Archive for the ‘Season 6’ Category

Series 6: The End   Leave a comment

The ongoing storyline of the season is terrible and I hate it.

However, the season itself is not bad.

‘Closing Time’ is a fun, silly episode about a man learning to be a dad. It’s sweet and kind of dumb and has Cybermen. There’s a Cybermat named Ratty who has adorable teeth. Craig and Sophie are wonderful, and of course Stormageddon is a treat. The Doctor broods. Amy and Rory get on with their lives.

I found myself wondering if Karen Gillan and/or Arthur Darvill had been making noise about leaving, and Moffat was trying to figure out how to live without them. Write them out gently? Give them some time off and see if they change their minds? Who knows?

The last scene of the episode involves River, Madame Kevorian, and the Silence, and it’s awful. Far from the interesting, independent woman of the Library, this River is only an archaeologist in order to learn about the Doctor, and having been brainwashed since infancy has never had an original or autonomous thought. She’s smart, sure, and strong, but she’s so much less than she was before. It makes me terribly sad.

For that reason I almost skipped ‘The Wedding of River Song.’ In the end I’m glad I didn’t. Not only do we see the back of that disastrous storyline, but the rest of the episode is quite well constructed. It’s a joy watching this Doctor figure things out, being brilliant and clever and coy in turns, pulling it all out with a wave of his hand. The bit with the Tesselecta is wonderful. Amy and Rory are wonderful. Even Madame Kevorian is in her evil way wonderful. Dorium is fun and silly, and Winston Churchill and all. It’s entertaining television, and would have been quite good if not for all the messy little threads it was trying to gather. I think if Moffat stopped trying to write huge season arcs and just stuck with one- or two-part stories, all of his work would be a thousand times better.

Some time ago I wrote a tale of my own for River Song, a backstory I could live with. It’s not brilliant as stories go, but to me it’s a vast improvement on the official version. Courageous souls can find it here.

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Posted January 16, 2015 by Elisabeth in Season 6, The Great Re-Watch

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Complex gods   2 comments

How is Amy’s faith in the Doctor so weak that a single conversation is sufficient to destroy it? She spent more than half her life waiting for him. She believes in him utterly, as we saw in ‘The Beast Below.’ We know from ‘The Girl who Waited’ how tenacious she can be. She doesn’t let go easily. (Until she does – see Rory in ‘Asylum of the Daleks.’) Up to this point we have no reason to think her confidence in him is any less solid than, say, bedrock. And we’re supposed to believe a lame half-truth would blow it all away?

I’m not a fan of religious themes, but setting that aside, I do think that Doctor Who is in a large way a show about faith. No matter what happens, the Doctor always believes in his core that everything will turn out. Time after time he wins against impossible odds. Even when there are losses to face, the enemy is always ultimately defeated, and the heroes go home better than they were before. The Doctor believes in himself, he trusts to luck, and he knows he can count on his friends in a crisis. That belief is one of the driving forces of the show.

Several episodes of the modern era specifically examine faith. ‘The Impossible Planet/The Satan Pit’ is a prime example. The Doctor expresses his faith in Rose openly – “I believe in her” – but he also demonstrates faith through his actions. Specifically, he destroys the urns, supposedly sentencing himself and everyone on the rocket to death by black hole, only to come up against the TARDIS in the rubble. Rose also expresses her faith in the Doctor by refusing to leave without him. She knows he isn’t dead; it would take more than a few words from Zach to persuade her otherwise.

‘Gridlock’ is a different kind of episode about faith. The people of New Earth believe in the system; they believe someone is looking out for them, and someone will save them. The Doctor knows this isn’t true. The world above is dead, and there is no one coming. However, by his efforts he becomes that someone. Their faith is justified. It might not have been the salvation they expected, but salvation it was nonetheless. The Doctor’s hand, they may suppose, was moved by God.

Another kind of faith turns up in the same episode: Martha’s faith in the Doctor. Now some fans may feel differently, but I find this faith strangely misplaced. Like Amy in ‘The Beast Below,’ she hasn’t known him very long, but already she trusts him with her life. Maybe it’s because of that relationship she’s built up in her head. Maybe it’s bad writing. Or maybe it’s normal, and I’m just slow to trust.

Martha, and Donna after her, never lose their faith in the Doctor. Rose and Clara have theirs shaken when he changes his face before their eyes. Rose’s is quickly restored by her charming new friend, while Clara has been kept off balance all season, particularly when the Doctor abandons her in ‘Kill the Moon.’ But in each case the trial that moves the mountain has some weight. Neither would likely accept the Doctor’s words so easily as Amy.

And the truth is, neither would Amy.

‘The God Complex’ is not Toby Whithouse’s strongest script, but it is not without its moments. The idea is solid and interesting. Rita is wonderful; I agree with the many fans who wish she could have stayed, and wonder why she never even got so much as a last name. Rory, fearless and faithless, continues being great. The visuals and music are weirdly cool. The resolution – the Doctor leaving his friends behind to preserve their lives – is a new one for the show.

Maybe it’s the Doctor’s faith that was shaken. It wasn’t Amy losing her trust in him; he lost his trust in himself to keep her safe, and that’s what killed the monster. That would make a believable ending.

Terrors and Waiting   1 comment

Last weekend I watched ‘Night Terrors’ and ‘The Girl who Waited,’ the next installments in my S6 rewatch. I was startlingly unmoved to say anything at the time. Instead, it struck me that much of S5 and S6 comes across as ‘so-so’ while I’m fairly certain none of S1 did. (Possible bias at work here.)

Since then I’ve thought a bit more about ‘Waited’ in particular, especially in light of what I said about ‘The Next Doctor.’ ‘Waited’ features an abandoned and aged Amy, who acquired amazing new skills and knowledge in her struggle to survive and battles bitterness against those who left her. She is strong and smart, and she is angry. Karen Gillan plays her gorgeously. However, weirdly, it’s not her story.

It’s Rory’s story. It’s Rory who has to make the choice, who faces losing the woman he loves no matter what he does. Young Amy might as well be a plastic doll, and Old (sorry) Amy is essentially the villain.

Interesting piece.

Writer Tom McRae was previously responsible for S2’s ‘Rise of the Cybermen/Age of Steel,’ another compelling, emotional story about choices and loss. Although Rose is primarily featured in that one, I think it’s actually more Mickey’s story. Mickey takes responsibility both for his gran and for the legacy of his AU counterpart; he chooses to stay behind for them, finally giving up Rose (as far as anyone knows) for good. But there are no plastic dolls in this story. Rose’s story and the Doctor’s may be secondary but they are no less compelling or authentic.

I’m not saying anything is particularly wrong with any of these stories, but they do offer some food for thought.

‘Night Terrors,’ I observe, is written by the ubiquitous Mark Gatiss. Gatiss’ credits include ‘The Unquiet Dead,’ ‘The Idiot’s Lantern,’ ‘Victory of the Daleks,’ ‘Cold War,’ ‘The Crimson Horror,’ ‘Robot of Sherwood,’ and the outstanding docu-drama ‘An Adventure in Space and Time,’ a mixed bag to say the least. The episode is scary, and I do enjoy the relationship between the boy and his father, but overall it fails to stand out. The worst I can say is that I have nothing much to say.

Coming up next: ‘The God Complex’ and ‘Closing Time.’

Killing Hitler   1 comment

My memory of ‘Let’s Kill Hitler’ was that it was terrible. Mostly because of River. And upon rewatch, that much remains true. ‘Let’s Kill Hitler’ is terrible.

It’s also amazing.

I had entirely forgotten about the Tesselecta, which is ridiculous given that it’s practically the one redeeming feature of the entire storyline. It’s a great sci-fi concept, gorgeously and humorously executed – ‘powered by miniature cross people’ – with an absolutely delightful recurrence at the end of the season. Everyone aboard the thing is great. The antibodies are a bit silly, but since the episode establishes that the machinery is not at peak in any case, it works.

The acting is also amazing. Karen Gillan as both Amy and terrifying ‘Terminator 2’ Tesselecta Amy is spectacular. Alex Kingston is a joy to watch even when the lines she delivers tear the last remains of a wonderful character to bloody shreds. And Rory is amazing in every way – even to the point of acknowledging the ridiculousness of how amazing he is. ‘It’s been that sort of day.’

While I despise Mels, the growing-up scenes are kind of cute – especially the ‘penny drops’ scene. Mostly however that’s due to Amy/Amelia and Rory. It’s also kind of cute the way it shows Amy and Rory ‘raising’ their daughter, even if the entire concept is completely stupid.

It remains, however, that brainwashed psychopath murderer River is a terrible idea and a terrible character. I hate it. All of her agency, everything that made her interesting as a character is torn away in favor of propping up the Doctor. Worse, she’s weight- and size-obsessed, as she never is anywhere else. This obsession, and her sudden sexualization, even if in keeping with the character under the circumstances, is disgusting coming from Moffat’s pen. It’s the largest single piece of DW-related evidence so far that the man is a lecherous old creep who should not be allowed anywhere near television for children humans.

Obviously this episode bothered me. It’s too bad, because like I said it’s also great, but the ick sticks while the good stuff fades away. Next time I watch I’ll try to remember to skip over River’s scenes: no matter how wonderful Alex Kingston is, the ravaging of her character contaminates the entire story.

Posted November 29, 2014 by Elisabeth in Season 6, The Great Re-Watch

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Demons Run et al   Leave a comment

This episode suffers from serious meh.

Like ‘Pandorica,’ it’s an epic monster-fest, with all the armies the Doctor has supposedly frightened rising up against him. This time, though, it’s an army we’ve barely heard of, with weird religious motifs. I don’t buy the Doctor as a great warrior. I don’t enjoy episodes that revolve around him in this way.

I do enjoy the introduction of the Paternoster Gang, and the return of the pirates. I like the idea of River Song being Melody Pond, but not the execution. I think I’d prefer her as a more distant relation, with a more independent back story. I like the moment of Rory meeting his daughter.

However, pregnancy storylines suck, because then you’re stuck with a baby. What can you do with a baby besides sit home and feed it and change it and rock it to sleep? I suppose you can turn it into a weapon, if you skip all the messy bits. It’s very Angel – Connor stolen away to return as a mega-creep. That storyline was terrible, and so is this one. Even Alex Kingston can’t quite sell it.

Once again, I’m not looking forward to what comes. We have resolution, more or less, to River’s story, and we all know how that goes. However we also have a few non-mythology episodes that I don’t much remember. I suppose at the least I can look forward to those. Also, the introduction of the Tessalecta is cool. Four episodes out of six with (potentially) minimal eye-rolling.

We’ll see how that goes.

Posted November 16, 2014 by Elisabeth in Season 6, The Great Re-Watch

Almost People, but not quite   Leave a comment

Here we have another pair of perfectly excellent episodes of Doctor Who, and a creepy, introspective story about what it is to be human. The Doctor is beyond wonderful in this: clever in a number of ways, emotional, almost uncharacteristically forward-thinking. Rory gets to shine as well, showing compassion, strength, and a powerful sense of justice. Raquel Cassidy’s Cleaves is a wonderful side character, and there’s also ‘Have a drink, Chris’ Marshall Lancaster, much beloved from Life on Mars. Writer Matthew Graham was previously responsible for the oft-panned ‘Fear Her,’ another episode where the Doctor’s compassion takes center stage, and unsurprisingly quite a lot of Life on Mars.

On this pass I was strongly reminded of Nick Harkaway’s ‘Gone-Away World,’ another story in which SPOILERS two beings struggle over the same life. I loved that story a lot, and I have a lot more appreciation for this one now too.

A semi-downside is the continuation of the pregnancy storyline, which I still despise but have to admit is handled really well. The setup and twists are quite excellent. I do hate how the Doctor keeps telling Amy to breathe. It’s icky. He’s got no business participating in this aspect of her life. I wish Moffat hadn’t done it, and I hope to hell he’s not doing it again now.

Still, bastard’s got me looking forward to the next episode.

Posted November 16, 2014 by Elisabeth in Season 6, The Great Re-Watch

The Doctor’s Wife   Leave a comment

This episode is almost perfect.

The contrast here between a ‘fine’ episode and a spectacular one is stark. ‘Black Spot’ is serviceable. It keeps audiences reasonably entertained for a week. It’s also a little ho-hum. A little ordinary. A little bit blah.

This one isn’t.

It’s not just Neil Gaiman, although that helps, but there are other wonderful episodes which he didn’t write (and a rather less-wonderful one that he did). It’s more than that. It’s the idea: boy meets box. It’s the delightful banter between them. It’s the roller-coaster of feelings: the Doctor’s hope, rage, terror, grief, joy, and grief again. It’s the timey-wimey ‘Tenses are funny’ bits of conversation out of order. It’s everyone getting to be extra human. Rory, the nurse, lets it get to him. Being alive: it’s sad when it’s over. And I just wanted to say hello.

I adore it.

There a couple of slightly off moments. Amy’s repeated grief over Rory is starting to get silly. How many times has he not-died in the last season plus? It’s getting hard to buy. And the Doctor’s excitement over the TARDIS being, specifically, a woman, is a bit uncomfortable. I suppose I could read it as woman=person=walking talking fellow being, but in context with a Doctor who doesn’t know how to talk to girls and a showrunner who enjoys making fun of male-female relations, it’s awkward. Same with the biting kissing thing. Funny I guess, but in a slightly off kind of way.

There’s also the more subtle question of who Idris was before. A life was taken to make room for the TARDIS, and no one mourns her. I suppose the same could be said for the rest of House’s crew, but I feel particularly for Idris. Her body served a lovely purpose; someone should have thought to thank her.

Still, in all it’s almost perfect.

With reference to season 7: Moffat decided, in ‘The Name of the Doctor,’ that Clara picked the TARDIS for him. In my headcanon, that never happened. The TARDIS chose him, and he chose her. There was no third party. No one retconns Neil Gaiman. The tale of a boy and his box told here is perfect, and nothing can change it.

So there.

“I wanted to see the Universe, so I stole a Time Lord and ran away.”

Okay, not quite done. The suggestion that a Time Lord can change genders, in reference to the Corsair, is made canon here. It’s not a large thing but arguably important. Also, Rory the nurse gets to be a nurse, and not for the first time. RTD’s doctors – Martha, Owen – tended to panic when faced with a medical situation, or at least overreact. (Additional misuse of CPR to be found in ‘Utopia.’) Rory the nurse maintains his calm, looks out for his patient, and always lets it get to him.

Say hello.

This story affected me quite a bit the first time I saw it, while I was still suffering from an RTD-era hangover. I was charmed by the way she called him her thief. I was captivated by the idea that her love for him was large enough to encompass all his companions and all his love for them. Here’s what happened:

To my thief

I didn’t mean to do it
honestly, I wasn’t jealous
didn’t mean to lose your favorite friend.
I know I didn’t take you
where you wanted
though always
where you were needed, there you were.
I did my best
to get you back to her
honestly I did
how I cried to see your tears.
When I fell through that crack
all I knew
was you alone could save that world.
I never imagined
that I’d opened a trap
through which your love would fall
never to be recovered.
Forgive me, my thief
let me soothe you
the only way I can
taking you ever farther
ever faster
into danger
into peril
which only you can overcome.

(originally posted here)

Posted November 15, 2014 by Elisabeth in Season 6, The Great Re-Watch