gold’s music; I enjoy listening to it around the house, soaring through time and space while I cook and clean. I’ve even performed it. But there’s something refreshing in Akinola’s sparse, atmospheric tracks. As if Gold were directing our emotions with big bright flags and shouting, while Akinola murmurs softly behind his hand. On the first pass through the episode, I didn’t even notice it, except for the return to electronica in the theme at the end. On the second – in the theater, where the cinematic presentation could really shine – I fell in love.

A Suggestion of Peter Grant?

Classic DW writer Ben Aaronovitch writes a series of novels and graphic stories about a young, mixed-race London PC who can see ghosts. One glimpse of Yaz in her safety vest was all we needed to bring those worlds together. I know she’s met him somehow, that she’s had a chat with Sahra about his strange habits at an inexplicable crime scene. I’m dying for a throwaway line about “that bloke from London who’s into all this weird… stuff.”

Fox Mulder, Millennial Edition

A young man whose sister’s abduction by aliens redirects his life into an obsession…

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I wish I had a screenshot of his Wall of Weird.

If Mulder had been as successful as Rahul in his investigations, he might not have lived to join the FBI.

Title Woman

It’s Doctor Who, but it’s not about the Doctor.

The title woman, the subject of the frame story featuring Ryan’s vlog, is not the Doctor but Ryan’s nan Grace (“Hi, Ryan’s nan!”) who dies bravely defending her home and planet and incidentally having the time of her life.

Sharon D. Clarke was billed as “returning” – which I took to mean “recurring,” since she’s never been on before, and which I hope proves true. She’s too great a character – too great an actor – to let her go so soon.

I like it when DW is not about the Doctor. She may be the headliner, but the real story is the effect she has on those around her. The Doctor made heroes of Yaz and Ryan, Graham and Grace. The Doctor makes heroes of us all.

I can’t wait for more.

Posted October 13, 2018 by Elisabeth in Season 11

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That “Glorious” is a terrible, terrible earworm.

Now you’ve got it too.

Posted September 23, 2018 by Elisabeth in Music, Season 11

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The Daleks Invade   Leave a comment

or, Susan Sprains her Ankle, Is Inconvenienced For Five Minutes and Haunted Forever.

(I read somewhere recently that in spite of being famous for spraining her ankle, she only did it twice: here, and in “The Five Doctors,” which being a reference to canon not only doesn’t count but may in fact have established the canon it was supposed to be referencing.)

Lots of stuff happens across six episodes of “The Dalek Invasion of Earth.” Daleks emerge from the River Thames. The Doctor is rude to a frightened muggle, setting a precedent for generations to come. (“Not her. She’ll only slow us down.”*) He breaks out of prison using Science. Ian too uses Science to delay a Dalek plot, and Barbara uses History. “The long way round” makes its first appearance. The Daleks cultivate proto-Cybermen, and for some reason, something called a Slyther. Barbara spends most of an episode interacting only with women, inspiring terrified Jenny with her courage and righteousness, and saving the universe in a biiiiiiiiiig yellow truck!** (At least I hope it’s yellow.) Everyone is repeatedly captured, incapacitated, lost, found, betrayed, and rescued, again and again until their heads spin. The Doctor gives a famous speech. A freedom fighter falls in love with a high school student, instigating her abandonment by the people she calls family.

Seriously. Susan tells David she loves him, but she’s hardly a consenting adult. Over the course of her run, she has never been portrayed as older than maybe sixteen, and has often seemed younger. She’s known the guy for a day, under stressful circumstances. But the Doctor decides she’s ready to be left behind, and her former teachers seem to concur.

Given true freedom of choice, what might Susan have done? Of course she loves her grandfather, but does she stay with him out of anything more than obligation? She’s never wanted her teachers to leave her; is she suddenly now ready to let them go? Is this comfortable, privileged child ready to parent a whole new world?

In a perfect world, Susan is ready to grow up. She chooses David freely, and bids a tearful and sincere farewell to her grandfather and their accidental friends. She chooses Earth freely, as the place to grow her roots, and maybe a family of her own. She desires to build this world anew – not as a lovely idea, but as a driving passion, to last the rest of her life.

I wish it had been portrayed that way. Instead, parent figure hands off immature girl-child to adult man for sex and continued infantilization. (It doesn’t help that I was just reading about Sonita Alizadeh, the almost-child bride.) The first companion exit ever is not one of the best. Is this what RTD was (unconsciously?) imitating when he forced Rose and Donna off the TARDIS? Is this what Moffat was (almost certainly intentionally) subverting by giving Clara a choice? and then mostly failing to subvert with Bill? I’m curious now to review upcoming departures. Some things I recall: Ian and Barbara return home joyously; Dodo wanders off without explanation; Jamie and Zoe have their experiences cruelly stolen. I look forward – with some trepidation – to the rest.

*see “Smith and Jones”

**see “Age of Steel”

“Glorious”   1 comment

This is interesting:

The music is an entirely new thing for DW as far as I know. “You know I’m back,” it begins, “like I never left,” and the sound of it reminds me of Black Lightning. The sound design – the ring of broken glass and magic – gives me chills. “I’m chasing dreams/but I never slept,” and the Doctor gives a most Doctor-y reaction to the chaos and destruction around her.

I’m intrigued by the direction the new composer seems to be leaning. Murray Gold’s music was always very classical in style, sweeping and swelling, orchestral even when he only had a synthesizer. Segun Akinola’s is something else entirely.

I look forward to finding out what.

Posted September 11, 2018 by Elisabeth in Music, Season 11, Speculation

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They Might Be Giants   Leave a comment

“Planet of Giants” is good clean environmentally friendly fun.

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Don’t litter.

The Dicks/Letts era of the 1970s is famous for its environmental messages, but even in 1964 the Doctor and his friends were foiling the plans of Evil Corporations bent on destroying the planet. (I do wonder how the villain hoped to get away with it, but these people are not long-term thinkers.) The story is told in two parallel tracks: one full-size greed-provoked murder, and the inch-high struggle to solve it. The two interact delightfully, as Ian takes a ride in a matchbox, the Doctor and Susan are nearly washed down a sink, and the four friends save the day by knocking the phone off the hook and turning on the gas.

The sets are great fun – who doesn’t love giant insects and enormous notebooks? At only three episodes, the story moves at a good clip. Susan’s youthful exuberance is put to good use shoving corks and hauling matches. Barbara is nearly felled by Evil Poison, but refuses her friends’ assistance until after they’ve saved the planet. In the end, the Doctor saves Barbara, restores them all to size, and sets them off on their next adventure.

That adventure is “The Dalek Invasion of Earth.” Be afraid.

Posted September 2, 2018 by Elisabeth in Classic, Piffle, The Long Way Round

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The Reign of Terror   Leave a comment

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Barmaid Barbara is ADORABLE

I think I’d appreciate this story better if I knew my history better. Instead, all I can think of is this:

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Overall it’s a decent story with a few hiccups. Why is the Doctor suddenly in such a rush to get rid of Ian and Barbara? Why does he suddenly think he can control the ship with such accuracy? Why does Susan fail so much? Why does Barbara panic over a slight fever in a healthy adolescent?

(Suggested answers: the Doctor hates goodbyes and has a huge ego; Susan is a child; plot point.)

Episodes 4 and 5 are missing, and are replaced with animation on the DVD. Overall I think the animation is quite terrible: people move unnaturally, and everything twitches. However it does manage to capture Barbara’s beautiful skepticism at the Doctor’s suggestion that his plans always work out. I watched the Loose Cannon telesnap version of episode 4, and I’m still torn between them.

The story is a pure historical, with no aliens or monsters invading Earth’s past. It takes the point of view of moderates in a war of extremes: neither the nobles nor the anarchic rebels are the “good guys” in the story. In the end, as Ian and Barbara witness the downfall of Robespierre and the ascent of Napoleon, they revisit the lessons learned in “The Aztecs,” joking about the impossibility of altering events by writing Napoleon a letter, or shooting him. It just wouldn’t work.

(Coincidentally, this fits into the “time loaf” theory which I touched on here. Everything has already happened; nothing you can do will change anything, but possibly your actions are a part of what occurs. I find this amusing.)

Notable in this episode:

  • The correct use of muskets. Guns of the period could be fired only once before reloading, a fact happily ignored by entire genres of film and television. Doctor Who goes for accuracy here: once fired, the gun becomes a throwing weapon, and then combatants are forced to scramble for whatever other armaments they can find lying around. It reminds me of the dormouse mention in “Fires of Pompeii,” a small element that makes a big difference to the veracity of the production. (“Fires” is also a time loaf episode. I’m enjoying the parallels.)
  • The Doctor gets out of most scrapes with brains and bluster, but has zero qualms about bashing people over the head when he needs to.
  • Susan shows a touching affection for her teachers, fleeing to her room in tears when she thinks they’re leaving her. Her inability to participate in her own rescue, however, is problematic. To be fair, Susan believes that her grandfather died in a fire,* leaving her not only bereft of family but stranded in an ugly and dangerous time. Then she gets a fever, and an overcooked brain can be the source of all kinds of problems. Still, it would be nice if the writers could come up with some less pathetic characterization for her. (Though we all know it’s not to be…)
  • Susan claims that the Reign of Terror is the Doctor’s favorite era, a comment that is never repeated and never explained. Nothing about this makes sense.
  • Ian and Barbara remain consistently courageous, perceptive, faithful, and generally perfect. They are the adults in the story: parent figures for flighty Susan, kind and patient caregivers for the doddering Doctor. Sail on, sail on…

This story marks the end of the first season of Doctor Who, wrapping up in September 1964. On Halloween, “The Planet of Giants” began. I may be there sooner.

 

* Whoa, the regeneration questions this raises. The Tenth Doctor once died (“Turn Left”) because he could not regenerate in the ongoing hostile environment of a flooded tunnel. Surely a house fire would have a similar impact. Would Susan be aware of this? (Never mind that regeneration hadn’t been invented yet in 1964.) What does a very young Time Lord know about regeneration, given that they likely won’t experience it for centuries? Do they see their parents and grandparents go through it? Or do Time Lords move on from their families and create new lives across the decades, leaving regeneration something of a mystery to the young? Would this movement explain the ease with which the Doctor has apparently left his family behind? Inquiring minds want to know!

Posted September 2, 2018 by Elisabeth in Classic, The Long Way Round

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