Archive for the ‘Guest stars’ Category
I’ve always wondered about Idris. Before she became the vessel through which the TARDIS speaks, who was she? How did she end up on House? Was she a collection of mismatched limbs like Aunt and Uncle? Or a whole being, transported, like Nephew? How did she alone retain her name?
Of course she was bait: the fragile frame in which to trap a timeship’s soul. But how did House come by her? What life was left behind? Who loved her, mourned her, missed her? Who searched for her? What place did she fill on that unknown world, before she was stolen from her life, and her life stolen from her?
THE DOCTOR ambles among the stalls, hands in his pockets, taking in the sights and sounds and smells. Ahead of him, a slim, dark-haired woman moves quickly from merchant to merchant, her back to him as she haggles for her flowers and her fruits. He pays her little mind – until abruptly she turns, and they find themselves face to face.
THE DOCTOR: You!
IDRIS: I’m sorry. Do I know you?
THE DOCTOR is speechless
CUT TO: MAIN TITLES
“THE DOCTOR’S GHOST”
Are you afraid?
I recently stumbled across a show from a few years ago featuring not one but two of DW’s fabulous lady guest stars: Suranne Jones (Idris, “The Doctor’s Wife”) and Lesley Sharpe (Sky Silvestry, “Midnight”). The two co-star as police detectives in ITV’s Scott and Bailey: Jones as erratic but brilliant DC Rachel Bailey, nicknamed Sherlock, and Sharpe as her steady family-woman partner and best friend, DC Janet Scott. Just watching them together is treat enough, but the show as a whole fills a role rarely seen on television: police procedural drama led entirely by women, in front of and behind the camera.
The two main characters are women. Their boss is a woman. Most of the writers and directors are women. Minor characters – cops, victims, perpetrators – may be men or women. But the major male characters are love interests, exes, and comic relief. It’s a big switch for the genre, and a welcome one. The scripts are strong, the acting flawless. This isn’t a bone thrown to women: it’s the real thing, done really well. It’s a model for what half of all television should be.
Recommended for fans of police drama, as well as fans of these two spectacular actresses.
The latest piece of DW news is full of win.
The Return Of…
On the surface it’s all about the baddies. Capaldi has not been shy about his hopes for an encounter with the original Cybermen of Mondas. They of the spooky cloth faces introduced their race in the First Doctor’s final episode, and were never seen again. Until now…
But the buried lead is even more fun. A while ago I observed the empty space where a director’s name ought to go on the final two episodes of the season. Given how the last two seasons ended, I was hoping for another round of Rachel Talalay. And indeed, my hopes are answered.
Last but not least is the inclusion of one final name in the major cast: Michelle Gomez. Of course I’d already heard that she’d be back – but to have her for the final two-parter – very nearly the final of this Doctor’s career – is extra bonus fun.
More here, in the Who’s Day roundup.
Recently I joined a gym, which, otherwise being apropos of nothing, has allowed me to start listening to Verity Podcast again. The ladies are always great fun, disagreeing with each other in the best way possible, full of nerdery and love for Doctor Who. This season, each Verity gets an episode to gush about her favorite story, and the first of these was “The Girl in the Fireplace.”
“Fireplace” is one of a finite set: written by Stephen Moffat during the Russell T. Davies era of Doctor Who, and as a result, one of the best of the modern series. It’s a beautifully made historical, with monsters and silliness and a smart, courageous woman who just happens to have been a real person. It features one of my favorite TARDIS trios: Ten, Rose, and Mickey Smith. It’s the midpoint of Mickey’s travels with the Doctor, a last hurrah before the peak of his character arc. It’s a brief stop on Rose’s slide out of the Doctor’s life.
For most fans, one of the key peaks and pitfalls of this episode is the romance. Many adore it; many others, feeling differently about how the Doctor should relate to his companions, despise it. When I first watched it, on my whirlwind pass through S2-4, I barely noticed.
I am not a romance fan. I don’t read bodice-rippers. I don’t watch rom-coms. Generally I feel there is too much emphasis in our society on romantic love and marriage as an end goal, as if happily-ever-after were really a thing. I dislike romantic tropes, such as people who hate each other and treat each other poorly discovering they’re really in love. I’m not interested in other people’s sex lives. As a result, I didn’t even notice the romantic arc of Rose’s story until it was over – and then I was so invested, so engaged – and it was handled so well – that I loved it anyway.
With Reinette, I see much that could be interpreted as romantic that doesn’t actually have to be. I accept that she’s probably in love with him – or, in love with the idea of him, as she doesn’t really know him at all. And of course the Doctor loves the kind of person she is: courageous, adventurous, intelligent, pushing at the boundaries of her world. But what breaks his heart in the end is not losing her, but failing yet another fragile being who counted on him. This Doctor takes every failure personally to heart. In addition, the reason he failed her was that he couldn’t wait to get back to Rose. He couldn’t wait for Reinette to pack a bag and go with him; he had to see that Rose was okay, even though he had to know that leaving Reinette’s world for a moment risked leaving it forever. He took a gamble for Rose, and Reinette lost. Of course he feels shattered and guilty.
But not because he was in love with her.
Another question raised in the Verities’ podcast is the recurring Moffat-ism of the Doctor meeting companions in childhood. One of the ladies asked if those who have a problem with River Song’s lifelong entanglement with the Doctor have the same problem with Reinette. However, I see Reinette’s situation as more similar to Amy’s than River’s: each has an impactful experience with the Doctor at a very young age, and builds him up in her mind as a heroic figure he can never live up to it real life. Each develops something of an obsession with him. I don’t feel that the Doctor’s meeting with young River is impactful in the same way: the little girl stuck in a spacesuit already has too much going on to be impressed by the Doctor. My problem with River isn’t as much that she met the Doctor young, as that her entire life was bent and designed around him. Reinette and Amy developed common pre-adolescent feelings for him, some of which were later shattered. River’s problem is on another level entirely.
In addition, Moffat is not alone in having the Doctor cross paths with someone at multiple points in their lives. On Davies’ watch, Nine meets Rose and Mickey as children, though his impact on them at that time is minimal. Ten meets young Elton Pope, whose resulting lifelong obsession gets him in trouble in the end. I’ve said before on this blog that Davies is obsessed with romance: Rose, Martha, Astrid, and it’s rumored he had romance planned for S4 before Catherine Tate agreed to come back. (Which is sort of a two way problem: does he limit romance to a certain age and body type, or did he change direction because of the character Tate established in “The Runaway Bride?”) Moffat appears to be obsessed with sex: vampy Amy, River, Marilyn Monroe, and Queen Elizabeth mostly happen on his watch.
Still, we can’t blame Moffat (entirely) for that.
I have probably written plenty on this topic by now, but in case I missed anything I meant to say, here’s the comment I left for the Verities:
I despise romance as a genre, and I still love this episode. Partly it’s just so well done: I got caught up in the adventure story, and didn’t really notice the love story until later. Also, I don’t see it as necessarily a love story in the romantic sense. I think the Doctor saw in Reinette what he sees in any of his companions, and he was heartbroken in the end because he failed her. Just as he has (in his view anyway) failed so many of them.
I’m not sure I saw it on the first pass but over time I definitely see this as a story about faith. The Doctor always jumps in feet first when there’s someone to save, and to hell with the consequences – and somehow it always turns out. He knows when he plunges through the mirror that there’s no way back, and yet he does it believing that he will make it back anyway. (This gets spelled out even bigger in “The Satan Pit,” where the Doctor destroys the safety net only to come up against the TARDIS in the shadows.) Rose too has faith – and her own desire to save the day. If he had asked her whether he should save Reinette or stay behind with her, I feel quite confident she would have told him to get on that horse – and come back in the end too. Which of course he does, because he’s the Doctor. I think this episode showcases Rose’s compassion and faith as well as the Doctor’s, as well as the strength of their friendship. And I don’t think he abandoned her, in any case: the TARDIS took Rose home once, and I’m sure she’d have done it again if called on. As if Rose would ever have left the Doctor behind. (again, see “The Satan Pit.”)
Madame de Pompadour was quite an interesting person historically. She was married, and was mistress to the King, and was the first of that King’s mistresses to befriend the Queen. (The Doctor’s comment about this being France was dead on.) She was interested in science and art and politics and brought the most intelligent and well educated people together in her house to talk about things. I think the Doctor would definitely have admired her. I really enjoy the way she’s portrayed in the story: smart, fearless, fiery, and also feminine. As in the show, she died of tuberculosis slowly and quite young, leaving behind a grieving King. She’s an excellent choice of character for an episode of Doctor Who. I’d love to see more fascinating women from history on the show.
I could probably go on – the Verities present a whole polyamory angle I would never have thought of before – but for now I think enough is enough.
Two weeks ago we watched “The Invasion of Time” on the big screen with a roomful of other nerds. The story, featuring Four, Leela, and K-9, takes place almost entirely on Gallifrey.
The serial aired in February and March 1978. A year and a half earlier television-time, the Doctor abandoned Sarah Jane in Aberdeen, telling her that no humans were permitted on Gallifrey. This time he drags Leela along without a qualm. Does he no longer care? Was he tired of Sarah? Or did writers give little thought to the disposal of companions? The last seems most likely, given the departure of Leela at the end of this story: her relationship with Andred* lacks any foundation or expression on screen, but in the end she gives up everything to be with him. Susan’s romance with David Campbell (“Dalek Invasion of Earth”) has more substance to it, but still she is devastated to be left behind.
Gallifrey itself is an interesting place. The privileged population lives entirely indoors, encased in rules and intrigue. Outside is a place of banishment, where survival is improbable – except by a band of savages with whom Leela quickly identifies. The Doctor has come to claim his Presidency, while secretly working to thwart an invasion. Various bureaucrats battle him, and one another, for leadership and control. Pandemonium, of course, ensues.
After a slow start the story is well-paced and engaging. In spite of its length and the lateness of the hour we were never bored. Necessarily limited and repetitive locations are exploited for their humorous potential. Tom Baker’s Fourth Doctor and John Arnatt’s Borusa delight with their mutual discourtesy and unlikely alliance. Overall, it’s good classic DW fun.
* In spite of ignominious beginnings, Leela’s relationship with Andred sparked a whole world of ideas exploited by Big Finish for their licensed audio stories. (See Life on Gallifrey.)
I put on “Love and Monsters” tonight for the express purpose of cleansing evil Rochefort from my mind with adorable Elton Pope. It worked brilliantly, of course. But I also got something out of the episode I’ve never seen before.
At the end of the story, Ursula has to live out her life as a paving stone. Previously I’ve considered it just a bit of RTD silliness, a little icky if you think about it too hard, maybe a little bit dumb. Forgettable if nothing else. But on this pass I got a whole new take.
People go through terrible things in life. People lose limbs, get paralyzed, suffer disfigurement and pain – and in the end, often find they’re still themselves. Ursula and Elton don’t get the life they hoped for. Ursula doesn’t get the body she expected. But they’re still here; they’re still themselves; they still have each other.
RTD hasn’t been great at portraying disability. His sympathy here may be entirely unintentional. But in the end we have characters whose lives will never be the same, will never, in some ways, be right – and yet those lives remain worth living.
In sickness and in health, for better or worse, as long as we both shall live.
I can’t not wrap up with my favorite quote from the episode: one of my favorites of all time, and one of the truest things ever written:
When you’re a kid, they tell you it’s all… grow up. Get a job. Get married. Get a house. Have a kid, and that’s it. But the truth is, the world is so much stranger than that. It’s so much darker. And so much madder.
And so much better.
When Peter Capaldi got the call, the one that began “Hello, Doctor,” he was in Prague, playing the nefarious Cardinal Richelieu in BBC’s The Musketeers. My uncle, a longtime fan of all things swashbuckling, was crushed. My show had stolen his best-beloved villain. Having now watched The Musketeers, I can sympathize: Capaldi is amazing, and the show is not the same without him.
“Who will be my equal?”
Capaldi as an actor is never the same twice. In spite of the similarity of their features, one would never confuse the Doctor with the Cardinal, or John Frobisher with Caecilius or Malcolm Tucker. But far more terrifying than this transformation was the one that took place in Series 2:
Marc Warren’s Rochefort outdoes his predecessor in depravity and treachery. But this vicious, villainous hypocrite was once a sweet boy named Elton Pope.
“But the truth is, the world is so much stranger than that. It’s so much darker. And so much madder. And so much better.”
The transition is jarring.
Series 2 of The Musketeers ended with Rochefort’s violent and well-earned death. Warren was amazing in the role: monstrous without being cartoonish, an entirely real if thoroughly disturbed human being. Still we were glad to see him go.
Up next: “Love and Monsters,” an often-maligned episode which I for one could watch over and over again. Elton is, after all, one of us.