by Catriona Mills

Strange Conversations: Part Twenty-Five

Posted 14 July 2008 in by Catriona

ME: Honey, why, when you took the dinner plates out of the living room, did you not take the sauce bottle, as well?

NICK: I probably didn’t have enough feet.

Live-Blogging Doctor Who: The Fires of Pompeii

Posted 13 July 2008 in by Catriona

Time for the second episode of season four, with special guest stars my parents. Mind, they won’t be making an appearance during this live-blogging unless they say something extremely funny.

But it’s been a convivial day: we went to see the Picasso exhibition at the Gallery of Modern Art—I’m not saying it was poorly curated, because I don’t think it was, but it was intensely crowded, which made it remarkably difficult to get close to the smaller, more delicate pieces, such as the Degas . . . engravings, I think they were. But they could have been pencil drawings, or charcoal, because I couldn’t get close enough to read the labels.

Then we had a lovely, slightly boozy lunch to celebrate the positive reports on my Ph.D. thesis.

And, of course, then we boozed a little more over our leftover roast-beef sandwiches for dinner.

So convivial is, I think, the best word.

In fact, take this earlier conversation as emblematic:

DAD: What’s that noise?
ME: Fruitbats.
NICK: It’s best not to ask what they’re doing.
ME: They’re fighting. Definitely fighting.
NICK: Well, something starting with “f.”

He later claimed that he meant “fraternising,” but I’m not sure that’s better.

Of course, when I started this, I thought we were closer to the start of Doctor Who than we are, because I always forget that the sports broadcast (or “braidcast,” according to my keyboard) starts at quarter past the hour these days.

But we’re up to the weather now, and while I never intended to live-blog the weather, that means we can’t be far off actual Doctor Who now.

In the interim, apparently there are isolated showers around the coast. Of course, that’s only relevant if you’re in Queensland, so make of that what you will.

My spell-checker doesn’t recognise the word “Queensland.” And we’re supposed to be the Smart State.

If Doctor Who doesn’t start soon, this will be the most boring blog post in history.

Ooh, we’ve started! I was distracted.

We’re in “ancient Rome.” I’d like to go to ancient Rome. (Should that have a capital letter?)

This was the first episode where I really liked Donna. And I do love the geeky Latin jokes, but it’s been a while since I’ve been able to say “veni, vidi, vici” after the football.

The make-up on these seers (spoiler!) really creeps me out, especially the eyes on their hands. Whoops, spoilers again.

Pompeii on Volcano Day—that’s a Captain Jack reference, surely? The Doctor only borrowed it from him.

My mother’s very confused about why the Latin that Donna’s speaking wouldn’t actually come out as Latin. That seems a good point: perhaps the TARDIS’s translation circuits aren’t very good?

You’d think he’d have some sort of bicycle lock—or something—for the TARDIS: it’s always going missing. Mind, I wish this man hadn’t bought the TARDIS as modern art, because it’s only likely to rekindle Nick’s desire to actually have a TARDIS in the corner of our living room—and we really don’t have room for one.

Ooh, cavorting with Etruscans. Sounds funs.

Unlike being a seer: that doesn’t seem as though it’s fun at all. Especially not if all you have to do is breathe in hot smoke all the time.

Dad’s slightly alarmed by the stone creature under the house. He’s a vocal TV watcher: he tends to respond to programmes with little muttered comments like “oh god, what’s that?”

Ah, hands on eyes. And eyes on hands. Simultaneously. That creeps me out, but I’m not entirely sure why. There have been many more disturbing things in Doctor Who over the years.

One of the things that I like about Donna is that she’s stroppy. We’ve had stroppy companions before, but I’ve always liked them. Like Ace.

Is it wrong that I find that Spartacus joke so funny that I just snorted out loud? (I mean, obviously the snorting out loud is wrong, but it was involuntary.)

The Romans don’t have a word for “volcano”? Is that true? (Tim, you’d know that, wouldn’t you? Because I can’t be bothered getting up and fetching the OED.)

The exchange of prophecies is hilarious, especially since three-quarters of what the Doctor says doesn’t make sense. Do you know, I really like this writer? His episode of Torchwood was devastating, but this one is so funny: he manages to make the Spartacus joke and the “she’s from Barcelona” line work in an ahistorical context.

I’d forgotten the “there’s something on your back” line Lucius directs to Donna. That’s interesting. Or it will be in about two months.

Of course, my dad wants to know now, because he’s impatient, but he’ll just have to wait.

This Doctor’s like a puppy: he’s constantly inquisitive—he’s looking at the pit the vapours come out of, at the moment—and always looking to see who he can make friends with. It’s one of the aspects that I think Tennant has brought to the role—the Doctor’s usually had high social skills, but this puppy-friendliness is new—and one of the aspects that I like most about the character. That and the fact that he’s completely mad, in a rather Tom Baker fashion.

Now the Doctor’s breaking into Lucius’s house. Really, would you want a great steaming pit in the middle of your living room? Although, I wouldn’t mind a fountain, especially in Brisbane in the summer. I could have goldfish. And lilies.

Donna’s toga is a little low-cut, isn’t it? And did women wear togas? Or was that purely a man’s costume: were the women’s dresses called something else?

Ah, Donna’s about to put her foot in it. I can see why she does it, and it’s a good thing—it’s an inevitable thing, really, for a novice time traveller—but she’ll regret that when the Sibylline Sisterhood get their hands on her.

Hey, my computer recognises “Sibylline” as a word, where it doesn’t recognise “Queensland.” Or “Spartacus.” I find that remarkably odd.

Go on, pull his arm off! That’s not as escape plan that’s likely to work very often, I wouldn’t have thought. But it works here, and that’s the important thing.

Ooh, “allons y” again . . . I’ll say again, keep an eye out for that in a couple of months’ time.

If you have to be followed by something, I suspect that an enormous, glowing, stone man who can breathe fire would be at the bottom of my list of favourites. No, not the bottom: sharks would be lower. But very near the bottom of the list. Unless I happened to have a bucket of water handy, and how often does that happen?

Ooh, Donna was kidnapped while I wasn’t looking. But I like a companion who, tied to a table and threatened with a knife, responds “Don’t you dare!” She’s brilliant, Donna.

The Doctor met a sybil who could dance the tarantella? Sometimes I want to see some of these back stories. But you couldn’t make an entire episode out of them.

How on earth could you even think that turning into stone is a blessing? I mean, I know these seers are all mad, with the inhaling of red-hot stone dust and so forth, but how could you even assume that that was a good thing? I suppose it would cut down on medical bills—and if you’re not driven nuts by all the chanting and the rocking that the members of the sisterhood think is necessary, then you must be a fairly even-tempered person. I’d go nuts with all the repetition: it’s like fifteen toddlers.

No way, yes way, Appian Way? It made me laugh, anyway. And is that a Bill and Ted joke? There’s nothing I like more than a Bill and Ted joke.

That fact that the Doctor can see time—I suppose rather like the Tralfalmadorians (don’t correct my spelling) in Slaughterhouse Five, who can see all of time like a mountain range—then that might explain why he’s slightly mad, now. Especially since, as he says, he’s the only one left, so he can’t—as he’s done for years—ignore the responsibility.

Lucius really is rather shrill and annoying, isn’t he?

That water pistol must have an enormous reservoir. That’s convenient.

Oh, Pyrovillia (don’t correct my spelling!) has gone, has it? That’s also interesting. (I’m really enjoying the long-term plotting in this season. It seems to be rather more subtle than the “Bad Wolf” seeding in season one of the new series or—what was it in season two? I’ve forgotten now. Or even Harold Saxon in season three: ah, Master? You’re not dead, are you? Or, at least, you’ll regenerate, won’t you? Please come back!)

The Doctor’s about to make Vesuvius erupt, by the way. I got a bit carried away and forgot to mention any of the narrative developments.

Oh, dear: Lucius is dead. But then so are most of the inhabitants of Pompeii, now. And also Pliny the Elder. Or was it Pliny the Younger? No, it was the father, wasn’t it?

(Honestly: I’ve seen this episode before. I should do my Googling in advance, so I can look really clever.)

I’ll buy that the Pyrovillians’ spaceship could survive the exploding of a volcano—but not that they can outrun an explosion of super-heated gas.

The destruction of Pompeii is rather disturbing to watch: I suppose it’s because we’ve all seen the photographs of the bodies and the preserved houses, and the despairing poses here are just a little too evocative.

I don’t mind that the Doctor goes back for the family, here. (And, Doctor, just because you can’t save Gallifrey doesn’t mean you should never go back, ever.) But, as I was saying, I don’t mind that he goes back for this family. I’m a sucker for a happy ending, and this family were rather charming.

(I wish he’d said “Come with me if you want to live,” though. That would have been hilariously anachronistic. But, given the lack of sophistication in my sense of humour, it was probably in an early draft and removed as too unsubtle. I’ll just chuckle quietly over the possibility in my own head.)

But, even though I like the fact that at least one family were saved, I think the final visual joke is a bit over the top for me. But we’re not up to that yet.

So does “volcano” derive from Vulcan? It would, wouldn’t it? (Tim, you’d know that. My dictionary is still too far away.)

Donna is good for the Doctor, you know. She doesn’t take any rubbish from anyone, and the Doctor does need that, because he’s been too prone to having his own way.

Ah, there’s the visual joke that’s a bit much for me. And wouldn’t devout Romans still at least have ancestral masks?

Oh, that’s not important. That was a lovely, funny episode—except for the moments when all the Pompeiians were dying—and prefigures some of the other humorous episodes, like the Agatha Christie one.

Hey, it was filmed in Italy? No—I’d best not blog Doctor Who Confidential or else I’ll be here all night.

Next week, Ood. Creepy, creepy Ood.

Strange Conversations: Part Twenty-Four

Posted 12 July 2008 in by Catriona

Nick and I have just had the nerdiest conversation I think we’ve ever had, just because I picked up a new Lois McMaster Bujold book for him yesterday:

ME: She’s not writing science fiction any more.
NICK: No, I know, and I find that very sad.
ME: I wonder why?
NICK: Well, I suppose fantasy is more profitable.
ME: But she can’t be short of money. I mean, she must sell the rights to everything she writes to the studios, although they’re never made into films, which I imagine she’s happy about.
NICK: I think she’s thrilled, given the draft to Warrior’s Apprentice that was floating around. All the Dendarii mercenaries had basically become space hillbillies by that point.
ME: Maybe that’s what happened to it: it became Firefly. Although you can’t imagine a much broader difference that between Captain Mal and Miles Vorkosigan. But he gets better, doesn’t he? Miles?
NICK: It takes quite a bit of brain damage and some nasty injuries.
ME: Well, it must be inconvenient, having such a damagable hero.
NICK: Oh, he doesn’t get less damagable.
ME: It’s brittle bones, isn’t it? From the gas exposure in utero?
NICK: Yep.
ME: And didn’t the gas make Cordelia infertile? I imagine that’s why Aral was persuaded into using the uterine . . . whatsits.
NICK: Replicators.
ME: Uterine replicators. Because they replicate a uterus?
NICK: Yep. Well, they’re not replicators in a Star Trek sense.
ME: Not in a Star Trek or a Stargate sense.
NICK: Well, that would be bad on both counts.
ME: I don’t know—imagine how easy having a baby would be via the Star Trek replicators: “Child. Male. Lukewarm.”

The lesson to be learned is this: there is no conversation among geeks that will not, if pursued long enough, end on a Star Trek joke.

When Bad Things Happen to Good Furniture

Posted 10 July 2008 in by Catriona

I mentioned in the last post that my father has been restoring a chest of drawers for us. It’s so beautiful that I really need to post a picture on the blog. (Else, really, why do I have a blog?)

She’s had a rough life, this elegant lady. You can see the hammer marks, where someone has become rather too enthusiastic with poorly thought-out repairs. What you can’t see are the saw marks, the completely new back, and the marks where they’ve driven nails in rather than replacing the joints.

But she’s a lovely lady.

And this is basically boasting . . . but on my dad’s behalf. He’s done an amazing job with this; I only wish I had a “before” photograph.

Amazing Things You Find in Drawers

Posted 10 July 2008 in by Catriona

My parents, who are arriving any moment now, are bringing with them a cedar chest of drawers that they rescued in a dire condition from an auction and which my father has spent months restoring.

So I’m stripping the hideous, black-laminate IKEA chest of drawers that has been the bane of my existence for years (I can, for example, only open three of the drawers).

But I had no idea I’d find such strange objects in a piece of furniture we use every day.

So far, I’ve found

1. A plastic pirate’s hook.

2. A fake, black-velvet bow tie.

3. My hairbrush, which went missing a couple of weeks ago.

4. A Christmas card from people I have barely spoken to in seven years.

5. The receipt for a Christmas present Nick bought me six years ago. Whoops.

6. My own body weight in scarves and shawls, including my father’s moth-eaten Liverpool University scarf.

7. A random piece of cardboard, which I think once surrounded the sari I’ve had hanging on my bedroom wall for six years—but I don’t know why this is in a drawer.

8. At least one T-shirt for every cult TV show that’s aired since 1992—plus multiple Doctor Who shirts and The Cure shirts: Nick has worn none of these for years.

9. A shopping list. I think I must have been making coleslaw, because it calls for red cabbage, capsicum, radishes, and parsley. (Well, technically, it calls for “radish” and “parsleys,” so I think Nick got his plural nouns confused.)

10. Organza bags that once held Easter eggs.

11. The bottom halves of a pair of trousers that Nick once had that zipped off at the knees: I don’t think he even has the trousers any more.

I’m sure there’d be more, but parents have arrived and I need to go and dismantle a 1960s’ sideboard.

Life in the suburbs, eh?

Things You Might Find Yourself Saying to a Geek While Doing Your Washing

Posted 9 July 2008 in by Catriona

Example One: You really shouldn’t keep computer hardware in your pants, sweetie.

Strange Conversations: Part Twenty-Three

Posted 8 July 2008 in by Catriona

A conversation emblematic of the difficulties in talking to a geek:

NICK: There’s about two megs of that still to download.
ME: What does that mean in minutes?
NICK: Well, it’s about 380 megs in total . . .
ME: Nick!
NICK: (hurt look).
ME: In minutes.
NICK: Well, it’s about 98% done.
ME: Minutes!
NICK: Anywhere from two to twenty five.

Well, that was helpful, honey: thank you.

And Yet More Packrat Woes

Posted 8 July 2008 in by Catriona

I mentioned way back when the frustrations of playing this game when the set you’re trying to build depends on hard-to-find pop-up cards.

Well, it’s getting worse—and it’s almost enough to drive me out of the game.

I thought Rat Pack, with its reliance on the 4000-point Fountain, was bad enough. But it’s nothing—nothing—to the In Bloom set. I’ve completed the set—or I wouldn’t be able to be flippant on the subject—but, oh, it was a soul-destroying process.

(What? I have a life! I’m . . . very busy and important, actually. Shush.)

In Bloom relied heavily on two pop-up cards: Rain and Sunshine. They weren’t as heavy as the Fountain—they were only 2000 points apiece—but they were much harder to find.

And you need many more of them to get a full set.

You need to vault one of each.

Then you need one Sunshine to make a Watermelon, and one Rain to make a Praying Mantis.

Then you need one of each to make a Firewheel—a type of flower, apparently, but I have no idea whether it’s a real one or not.

That’s already six cards: six cards that you cannot get any other way than have them randomly pop up without warning in your pack.

But it was the high-end card that was the destroyer of souls: the Alamofire—another flower, but this time I’m sure it was a fictional flower. It looked like a waratah, or maybe a protea, but was named after the company that designed the game.

The Alamofire was made from two Firewheels and a Praying Mantis: that’s five pop-up cards for the final card alone.

Is it any wonder that we were all secretly composing “Goodbye, cruel game” messages in our heads?

(No, I don’t think I am blowing this out of proportion. Why do you ask?)

And now it’s happening again, with Winston World.

Winston World is a lovely amusement-park-themed set: the game has multiple designers, and some of the cards are a little . . . well, ugly, really. (Yes, Born to Be Wild set with improbable Hells’ Angels rabbits, I am looking at you.) But Winston World is drawn in soft pastels, and the rides all have starscapes behind them, so it seems as though it’s an amusement park on another, distant planet.

It’s beautiful.

But it’s relying on pop-ups, and I’m going spare.

I need a Carousel. That’s all I need.

Okay: I need three Carousels. But that’s not important right now.

If I have a Carousel, I can make a Winston Wheel, which I gather is some sort of Ferris Wheel. Then—once it finishes its four-hour “baking” process and, really, what is the purpose of that?—I can make the top-end card.

But can I find a Carousel?

You know the answer to that, I’m sure.

And for those of you also playing Packrat—I have accumulated four hundred credits while I’ve been looking for that damn Carousel. That’s probably more information than you need on how long I’ve been wasting on this particular ambition.

Random Photographs From the Back Verandah

Posted 8 July 2008 in by Catriona

Presented without commentary, because everybody knows that sunsets are cool.

Strange Conversations: With Special Guest Star, My Mother

Posted 7 July 2008 in by Catriona

A telephone conversation this morning:

MAM: Hello?
ME: Hi, Mam: it’s me!
MAM: Oh, god.
ME: Pardon?

A Serious Question

Posted 7 July 2008 in by Catriona

When was the last time that Eddie Murphy starred in a movie with anyone other than Eddie Murphy?

Don’t get me wrong: the more Eddie Murphies there are in a movie, the happier I feel about not going to see it.

But is this not the ultimate in narcissism?

More Bad Advertising: It's Only Fair to Redress the Gender Balance

Posted 7 July 2008 in by Catriona

I’ve commented on more than one occasion about the pit of sheer, unremitting horror that is Lynx’s advertising department’s gender politics.

It’s only fair that I redress the balance, since I’ve just seen the follow up to AAMI’s awful new advertising campaign.

When Nick and I saw the first one—with the woman directing a passive-aggressive appeal to her boyfriend to take out a personal loan so he could buy an expensive engagement ring and propose to her—we were . . . well, gob-smacked, I think is the only word.

I’ve never had any patience with the “I must be married to anyone, anywhere, it doesn’t really matter, as long as I’m married” attitude that so much chick-lit (and chick-TV and rom coms) seem to feel is the appropriate attitude for women . . . and I have even less patience now that I’m in my thirties and people keep asking me when I’m getting married.

Don’t get me wrong; plenty of people marry because they are in love, and that’s a different issue. I’m not mocking that. But I don’t know anyone who ever went into a jewellry store and recorded a message demanding that their significant other propose and, by the way, here’s the ring I want you to buy me.

But, now, I’ve just seen the follow-up ad. where she’s now “the new Mrs Todd,” but apparently the honeymoon wasn’t up to her standards, so could he take out another loan—but a bigger one, this time, because she’d like to go to Paris.

I don’t think I’ve been too hard on Lynx, frankly. But these ads—these are almost the girly equivalent of the Lynx ads.

If the idea that men will do absolutely anything—including transform sentient beings into automatons—in the pursuit of the opposite sex is the most degrading way of depicting men, then this is the equivalent for women.

Dear AAMI,

You insure my car. Thank you. But this ad. campaign is grotesque. Not all women are passive-aggressive harridans, you know. And, you know what? The marriage angle wouldn’t even bother me—this ad. would be awful under any circumstances—if it weren’t for the media’s increasing obsession with bridal porn, with the trappings of the wedding instead of the ceremony itself.

Dear Woman in the AAMI Ad.,

You might want to consider whether you should have brought up your honeymoon concerns prior to, I don’t know, maybe the honeymoon? Because at this stage, I’m assuming that the next ad. will be you suggesting that Todd takes out a loan because your alimony payments aren’t high enough.

I'm All Written Out

Posted 7 July 2008 in by Catriona

Finally, for no reason that I can determine, my putative journal article has decided to stop resisting me and has fallen, more or less, into easy lines.

Is that a mixed metaphor? I don’t suppose it matters much here. At any rate, I’ve added today around three thousand words to what’s feeling as though it might be a passable draft.

I’ve come to terms, more or less, with the fluctuations of my writing process.

I know enough now to never resist those moments when everything suddenly falls into place and it’s simply a matter of whether you can get the words on the page before the inspiration passes—but those moments never do come regularly enough.

I know that there’s always a sticky place for me at the beginning of any project: a point where the words simply won’t come and the writing has no cohesion, where I can’t even see the shape of the argument in front of me.

I know, too, that that moment inevitably passes, but that I can never force it to pass. It’s not a sign that I haven’t done enough research; I can feel now when that’s the problem. It’s a different stumbling block—perhaps a form of writer’s block?—and I know neither what causes it nor anyway to get around it other than perseverance. But the perseverance is never a pleasure; it’s pushing against an immovable object or, if I can draw from mythology (or Albert Camus, perhaps) for a moment, endlessly trying to roll a boulder up a cliff face.

But then, the process has shifted so frequently in recent years that I can only assume that this, too, will pass.

I did two good things for my writing, neither of which was initially easy: first my Masters degree, then teaching academic and professional writing.

I don’t think, to be honest, that I was a poor writer before I began teaching those courses. I have a better opinion of my boss than to believe she would continue to hire me if that were the case.

But I’m a significantly better writer now than then.

(Don’t necessarily judge me on the quality of the blog. Unless you think it’s fabulous. In which case, judge away!)

But this is a new challenge. I’m not writing a journal article that feels from the start like a short, self-contained work. I’m boiling down a 17,000-word chapter into a shorter, tighter argument—and it was a pretty tight argument to begin with. (At least, I certainly could have blown it out in several areas, but restrained myself.)

No: it’s not even as simple as that. Because anyone reading that chapter would already have the background material from three preceding chapters and my literature review. (Oh, literature review. How I hated writing you! But we found a way to make you interesting, didn’t we? Thanks to a Jonathan Rose article.) So I’m selecting material from those, as well, where it’s necessary to the argument.

And the thesis itself was big enough; I did keep it as tight as I could, but with over one hundred works by my author, I had to exercise restraint in selection and take the fullest advantage of the word limit.

And, of course, I’m fretting constantly that I’m not providing enough context. That’s the downside to working on an unknown author: it would be much easier to work on an unusual aspect of Dickens’s career, though perhaps not as satisfying. (When was the last time an unknown Dickens work was added to the canon?)

So this has been a new challenge. Not a new challenge in the same sense as live-blogging, but hopefully one that will be more productive in the long run.

Unless there’s some way that I could make a living live-blogging Doctor Who.

I love my current job, but that would be, dare I say it, fantastic.

Live-Blogging Doctor Who: Partners in Crime

Posted 6 July 2008 in by Catriona

So this is the first episode of season four of the new Doctor Who. I’ve seen this one a couple of times already, and I’ve never been entirely convinced by the aliens. But I’ll get to that when the episode actually starts—at the moment, we’re on ABC News’s weather report. More rain, apparently. But a nice cold night.

In other news, I’ve never quite become used to the way this armchair wobbles when I type. I think it’s all right, but who knows?

Hey, it was International Tartan Day, celebrating all things Scottish! I’m Scottish, technically. Why didn’t I know about this? Oh, well: I never identify as Scottish unless Nick’s irritating me by faking a Scottish accent.

Speaking of Nick, he has his iPhone out, despite the fact that his favourite show is about to start. I suspect he’s actually physically joined to that thing.

Ah, theme music. Here we go!

This opening scenes is so reminiscent of the opening scenes of “Smith and Jones”—I can only assume that that’s deliberate.

I know this Adipose CEO woman is from Rose and Mahoney, but I’ve never seen her in anything—I’ve never knowingly watched that other show—but she’s very good in this role. Creepy and patronising, exactly like a bad kindergarten teacher. (Spoiler! Sort of.)

Whatever difficulties I might be finding right now in getting a job, I’m so pleased I don’t have a telemarketing job. This looks intensely dull.

Ah, the two heads popping up sequentially. They could have badly over-played this near-miss angle, but I don’t think that they did.

I like the detective-fiction angle to these opening scenes, too—it’s always been a sub-text in Doctor Who, but I like it when it comes to the surface.

Nick’s live-Twittering, apparently. I’m not sure why he’s trying to steal my audience, but such is life.

Kidding, honey!

Ah, poor Stacey. It irritates me that she has the whole “I can do better, now” attitude, but she doesn’t deserve the fate that she’s about to meet.

Okay, the Doctor’s “the fat just walks away” line is genuinely creepy.

Are we supposed to assume that Donna is actually implicit in Stacey’s death? That her fiddling with the necklace sets off the unscheduled parthenogenesis? That’s rather what it looks like. But the CEO is ultimately responsible for the full parthenogenesis.

The Adipose! Sounds like a good diet plan to me. But I don’t find them entirely convincing—they remind me rather of very old-school cartoons, when you could tell which bits of set dressing were going to become relevant, because they looked different. I can’t explain it better than that—the Adipose just don’t quite seem to fit into the background.

According to Nick, it’s been a matter of some debate since the advent of the Slitheen as to whether or not Russell T. Davis hates fat people. I hope not, Russell. I love you!

I have to admit, the Adipose do look as though they’re enjoying themselves, and that’s something.

Now that near miss, with the two of them on separate roads—that worked well for me. Partly because it’s just such a lovely overhead shot.

Donna’s home life. This is a strangely depressing sequence, Donna being harangued by her mother. The mother (minor, undetailed spoiler) becomes rather an interesting character later in the season, or at least a more nuanced character, but here she’s so depressing and frustrating.

I’d never realised that Venus was the only planet in the Solar System named after a woman. (Well, a goddess, technically, Donna’s grandfather, but still.) I’d never thought about it, but, of course, he’s right. Plenty of moons with women’s names, but that’s just typical, isn’t it?

While Donna’s talking with her grandfather, which is a sweet scene, I’ll just mention that I wasn’t at all sure about Catherine Tate as a companion—she’s funny, but I wasn’t sure how she’d fit into the Doctor Who universe, and I felt her acting was slightly too mannered in this episode. It kept me from responding to her as a person, kept reinforcing the idea that she was a character. But I warmed to her fairly quickly.

I think I’ve read too many detective novels, but I quite liked this scene of Donna waiting in the toilets. Whenever I go into an interesting building, part of me always thinks, “Hmm, I wonder if I could successfully hide in these toilets?” I haven’t the faintest idea where I first saw someone hiding in the toilets, but it obviously made a powerful impression on me.

That probably explains why I found this scene of the men kicking the toilet doors in quite disturbing.

(Of course, I mainly wanted to hide in the toilets in the museum to see if the exhibits came alive at night—long, long before I saw Night in the Museum—but that’s a whole ‘nother story.)

Ah, the revelation of the villain’s true purpose. This villain seems to think she’s more comprehensible than she actually is.

Case in point: arguing that she chose her name well. “Foster: as in foster mother.” That’s not at all the kind of leap that you’d expect someone to make—and a nanny isn’t at all a foster mother.

I love this silent miming scene between Donna and the Doctor. It’s so strangely comprehensible—and you can believe that they’d get caught up in it and completely forget where they were. She’s a lovely physical comedian, Catherine Tate—and so is David Tennant, actually.

I think I have to give up my ambition of being a companion—there’s no way on Earth I could ever manage all the running.

Ha! Sonic pen. Much more useful than a sonic screwdriver. Well, unless you suddenly need to put up a lot of shelves.

This episode—this scene, in fact—thoroughly reinforced my fear of those little cage thingies that people use to clean windows. How do people ever manage to steel themselves to get in those things?

This woman is evil, though. I wonder what the actual Adipose are like. We never find out. And do they train their childcare workers to employ these insanely ruthless methods? Or is she working entirely alone? I know the Adipose repudiate her methods in the end, but that’s only because they think the Shadow Proclamation has been alerted, isn’t it?

Now the Doctor is calling her a wet nurse. That’s not the same as a foster mother or a nanny, it really isn’t. Unless she’s breastfeeding these Adipose children personally, or doing the Adiposian equivalent, then she’s not a wet nurse.

Ah, Donna stops the Doctor from revelling in his own cleverness. She’s very good at that; Martha was, as well—to an extent—but Donna’s better. At that aspect.

I love you, Martha Jones! Please come back!

The first time I saw that scene, I thought the Doctor had actually killed the two guards that he electrocuted—I didn’t hear him say, “Just enough to stun them.” Nick’s apparently only just heard that this time—this must be the third or fourth time he’s seen this one, too.

Ah, Donna. There’s a kind of desperation to this character that’s heartbreaking—this desire to break out of her ordinary life and do something extraordinary. It’s no surprise that here we have a character who has been actively searching for the Doctor. I don’t think we’ve seen that with a companion before, have we? Except perhaps Turlough, and that was slightly different.

So if one pill means one Adipose baby—which is the impression we’re given through the rate of weight loss, in the early scenes—how is it that she’s managing to generate all those extra babies? Does the body not metabolise the contents of the capsules, so that it can be re-triggered any time?

I know this is “emergency parthenogenesis,” but I still wonder how this is possible. Or are they not responding to the drugs, at all? Is that it? The capsule is a placebo, and it’s the necklace that triggers things? But, then, that would rely on everyone twiddling with their necklace at least once a day, wouldn’t it?

Anyway, the Doctor manages to prevent one million people disintegrating into creepy, little, marshmallow babies, so I suppose that’s a plus.

DONNA’S MOTHER: Oh, what is it now?
NICK: Close Encounters of the Third Kind, I believe.

It’s rather cruel, to deny Donna’s grandfather the sight of the spaceships.

Nick thinks this scene with the Adipose children is excellent use of the Massive software. They are adorable.

The villain insists that the children need her, but the Adipose ships clearly disagree—which really reinforces the fact that she’s not a wet nurse.

You know what I really like about Donna—whoops, the space nanny is about to meet her nasty end—what I really like about Donna is that she doesn’t fancy the Doctor. It’s refreshing. She loves him, sure, but not at all in a romantic sense. She’s never jealous, never seeks to supplant Rose or Martha. I like that.

(I don’t think the definition of “nanny” is any more accurate than that of “wet nurse.” The idea that Mum and Dad have the kids, so they don’t need the nanny any more—that doesn’t make sense. Nannies normally worked in conjunction with parents, not exclusively in their absence. Oh, never mind.)

I’m not touching the “I just want a mate” line. Great back and forth, but I’ll leave it to speak for itself.

He’s like a puppy, this Doctor. Always looking to see who he can makes friends with.

I hope no one ever leaves my car keys in a bin.

Oooh, blonde woman. Suspicious. Yep, it’s Rose. I did not see that coming the first time I watched this episode.

Ha! I like this scene of Donna, waving to her grandfather from the TARDIS. The relationship between these two is so lovely.

And that’s the episode.

Next week: The Fires of Pompeii. “The prophecies of women are limited and dull”—ooh, you’re going to regret that when Donna gets her hands on you, mate.

Ah, memorial for the man who played Donna’s father—vale. And they’re playing Doctor Who Confidential; I’m not blogging that, but she’s a lot more soft spoken in real life, Catherine Tate, than any of her characters.

But for now, typing cramp!

Curse My No Spoilers Policy

Posted 6 July 2008 in by Catriona

(Well, my “minimal spoilers, and if that’s not possible, at least warn people” policy, but that doesn’t exactly trip off the tongue.)

Because I have, of course, just seen the season finale for Doctor Who and I’m burning to post something about it.

But I won’t, except to deliver an oblique warning: if you haven’t spoiled yourself for this episode, don’t. It’s well worth watching unspoiled, and most of you (as far as I can tell from my visitor logs) only have to wait another fortnight.

If I can’t post about it now, though, I suppose I’ll have to wait until I get up to it in my season 4 live-blogging extravaganza—but that won’t be for another three months.

I hope I haven’t forgotten all the interesting things I want to say by the time that rolls around.



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