Archive for the ‘spoilers’ Tag

“Kerblam it!”   Leave a comment

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

SPOILER ALERT! ALERT! ALERT!

“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!

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Posted November 30, 2018 by Elisabeth in Season 11

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Punjab, Demons thereof   Leave a comment

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

SPOILER ALERT! ALERT! ALERT!

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 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.

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

SPOILER ALERT! ALERT! ALERT!

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?

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“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.

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

SPOILER ALERT! ALERT! ALERT!

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.

sshhh2bbanner

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.

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Posted December 29, 2016 by Elisabeth in Christmas Specials

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Christmas Cheer   3 comments

Obviously, spoilers follow.

tardiswreath

DO NOT OPEN UNTIL XMAS SPECIAL

 

"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!