Archive for the ‘dw spoilers’ Tag

What about Jac?   Leave a comment

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-UNIT

Jac, we hardly knew ye.

I’ll miss you, Jac, and I hope the adventure was worthwhile.

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“Nevermore…”   Leave a comment

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

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.’

Posted November 26, 2015 by Elisabeth in Season 9

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Perchance to dream…   3 comments

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

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.

Posted November 18, 2015 by Elisabeth in Season 9

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Zy Gones   3 comments

It’s impossible not to make a pun about Zygons.

I wrote a whole post about ‘Invasion’ last week, but I didn’t have my computer so I put it on paper and never managed to put the two together and post the thing. So we’re just getting Part 2.

You know the drill:

SPOILER ALERT! ALERT! ALERT!

SPOILER ALERT! ALERT! ALERT!

I wasn’t impressed with Harness in part 1. His politics were heavy-handed and his characterizations weak at best. I get that Clara was actually a Zygon, so her weirdness was appropriate – and no, I wasn’t surprised by the reveal – but the Doctor’s behavior at Fake-istan was not remotely in character. ‘Kill the Moon’ was marred by characters doing things they would never do, and this was another example.

Part 2 is vastly improved – terrifyingly, by the addition of Moffat. He’s great at the speeches and the surprises and he pulled out both in this ep. I enjoyed the “five rounds rapid” – I’ve said before, I adore any nod to the Brigadier, no matter how cheesy. I also appreciate that Kate can get herself out of a jam without backup just fine thank you very much.

The speech is a spectacular one. I had a very odd personal experience years ago that has me relate to it very strongly: I was at the veterinarian’s office, of all places, picking up a prescription for my dog, when the Sikh doctor randomly started telling me about the Pakistanis who killed his grandparents and how if he ever met a Pakistani – any Pakistani – he would kill them. A comfortably well-off man living safely in Southern California, his home and family unthreatened, would resort to violence over a years-old crime – and not even against the original perpetrators. Continued retaliation for continued offenses will never end, because someone always hurt someone somewhere – until one party takes the high road. While I found the politics in part 1 to be beaten rather to death, this speech rode the line between timeliness and soapboxing just perfectly – and I think it would be very difficult to disagree with its intent.

I love that Bonnie became Osgood 2a – she was right, it would have been odd to keep Clara’s face, and now that she has intimate knowledge of Osgood’s function, who better to take her right hand. Ms. Oliver mentioned that “keen-eyed viewers” would be able to tell which Osgood was which, which is going to make a second viewing a very intense affair. Much has been made of Osgood’s function as the “new UNIT,” the new Benton and Yates, someone the Doctor can always return to, and I hope we’ll see her many times in the future.

At least twelve, so she can round out her cosplay collection.

I expect I’ll recover my handwritten notes at some point, at which time I may have something to add, but in the meantime I’m looking forward to Mark Gatiss’s first foray into the future, with ‘Sleep No More.’

Posted November 9, 2015 by Elisabeth in Season 9

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Girls and Women   Leave a comment

It goes without saying…

SPOILER ALERT! ALERT! ALERT!

SPOILER ALERT! ALERT! ALERT!

‘The Girl Who Died/The Woman Who Lived’

Even more than the previous stories this season, this pair needs to be watched together. We were by what turns out to be good fortune prevented from watching Part 1 for an entire week, and were therefore able/forced to watch them one after the other. A good thing, as ‘Girl’ doesn’t really stand up well on its own.

It’s not a bad story, but silly in the vein of ‘Robot of Sherwood’ without being quite as much fun. The Vikings are entertaining, though I am baffled by a village which loses all of its soldiers and still manages to be about 80% male. The monsters look great but don’t do much. The threat of viral humiliation is timely, but I don’t feel quite a big enough threat for such a supposedly terrifying bad guy.

On the plus side, the thing I’ve dreaded and denied all season turned out great. Moffat hinted early on that he would explain the Doctor’s face; I desperately hoped he wouldn’t, as he’s terrible at explaining things and generally not as clever as he thinks he is. However, in this case the reveal was wonderful. It helps of course to invoke Ten and Donna; you don’t get a much better pair than that. And the relevant scene from ‘Deep Breath’ is one of the best that story has to offer. Having felt originally that it didn’t need doing, I ended up glad that it was done.

(Later commentary [DW: The Fan Show] mentioned Capaldi’s other Whoniverse appearance, as doomed civil servant Frobisher, pointing out the parallels between that family – killed by murder/suicide when the Doctor fails to help – and Caecilius’s family, saved at the last minute by the Doctor’s intervention.)

Also, Maisie Williams is a wonder and a delight. Even when her character makes stupid choices.

‘The Woman Who Lived’ stands much better on its own. Of course it requires part 1 to set it up, but other than that it’s a whole and complete story, with an intriguing mystery, great character stuff, comedy and drama in a healthy balance, and a startlingly refreshing absence of Clara. Again, Maisie Williams is spectacular, and she and Capaldi are wonderful together whether as teammates or opponents. Rufus Hound’s gallows humor is much more humorous than I expected. Williams’ character arc – from the girl who cared to the girl who didn’t and back again – is beautifully realized. I’m thrilled by Treganna’s first foray into the world of Doctor Who and I hope she’ll be back soon.

Williams, too, will be welcome when she returns in Episode 10, ‘Face the Raven’ by Sarah Dollard. (Thanks, imdb!)

Next week: the return of Osgood, Kate Stewart, and the Zygons!

"What are you looking at?"

“What are you looking at?”

FURTHER:

With reference to ‘Girl’ above, it’s a common fault of Doctor Who to feature one strong female character against an entirely male background. Nancy (‘The Empty Child’) manages a tribe of mostly male children in an entirely male world; soldier De Maggio and executive Goddard (‘Dalek’) are token females in a masculine sea; Ashildr alone gets a name and more than two seconds of screen time in an entire village of Vikings that should have been at least sixty percent women. It gives them a kind of “magical girl” status – this one is worthwhile, and in being so is unusual among her kind – which ultimately works against women in the Doctor Who universe. The show has come a long way lately adding women behind the scenes, reducing the sexualization of companions, and working hard to give Clara some character beyond “impossible girl,” but as long as women remain invisible in the background, their stories aren’t quite being told in the way we’re being led to believe, regardless of what we see up front.

Bring on Kate and Osgood and the fantastic Jac.

Posted October 25, 2015 by Elisabeth in Guest stars, Season 9

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More ‘Flood’   Leave a comment

After that last, somewhat critical, post, I feel compelled to add:

There is so much to love about this episode.

SPOILER ALERT! ALERT! ALERT!

SPOILER ALERT! ALERT! ALERT!

The conversation between the Doctor and Clara about his death – about the necessity for his death – is heart-wrenching. Capaldi and Coleman are magic in this scene. The questions raised about the bootstrap paradox – the original source of the looped ideas – are essential and compelling. O’Donnell’s fangirling! Clara’s determination! Lunn’s courage! Bennett’s grief! The SOUND DESIGN as Moran stalks Cass through the corridors! So chilling and beautiful!

The diverse cast too is a wonderful thing to have. Fans have spent the last ten years demanding better of the show, and the show is beginning to deliver.

It’s a great episode and I love it.

Posted October 13, 2015 by Elisabeth in Season 9

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The Flood   3 comments

As always, be warned:

SPOILER ALERT! ALERT! ALERT!

SPOILER ALERT! ALERT! ALERT!

‘Before the Flood’ is a delightfully creepy episode. Like the prior episodes this season, it kept us on the edge of our chairs. However, unlike those other episodes, it also hit a couple of storytelling snags.

Side characters in Doctor Who are frequently wonderful, and these are no exception. Cass is if anything even more fabulous in this episode, with her skills developed as a deaf person coming to the fore. But the love stories among these characters felt contrived. It’s as if the writers feel that deep brotherly love and commitment among shipmates is not enough to heighten the interpersonal tension, and that only romantic love, especially unrequited or unspoken, can do that. I did enjoy the moment where Bennett told Lunn to declare his love and that he wish someone had advised him to do so. But I found it implausible that both male-female pairs should have the same experience, and I didn’t see Cass’ love for Lunn as romantic. I think I’d have appreciated it more if it wasn’t. Not everything in the world has to be about romance, after all.

Or maybe that’s just me.

The monster too was something of a weakness in this episode. While its introduction – the shifting and then empty shroud – was creepy in a good way, the rest felt rushed and formulaic. I never got why it was called the Fisher King – I’m not much of an Arthurian, so I had to look it up, and I don’t see the parallel. I wasn’t compelled by its motivation. The scene of running through the fake buildings to hide seemed like it was there just so we could have a running-through-corridors scene; I think a chase or stalking scene could have been done better. As monsters go, this wasn’t a particularly interesting one.

The fake people hanging around were pretty creepy though.

I’m also not a huge fan of circular plotting. Moffat used the device most notably in ‘Time Crash’ and the ‘Space/Time’ pair, more for comic effect than actual storytelling value. Here the “bootstrap paradox” carries most of the plot – but I don’t think it works any better. Watching the episode I thought Whithouse was commenting on the ridiculousness of the device, but looking back it looks more like he was reaffirming its value.

On the other hand, the story made use of the time loaf theory – in which everything has already happened – which is my personal favorite, and I appreciated it.

The big item of course is O’Donnell’s death. The character’s fangirl outbursts endeared her to me greatly, so of course I was quite saddened to lose her. (I knew Bennett’s feels, as it were.) My second reaction – as a reader of feminist media criticism – was that she’d been needlessly fridged to serve Bennett’s man-pain. (Google those if you need them.) However, she is the only woman killed in the episode, and Bennett’s grief is required for the unspoken-love theme of the episode. Bennett is much more plausible in this role than O’Donnell would have been; joining UNIT in spite of his admitted cowardice presumably just to be near her, while she seems fearless enough to speak any feelings she might have – assuming she took the time to notice she had them. Ultimately, I appreciate the choice Whithouse made with these characters, even if I don’t entirely like it. 😥

Finally, I was left a bit baffled by the Doctor and Clara’s non-reaction to the death. Though this Doctor has shown himself to be callous, in the past he has at least acknowledged other characters’ pain (‘Into the Dalek’). And Clara seems uncharacteristically unaffected. In spite of her new careless nature, I would have expected at least a moment of sadness for O’Donnell. I did appreciate her words to Bennett but I felt that she would plausibly show at least a little feeling herself before shutting down. I know she’s on her way to becoming even more Doctor-like, but I don’t think this was sufficiently addressed in the episode.

All this for an episode I really liked very, very much. The Doctor’s breaking of the fourth wall was captivating, his guitar-playing a delight. (Particularly when it merged into the title music.) The story and the characters are all great; just maybe not as great as they could have been. I guess that’s what happens when a season starts so strong.

I look forward to Maisie Williams and ‘The Girl who Died.’