Archive for the ‘spoilers’ Tag

The Beast Below   1 comment

In the wake of the passing of Ursula K. LeGuin, I finally read “The Ones who Walk Away from Omelas.” The story has apparently been taught in schools for years and has won many awards. I even own the book it first appeared in, yet I had no recollection of reading it before.

(I read it online but I can no longer find the link. Get it, read it, or risk spoilers to follow.)

It reminded me of “The Beast Below.”

In each case, the good of the many is dependent on the suffering of one. The question “Omelas” asks is, is it worth it? What cost our perfect world? Some deny the child: it would do no good to change things anyway. Some consider the trade worthwhile. Some cherish the sweetness and beauty of their world all the more for knowing its cost. And some few walk away, preferring to face the unknown, to risk pain and suffering themselves, rather than live life bought at such a price.

The citizens of Starship UK face a slightly different scenario. They depend not for their ease but for their very survival on another’s pain. They have the luxury of forgetting. The Doctor struggles to balance millions of lives against the suffering of a single creature. Though he chooses to end the torment and carry those millions more deaths on his conscience, he is saved by the Star Whale itself: freed, it declines to abandon its tormentors, and Starship UK lives.

The Doctor would free that Omelan child in an instant.

I wonder sometimes what the Doctor would really do with our world. He doesn’t step in and change society, though he might inspire some to take it on themselves. He doesn’t end slavery every time, or stop every war. Sometimes, as Gwen speculates in Torchwood: Children of Earth, he turns away in horror. Others, he’ll stop everything to comfort a crying child.

Sometimes, that’s all we can do.



(location), (date)   Leave a comment

The following may be considered spoilery.



Ypres, 1914: the Christmas Armistice. In the midst of battle, soldiers lay down their arms and sing carols instead.

Fraternization between opposing troops was not unheard of at the time. Unofficial ceasefires periodically allowed soldiers to recover their dead from the battlefield, or even just take a break from the noise. Though an official Christmas truce had been considered and rejected by the powers that be, peace broke out in several places across the front that winter. It was early in the war; later, the interminable fighting and the devastation of chemical warfare put an end to fellow feeling. Nothing like the Christmas Armistice has ever happened again.

What a perfect moment for the Doctor.

It didn’t matter to him who the soldier was; everyone is, after all, important to someone. It was enough that he saw a chance to save a life, and he took it. In the end perhaps it wouldn’t matter whether the Brigadier’s grandfather lived to fight another day or not; perhaps the Doctor’s friend would be who he was no matter what. But that the life he saved should be a Lethbridge-Stewart… a gift for the Brigadier, a gift for the Doctor, and mostly, a gift for the fans.

Does the First Doctor remember, or does the crossing of the timeline prevent him from retaining anything of this encounter? Does the Second Doctor recognize the name, and thereby pay special attention to the man? Or is it the man himself? Are his actions alone enough to endear him forever?


“It’s just possible.”

The Brigadier has been referenced in New Who before:

  • “It’s times like this I could do with the Brigadier.” In 2008, facing the Sontarans, the Tenth Doctor misses his friend. (“The Sontaran Stratagem”)
  • That same year, the Brigadier appears in The Sarah Jane Adventures, called out of retirement to help save the world again. (“Enemy of the Bane”)
  • Actor Nicholas Courtney died in 2011. Later that year, the Brigadier’s passing is acknowledged in “The Wedding of River Song.”
  • In 2012, the Eleventh Doctor meets Kate Stewart, the Brigadier’s daughter and UNIT heir. (“The Power of Three”)
  • In 2014, the Brigadier – reincarnated as a Cyberman by Missy’s evil scheme – turns the tide of battle in favor of humanity, and receives a long-overdue salute from the Twelfth Doctor. (“Death in Heaven”)

Obviously, a much-loved and much-missed character.

The Christmas Armistice is a symbol of the best of humanity. Doctor Who is a symbol of the best of humanity. By accidentally saving his friend’s grandfather, the Doctor is rewarded for his faith in us. He is reminded that there is always hope.

A reminder for us as well.

Many Things*   Leave a comment

*what the TARDIS probably contains.

I have been remiss here of late. Other than the holiday special I have mentioned none of the fun DW related things that have abounded.

Well, maybe not abounded as such…

Ages ago, we finished watching the spinoff “Class.” As of yet the show has no future – it has not aired on actual TV and no second season is confirmed – although the series ended on a hell of a cliffhanger. It was a lot of fun overall: well made, well performed, with no more adolescent melodrama than you would expect from a show about teenagers and rather less than the supposedly grown-up Torchwood. Miss Quill, played by Katherine Kelly, is one of my new favorite characters. She is badass, vengeful, unfriendly, and unkind – the antithesis of the pretty blonde alien. I enjoyed the hell out of her.

Unfortunately our DW meetup group more or less disintegrated toward the end of last year. The organizer came down with a series of malignant viral infections, cancelling first the “Boom Town” and “Bad Wolf” screening and then the series-ending three-parter from “Bad Wolf” through “The Christmas Invasion.” Our S1 rewatch effectively ended with “The Doctor Dances” – not a bad place to stop, of course, but I was looking forward to finishing the season among my nerd horde. Still, we could resume come spring. A new organizer has stepped forward, and he hopes to add more social events as well as screenings to our calendar.

I thought I had posted earlier about a certain writer’s return to the show, but it appears I never finished the post. Ages back – last summer? last fall? it was teased that a classic DW writer would be writing an episode for S10. When I heard, I thought instantly of Ben Aaronovitch. Aaronovitch wrote “Remembrance of the Daleks,” in which Ace defends Coal Hill School with a baseball bat, and “Battlefield,” an Arthurian story with the Doctor in the role of Merlin. Both are strong, memorable stories from a difficult time in the show’s history. Since then, Aaronovitch has created his own ongoing series of novels about a young mixed-race London cop who can see ghosts and who learns how to do magic. The Rivers of London series is great fun and very nerdy – any DW fan will relate to Peter Grant right off the bat.

However, it isn’t Aaronovitch. The returning writer is Rona Monro. Monro wrote the very last aired classic DW story, with the oddly prescient name “Survival.” Since then she has written extensively for film, television, radio, and the stage. Her return, and that of Sarah Dollard, marks the second series in a row in which two (or more? 1 writer may still be TBA) episodes are written by women. Yes, a pittance against the 5 or more male writers appearing every season, but better than the long drought of series 5-8. (Not to mention 1, 2, and the vast majority of classic DW.)

I have not seen “Survival” but I plan to fix that before S10 begins.

On the topic of women behind the camera, I note that the director slot has yet to be filled for episodes 11 and 12 of the new series. Rachel Talalay has admirably taken that role the last two seasons. Dare we hope for three in a row?

Finally, the holidays may be over, but I only recently stumbled across the Doctor Puppet’s latest Christmas special. It’s adorable, as always. Enjoy.


El regreso del Doctor   Leave a comment

Doctor Mysterio, to be precise.



Yes, the title is in honor of the Mexican name for Doctor Who, as we learned from Doctor Who: World Tour.

It’s been a long wait. One of the many, many sucker punches thrown by 2016 was the absence of new Doctor Who. It seemed a cruel suspension – especially since streaming too was mostly taken away this year. But now at last it’s over. And while absence may make the heart grow fonder, this episode doesn’t seem to need any help. It’s sweet, funny, charming, just a little bit scary. There’s an alien invasion (“how meta,” says the Doctor), a cute kid, a masked man, and a reporter nosing her way in right alongside the titular hero.

Sarah Jane, Lois Lane, Lucy Fletcher Lombard.

There’s also about a hundred thousand ultra nerdy comic book references. When the DVD comes out, we’re going to sit down and notate every one, a la “Deep Breath,” but in the meantime here’s just a few of the more obvious ones – not even counting Lois and Clark:

  • Opening comic book pages, a nod to Marvel?
  • Classic Batman street scene
  • Daily Planet globe atop Harmony Shoal*
  • Misses Siegel & Shuster
  • “With great power comes great responsibility”

et cetera, et cetera.

It’s the least Christmasy Christmas special, with only a single nod in the opening and not a speck of snow. Still, it’s an important nod: the expectation of Santa Claus saves the Doctor’s life and introduces him to young Grant. There’s some hangover from last Christmas and the Doctor’s 24-year “night” with River Song. (Really? They didn’t get sick of each other once in 24 years?) I could have done without it, but again, Capaldi’s class act makes it work. His grief is much more real and less melodramatic than his most recent predecessors’. More like Nine’s in fact – understated but impactful. I think I can live with that.

There’s a notable lack of ladies in this episode, an observation which I was quick to share with the BBC Insiders. (How long before they take me off their list?) One of the Misses S gets a single line – probably delivered by loop group. A TV reporter gets a few seconds of screen time. There are background women at the press conference and at the Tokyo office. But there are no women among the aliens or the UNIT soldiers. There is no female companion. There’s just Lucy, as lonely as Lois at the Daily Planet, but so many decades later it feels like a step back in time.

Much like the rest of 2016.

Still, I enjoyed the episode. And I’m as eager as hell for Bill and all of Season 10.


2017, here we come!

*ETA A shoal is a shallow spot, a hidden ridge or sandbar, a place where ships may run aground or marine mammals beach themselves. A dangerous spot that seems so peaceful – and a clever name for an invading corporation.


Posted December 29, 2016 by Elisabeth in Christmas Specials

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Christmas Cheer   3 comments

Obviously, spoilers follow.




"Grr, spoilers!"

“Grr, spoilers!”

A year ago I would have said it was impossible. Even after S9, amazing as it was, I had my doubts. He’d followed up the 50th anniversary special with the disastrous ‘Time of the Doctor.’ He’d set up ‘Silence in the Library’ with ‘Let’s Kill Hitler’ and ‘The Angels Take Manhattan.’ Moffat’s been good before, but it’s never stopped him also being terrible.

But S9 held on to the end. ‘The Husbands of River Song,’ in spite of its title, gives the character the arc she has awaited and deserved since 2008.

Well done, Mr. Moffat.

Way back when the Twelfth Doctor was first cast, it occured to me that this was the man to take River to Darillium. This man had the depth of character, the emotional courage, the grace to see her off properly. But given everything that happened in Matt Smith’s era, I figured that was off the table.

I have never been happier to be wrong.

This episode is everything I could want from a Christmas special. It’s ridiculous and spectacular, sweet and funny and sad. Twelve’s joy is contagious, the best treat we could ask for. River, when she’s over being campy, is courageous and sincere and – for nearly the first time since the Library – entirely real. This is the River I’ve been missing all these years.

It’s strange to think that River could ever have loved or been loved by the Eleventh Doctor. Her chemistry with Ten was undeniable – which of course could be said of just about anyone – but her scenes with his successor lacked any hint of a spark. Now, in a single look Capaldi’s Doctor conveys what Smith’s had failed at for four seasons. This Doctor knows River, loves River. That Doctor was just pretending. One possible explanation is that Matt Smith is just a vastly inferior actor. However, while Capaldi is undeniably a master, Smith is not lacking in skill. I’m not sure it’s entirely his fault that the love story failed to launch. It’s more like both actor and writer had some growing up to do. Working with Capaldi has somehow forced Moffat to move past the twelve-year-old boy and start writing for grownups again.

My husband points out that you could look at it as River’s growth and development over the course of her timeline. In the Library, she was as mature as she was going to get; in ‘Let’s Kill Hitler,’ the most puerile. She grew up out of order, from our point of view. We’ve been tolerating her childishness for a long time; now at last she’s the adult we’ve been missing.

Whatever it is, I’ll take more. Onward to Series 10!

Head Canon   Leave a comment

Spoilers for S9 follow. Proceed with caution.


Most fans are aware of a bit of personal history the Eighth Doctor let slip back in 1996:


“I’m half human on my mother’s side.”

Many of those fans would prefer to forget he ever said it. It was an American add-on, an attempt to make the Doctor more relatable to xenophobic Yanks, a nod to Spock maybe. It wasn’t the Doctor.

But then Russell T. Davies said otherwise: that we can’t ignore the Doctor’s reference to his own humanity. Which he then proceeded to do for five years. He said it, and he dropped it, leaving the question unaddressed.

(Here’s the spoilery bit. You’ve been warned.)

Now, in ‘Hell Bent,’ Lady Me picks it up again. Is the Doctor human? Is he the Hybrid? Is that why he loves the Earth so much he can’t stay away? The Doctor declines to state, but the pot is stirred.

For purposes of the story, of course, the Doctor isn’t “the” hybrid. In fact there isn’t really “a” hybrid – it’s the combination of the Doctor and Clara that threatens Time Lord existence somehow. The details are not important – and once again, the question goes unanswered.

But one other thing struck us as odd about this episode: the speed with which the General recovered from regeneration. The Doctor spends hours or even days, every time, confused, amniesiac, and otherwise unhinged. The General stands up, brushes herself off, and gets on with her day.

(Spoilers over. You may proceed.)

The theory my husband proposes is that the Doctor’s human DNA interferes with the regeneration process. He’s enough Time Lord that he can do it, but enough human that he can’t do it well. We haven’t personally seen enough other Time Lord regenerations to make a suitable comparison: just the one above, and the Master in ‘Utopia,’ which doesn’t really count since any regeneration sickness would be indistinguishable from his usual level of lunacy. (Or maybe John Simm’s entire run was recovering from regeneration. That would explain a lot.) But in ‘Destiny of the Daleks,’ I believe, Romana tries on faces and forms like hats, with no apparent ill effect. She has perfect control. The Doctor suffers a “lottery.” (A heavily weighted white male lottery – perhaps an effect of his human inheritance?) No other Time Lord has had the Doctor’s difficulties.

On the other hand, River Song is entirely human, and regenerates with no trouble in ‘Let’s Kill Hitler.’ So maybe that’s not it after all.

Here’s the full writeup, for interested parties.

But I have a better head canon. The Doctor isn’t genetically half human. Instead, perhaps he spent an impressionable portion of his childhood in the care of a human woman – the companion of an adventurous ancestor, perhaps, his predecessor in interference – and she made such an impact that he considered himself part human for her sake. Perhaps his own mother died young, and he put his hearts in this woman’s hands. It would explain his affection for her lineal sisters. It would explain his passion for her home world. It would explain his unwillingness to behave like a proper Time Lord. He knew that something more existed, that other kinds of lives were lived on other kinds of worlds, and he wanted nothing more than to see them for himself.

It’s a theory, anyway.

Speaking of head canons – and this bit’s really spoilery:



‘Hell Bent’ ends with Clara and Lady Me flying off to see the universe in a TARDIS with a wonky chameleon circuit. ‘The Name of the Doctor’ proposed that it was Clara who pointed the Doctor in the direction of his eternal friend in the first place. It was suggested on this week’s Fan Show that the two machines are one and the same: Clara returned her TARDIS to Gallifrey, and offered it to the fleeing Doctor.

My first reaction to this idea was that the timelines don’t match up, but this is Doctor Who and therefore that sort of thing is only to be expected. My actual objection is the same as I had when ‘The Name of the Doctor’ aired:


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

Nobody retcons Neil Gaiman.

Posted December 9, 2015 by Elisabeth in Season 9, Speculation

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The Music of S9   Leave a comment

Slight spoilers for S9 to follow.

My husband reminds me, at the end of this season, of the props due composer Murray Gold.

Gold has written and arranged the music for Doctor Who since its return in 2005. A half dozen* or more albums have been released, and concerts of his work performed on three continents. This season, as the Doctor begins making music for himself, Gold gets to stretch a little – and in the finale, bring everything together.

Earlier this season we were treated to the Doctor’s rock-n-roll rendition of the show’s title music:

Other bits of music, including “Pretty Woman,” “Amazing Grace,” and Beethoven, have also appeared. But in ‘Hell Bent,’ we get a whole assortment of treats.

Two of them appear in Clara’s diner: Foxes’ “Don’t Stop Me Now” from ‘Mummy on the Orient Express’ plays over the radio, and the Doctor picks out Murray Gold’s “Clara?” from S7 on his guitar.

The other two take place in the Gallifreyan desert.

First, as the Time Lord gunship approaches, “The Doctor’s Theme” from Series 1 – not heard since the Tenth Doctor’s departure – is played. And after the bit with the spoon, the humor continues as the Doctor faces a firing squad to title music in the style of “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.”

If I knew how to do video capture, you’d have it. It’s awesome.

The Twelfth Doctor’s theme, titled “A Good Man?” is another stirring piece of music we’ve been treated to these last two seasons.

The S8 soundtrack is available now. I look forward to S9.

*ETA closer to ten, actually, depending on where you try to buy them. S1-2, S3, S4, S4 – The Specials, S5, S6, S7, and S8 have all been released, as well as an album of music from ‘A Christmas Carol,’ an album from ‘The Doctor, the Widow, and the Wardrobe’ and ‘Time of the Doctor,’ and theoretically a 50th Anniversary Celebration collection. Their availability varies.

Posted December 7, 2015 by Elisabeth in Music, Season 9

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