by Catriona Mills

Articles in “Doctor Who”

Live-blogging Doctor Who Season Seven: "The Angels Take Manhattan"

Posted 6 October 2012 in by Catriona

Synopsis

WAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!

What, you want a longer synopsis?

Well, all right, then.

We open with a noir prologue, in which private detective Sam Garner, hired by crime boss Mr Grayle, heads to Winter Quay to investigate rumours of “moving statues”. Instead, he finds his own aged, dying self, is chased onto the roof by weeping angels, and turns to find himself faced by the leering face of Lady Liberty.

Amy, Rory, and the Doctor are sitting around somewhere in present-day New York (somewhere grassy, let’s just say it’s Central Park), which seems like an odd place to go when you’ve got a machine that travels in space and time. I mean, you can get to New York by plane. (Which the Doctor and Ace did once in a piece of fan-fiction I read where the Doctor had to go up against the Joker, but that’s not really important right now, I suppose).

Either way, there they all in New York, with the Doctor reading a modern reprint of a ’30s pulp novel about ‘Melody Malone’, which he picked up because he liked the busty woman on the cover.

AMY: Where did you get this book?
DOCTOR: It was in my jacket.
AMY: How did it get there?
DOCTOR: How did anything get there? I’ve given up asking.

He’s reading bits of it out loud (after ripping out the last page, because he doesn’t like endings and watch out for that anvil!) and annoying Amy by saying, “Yowzah!” at the exciting bits. And Amy’s reading the newspaper and annoying the Doctor because she’s wearing reading glasses, which make her eyes look “liney.”

Nope, not the glasses: Amy’s just not quite as young as she used to be.

Rory manages to defuse this situation by being adorable, and heads off to get coffee, not realising that he’s going to be followed on his way back by creepy giggling noises. Amy asks the Doctor to read aloud from the book, omitting the yowzahs, and that’s how they discover Rory is now a character, confronting his daughter (no surprise who Melody Malone turns out to be) in 1938 New York.

River and Rory are snatched by Grayle’s men and taken to his ostentatious mansion, where Rory is thrown into the basement with a box of matches and a pile of baby weeping angels, while River is taken to Grayle’s study and asked about the weeping angels. Turns out, Grayle has one chained behind a curtain in his study, because he’s both a collector of rare objects and a total idiot. Meanwhile, the Doctor and Amy are trying to break through to 1938 in the TARDIS, but the whole area is temporally unstable. Luckily, Melody Malone’s book goes into detail about Grayle’s collection, so it’s a quick trip to China for a plot device ripped out of “City of Death”, and then River can set a signal for the Doctor to lock onto.

Which is fortunate, because Rory is running out of matches and River’s wrist is now held in an unbreakable grip by the weeping angel.

Realising that River wrote the Melody Malone book and that by looking at the table of contents, they can glean hints from it without actually fixing the future (and is that the first time paratextual material has been a significant plot device outside a Jasper Fforde novel?), Amy heads down to the cellar to rescue Rory, while the Doctor orders River to free herself without breaking her own wrist, even though Amy read that she would break her wrist.

But Rory is already gone and River has no choice but to break her own wrist, though she lies to the Doctor about it. Then he and River have a sad little chat about the difficulties of being in love with, as River says, “an ageless god who insists on the face of a twelve year old.” (The gender politics in that scene aren’t to my taste, by the way, but they’re plausible enough.)

River locates Rory at Winter Quay, which doesn’t sound promising. And, sure enough, Rory, when they find him, has wandered into a room where, just like Sam Garner before him, he finds his own aged, dying self. This, the Doctor says, is inevitable. There’s nothing they can do to avoid it—except Rory has a stroppy wife and a stroppy daughter, and neither of them are as convinced of inevitability as the Doctor is. If Rory can only get out of the hotel, he can cause a paradox that brings the whole edifice—the whole battery farm, as the Doctor calls it—down.

But, like Sam before him (or after him? Sometime in 1938, anyway), Rory is herded up to the roof where he finds the Statue of Liberty looming over him.

RORY: I always wanted to visit the Statue of Liberty. I guess she got impatient.

With the Statue of Liberty behind them and the staircase choked with angels, there’s only one way to break the paradox: jump off the roof. Rory is convinced that he’ll come back to life (“When don’t I?”), but Amy isn’t willing to let him take the chance unless she takes it, too.

So they leap off the building, wrapped together, and they wake up in a graveyard. All’s well and good: Rory’s death has broken the paradox, and the angels have all been destroyed in the backlash.

Well, except for that one who was hiding behind Rory and who has just zapped him back into the past again.

I might let the dialogue speak for the next bit of the episode:

AMY: That gravestone, Rory’s, there’s room for one more name, isn’t there?
The Doctor: What are you talking about? Back away from the Angel. Come back to the TARDIS. We’ll figure something out.
AMY: The Angel – would it send me back to the same time, to him?
DOCTOR: I don’t know. Nobody knows.
AMY: But it’s my best shot, yeah?
DOCTOR: No!
RIVER: Doctor, shut up! Yes! Yes, it is!
DOCTOR: Amy…
AMY: Well, then. I just have to blink, right?
DOCTOR: No!
AMY: It’ll be fine. I know it will. I’ll- I’ll- I’ll be with him, like I should be. Me and Rory together. Melody?
DOCTOR: Stop it! Just- Just stop it!
AMY: You look after him, and you be a good girl, and you look after him.
DOCTOR: You are creating fixed time. I will never be able to see you again!
AMY: I’ll be fine. I’ll be with him.
DOCTOR: Amy, please, just come back into the TARDIS. Come along, Pond, please.
AMY: Raggedy man, goodbye!

And Amy vanishes, but her name appears below Rory’s on the tombstone next to the Doctor and River.

Back in the TARDIS, River tells the Doctor not to travel on his own, and the Doctor asks her to travel with him: she says she’ll go anywhere he likes whenever he likes, but not all the time (“One psychopath per TARDIS”). But when she sends the Melody Malone MS to Amy for publication, she’ll ask her to write an afterword.

That would be the page that the Doctor ripped out of the novel in the beginning, of course. Fortunately, it’s a low-wind day in New York, so it’s still resting in the abandoned picnic basket.

But you’ll have to re-watch the episode if you want a transcription of that, because I seem to have something in my eye …

What worked for me in this episode

I’m going to cheat here, because it’s been a long week and I’m trying to find time to make a dolly for my tiny baby niece for Christmas. So, in short, everything worked for me in this episode.

Okay, not everything. I’ve griped about a couple of things below. But, really: I’ve seen many and many leaving-companions stories, and this one satisfied me. And I’m quite tricky to satisfy when it comes to the new series of Doctor Who, especially now we’ve been so busily rewatching the old series. (Speaking of which, I have a treat for you all in that respect, come November.)

But I’ll pick out one thing: I loved the slow-motion fall from the top storey of Winter Quay, with Amy and Rory embracing desperately and Amy’s hair flying above them. It reminded me of both Amy floating outside the TARDIS in “The Beast Below” and Scooti’s body floating away into the black hole in “The Impossible Planet”—for me, it was a moment that recalled both beginnings and endings, as well as being beautiful to boot.

What didn’t work for me in this episode
I realise that the argument about whether the new series of Doctor Who works best through logical consistency or through emotional catharsis is a fraught one, and I’m not touching it. But if a strongly emotional focus for an episode doesn’t satisfy you as a viewer, then this episode isn’t going to work for you.

It worked for me. I thoroughly enjoyed this episode, more than (though in much the same way) as I enjoyed “Asylum of the Daleks”—actually, in much the same way as I enjoyed “Vincent and the Doctor”. But this one had fewer logical fallacies to my eyes than “Asylum of the Daleks”: I didn’t have to worry about whether the nano-cloud actually made any sense and why they’d chosen the tired old route of breaking Amy and Rory up only to reconcile them at the end.

That said, we did have two questions. Neither was sufficient to ruin our enjoyment of the episode, but they were there.

Nick was wondering why Amy and Rory didn’t just leave New York in the 1930s (or earlier: wherever they ended up in the end) and travel to somewhere more temporally stable. Admittedly, the Doctor addressed this with his argument that Amy was creating a “fixed point in time”, but I don’t want “fixed point in time” to become this season’s perception filter.

My only real concern, though, was the Statue of Liberty. As soon as we first saw her, in the opening shots, I thought, “If she becomes a weeping angel, I will hate this episode for the rest of my life.” I wouldn’t say I ended up going that far, but I so wish she hadn’t been an angel: after all, is there really any way she could walk across to the building without someone in New York seeing her?

Oh, wait: I remembered one more thing that didn’t work for me about this episode: it’s the last episode until Christmas.

I mean, come one: we’re not made of stone here!

(See what I did there?)

Live-blogging Doctor Who Season Seven: "The Power of Three"

Posted 23 September 2012 in by Catriona

Disclaimer

I actually really like Chris Chibnall. I like his work on Life on Mars and Law and Order UK. I was devoted to Torchwood despite the fact that it broke my heart every single week and completely destroyed me when it came to “Children of Earth”. I was so delighted to add Camelot to our Serious Database of Australian Literature when I found his co-writer was Australian. I’m looking forward to Broadchurch (same Australian co-writer, actually). And I’ve enjoyed his previous Doctor Who stories: “The Hungry Earth”/“Cold Blood” were perhaps a little politically naive, but “42” was a cracker.

But I haven’t been thrilled with his two stories so far this season of Doctor Who. So I’m just putting that out there as a disclaimer. I really like Chris Chibnall. I do.

But …

Synopsis

Amy and Rory are adjusting to life without the Doctor, until mysterious black boxes just appear out of nowhere overnight: millions and millions of mysterious black boxes. Of course, the Doctor turns up shortly afterwards—because mystery!—and then we’re introduced to UNIT scientific adviser Kate Stewart, whom we don’t know yet is Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart’s daughter, but we do know that she’s Jemma Redgrave, she’s completely gorgeous, and she has one of my favourite lines in the episode, in “The dogs do love a run.”

Of course, that comes after another favourite line:

RORY: There are soldiers all over my house, and I’m in my pants.
AMY: My whole life I’ve dreamed of saying that, and I miss it by being someone else.

After a brief chat about how the cubes seem to be static, the Doctor decides he’s getting cabin fever, and legs it, leaving Brian (Rory’s lovely father) in charge of watching the cubes, which Brian does with a fervour that warms my cold academic heart.

Over the next year, Amy and Rory live a normal life that freaks them both out a little (Rory takes a full-time position and Amy becomes a bridesmaid), barring a seven-week span adventuring with the Doctor in the middle of their wedding anniversary, during which Amy manages to get married to Henry VIII, which confuses me because is this the adventure on which Rory left his phone charger in Henry’s en suite? Does that mean that “A Town Called Mercy” also takes place in this time period? But it can’t, because Amy would have mentioned their party. Not important right now, I suppose.

But then the cubes begin to activate, helped by a creepy child (there’s always a creepy child. Why is there always a creepy child? Children aren’t that creepy. Sticky, yes. But not creepy) and some orderlies with cubey mouths that are never adequately explained, and the party splits, even though they must know that you never split the party, unless you want to end up being glued to the floor and run over with a giant boulder, and don’t think I’m not still bitter about that.

What was I saying?

Oh yes.

Amy and the Doctor head to the Tower of London, to the UNIT base, and Rory heads (with Brian for no adequately explained reason) to the hospital. Here, Brian is kidnapped by the cubey orderlies, and Rory follows him through a portal (conveniently located in an elevator, so hey! Two modes of transportation for the price of one!) and into a spaceship.

Meanwhile, near the Tower of London, the Doctor and Amy have this lovely conversation:

DOCTOR: I’m not running away. But this is one corner of one country on one continent on one planet that’s a corner of a galaxy that’s a corner of a universe that is forever growing and shrinking and creating and destroying and never remaining the same for a single millisecond, and there is so much, so much, to see, Amy. Because it goes so fast. I’m not running away from things, I am running to them. Before they flare and fade forever. And it’s alright. Our lives won’t run the same. They can’t. One day, soon, maybe, you’ll stop. I’ve known for a while.
AMY: Then why do you keep coming back for us?
DOCTOR: Because you were the first. The first face this face saw. And you’re seared onto my hearts, Amelia Pond. You always will be. I’m running to you and Rory before you fade from me.

The “hearts” bit is significant, by the way, because that’s how the Doctor survives when the cubes decide to give a third of the world’s population a heart attack. For some reason, this only affects one of the Doctor’s hearts, though that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me, and then the Doctor manages to work out that the object controlling the cubes is accessible via Rory’s hospital. So … well, the rest of the episode might be best left for “What didn’t work for me”, I think.

What worked for me this episode

Actually, despite the long-winded complaining I’m about to get into below, quite a bit worked for me this episode. I liked the revelation that ten years has passed since—well, I’m not sure since when, actually. Since the ending of “The Eleventh Doctor”? Since the re-starting of everything at the end of “The Pandorica Opens”/“The Big Bang”? But it doesn’t matter. I do like the idea that this is a very long-term relationship he’s had with the Ponds, which gives depth to the idea that there might be a slow pulling away of Rory and Amy, and also to the idea that the Doctor has been on his own too long. I liked the creepy little cubes. I liked the adventurous interludes and the fact that the Doctor is as obsessed with the Wii as most of us have been at some point.

And I really liked Jemma Redgrave, who was fabulous.

Of course, saying a Redgrave acts well is a bit like saying, “Breathing: that’s useful.” But she was lovely. She wasn’t even in all that much of the episode, but she built this delightful, under-stated, calm, intelligent character who actually reminded me quite a bit of Liz Shaw before I twigged that she was a Lethbridge-Stewart. And then I spent the rest of the episode revelling in how much she looked like an amalgam of Nicholas Courtney and Doris as we saw her in “Battlefield.” I assume her mother was Doris. That was a pretty long-term relationship, if we consider it started pre-“Planet of the Spiders”.

But that’s not important right now.

Generally speaking, though, I liked this one. It had depth and complexity, it felt rich and full without feeling slow and ponderous, and I was thoroughly enjoying myself. Until …

What didn’t work for me in this episode

This episode was really best summed up, for me, by Richard (whom you might remember as a commenter) over on Twitter, when he described it as having “Lovely, lovely moments, completely disconnected from the bizarre, mythic threat and its technoresolution.”

I’m not going to talk about the technoresolution because … well, you know Clarke’s Law? “Sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic”? Well, my level of scientific understanding is such that, for me, a refrigerator is indistinguishable from magic. So I tend to glaze over a bit at the science, whether it’s actual science or technobabble.

This actually makes me an ideal viewer of mainstream television science-fiction, but that’s an argument for another day.

By the bizarre mythic threat? That’s something I can talk about. This is not the first time something like this has happened, and I doubt it will be the last. And I have no doubt it will continue to annoy me. Because the problem here isn’t that the threat is mythic. The threat in “The Pandorica Opens” was mythic, too—but that worked. It worked because we heard the Doctor talk about the blood-drenched creature who dropped from the sky and turned your world upside down, and we thought, “That sounds like you.” And River said that she hates good wizards in fairy tales because they always turn out to be the Doctor, and we agreed. And then we realised that the Doctor actually was the mythic threat here, and it all turned on its head and was marvellous.

But here … we’ve never heard of the Shakri. They’re creatures from the Doctor’s mythos: we’ve never heard of them before and we’ll never hear of them again. So where’s the threat for us? Where? Add in the fact that they’re holograms anyway, and they felt a little … toothless.

And I still think all that even though I’ve only just realised that that was Steven Berkoff. He’s Steven Berkoff, but it’s still not a good threat.

However, that all pales into comparison beside the actual ending.

The ending. I was so terribly disappointed by the ending. I’d been really enjoying things up to that point: the episode felt rich and full and detailed without (for me) dragging at all … and then we had the ending.

So what bothered me about the ending? Let me count the ways.

1. Apparently, no time passed at all between the people having the heart attacks and the Doctor bringing them back to life. So, the cubes activated, the Doctor is in the Tower of London, then they need to dash off to Rory’s hospital (and I’m not familiar enough with London—or indeed even slightly familiar with London—to know where abouts that was located, but it certainly wasn’t located in the grounds of the Tower of London), then get the Doctor’s other heart started, then find the wormhole, then have a long talk about Gallifreyan myths and legends, then blow up a space ship—and all the people who died of heart attacks are still just lying in the streets.

Still just lying there.

I could almost understand that, but there’s not one single bystander with them? Not one single emergency services personnel member? They’re all just lying in the same way as they were when they died at what must have been (at a conservative estimate) at least half an hour to an hour earlier?

2. That brings me to my second point. These people were dead. DEAD. They didn’t just fall asleep. They were dead, for at least a reasonable space of time. How can the Doctor just restart their hearts? Their bodies had begun to decay, albeit only slightly. More importantly, their brains had been starved of oxygen. So do we now have one-third of the world’s population with serious brain damage, no doubt needing round-the-clock medical care for the rest of their lives?

Well, that would certainly divert the funds that we might otherwise use to colonise the universe.

3. Finally, did they really just leave all those other kidnapped patients in the spaceship to be blown up? They rescued Rory’s father and then just left all the others to die? Now, that doesn’t sound like Rory at all, even if we accept that it sounds like the others. Rory’s always been marked by his compassion and by his dedication to his profession: why would he leave all those other people to be killed?

Oh, ending. You really spoilt what was was an otherwise terribly enjoyable episode for me.

Live-blogging Doctor Who Season Seven: "A Town Called Mercy"

Posted 22 September 2012 in by Catriona

Today’s live-blogging (I really must stop calling it that) is a slightly pained and tentative affair, because I’ve just managed to do something to my back that makes it impossible to take a deep breath. Here is my advice to you: don’t fall down half a flight of stairs. It is the gift that keeps on giving.

Synopsis

We open with the mysterious Gunslinger executing some hapless alien. At least, I assume he’s hapless, because I don’t have enough information yet to know who is the evil one in this scenario. In my experience, mysterious gunmen in Westerns can be either good or evil on a pretty much 50-50 basis.

The important thing here is that the Gunslinger has one more target: the Doctor.

Heading for Mexico for the Day of the Dead festivities (though in what era, I’m not sure), the Doctor, Rory, and Amy land instead about 200 miles out of their way, in a small town called Mercy in the Wild West, a town isolated by a mysterious rock-and-wood boundary line. The Doctor seems to enjoy this visit more than his last visit to the Wild West, probably because he doesn’t have to have his tooth removed by a nineteenth-century dentist (and, as an added bonus, doesn’t have to look at Steven’s ridiculous gunslinger outfit).

Their slow wander through the town (and the score is lovely) leads to my favourite bit of dialogue for the entire episode:

DOCTOR: An electric street lamp about ten years too early.
RORY: It’s only a few years out.
DOCTOR: That’s what you said when you left your phone charger in Henry the 8th’s en suite.

In the pub (saloon, whatever you want to call it), the Doctor introduces himself as the Doctor, and is promptly flung over the rock-and-wood boundary line by a group of overly enthused townspeople, who hope that this is the Doctor that the Gunslinger is looking for. Fortunately, Ben Browder turns up (albeit claiming to be called Isaac) and points out that the people know this isn’t the right Doctor.

The Doctor deduces from this that Isaac knows who the Gunslinger is looking for—and, sure enough, there’s another alien doctor, whom I shall simply call the Other Doctor, in protective custody in Isaac’s jail. This doctor has been such a productive and helpful member of Mercy that Isaac refuses to hand him over to the Gunslinger, even though no one can leave the town or bring in supplies until the Gunslinger has what he wants. So the whole town is slowly starving to death, but Isaac is standing firm.

The Doctor offers to grab the TARDIS and evacuate the town, while Rory and Isaac distract the Gunslinger. But, being the Doctor, he takes a side trip to the Other Doctor’s allegedly badly damaged spaceship, only to find it in perfect working order and replete with easily accessible files revealing the extent of the Other Doctor’s crimes, in the form of turning citizens into cyborgs—like the Gunslinger.

Furious and disgusted, the Doctor returns to Mercy, forces the Other Doctor across the boundary line despite Amy’s insistence that the Doctor’s changed for the worse after months of travelling on his own, and holds him there until the Gunslinger arrives. When he changes his mind and tries to attract the Other Doctor back across the line, it’s too late: the Other Doctor is frozen and it takes Isaac pushing him out of the way to save him from the Gunslinger.

Isaac is killed, leaving the Doctor as marshall. And the Gunslinger, despite his programming against killing innocents, has lost all patience, and tells the Doctor that he will tear the entire town down the next day if the Other Doctor isn’t delivered to him. A lynch mob comes in the night to try and end the dilemma, but the Doctor talks them down (albeit with what seem to me to be rather ahistorical arguments), leaving room for the Doctor’s own elaborate plan of distracting the Gunslinger with cleverly applied alien make-up until the Other Doctor can get to his ship and escape.

But the Other Doctor has other ideas, and initiates the ship’s self-destruct program, blowing himself to pieces. And the Gunslinger, instead of walking into the desert and self-destructing as he planned, is talked into remaining as Mercy’s marshall—a marshall who is more fantasy than reality, even to the current population of Mercy.

What didn’t work for me in this episode

I really hate to start this discussion, but … Susan. Susan the horse.

I didn’t manage to work up the same level of rage as other viewers did over Oswin describing her crush on a girl as a “phase”. I don’t know if Oswin identified herself as gay, bi-sexual, straight with a past girlfriend, or simply an open-hearted girl, so I really didn’t become infuriated by that statement.

I didn’t like it, though. I thought it cheap and ill-thought-out.

Then we had “Dinosaurs on a Spaceship” and the Doctor kissing Rory. Which would have been fine, except Rory’s reaction left me a little uncomfortable. And this, mind you, was from one of the core writers on Torchwood, so we know he can write interesting gay characters. (Well, gay or omnisexual, depending on whose definition you prefer.) And this wasn’t a glaring moment and certainly not a homophobic moment, but still, there’s that moment of discomfort again. So that’s two episodes and two moments I’m a little uncomfortable about.

Then we’re on the third episode and there’s Susan the horse. Who asks that the preacher respects his life choices. And now we’re three for three, because I’m uncomfortable again.

I’m fully prepared to accept that I might be over-sensitive on this subject right now. I’m a straight girl myself, but I do live in Queensland, where it behoves us all to remember just how alienated, uncomfortable, or even outright frightened our government is making non-straight citizens feel right now. And Queensland is hardly unique in this matter.

So I’m not thrilled that this show, this show that I adore, is repeatedly adopting a rather boringly heternormative stance for its throwaway jokes. Because it is boring: there’s nothing original about these kinds of jokes, and the current climate makes them even less amusing. That’s as strongly as I’m prepared to phrase it right now, but I do hope this thread in the show disappears over the course of the season, because it’s not one that I find funny, let alone clever or necessary.

What worked for me in this episode

Spain. Spain worked for me.

Spain, it turns out, is really staggeringly beautiful. And I loved the flavour of the spaghetti Western that filming in Spain gave to this episode. I used to watch many Westerns with my father, years ago, when they were always on telly on a Friday night, and it was almost always a Sergio Leone film. Well, except that one time we watched Shenandoah and my father had to tell me when to cover my eyes, plus my mother wouldn’t stop laughing at Jimmy Stewart’s son limping into church at the end of the film.

But that’s a story for another day.

So I have a soft spot for spaghetti Westerns and the flavour of those came through strongly for me in this episode. Much more, for example, than the flavour of either C.S. Lewis or World War II came through in “The Doctor, the Widow, and the Wardrobe.”

You know what else worked for me? Ben Browder.

I have a complicated relationship with Farscape, because, let’s face it, it’s an incredibly abject show, and sometimes insanely difficult to actually watch (Nebari mind-cleansing, anyone?). It makes me giggle that Farscape is produced by Hallmark Entertainment, and Nick and I can amuse ourselves endlessly trying to come up with Hallmark cards for Farscape occasions. But the core of that relationship is a deep love for the show: I do think it’s marvellous, really. And that extends to everyone involved with it, especially Crichton and Aeryn.

So Ben Browder just became one of those actors whom I’m always happy to see. And I liked him here, channeling aspects of Crichton’s good ol’ boy persona and a bit of Clint Eastwood. Of course, I should have realised that meant he was going to die.

After all, Crichton died at least three times, and I might have forgotten about another couple.

Also, when they interviewed Ben Browder about this role for SFX magazine, he said:

“Well, you know, I mean honestly, when you look around and you go, okay, what shows would you wanna be on, you know? Other than being able to go back and being on the original Star Trek, you know, I mean, yeah, Doctor Who! How could you not wanna be in Doctor Who at least once in your career? They do a brilliant job with the show so, you know, it was kind of a no-brainer when I got the offer. It was in the middle of pilot season here, which is a busy time. I was like, ‘I really should be in town to look for a series of my own, but no, I’ve got an offer to do Doctor Who, I’ve gotta do that.’”

So now I love him even more.

(The whole interview is here.)

I also rather liked the element of alien world-building they added into the Other Doctor’s character: that idea that he’s a man of faith and he knows what his actions will do for his chances in the afterlife. I don’t know if it was the writing (I do love Toby Whithouse, and hope you all took my advice to watch Being Human) or the delivery, but I found that speech convincingly plausible and alien, which is what you want of your science fiction, isn’t it?

I asked Nick what worked for him:

Me: I already have dibs on Spain and Ben Browder.
NICK: Well, Ben Browder. And I thought it was interesting that they kept him fairly ambiguous, the medical character. They kept you guessing to some extent almost to the end. And I think that was an ambivalence in the character himself, that he was uncertain about his own role. I thought that worked well.

Live-blogging Doctor Who Season Seven: "Dinosaurs on a Spaceship"

Posted 15 September 2012 in by Catriona

Synopsis

There were dinosaurs. And they were on a spaceship. That’s it.

Okay, it was a bit more complicated than that.

We open with the Doctor being sexually assaulted by Queen Nefertiti in Egypt in 1334BC. Fortunately for him, he’s interrupted by a call from the Indian Space Agency, who have detected a spaceship heading towards Earth and intend to blow it from the sky unless the Doctor can do something to divert it. Filled with the sudden, slightly inexplicable desire for a “gang”, the Doctor picks up John Riddell, an Edwardian big-game hunter, and then materialises around Rory and Amy in their living room, picking up Rory’s father Brian in the process.

They materialise on the spaceship, which they find is, just as the title promised, filled with dinosaurs.

BRIAN: A spaceship … driven by dinosaurs?
DOCTOR: Brian, please! That would be ridiculous. They’re probably just passengers.

The Doctor heads off with Rory and Brian to find the engines, which turn out to be on a beach, which is only slightly more surprising than the fact that they then get attacked by pterodactyls. Meanwhile, Amy (momentarily distracted by the more-than-slightly disturbing flirting between Nefertiti and Riddell) manages to get the computers to reveal that the vessel is a Silurian ark, looking for a new world. So what went wrong?

The answer to that is, roughly, Argus Filch. Or, more accurately, Solomon, an inter-galactic black-market trader, who has come aboard the ark with his two cut-price robots to gather the dinosaurs for sale. When the Silurians wouldn’t trade, the robots threw them out of the airlocks, a few at a time (see “What didn’t work for me”). But then Solomon was savaged by some raptors, in what isn’t really an example of contrapasso, but I really wanted to use that word for some reason, and now he can’t stand. Through a combination of threats and actually shooting people (namely, Brian), he convinces the Doctor to work on his legs sufficiently that he can stand (whereupon Nick and I said to each other, “Well, my title is purely honorary, and Harry here is only qualified to work on sailors”).

Among all these hijinks, which included riding a triceratops and the following dialogue:

DOCTOR: Have you got any vegetative material in your pants?
BRIAN: Just my balls.

which I’m a bit surprised they got away with in this time slot, the Doctor has run out of time to divert the ark, and the Indian Space Agency has targeted them with missiles. The Silurian ark needs to be piloted by two people of the same genetic line, which is a bit fortunate and a lovely bonding experience for the Williams men, so they can divert it from the Earth, but there’s still the question of the missiles.

So the Doctor manages to divert the missiles so that they blow up Solomon’s spaceship (rescuing Queen Nefertiti from his nefarious clutches at the same time), leaving us with a moral dilemma that we can discuss in the comments.

We end (almost, excluding Nefertiti running off with Riddell for completely inexplicable reasons) with a really quite lovely moment of Brian just sitting with a packed lunch, dangling his legs out of the open doors of the TARDIS, and watching the Earth below.

What didn’t work for me in this episode

Call it nit-picking, because it is, rather, but I’m not particularly convinced by the triceratops chasing a golf ball. I’m even less convinced by the fact that an animal that they keep emphasising is a herbivore would chase a ball in that fashion. Okay, they claimed he was interested in it because it was covered in plant matter, but let’s be honest: it was dog behaviour. And dogs chasing balls is much more the act of a predator than of a prey animal. I mean, have you ever tried to get a rabbit to fetch a ball? Exercise in futility, right there.

The triceratops also felt a bit like a Victorian orphan, to me. I mentioned this to Nick, and he said, “Huh?” But I mean that it felt as though they killed him just so we’d get a cheap emotional response, like an orphan in a Victorian novel. I don’t mean that it wasn’t a little sad, because it was. But compare that to, for example, Vincent Van Gogh seeing his own exhibition—there’s no comparison in terms of emotional impact, to me.

Maybe I just didn’t bond sufficiently with the triceratops?

I was also a wee bit unhappy with Nefertiti. I suppose that having her run off with a sexist big-game hunter is one way of explaining her disappearance from the historical record, though I don’t think it’s a theory to which many Egyptologists would subscribe. But it does seem a little rough on Akhenaten, who really doesn’t deserve to be called the human equivalent of a sleeping potion.

(I’m no Egyptologist, but if the Egypt sections take place in 1334BC, Nefettit’s husband would be Akhenaten by then, yes? And they’d be in Amarna, rather than Thebes, pursuing the ultimately ill-advised policy of worshipping the Aten in favour of all the other gods in Egypt’s pantheon? And would have some six daughters? This suggests to me that Nefertiti should also have been a little older than she was presented, especially given how she is presented in her bust (which definitely looks like a mature woman, to me). It also suggests that calling her husband Amenhotep IV was rather inconsistent. Again, though: not an Egyptologist.)

(Side note: in checking a question of spelling on IMDB, I noticed that someone’s entered Nefertiti’s naming of her husband as a goof, suggesting she gives herself as married to “Imhotep”, but I remain convinced she says “Amenhotep”, which isn’t wrong but is chronologically confusing.)

I always worry, too, when the Doctor’s actions seem unnecessarily brutal, and blowing up Argus Filch certainly falls into that category. Nick’s theory on this is that the moral code that Chris Chibnall posits in his Doctor Who episodes is rather at odds with the morality of Doctor Who generally, and I suppose that’s a fair reading. The ending did seem a little brutal, especially since, let’s face it, the Doctor’s flirted with genocide himself more than once.

Then again, never, ever press the Doctor’s buttons when it comes to the Silurians.

Finally, how long do you think it took them to chuck all those Silurians out of the airlocks? That’s a dedication to airlock deaths that even Robert Heinlein would envy.

What worked for me

I very much liked Rory’s relationship with his father. It felt grounded, normal, and plausible. I was slightly worried (especially after the seemingly unnecessary “We’re basically divorced!” sub-plot of last week) that this would be another moment of heightened and rather unnecessary emotional angst. But it wasn’t. Sure, there was some general child-to-father frustration (who hasn’t been there?), and I sensed an undertone of Rory’s family maybe thinking his choice of profession isn’t particularly manly, but all that just worked to deepen the relationship for me and keep it plausible.

Also, I’ll be honest: I can’t hate dinosaurs on a spaceship. I just can’t.

Live-blogging Doctor Who Season Seven: "Asylum of the Daleks"

Posted 7 September 2012 in by Catriona

So, here we are finally with the new series of Doctor Who. Has it felt like twelve and a half years to anyone else?

For this live-blogging, I’m going to follow the pattern I used for the Christmas special (right here if you didn’t read that one at the time), because people seemed happy with that, and it saves me a little stress on a Saturday night.

So, “Asylum of the Daleks”, anyone?

Synopsis

After the Oodness of the “Pond Life” prequel (see what I did there?), this episode begins with the Doctor, Amy, and Rory all being drawn into the parliament of the Daleks (along with the TARDIS, which turns out to be convenient). It seems that the Daleks have a secret asylum planet for Daleks who’ve gone insane. Which is something of a terrifying thought. But something’s gone wrong with the asylum planet, as evidenced by the bursts of Carmen that the Daleks have been intercepting. These turn out to come from the entertainment officer of a crashed ship, who has been trapped on the asylum planet for a year, whiling the time away making soufflés, playing opera, and wearing the kind of frock that isn’t really suitable day-time wear.

Since the Daleks are all too terrified to go down themselves (I guess they’re not keen on soufflés? Me neither), they’ve recruited the Doctor and his companions (because their records indicate the the Doctor needs companions) to head down and turn off the planet’s shielding, so the Daleks can destroy it.

They fit the three of them out with bracelets to protect them from the planet’s nanobots (which will otherwise turn them into Dalek slaves), throw them into a beam of light, and we’re down on an ice planet. Well, Amy and the Doctor are down on an ice planet. Rory has fallen straight down a shaft into the asylum itself. Fortunately, Amy and the Doctor are assisted by a nice astronaut. Unfortunately, he turns out to be a nice dead astronaut, as are all his crew. So Amy and the Doctor flee through a hatch, with Amy conveniently losing her protective bracelet, and into the asylum.

Thanks to the intervention of Oswin (the soufflé-obsessed entertainment officer from the crashed ship whose crew are now bracelet-stealing Dalek-zombies), both Rory and Amy and the Doctor are (separately) led through the maze of insane Daleks to a transport platform. Here, they can beam back to the Dalek ship, once Oswin drops the planet’s shields. Of course, as soon as the shields drop, the Daleks will blow the planet to smithereens, so Oswin doesn’t trust them to wait for her to come to them. She wants the Doctor to come to her.

Through Dalek intensive care.

Now there’s a scary phrase.

While the Doctor heads off, Rory and Amy have an emotional reconciliation over the fact that Amy’s going to become a Dalek soon. Except that she isn’t, because the Doctor’s slipped his bracelet onto her arm, apparently arresting the progression of the nanobots. I’ll complain about that below. (Hint: you’ll find it under “What didn’t work for me in this episode”). Still, Rory and Amy have a chance to argue about who loves whom more and why Amy kicked him out in the first place, and for more information on that, see “What didn’t work for me in this episode.”

The Doctor, having set up all this emotional dialogue because he can’t stop meddling, makes his way through Dalek intensive care, but his presence wakes up these insane Daleks, because these are the ones who’ve survived encounters with the Doctor. So we end with the Doctor pressed up against a steel door and screaming for Oswin to open the door because the Daleks are about two feet from him. But she doesn’t—instead, she hacks into the Dalek mainframe (the pathweb, it’s called, from memory) and wipes out all Dalek knowledge of the Doctor. And for my take on that, see “What I’m uncertain about.”

So now the Doctor can rescue Oswin and they can all beam happily back up to a ship full of homicidal pepperpots and then live happily ever after.

Right?

Wrong.

Because Oswin is a Dalek. All the soufflés, all the after-five dresses, all the cosy hammocks and keeping herself safe from the Daleks for a year? All delusions, brought about by her determination to remain human after being forced through a full Dalek transformation. She’s just a Dalek chained to a wall in the depths of the intensive care unit, because she’s one of the most insane Daleks of all.

So the Doctor can’t save her, but she can save him: she drops the shields, and as the Daleks begin to destroy the planet, the Doctor, Amy, and Rory beam right back into the TARDIS control room (is that possible? I guess it is for the Doctor) and away.

What didn’t work for me in this episode

Call me hard hearted, but Amy and Rory’s emotional turmoil didn’t work for me at all. It felt forced, since they’ve been nothing but mutually besotted through all sorts of long hard times, and yet here they are divorcing for … what? The ‘what’ was the least convincing part of this sub-plot, for me. Why, after all the various travails they’ve been through as a couple, why on earth would Amy just kick Rory out (sorry, “let him go”) rather than talk to him about the possibility of their not having any more children? I know they’re very, very young, but I don’t see her letting him go as a noble sacrifice: I’m afraid I see it as rather selfish (he gets no say in this?) and a bit dim (just talk to him!).

Then they get back together by the end of the episode anyway. Which always makes me cranky. Commit to your relationships, television writers! Commit! Breaking the characters up randomly is much more common than actually going whole-hearted after a relationship, so break the mould a little.

That said, I do actually like both Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill very, very much, so they were both touching in the actual reconciliation scene—I just didn’t think there was much narrative reason for us to be there.

The other aspect of the program that really didn’t work for me was the nanobots. I admit to something of general scepticism about nanobots anyway, but in this case, they seemed to be inconsistently applied. I understand that the Doctor was meddling, and wanted to provoke a reconciliation with Amy and Rory, so I see why he’d think it was a good idea not to mention that he’d given his own bracelet to Amy. But, then, if the nanobots were such a risk, why would he wait that long? Why wouldn’t he give his bracelet to Amy as soon as they saw the creepy dead astronauts waving her bracelet around in front of the hatchway? Why the big emotional scenes about Amy’s transformation, if he could have stopped it almost immediately? Why the fretting about the bracelets if it turned out that the Doctor didn’t need one anyway?

So many whys.

And, to add to the whys, a “how” and and “are”. How many times can “well, he’s a Time Lord” be used to patch over a slight hole in the plausibility of a narrative? And are there going to be any pay-offs down the road for the fact that Amy was exposed to the Dalek nanobots for what seemed like an unnecessarily long time? I mean, the satisfaction of Rory and Amy reconciling might be undercut if she grows a Dalek eye stalk out of her forehead. Not to mention what that will do to her modelling career.

I’m also moderately uncertain as to how Oswin was playing section of Carmen, under the circumstances, but I’m willing to accept that it might have something to do with being able to hack into the iTunes account of the crashed spaceship. Or the future equivalent of iTunes. Which is probably iTunes.

What worked for me

Maybe this is me being naive, but I did not see the fake-out with Oswin actually being a Dalek coming. Perhaps I should have, but I didn’t. And they even hinted at it by having the rudiments of Dalek props in her utility belt, and I still didn’t see it coming! My reward for being narratologically naive is that all the emotional pay-off of the episode rested in that one section, for me. That was far more satisfying than Amy and Rory’s reconciliation, as I mentioned above. I’m sure much of my shock at this moment was because I knew Jenna-Louise Coleman is to be the new companion, so when she turned out to be, you know, dead, it did come as something of a surprise.

Jenna-Louise Coleman was also completely adorable, which set my mind at ease about the change in crew. Nick and I are currently arguing about whether the forthcoming companion will be Oswin or not, and about whether this counts as unique in the history of introducing new companions.

(We know, before you start commenting, that it’s not quite unique: we’re just not sure whether they’re going to follow the River Song pattern of character introduction or the Princess Astra/Romana II pattern.)

I also found the Daleks in the actual asylum quite terrifying.

What I’m uncertain about

I had to add a whole new section to the live-blogging for this bit, but here’s my concern: I’m really not sure that the Doctor would be happy that the Daleks can’t remember him. I just … I’ve been watching many years, and I’ve seen many, many Dalek stories come and go, and I just … I’m uncertain. I’m distinctly uncertain that this would be something the Doctor would treat with glee.

I could be wrong, of course. It’s been known. On occasion. Not often.

Wondering About The Live-blogging?

Posted 2 September 2012 in by Catriona

Of course you are! No amount of neglect on my part could possible dampen your ardour for my Doctor Who live-blogging.

She says, modestly.

I shall be live-blogging season seven of Doctor Who, but despite the move to iView and in accordance with the spoiler policy on this blog, I’ll be posting the live-blogging immediately after the episode airs on free-to-air television. I’ll be using the new model of live-blogging that I tested for last year’s Christmas special, so if you really, really hated that, now’s your chance to let me know.

So watch this space next weekend, and you can add all your uncertainties and doubts right here.

You Can't Go Wandering Around Victorian London in Skins

Posted 15 April 2012 in by Catriona

It’s taken me a while to work out a means of blending my rampant Doctor Who fangirlishness with my research. Don’t get me wrong: I’m jolly glad I never decided to do a thesis on Doctor Who. But I am a bit surprised I didn’t hit this vein of research earlier.

Still, better late than never. So I’ve had a piece on Doctor Who and Australian national identity accepted (and, having seen the table of contents for that book, I can tell you it looks completely fascinating). And my current research? Well, this sums it up:

After all, if you’re going to be a fangirl, at least you can be a productive fangirl.

Strange Conversations: Part Four Hundred and Forty-Four

Posted 4 March 2012 in by Catriona

ME: Gosh, I really lucked out with you.
NICK: And I really lucked out with you.
ME: Not so much. Except that I’m a Doctor Who fan with boobs.
NICK: Well, those were my two criteria.

Strange Conversations: Part Four Hundred and Thirty-One

Posted 5 January 2012 in by Catriona

ME: I have a headache.
NICK: Do you want to take something for it?
ME: No.
NICK: Do you want to watch Murray Gold play “I Am The Doctor” on his piano on YouTube?
ME: No.
(Pause)
ME: Could you stop tapping the Doctor’s theme out on my arm, please?
NICK: Sorry.

Live-blogging Doctor Who Christmas Special: The Doctor, The Widow, and the Wardrobe

Posted 27 December 2011 in by Catriona

So here’s experiment one in new ways to talk about Doctor Who. I’m still calling it a live-blogging, but to be honest, there’s not much live about this one. So, in addition to any talk about the actual episode, I’m also interested in opinions about how this new model works for you. I’m not committed to it myself, so I’ll still try some other experiments with the new season.

But for now, on to “The Doctor, The Widow, and the Wardrobe”.

This live-blogging brought to you by the sound of a small dog voluptuously chewing his own foot and about to be spoken to firmly.

Synopsis

The Doctor, having foolishly blown up a spaceship without ensuring that he had ready access to the TARDIS, finds himself plummeting to Earth in a spacesuit, which he somewhat improbably manages to climb into while free-falling from orbit. This sparks a spirited debate in the living room about why this doesn’t immediately smoosh him when his fourth regeneration dies after a sixty-foot fall from a radio telescope, but it turns out the spacesuit is magic. He manages to find himself a nice woman who’s an appalling driver (cue cliche number one), who takes him back to his TARDIS, which is on Earth, despite the fact that he just blew up a spaceship in orbit while he was still on said spaceship, and despite the fact that he couldn’t possibly have controlled his free-fall from orbit enough to land within driving distance of the TARDIS.

Three years later, in 1941, the poor woman finds herself widowed when her husband is lost in his bomber over the English Channel. This sparks spirited debate number two, as my parents argue over whether or not he’s a bit old for military service, especially before they became desperate for men, and especially in 1941, before the bombers were called into really heavy service in Europe. Either way, he’s dead. And she chooses not to tell her children, but instead to make a wish (as the Doctor told her to do if she needed him) and to take the children to stay with their mad uncle.

Surprising no one, the mad uncle is missing, but the Doctor is posing as his caretaker, and has set the house up as a Christmas wonderland for the children. One thing he’s provided is a dimensional portal of some sort, disguised as a Christmas present.

I didn’t receive a single dimensional portal for Christmas this year.

Naturally, a small child crawls through the portal too early and, less naturally, finds himself in a winter wonderland of sentient trees. Soon enough, everyone ends up following him, only to find that the forest is about to be melted down (by Bill Bailey, of all people) by acid rain, and the trees are trying to evacuate their life force. The Doctor’s too “weak” to transport them in his mind, as is young Cyril. His sister Lily is “strong” but not strong enough. Luckily, their mother is sufficiently strong, apparently because she’s a mother (cue cliche number two). Seemingly, “weak” and “strong” are synonyms, in the language of these sentient trees, for “male” and “female”, even though I’m just going to go out on a limb (see what I did there) and state categorically that trees don’t see the world that way.

Either way, she manages to fly a giant golfball through the time vortex with the power of her mind.

Sadly, during this process, she inadvertently lets the children know that their father is dead. Luckily, they don’t have much of a chance to grieve for him, because she manages to travel back in time to the moment when his plane was lost, and draw him with her to Great Uncle Digby’s house. Then the Doctor heads off to have Christmas dinner with Amy and Rory.

What didn’t work for me in this episode

The Narnia angle. Let’s be honest: there really wasn’t one. The wardrobe wasn’t a wardrobe at all. Okay, there was this bit:

LILY: Why have you got a phone box in your room?
DOCTOR: It’s not a phone box. It’s my … wardrobe. I’ve just painted it to look like a phone box.

But that’s really the only attempt they’ve made to shoe-horn a Narnia theme into the episode. And while I admit I like the acknowledgement that the TARDIS is the spiritual descendant of that wardrobe the Pevensie children climbed into, I was expecting something a little closer to the original text, especially given last year’s rather effective Christmas Carol redux.

(I really don’t consider a World War II timeline and a winter wonderland setting to be intrinsically Narnian.)

The dimensional portal itself was nicely done, but I’m still not sure why the episode couldn’t have either used an actual wardrobe, had a stronger Narnia angle, or have dropped the (ultimately illusory) Narnia theme altogether.

The characterisation also didn’t work much for me. The children rather defaulted to cliches, and I couldn’t really feel much for the grieving widow (despite Claire Skinner being lovely), since we didn’t get much sense of her life with or love for her husband: we barely met him before he was dead, and everything else about their relationship was retrospective.

In fact, their relationship lead to this conversation:

MADGE: He said he’d keep on following me until I married him.
MY FATHER: Isn’t that called stalking?
NICK: Not in the 1920s.

Claire Skinner did really sell her heartbreak in that scene, albeit with a bit too much gasping for my liking, but without any narrative grounding up to that point, I wasn’t really committed to it.

And, on a similar note, I found the gender politics a little odd in this episode. Doctor Who has always been a rich source of discussion about gender politics (cue reference to easily sprained ankles here, or even to Helen Mirren saying she wants to be the Doctor, not his sidekick), but this episode seemed to default rather to unreconstructed and monolithic categories (women = strong and men = weak, for example), which just reinforced my sense that the story floated along on a fairly shallow pool of story-telling cliches.

What worked for me

Disclaimer: I’m not a good target for Christmas specials, because schmaltz tends to make me groan rather than make me feel happy about the universe and my place in it.

Not a whole lot worked for me in this episode, to be honest. As you might have gathered from the synopsis, I thought the plot was a wee bit cliched, as well as being rather thin and a little bit silly in places.

I admit to being delighted by the idea that Amy was attacking carollers with a water pistol. I can sympathise with that. I also did like the Doctor’s slightly stunned realisation that he was crying at the end, but that’s exclusively down to Matt Smith, whom I adore.

ME: So what did we like about this?
NICK: Oh, the first twenty minutes or so. Very much. Once it gets to the snow planet, I think it loses some complexity. I mean, there’s a mystery there, but it’s not the most exciting they’ve ever done.

That about sums this up for me. It was rather a thin episode, and some points that were picked up weren’t explored in any real detail or even with a strong degree of consistency. For example, why were the trees growing Christmas baubles? Why didn’t all the baubles hatch? Why were there two sentient wooden giants but every other life-form on the planet was a Christmas trees? Why didn’t the Doctor know that these sentient life-forms were being harvested for fuel? Why wasn’t he more outraged about that?

NICK: It was certainly visually very striking throughout. Um …

That about sums it up for me, too. It was no “End of Time”, of course, but neither was it “Blink” or “Vincent and the Doctor”.

Live-blogging Doctor Who Christmas Special 2011

Posted 26 December 2011 in by Catriona

Merry Christmas, lovely readers.

A brief update, for your delectation and elucidation.

I mentioned last year that I was finding the process of live-blogging rather heavy going, after all these years. I don’t want to abandon the process, but I do need to streamline it or shift it in some fashion, because I find I simply can’t keep up with it any more.

Tonight, I’m going to trial one method of streamlining the live-blogging. If it doesn’t work for you, let me know in the comments, and I’ll trial something else.

So tonight’s live-blogging won’t be going up live, as it used to. Instead, it’ll be up and available for comment within twenty-four hours. I’ll see if giving myself a bit of time to think about the episode revitalises the process for both me and for you.

Behold! The New Santa Paradigm!

Posted 10 December 2011 in by Catriona

When you’ve had a long year, you’re tired, and it’s almost Christmas, some things are inevitable.

I read once in an interview with Nancy Wake that she married her first husband because he was tall and could dance the tango, and when you tango with a tall, handsome man, some things are inevitable.

This is like that, except with tiny little Santa hats for Daleks:

The Daleks themselves seemed to find this situation more than a little bewildering:

Then, when your boyfriend says, “Those Daleks look like they’re going wassailing!”, inevitability kicks in once again:

Nick likes best the studious yellow Dalek, who’s approaching this whole wassailing process with the same seriousness with which he approaches xenophobic homicidal mania:

But I maintain my fondness for the bewildered ones:

(They’ll most likely exterminate me in the new year …)

Doctor Who and Victorian Patterns of Publishing

Posted 28 November 2011 in by Catriona

I’ve been thinking, over the past year or so, about the ways in which my professional interest in Victorian modes of publishing and my fangirl obsession with Doctor Who communicate with one another.

I’m not a cultural studies scholar (except in the most amateur of senses), nor will I ever be. But I can’t help—no doubt because I’m over educated in that highly specialised way that makes you unfit for most jobs—wondering how such things fit together. After all, I work on serial publications, and you can’t get more serial than television, can you?

So I’ve just sent off for consideration an article on Doctor Who and Australian national identity (following, of course, in the footsteps of the great Alan McKee), and I have sitting on my desktop half an article on Doctor Who and Victorian spectacular theatre. Let’s face it: neo-Victorianism is so hot right now, and there’s no reason why I can’t dip my toes in that water.

Then this happened: people started fluttering on Twitter about the rumours that a Doctor Who film was in the works. And I fluttered with everyone else, because I remember the last Doctor Who film, and the memories aren’t among my fondest.

But I wasn’t just fluttering because I feared that Doctor Who would be ruined: I’m old enough now and secure enough in my fangirlishness to never worry about that again. Doctor Who is one of those texts that’s down in the very bone and blood of me. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t watch Doctor Who, and only two other texts, two other men, occupy that same space in me: England’s three great national heroes, King Arthur, Robin Hood, and Doctor Who.

So, no: the film will spoil nothing for me, should it ever even exist.

What made me flutter was that, suddenly, everything sounded so familiar. And I thought, “I’ve seen this pattern somewhere before.”

I’ve seen it 150 years ago, in Victorian patterns of publishing.

It seems to me that television networks don’t know what to do with the sudden, radical shift that’s happened in television-watching patterns since the advent of DVDs. Because DVDs aren’t just a slightly different version of videotapes. The market saturation is far greater with DVDs than it ever was with videos—particularly with television shows. Admittedly, Doctor Who (like Star Trek and certain other programs) was always available on video, but there was never the expectation with television shows that they’d be available on video: those that were available were the exception, not the rule.

But now DVD boxsets are the rule, and that’s where the analogy with Victorian publishing patterns comes in.

Because we now experience these televisual texts two distinct ways.

At the first stage of consumption, they’re serial texts, as they always have been. Like so many Victorian novels (but not all), the greater narrative is delivered up to us in digestible chunks, on the publisher’s schedule. We watch it, we discuss it, and we wait for the release of the next chunk, on the same day next week.

Not much difference there (at the level of analogy) between the televisation of a serial text and the serialised publication of a novel in a periodical.

At the second stage of consumption, there’s the DVD boxset. And, certainly, this text is still serial: simply selling an entire season in one package doesn’t change its serial nature. And this is also true of nineteenth-century novels, especially in the years before the 1890s, when novels were, by default, three-volume affairs. Once Mudie’s and the other circulating libraries lost their control over the publishing industry and we started moving into two-volume and one-volume editions and then into cheap paperbacks, the essentially serial nature of the original text was, to some extent, elided by the fact that the story was contained within a single codex.

But serial or not, the text is consumed differently in a DVD boxset than it is on television, because we’re no longer trapped by the publisher’s release schedule: we can consume an entire disk, an entire season, an entire novel in one sitting, if we so choose.

So where does a putative Doctor Who film fit into this analogy? Why are people fluttering about it, when this pattern of publishing is so venerable?

There’s a precedent for films based on television programs in Victorian patterns of publishing, as well. But it’s not a three-volume novel. It’s the dramatic adaptations of novels that proliferated on the nineteenth-century stage.

When I was looking at dramatic adaptations of Eliza Winstanley’s serials on the suburban (East End) stage (which you can read about here if you’re curious), I isolated two telling features.

Firstly, these plays heavily advertised their similarity to the original serials, both in their advertising posters (featuring scenes from the periodical publication of the story and prominent use of the author’s name) and in their on-stage re-creation (largely through tableaux) of key illustrations from the texts. But secondly, they show little real interest in actually being faithful adaptations—which is hardly surprising, given that they were often on stage before the serial had actually ended. Key plot points, key characters, key themes: these are far less important to the dramatists than the superficial sense of similarity.

In this sense, the adaptations simultaneously parade and deny their nature as adaptations, much in the same way as the Daily Mail article I linked to above uses an enormous picture of Matt Smith and Karen Gillan even while it declares the likelihood of an American script-writer and an entirely different actor as the Doctor.

This is why I’m no longer fluttering about the vague possibility of a Doctor Who film, even if the sentence “TV’s Doctor Who is to be turned into a Hollywood blockbuster” makes my skin crawl.

It’s true that there’s a key point I’m skimming over here. The analogy stumbles slightly when you consider the relative cultural capital of films (high, even for Hollywood blockbusters) versus television (low, even for premium cable shows). The underlying assumption in much of the coverage of the putative Doctor Who film is that a film version elevates a lowly television program, which is not something critics would ever have said of an East End theatrical production, not matter how many punters it drew in.

But I’m still not fluttering.

Because you know what? There’s nothing new in this. This is a venerable pattern of publishing. And severely truncated and manipulated versions of Charles Dickens, or Mary Elizabeth Braddon, or even Eliza Winstanley didn’t destroy the texts from which they were derived.

And let’s face it: no one thinks of the theatrical versions of his texts when they think of Charles Dickens, do they?

Live-blogging Doctor Who Season Six: "The Wedding of River Song"

Posted 10 October 2011 in by Catriona

So here we are for the last episode of season six, and the last in a woefully delayed series of live-blogs. I’ve already made four typos (no, make that eight: I mistyped “typos” three times” and “no” once), which bodes well for the rest of this live-blogging.

Thank goodness it’s not actually live. (And there are typos nine to twelve. Actually, make that nine to sixteen.)

I’m going to stop counting my typos now (ironically, the first sentence I’ve typed without typos all live-blog).

Previously, the Doctor talks to a baby, and River is forced into an astronaut’s suit. Also, there are robots operated by tiny people.

In London, in 2011, there are steam trains. Also dirigibles. Dirigibles are cool now. Pterodactyls are less cool, but there are those, too. And Romans chariots. And Romans. The War of the Roses has entered its second year. And Dickens is on morning television. Winston Churchill is Holy Roman Emperor, and has his own mammoth.

I would like my own mammoth.

Churchill’s personal doctor is a Silurian, but he’s surprised that Churchill wonders why the time and date never change. Churchill’s bothered by this, and calls for his soothsayer, whom he’s previously thrown in the Tower.

Hand’s up who wasn’t surprised that the soothsayer was the Doctor?

CHURCHILL: Explain to me in terms I can understand. What happened to time?
DOCTOR: A woman.

Oh, Moffat. I love you, but sometimes I wonder why.

Credits!

Earlier, the Doctor is doing a voiceover. He’s also wearing a cowboy hat. And he’s taunting a Dalek. But it’s a bit safe, because the weapons system has been disabled. The Doctor’s looking for information—everything the Daleks know about the Silence. And it leads him to a place that I’m pretty sure was called Calisto Something-or-other, but I was typing and not really paying attention.

Either way, it’s the home space of someone who used to be an envoy of the Silence, but has been dead for six months. This Gideon is a robot powered by tiny people, which delights the Doctor as much now as it did in “Let’s Kill Hitler.”

The Doctor wants the Gideon-robot to tell him the Silence’s weakest link, and, oddly enough, the weakest link is playing Live Chess.

It’s live because there are massive electrical currents running through the pieces.

DOCTOR: I was going to lie down and take it. But, you know, before I do, I’d like to know why I have to die.

The Doctor concedes the game, and his opponent takes him to a place with horrifically animated skulls. And, really, being beheaded alive isn’t really enough of an explanation for why these skulls are still alive and surviving on a diet of rats.

But some heads are in boxes, if you’re rich enough to afford it, and the big blue guy from last season’s cliffhanger is rich, so he’s in a box.

Also, the Doctor’s chess opponent is being eaten alive by skulls, but this is a pretty fast-paced episode, so let’s leave it with the Doctor’s friendly chat with blue Dorian’s head.

Churchill isn’t really comfortable with this episode, and I’m not surprised.

Dorian’s not bothered by his situation, because he has a media chip in his head and excellent wi-fi, but the Doctor’s already moved on from that.

On the fields of something unspellable, at the fall of the eleventh (the Eleventh?), when no one can fail to speak or fail to speak the truth, the question will be asked. And that’s why the Doctor has to die. Because the Silence cannot have that question answered, or Silence will fall.

Dorian tells the Doctor the question, but we don’t hear it. We do see the Doctor run off with Dorian’s head in a box, as the head in a box tries to convince him that now he knows what the question is, he knows why he has to die.

Churchill also thinks that the Doctor should die. And even the Doctor seems a bit resigned to this.

Yet the really curious thing is that the Doctor and Churchill are now in the Senate chamber, though they don’t remember leaving Churchill’s office, and the Doctor has mysterious marks on his arms.

Back in the TARDIS, the Doctor wants to know why he has to die in Utah, but Dorian says it’s a still point in time, which makes it easier to create a fixed point in time. But the Doctor says he has a time machine, and he can go anywhere he likes. He’s on the phone, as though to prove this.

DOCTOR: I can go on all Jack’s stag parties in one night.

But he can’t see Brigadier Lethbridge Stewart, because the nurse on the other end of the phone says that the Brigadier died some months ago. They’re sorry, but they didn’t know how to get in touch with the Doctor.

Whimper.

This is the breaking point for the Doctor.

He asks the robot powered by tiny little people to deliver his last messages (ominous blue envelopes) to his friends. The robot asks if there’s anything else it can do, but the Doctor doesn’t answer. He’s talking to Churchill, who wonders why he wanted his friends to see his death.

DOCTOR: Amy and Rory. The Last Centurion and the Girl Who Waited. However dark it got, if I turned round, there they’d be.

This Doctor reminds me of the Seventh Doctor in the strength and openness of his faith in his companions.

But I’m running behind the narrative, because now River has risen from the lake in her astronaut suit. She tells the Doctor that she can’t fight it and she can’t stop it, because the suit is in control. He reassures River, saying she won’t even remember this. He even points out that River from the future is watching his death, “So that you know that this is inevitable and you are forgiven. Always and completely forgiven.”

He says goodbye to River, as she raises her weaponry. But he doesn’t die, and he seems a bit surprised by that. This is, after all, a fixed point in time.

RIVER: Fixed points can be re-written.
DOCTOR: No, they can’t. Of course they can’t. Who told you that?

And now we’re back with Churchill, who wonders why the Doctor has never heard of downloads. But that’s not important. What’s important is that the invisible Silence creatures are clustered on the ceiling, and things are not looking good for our plucky heroes.

Until Amy Pond turns up.

But no: she’s wearing an eye-patch. That’s not good. Only evil people wear eye-patches. And that seems borne out by the way she knocks the Doctor out.

But then he wakes up again. And he’s on a chaise longue. Chaise longues aren’t evil, are they?

Turns out they’re not. This Amy’s not evil. She has all the old memories of the Doctor, but she’s still wearing an eye-patch.

(I like the little joke about the Doctor looking great in his toga. Oh, Amy and your soft spot for Italians.)

Amy is a secret-agent lady now, and she has an office on a train. The Doctor wants to know where Rory is, but Amy, showing the Doctor an idealised portrait of Rory, says that she doesn’t know.

AMY: I can’t find him but I love him very much, don’t I?
DOCTOR: Apparently.

Luckily, he turns up then as “Captain Williams”. Bless Rory. How did he become so sexy?

They’re heading for Cairo and also there was some important stuff about how time is fracturing, but I didn’t live-blog it because it was complicated and not as funny as the bits I did blog.

Then the train runs into a pyramid. This almost makes up for the lack of that Christmas special about an Egyptian goddess loose on the Orient Express in space.

One day, I will learn how to spell “Egyptian”.

Inside the pyramid are roughly one hundred of the Silence, who’ve been captured and held in tanks of liquid that insulate their control of electricity. And Amy tell someone, “We’re in. He’s on his way.”

He has to pause briefly to try and convince Rory to ask Amy out because Amy said, “You were a Mr Hottie, and she’d like to go out with you for texting … and scones.”

I would totally be up for texting and scones.

TMI?

And, of course, the mysterious woman behind this is River. But Madame Cavorian from Demon’s Run is also there.

MADAME CAVORIAN: Oh, why couldn’t you just die?
DOCTOR: Did my best, dear. I showed up. You just can’t get the psychopaths these days.

There’s some typical flirting, which makes Madame Cavorian feel ill, but then the Doctor tries to grab River—purely because this will cause time to collapse back in on itself, bringing them back to the moment when the Doctor should die.

And elsewhere, water starts dripping from the ceiling, as the Silence start breaking out of their cells. But River and the Doctor haven’t finished talking about the various stories circulating about him, and her, and them.

DOCTOR: Idle gossip.
RIVER: Archaeology.
DOCTOR: Same thing.

Still, a hundred-odd Silence breaking out of their cells is a bit of a distraction. That and the fact that the Silence can control the eye-drives that they’re all wearing, electrocuting the wearers.

Madame Cavorian stops being so delighted about this when her own eye-drive starts sparking.

The Doctor wants to end this now, but River and Amy ask that they can at least show him what they’re working on.

Rory stays behind to cover their exit. Amy reminds him to take off his eye-drive before it activates.

RORY: It has activated, ma’am. But I’m no use to you if I can’t remember.

He’s debilitated by his eye-drive as the Silence burst through the door, but luckily Amy shows up with a sub-machine gun. Or something semi-automatic, anyway.

As Amy and Rory leave, Madame Cavorian (whose eye-drive has fallen partway off) calls out to Amy, asking her for help.

AMY: You took my baby from me. And hurt her. And now she’s all grown up and she’s fine. But I’ll never see my baby again.
MADAME CAVORIAN: But you’ll still help me. Because he would. And you’d never do anything to disappoint your precious Doctor.
AMY: The Doctor is very precious to me. But you know what else he is, Madame Cavorian? Not here.

And she readjusts Madame Cavorian’s eye-drive.

AMY: River Song didn’t get it all from you. Sweetie.

As Amy and Rory leave, Amy tells Rory they should get a drink sometime. Fine, says Rory. And married, Amy adds. This is also fine by Rory.

At the top of the pyramid, surrounded by expensive special effects, River has been sending out a distress call to everything, in every time: “The Doctor is dying. Please, please help.”

The Doctor says that this is stupid, and worse than that, he finds her embarrassing. Oh, Doctor: self-loathing is hardly an attractive trait.

The Doctor says that he has to die, but River can’t let him die without knowing how much he is loved—and not just by her, though she obviously places a bit of a premium on that.

DOCTOR: River. River. Why do you have to be this? Melody Pond. Your daughter. I hope you’re both proud.
RORY: I’m not sure I completely understand.
AMY: Oh, we got married and had a kid and that’s her.
RORY: Okay.

Then the Doctor and River get hand-fasted, which seems a bit pagan for as advanced a civilisation as the Time Lords. I mean, even in Robin of Sherwood, people got married with a proper monk, and that show was all about the misty (and mystic) Saxon bollocks. Okay, except for that one time with Owen of Clun, and he was evil. And a bit Welsh.

Which show am I live-blogging again?

When I return from Sherwood, the Doctor and River are married (or hand-fasted) and the Doctor’s calling her “wife” (which I refuse to admit it a bit sexy), and then they kiss and time snaps back into place.

Which means the Doctor’s dead.

Oh, well. The show will probably come back after another sixteen-year hiatus, no?

But wait: River has popped in to visit her old mum, having just climbed out of the wreck of the Byzantium, and they’re sharing a bottle of white wine in some seriously gorgeous wicker garden furniture.

Was that a middle-class moment or a middle-aged moment?

They compare time streams, and Amy’s still flipping out over the Doctor’s death, but River says of course he’s not dead.

Amy says she didn’t mean the younger versions of the Doctor, and River says that she didn’t either. Because the thing is that while the Doctor lies all the time, so does River. She has to, she says. Pretending that she didn’t know that Amy was her mother, pretending not to recognise a space-suit in Florida. But this secret is something that has Amy and River and the newly arrived Rory dancing around the garden.

RIVER: Of course I’m sure. I’m his wife.
AMY: And I’m his … mother-in-law.
RIVER: Father dear, I think Mother might need another drink.

Because of course the Doctor’s not dead! We see that when he turns up with Dorian’s head. Again.

How could he be dead when he has access to a robot full of tiny little people? He barely got singed in that boat, he says.

DORIAN: And Dr Song? In prison all her days.
DOCTOR: Her days, yes. Her nights—well, that’s between her and me.

The head of Dorian says that the question still waits.

DORIAN: The first question. The question that must never be answered. Hidden in plain sight. The question you’ve been running from all your life. Doctor Who? Doctor Who? Doctor Who?

And I’m going right out on a limb and saying that I did not see that pay-off coming, and it might be the most satisfying thing that’s happened to me all season. I’ve always seen “Doctor Who” as indicative, and to have it flipped to the interrogative? Well, I’m looking forward to seeing how that pays off.

I’ll keep you all informed about any decision I make about the live-blogging for next season but rest assured: there’ll always be a discussion space here for Doctor Who, whatever else happens.

Live-blogging Doctor Who Season Six: "Closing Time"

Posted 3 October 2011 in by Catriona

Back to your previously scheduled Monday-night, slightly delayed live-blogging. I really must come up with a more permanent solution for next season: I’m thinking about the options as we speak.

Well, no: not as we speak. But at other moments, when I’m not distracted by slightly delayed live-blogging.

We open outside a shop called Sanderson and Granger, where mysterious flickerings are occurring in the lights, and the sales assistant is whinging that her telly went off in the middle of Top Model last night. But she’s sent off to meet her boyfriend while her manager does the changing rooms.

Elsewhere, Sophie (from “The Lodger”) is being sent off to have a bit of a well-deserved rest, while Craig tells her she doesn’t need to label the food.

The changing rooms are a mess, which is no surprise.

Craig rings his mother to tell her that he can cope perfectly well without Sophie. But it seems a good thing that the Doctor has just turned up on his doorstep. He tells Craig that he doesn’t like the way they’ve redecorated (it’s a new house) and then freaks out that Craig isn’t on his own as he said he was.

Craig tries desperately to stop the Doctor opening a door.

The manager worries about mysterious noises in the changing rooms.

The Doctor wakes Craig’s baby—and hands up who saw that coming?

The manager is eaten by a Cyberman (well, sort of), and hands up who saw that coming? Okay, that’s a lie: I didn’t see that coming.

Credits!

Craig’s baby is rather adorable. And Craig is completely freaking out, because he can’t cope with the baby. But the Doctor can (he has, after all, been a father and a grandfather), and Craig wants to be taught how to cope with babies.

DOCTOR: What did you call him? Will I blush?
CRAIG: No, we didn’t call him ‘The Doctor’.

The baby calls himself Stormaggedon, Dark Lord of All.

You may call me that from now on. I’ll settle for “Stormy”. Actually, no: we have an awesome administrative officer called Stormy. I wonder if her full name is Stormageddon?

There’s some babbling about how the Doctor is being social and having a laugh, but, of course, as Craig points out, the Doctor has his “noticing face” on. But he doesn’t want to notice things, because he’s on his “farewell tour”. He shushes Craig (it’s a cute conceit, and I missed the first example of it), kisses Stormageddon, and leaves.

Next thing you know, he’s working in a toy shop, and being a big hit with the kiddies, including losing control of a toy helicopter.

It’s true: adults love lamps.

Well, I love lamps. And I’m adult. Chronologically, anyway.

DOCTOR: I’m the Doctor. I work in a shop now, and I’m here to help.

He introduces Craig to Yappy the robot dog (“Not as much fun as I remember”) and then a Cybermat runs across the floor. We don’t know it’s a Cybermat yet, but that doesn’t count as a spoiler, because it’s Monday.

It’s definitely a Cybermat.

And some people have been disappearing, though they’ve been bumped off the front page by a local girl who’s been kicked out off Britain’s Got Talent.

DOCTOR: But no one’s noticed yet, because they’re all too excited about Nina’s emotional journey, which, in all fairness, is quite inspiring.

There’s also lift-based banter (and, remember, lifts aren’t funny. George the cuckoo taught us that), and then Craig and the Doctor are in a mysteriously dark place, which the Doctor tries desperately to stop Craig from noticing.

DOCTOR: Because I love you.
CRAIG: You love me?
DOCTOR: Yes, Craig, it’s you. It’s always been you.

Then he offers to kiss Craig (“I’m a bit out of practice, but I’ve had some wonderful feedback”), but that’s not enough to stop Craig from noticing the Cybermen.

The Doctor wants Craig to leave, but Craig says that last time, people died, people who didn’t know the Doctor. He says the safest place to be is right next to the Doctor.

CRAIG: You always win.
DOCTOR: Those were the days.

But Craig’s faith is charming, despite the Doctor’s deliberate undercutting of Amy’s faith in him last episode, and the two of them head back into the shop to investigate, where they’re immediately mistaken for a couple by one of the Doctor’s co-workers.

DOCTOR: Partner. Yes. I like it. Is it better than companion?
SHOP ASSISTANT: Companion? Sounds a bit old-fashioned. No need to be coy these days.

The Doctor hears about the silver rat-thing (Cybermat!) and Craig gets mistaken for a pervert by asking a young shop assistant about lady’s wear.

Surely he can’t be that naive? Or can he?

After knocking over a rack of bras, Craig is rescued by the Doctor, who fortuitously hears about the missing supervisor, and they’re off to the changing room.

CRAIG: How do you do that? It’s a power, isn’t it? An alien power. I bet you exude some sort of weird alien gas that makes everyone love you.

After opening every possible curtain (“Sorry, madam! I’d try that in red if I were you!”), they find where Shona was snatched by a Cyberman, and then plan to stake out the shop to try and catch a Cybermat. But, first, they need to have a bit of a tiff, and Craig storms off while the Doctor rants about coincidence—just before turning round and seeing Amy (Rory trailing behind carrying the bags) giving a little girl an autograph.

Amy, it seems, is the new face of a perfume called “Petrichor” (“For the Girl Who’s Tired of Waiting”). That sounds like a nice scent to me, but then I’m currently wearing a perfume that smells like woodsmoke on my skin, so the smell of dust after rain seems quite appealing, and well suited to a Brisbane spring.

CRAIG: Can’t you put that on quiet?
DOCTOR: No. It’s a sonic screwdriver. Sonic means sound!

While I was ranting about perfume, the Doctor and Craig caught themselves a Cybermat, there was some moderately distasteful banter about Stormaggedon wanting a hot babysitter, and George was eaten by a Cyberman.

Well, not eaten, actually. Just killed and left on the floor.

And the Doctor takes a blow to the head, but is fortuitously rescued by George. No, not George. George is dead. Craig. He’s rescued by Craig.

He’s lucky to be alive (The Doctor, not George. He’s dead. And what’s with all the Georges in this show?), but the Cyberman’s arm was damaged and, since the Doctor’s not compatible, they’ve just left him on the floor and dragged George away.

Back at the base (Craig’s house), Craig nips down the shops and Stormaggedon starts crying. So the Doctor nips in to be completely adorable with him, thereby radically increasing Matt Smith’s female fan base.

DOCTOR: That was crabby. No, that was old. But I am old, Stormy. I am so old. So near the end. But you, Alfie Owens, you are so young. Aren’t you? And you know, right now, everything’s ahead of you. You could be anything. You could walk among the stars.

And then he turns Stormy’s star-light nursery decoration into a wonderful swirl of nebulas and real stars.

Seriously, that shot of the Doctor kissing Stormy will probably end up pinned to bedroom walls somewhere. And I say that as a woman who’s not particularly sentimental about babies. But it’s so damn sweet.

And then the Cybermat attacks.

The Doctor legs it out the back door with Stormy as Craig comes in the front door with the milk and it immediately attacked by the Cybermat.

So the Doctor sticks Alfie in the seat on the back patio and then throws himself through the glass kitchen doors, to the rising strains of the Doctor’s theme.

There’s much grappling with the Cybermat and some opportune jokes (“Don’t worry, I have an app for that”), and then the Cybermat is dead. This time, it’s definitely dead, whereas before it was playing possum.

You know, that baby’s awfully cute. Maybe that’s why the Doctor’s really beating himself up over the danger he’s just put them in.

DOCTOR: I am a stupid, selfish man. Always have been.

Craig tries to point out that the whole planet would have been fried without the Doctor, but the Doctor tells him that he’s going to die. The Doctor, not Craig. Tomorrow. The Doctor’s going to die tomorrow.

But Craig falls asleep in the middle of the Doctor’s soliloquy. And when he wakes up, the Doctor’s left a note on the fridge saying that he’s gone to stop the Cyberman.

Craig’s not thrilled about this, so he straps Stormy into his papoose and heads off after the Doctor, how’s currently trying out all his theories on himself, while randomly pressing walls until he finds the Cybermen’s ship.

Remind me not to try on any clothes in the changing room, just in case there’s a Cyberman behind the mirror.

Ooh, nice distance shot of the Cybership. And, of course, the Doctor lets himself right in. It’s a bit of a mess, though—I’ll have to remember that, in case Cybermen come in and tell me my house is a bit cluttered.

Craig leaves Stormy with the Doctor’s chatty co-worker, and dashes off into the changing room to help the Doctor.

Apparently, the ship has been re-awakened by the council’s plan to lay new power cables. Now that just goes to prove that the council shouldn’t bother doing any practical works at all. Just leave everything as it is, in case you wake up a Cybership.

The Doctor gives them a chance to deactivate themselves before he deactivates them, but he’s quickly over-powered (though fortunately not compatible for upgrade). Unfortunately, Craig (who has just burst into the Cybership) is compatible for conversion, and the Doctor’s best chance of stopping it has just been crushed by a Cyberman.

The Doctor talks frantically about his belief (in “all of you”—all humans or all people or all his companions?), but it looks as though the conversion is going ahead. And it is, until Alfie starts weeping and the noise comes through on the shop security cameras (though which, I assume, the Cybermen are looking for potential victims). And that noise triggers the emotion centres of Craig’s brain, which is only midway through the conversion process), and the Doctor does something clever and difficult to type, which basically means that the Cybermen and their ship are all destroyed by a baby’s screaming.

Well, we’ve all been there.

CRAIG: I blew them up with love.
DOCTOR: No, that’s impossible. And also grossly sentimental and over-simplified.

After a bit of casual shopping, Craig manages to accidentally use the Doctor’s staff discount.

SHOP ASSISTANT: It’s nice for baby to have two daddies who love each other.

Damn straight.

And then the Doctor disappears again, but only far enough to do all Craig’s house-cleaning for him, and also to repair the window that he’d smashed through.

DOCTOR: Even with time travel, getting glaziers on a Sunday—tricky.

After a bit of baby-related banter, the Doctor steps into his stoic persona, nicks Sophie’s familiar-looking, dark-blue stationery, and heads off to America, but only after Craig gives him a cowboy hat.

As Sophie knocks on the front door (she forgot her keys), the Doctor steps out the back door.

Just in time to miss Alfie’s first word (“Doctor”).

DOCTOR: Well then, old girl, one last trip, eh?

But he looks over from the TARDIS, and sees some kids. He heads over to them.

DOCTOR: Hey. I’m the Doctor. I was here to help. And you are very, very welcome.

He tips his hat, and he’s off.

And we’re with River, who’s wearing academic robes and reading accounts of the Doctor from the small children to whom he just tipped his hat. But she’s interrupted by the eyepatch-wearing woman from Demon’s Run, who congratulates River on her Ph.D (hence the robes) and tells her the story of the Doctor’s death. Because that story begins here, as we see as they force River into as astronaut’s suit, despite her struggles, and throw her into Lake Silencio to the sound of the eyepatch-wearing woman’s doggerel nursery rhyme.

Oh, well. That can’t possibly go wrong.

Can it?

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