Archive for the ‘Doctor Who’ Tag

Museum! In! Spaaaaaace…   Leave a comment

“The Space Museum” is about avoiding the future – or making your own.

The planet Xeros has been overtaken by space-bullies, who destroyed its culture, enslaved its people, and repurposed its denuded surface to showcase their destructive exploits. Their habit of taking whatever strikes their fancy extends to capturing passing aliens for their exhibit halls. A more self-centered, shameless race has rarely been portrayed.

Their natural enemy is of course the heart-rending but ineffectual rebel. The native hoard of dreamy young men talk of revolution ad nauseum, and do nothing. Then comes Vicki: impatient with all the whingeing and clever enough to fool a tape machine, she hauls them off their backsides and sets them up to save the day, for themselves as well as for the Doctor and his companions.

Never discount the potential of a teenage girl.

Most of the rest of the episode involves the four heroes arguing about how to avoid the future they’ve seen for themselves. It’s good fun, with lots of running back and forth, getting captured, gassed, frozen, and rescued, and debating the nature of the fourth dimension.

And of course, there’s this:


The Doctor giggles a lot in this story.

In spite of their humiliation at the hands of the Moroks, everyone’s favorite tin-pot dictators return next time in “The Chase.”


Posted December 5, 2018 by Elisabeth in The Long Way Round

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“Kerblam it!”   Leave a comment



“Evil corporation” is a comfortable old yarn, and particularly relevant in the era of Citizens United. DW has done it before, with such serials as “The Green Death” and “Rise of the Cybermen,” and I would not be surprised to see it done again. I was, however, surprised by “Kerblam.”

For once, the corporation isn’t the problem. The system, the technology are innocent. For once it’s the user – the terrorist – the educated, privileged young white man who sees nothing wrong with murder in a just cause.

(Tip: If it involves murder, it’s probably not just.)

It’s hard to say who is being victimized by this future Amazon. No one suggests the unemployed masses are starving – Kira tells us that “work gives us purpose,” and Dan puts his wages toward his daughter’s education, not toward keeping a roof over her head. Clearly plenty of people are able to afford Kerblam’s services. I’m put in mind of the future society created by Jack McDevitt in his Chase Kolpath/Alex Benedict series, in which everyone receives a basic living wage and work serves other ends than basic survival: purpose, as Kira says, or passion, or extra cash for luxuries. No one needs it, but quite a lot of people would like to have it anyway.

But in McDevitt’s world, would anyone choose a warehouse job? Tedious, repetitive, easily automated tasks are generally the first to be handed over to robots. Ryan took such a job because in our world jobs are survival. Kira seems to have literally nothing else. Dan took it to make up for his failures at home. Do Kandokans fight each other for the ten percent because their lives are otherwise devoid of meaning? Could Charlie find nothing else to do with his expertise? It seems boredom is the real problem here, and unemployment only a scapegoat.

(I have to admit I find it awkward to be defending the massive megacorporation against a sweet, fresh-faced boy who looks like an even younger Tenth Doctor. No one wants to believe that such a face could conspire to murder thousands.)

There was a brief splash of rumor online (I only heard about it third-hand) that there were problems with transmission of this episode on Amazon. Naturally a certain stripe of human assumed that the only-slightly-less-massive megacorporation had taken offense and deliberately interfered with its customers’ experience. But aside from the lack of confirmed reports (I myself watched via Amazon twice with no difficulty), it’s illogical to assume Amazon would be threatened by this story. It portrays the company exactly the way Amazon would want: provider of instant delight, deliverer of anything, anywhere, a system with a conscience.

Ok, that last one’s a bit of a stretch. But technology, like anything else, is only a tool. We get to decide what we build with it.

Other bits of fun:

  • Thirteen’s delight in her new fez – the System must know the Doctor well!
  • Agatha Christie + wasps
  • Yaz being police! She’s quick, careful, courageous, and compassionate.
  • Ryan’s warehouse experience and Graham’s gob do as much to save the day as the Doctor’s brilliance
  • The fine old DW tradition of making ordinary objects evil continues – with bubble wrap

Up next: Alan Cumming and witches!

Posted November 30, 2018 by Elisabeth in Season 11

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Punjab, Demons thereof   Leave a comment



The demons of the Punjab are, naturally, not the alien kind.

Like Yaz, I am a child of immigration. Like hers, my family endured something that I, from my comfy sofa in my climate-controlled house in my free, peaceful, modern city, can scarcely imagine. Knowing their stories, I would never want to see for myself – but somehow I don’t think Yaz is sorry for the opportunity. New voices before and behind the camera bring her history to vibrant, cinematic life.

I’m grateful to Chibnall for bringing to Doctor Who writers who can tell these kinds of stories. Like the Thijarians, we can now witness histories that were cast aside or overwritten. We are reminded of the things that unite us – and those that ever threaten to divide us.

And of course because it’s Doctor Who, there’s just so much to love.

  • More gorgeous cinematography!
  • Yaz’s cranky Nani is a secret badass
  • “Not interfering!”
  • Graham being grandfather to Yaz and Prem
  • Punjabi-style closing credits music!
  • The Doctor serves not as savior, but as witness to history

Chibnall’s historicals are some of the best Doctor Who has ever been. More please!

Posted November 30, 2018 by Elisabeth in Piffle, Season 11

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The Web Crusade   Leave a comment

“The Web Planet” is mostly unbearable. The story creeps along like cold syrup. Ridiculous aliens wave their hands and hop inexplicably. Giant ants shriek like evil emergency services. Six episodes seem to last ten hours.

“The Crusade” is nearly its opposite. Tight pacing and spectacular performances by Julian Glover, Jean Marsh, and Bernard Kay make four episodes fly. A pure historical, it’s free of badly costumed monsters, and even the villains leave the scenery mostly unchewed.

The companions follow essentially the same script for both. Barbara, self-rescuing princess, is captured and escapes ad nauseum, while gallant (Sir) Ian mostly hurts himself trying to save her. Vicki fills the granddaughter role more effectively than the granddaughter ever did, putting her faith in the Doctor and receiving his earnest affection in return. The Doctor lies, cheats, and steals, occasionally giggling like a lunatic, and everyone has a good laugh (at Ian’s expense, generally) at the end.

“The Crusade” is half missing; the Loose Cannon version includes a delightful introduction by an elderly William Russell as Ian looking back on his adventures. The telesnap reconstruction is hard to follow in places, but the available video – and Julian Glover – more than make up for any shortcomings.

Seriously, though, this cast:


No hopping Opteras here.

It’s not without its flaws, of course. The Crusades were a campaign of religiously motivated destruction that set Arabic civilization back hundreds of years. Did Richard really travel all that way to sue for peace? Or did he partake eagerly of the spoils of murdering the infidel? Glover’s Lionheart of course is full of the glory and honor of Great Britain, even as he offers his sister’s body as currency. Colonialist undertones are difficult to ignore – as is the little extra shading in Bernard Kay’s makeup. I’m grateful now for Malorie Blackman, Vinette Robinson, Vinay Patel, and Leena Dhingra, among others, but we still have a long way to go.

Nor is “The Web Planet” entirely without merit. In spite of the costumes and characterization, it’s hard not to feel something when a felt-footed Optera gives her life to save another race. It’s hard not to be inspired when a bunch of fuzzy butterflies call their comrades home to rebuild. With 1965 technology and a BBC budget, the DW team set out to tell a grand story, alien but humane. I for one can forgive them for falling short.

Next, we depart Earth once more for “The Space Museum.”

Conunundurum   Leave a comment



There are too many things to love about this episode.


“Well, medicine, science, engineering, candyfloss, LEGO, philosophy, problems, people, hope. Mostly hope.”

The Cast

They’re diverse, in the buzzword sense of race and gender, but also in education, relationships, skills, and abilities. What they all find in common is what anyone finds when they travel with the Doctor: the courage to do what must be done, whether it’s drop-kicking an alien, becoming a dad, or using your last breath to give strength to another.

The Alien

Pting (I keep thinking T’Pring) may be the cutest accidental murderer since the Adipose. The Doctor’s solution saved the ship’s passengers as well as an innocent creature.

The Quotes

“I’m the Doctor.” “Are you kidding?” “Sometimes. But not right now.”

“Right now I’m imagining you sorting all this out.”

“Are you also experiencing comprehension deficiency?”

Pentagonal number. Interesting.” (I love it when the Doctor gets mathy!)

The Companions

I once witnessed a young man’s forgiveness for his mother when he first understood how difficult her life had been at the time of his birth. Here, Ryan begins on a similar path – and helps another avoid his father’s mistakes.

Yaz I continue to adore. I still feel like I know her less – but she doesn’t talk constantly as Graham does, or wear her feelings on her face like Ryan. Instead, she thinks quietly, asks questions, and delivers her own sports commentary as she bends Pting like Beckham.

Graham and Grace on the couch watching Call the Midwife… who can’t see that?

The History

“The Tsuranga Conundrum” is a classic base-under-siege story, a type beloved since Troughton’s time, gorgeously updated for the era. More please!


Team TARDIS visit the Partition of India.

A million years ago I commented that it would be nice to see some history that wasn’t either European or colonialist. Like “Rosa,” India’s fraught past is best not explored by yet another white man. Now with our first South Asian companion and our first South Asian writer, we’re going there.


Posted November 12, 2018 by Elisabeth in Season 11

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Arachnophobia   Leave a comment



I found this episode possibly inappropriately hilarious.

I don’t have arachnophobia. I live in the Pacific Northwest where spiders are small, harmless, and ubiquitous. I have walked face-first into more webs than I care to think about. It almost doesn’t even make me cringe anymore. (Though to be fair, a thumb-sized creature in the bathtub sent me in search of assistance.) These spiders are lovely and huge, and somehow hardly scary at all.

I’m so happy to finally get some Yaz time! It isn’t enough, but I don’t think there’s any such thing as enough. We meet her cheery dad, serious mom, and obnoxious younger sister. Yaz seems overly reactive to them; there’s history there, obviously, and it leaves me wanting more. Still, it was a nice peek.

The production continues gorgeously cinematic, and the music creates a wonderful atmosphere. It’s simple, almost stark, and I appreciate the return to electronica – though I can’t help be a little sad that the Doctor Who Fan Orchestra will never get to play it. Still, it’s a wondrous new sound for the new series.

Other things to love:

  • Quips! The Doctor “being weird,” “Yaz’s mum,” Ryan making spider shadow puppets, “I call people dude now,” terrible pakora!
  • Who knew Chris Noth had such comic depth?
  • Yaz’s mum! It’s clear where the younger gets her competence and determination. Perhaps that’s why Yaz’s fuse is so short around her: the child always struggles with the too-similar parent.
  • Three Asian women, two old white dudes, and one baffled young black man
  • The ending! Each of the companions has made their choice in advance, saying goodbye – for now – to the world that’s been home all their lives. They throw in their lots with the Doctor, who for once tells the absolute truth, and the four of them pull the lever on the unknown together.

Next week: the base-under-siege tradition continues with “The Tsuranga Conundrum.”

Posted November 4, 2018 by Elisabeth in Season 11

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New Romance   1 comment

WARNING: Some fans are not going to like this post. Disagreement is acceptable; rude comments will be deleted.


At the end of episode 4 I came a realization: Yasmin Khan is Chibnall’s Martha Jones.

Yaz, like Martha, is a smart, competent, determined young woman, weighed down by family and societal expectations. She loves her home and her work but they exasperate her. Meeting the Doctor gives her an escape, but also the opportunity to be more than she ever thought possible. As a result she falls head over heels in love.

At first Yaz is baffled by the Doctor, as anyone would be. But in this tiny, indefatigable, frankly bizarre woman, Yaz sees a possibility for herself. She sees someone committed, and yet absolutely free. Someone who makes a difference under impossible circumstances. Her admiration grows slowly at first, but by the end of episode 1 it shines as bright as the smile on her face, and continues to expand from there.

Fortunately for Yaz, Chibnall’s – and Mandip Gill’s – treatment of the character’s outsize adoration works much better than RTD’s in Series 3. Yasmin doesn’t get stupid over a kiss. (Are we even going to see any of that in this series? It looks like not, especially where the Doctor is concerned. I may rejoice.) She doesn’t make awkward advances on narrow tavern beds or pine for her love to be returned. She doesn’t love the Doctor like a teenager loves a movie star; she loves her like we do, with awe and delight. She doesn’t hold her love against the Doctor; she channels it into making herself a better person, doing not just what the Doctor asks, but what the Doctor would do, what needs doing to solve the problem at hand. She’s braver, she’s smarter, and she still has room to grow.

I hope we get to see a lot of that growth this season.