by Catriona Mills

Articles in “Doctor Who”

Live-blogging Doctor Who: The Sontaran Stratagem

Posted 27 July 2008 in by Catriona

Aha! This time I have prepared myself in advance, and am sitting here a good ten minutes before the episode actually starts, watching extended sports coverage on ABC News.

Seriously, when did it come about that the sports bulletin started at quarter past the hour? There must be more actual news in the world than can be included in a fifteen-minute bulletin.

Eh, c’est la vie: that’s Australia’s sports madness for you, I suppose.

See, now they’re claiming the All Blacks are rubbish because they’ve just lost two games in a week. Two games versus South Africa and Australia, I might add: two equally strong sporting countries. Oh, well: I’ve never cared for Union, so I’m not that fussed.

What does this have to do with Doctor Who? Absolutely nothing!

Why am I writing about it instead of saving my energy? No idea!

Aha! (Again.) The news has finished—though it lasted long enough for me to add another post, blogging addict that I am—and we’re heading towards Doctor Who and the Sontarans.

Watching an ad. for Foreign Correspondent has reminded me—well, Nick reminded me—that Tiananmen Square occurred in 1989. Damn! When did I get old?

And here we are! An attractive female journalist being thrown out of Rattigan Academy by a group of cultists in red tracksuits.

NICK: Newspaper journalists in the Doctor Who universe are remarkably stupid. And UNIT is supposed to be a secret organisation.

He’s tough to please, that one.

But, really, if she’s investigating deaths associated with ATMOS Systems (wait for that joke!), why the hell does she have ATMOS activated in her car? Daft girl.

She still doesn’t deserve to drive straight into the canal. That’s my fourth least-favourite death.

Ah, Donna driving the TARDIS! I love the relationship between her and the Doctor.

(Hang on, “her and the Doctor”? Yes, “her” is the objective pronoun as well as the possessive, isn’t it? Oh, never mind.)

Woo hoo! Who’s ringing? Can only be . . . Martha!

Yay, Martha! I love you, Martha!

Ooh, Nick tells me that the director of this episode also directed Jekyll. I really enjoyed Jekyll.

DONNA: She’s engaged, you prawn.

I love that line! And I love the way Donna is completely free of any kind of jealousy or discomfort around the other companions. I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again—it’s my favourite part of her character.

UNIT! Ah, UNIT! You were such a huge part of my childhood. But where’s Brigadier Lethbridge Stewart? And Yates? (The prat.) And Benson? I love you, Benson!

Nick tells me the uniforms are all wrong. And that they’re wearing their berets in such a way as to cause their sergeant majors to give them at least a thousand push-ups each.

Homeworld Security? That’s a frightening term.

The bit where Donna demands—and gets—a salute makes me laugh and laugh and laugh.

Martha checked the biopsies? Aren’t biopsies pre-mortem? I think she means autopsies.

I admit, ATMOS sounds too good to be true. Fits into every car? Reduces CO2 emissions to zero? Twenty quids’ worth of shopping vouchers if you introduce a friend? Sign me up! Ah, but then I’d meet my fourth least-favourite death, wouldn’t I? A dilemma!

NICK: Ah! It’s Sergeant Cannon Fodder and Corporal Dead Meat.

On the other hand, these two are tossers. I don’t think they deserve their (spoiler!) fate, but they are tossers.

Okay, giant, creepy, alien vat. I have some advice for you, UNIT chappies: do not attempt to open it. Seriously. Even Corporal Dead Meat agrees with me, Sergeant Cannon Fodder.

Their gauntlets are kind of cool, though, with the padded back pieces.

Ah, green goo. No . . . Ah! Thing leaping out of the goo! Ew, and the creepy pieces of flesh over the mouth. Oh, that’s just wrong.

Nick thinks these two are inconsistently written, veering between scientific curiosity and angling for promotion.

SONTARAN: Words are the weapons of womenfolk!
ME: Yeah, well . . . . pffft!
NICK: I’m not sure that Sontarans even have womenfolk. They are clones, after all.

So it was just random misogyny. That makes it worse.

Woo hoo! Mike, from The Young Ones. As a Sontaran. I have lived my entire life waiting for this moment. Sort of.

The Doctor can be a hypocrite. He’s not always insisted that people carrying guns stand ten feet away from him at all times.

Ah! The first time that Donna uses her actual skills to help people. She’s right: the fact that the factory workers have no sick days—that is weird.

Oh, I don’t trust a child genius. They’re all . . . creepy. On television, anyway.

The Doctor wants to go to a hothouse for geniuses? Because he gets lonely? You arrogant man. Though I do love you.

Martha has had a worse run than most companions—though that doesn’t justify the cliche she’s just brought out about the Doctor being like fire. That’s a little weak.

And here are Cannon Fodder and Dead Meat, back but under Sontaran control.

Jenkins: he’s a pretty boy. And he seems sweet. I hope he doesn’t die at any point.

I love this exchange between the Doctor and Donna, when she’s explaining that she’s going home and he’s talking about all the planets they could have travelled to—none of which we ever see them going to. And she just lets him keep nattering—ah, I do love you, Donna. He is a great, big, outer-space dumbo.

Nick tells me there’s some anxiety about Polish migrant workers in the U. K., but he’s not sure whether this is critique or just playing up to it. I’ve not come across that anxiety.

(No, no! Martha, don’t go with Dead Meat and Cannon Fodder, you fool!)

I remember there was a lot of anxiety about Polish refugees during World War Two, but that was for an entirely different reason.

It’s only episode four— we really don’t need these Donna flashbacks. I don’t think they work, per se. We know what she’s gone through—but the way she breaks down when she sees her grandfather breaks my heart.

He’s so wonderful, the grandfather. But I never knew my biological grandfathers, and the man I called Granddad (my lovely neighbour) from the age of four died late last year, so maybe I’m biased. (Last time I saw Granddad, before he died, he said, “Well, you got fat, didn’t you?” I love you too, Granddad.)

The fact that Donna confesses to her grandfather but not to her mother—that’s a nice piece of character development.

Ah, so Jenkins is called Ross. I still hope he doesn’t die.

Ah, here’s the child genius. I missed a lot of this last time, because I geeked out and had to leave the room to grab my computer. Embarrassing? Not at all.

RATTIGAN: If only that [moving to another planet] was possible.
DOCTOR: If only that were possible. Conditional clause.

First response: Hee!
Second response: Actually, that’s not a function of a conditional clause, is it? It’s using the plural because it’s the subjunctive mood, isn’t it?
Third response: Oh, just watch the programme.

SONTARAN: We have an intruder!
DOCTOR: How did he get in? Intruder window?
ME: Hee!

Also, back five minutes, I agree with the Doctor—we don’t call Ross a grunt. We love Ross. He’s pretty.

DOCTOR: Now, Ross, don’t be rude: you look like a pink weasel to him.

Tennant is lovely in this episode, completely manic.

Is it part of the standard Sontaran mythos (wait, those two clones don’t look anything alike, which kind of undercuts Rattigan’s question about how they tell each other apart) that the valve on the back of their heads is there to force them to face their enemies in battle? I don’t remember that.

Back to poor old Martha, who’s now facing a Sontaran whose nickname is “The Blood-Bringer.” That’s sort of creepy, but not as creepy as the thing in the ooze.

Nick points out that the Sontaran ship is a lovely piece of CGI—and he’s right. But Nick’s a CGI junkie, and I’m not.

Ooh, Martha clone. And Freema Agyeman in goo, which I’m sure pleased those fanboys with a certain kink.

Hang on, ATMOS in the jeep. Doctor and lovely Ross, you might want to jump out of there at some point. Ooh, the Doctor’s clever. He’s just like James T. Kirk—who talked how many computers to death while he was captain of the Enterprise? Six or seven?

NICK: ATMOS must have a Kirk circuit.

We really are soul mates!

I think the point where the Doctor turns up on Donna’s doorstep and says, “You won’t believe the day I’ve had” is adorable—they do rely on each other, in a way that isn’t creepily co-dependent.

No! Don’t talk to Martha! She’s a creepy clone, now!

The fact that they called Donna “The Little General” when she was younger—I wonder if that’s why I like her? My family always used to say that I was destined to end up the dictator of a small, South American country.

(They do love me. I think.)

And now the Doctor’s set off ATMOS. That was a daft thing to do.

Don’t get in the car, Donna’s grandfather! That’s a stupid thing to do!

I actually find this endpoint rather frightening—we live on a main road, and the fumes are bad enough without ATMOS.

(On another note, I was devastated when Martha turned up only to be taken out of play halfway through the episode. That’s not what I anticipated.)

Ha! Sontaran haka! Lovely.

NICK: You’re a strange boy, Luke.

And that’s the episode. The first two-parter of the season—and appropriately followed by an advertisement for “The Cars That Ate China.”

Next week: Nuclear attack against a spaceship lingering just outside our atmosphere? Really? Is that a good idea?

Oh, well: we’ll see.

Doctor Who: The Finale (Warning: Spoilers)

Posted 21 July 2008 in by Catriona

To assuage the impatience of all of us who are still burning to discuss the Doctor Who finale, this is the place. Or, at least, the comments thread is the place.

But be warned: here be spoilers.

If you haven’t seen the episode and don’t want to spoil yourself (and I recommend not spoiling yourself in advance), don’t go near the castle. I mean, the comments.

Live-Blogging Doctor Who: Planet of the Ood

Posted 20 July 2008 in by Catriona

I’m running a little late on this live-blogging, thanks to a slightly delayed dinner (leftover salads and sliced meats with pita bread—yummy! I would have pavlova for dessert, but I had it for breakfast. I do like my unusual breakfast foods, and there’s only so long I can resist pavlova for.)

So I’m not live-blogging the weather this time, and actually have no idea what the temperature is supposed to be. I suppose I’ll find out tomorrow.

Ah, here we go—creepy Ood advertising campaign. The Ood themselves are creepy—and fifty credits seems very low for a slave. I do like the Andy Warhol-style Ood pictures on the wall behind this man . . . who’s just been killed by a red-eyed Ood. Whoops.

Also, I keep typing “Ood” as “Oood,” which is annoying, because my spellchecker doesn’t recognise either spelling.

Mystery tour? I’m not sure that’s a great idea.

Oh, poor Donna—she’s so excited. And now the Doctor’s excited about the snow—the first time in years he’s seen snow that isn’t actually the detritus of a spaceship and its dead occupants.

This reminds me of the opening of “Seeds of Doom,” where Sarah Jane was promised the beach and popped out of the TARDIS in a polka-dot bikini.

Ah, Tim Mcinerny (don’t correct my spelling!)

And I missed the dialogue about the TARDIS versus that lovely retro-styled rocket that had Nick salivating.

Oh, dying Ood in the snow. I can buy not calling the Ood an “it,” but how does the Doctor know it’s male? Are all Ood male? Or does he have some distinguishing feature that reveals his gender.

Oh, well—he’s dead now, poor bloke.

Donna’s so sweet, really. This first encounter with an alien species (apart from the Rachnos and the Adipose, and she doesn’t get close to the latter) is touching, even if they do leave him sprawled in the snow.

I do get a little bored with the repeated “We’re not married” refrain, but Donna, to me, is the closest to an old-school companion that we’ve ever had (in my opinion, which I’m not asserting is humble.)

Oood hunt: this is creepy, especially since this Ood doesn’t just have red eye but is also rabid—and in conjunction with the sales pitch about “if your Ood is happy, you’ll be happy” is becomes truly disturbing.

Oh, poor bald Tim Mcinerney. Never mind: let us sit upon the floor and tell sad stories, shall we?

The comedy Ood voice is so sad—hey, for five extra credits, would you like to humiliate your slave? But the sexy female voice: I don’t even want to think what kind of fetish prompted that as a viable sales pitch.

Oh, are the bees disappearing? I wonder if that will be important later.

They drop a lot of these early Donna mannerisms—she’s just responded to an Ood calling her “Miss” by saying “Do I look single?” Well, Donna, you are single. You get quite cranky if people assume you’re married to the Doctor—by the later episodes, and I’m glad of it.

Ew, slavering rabid Ood. I’m not a big fan of slavering on television: it’s a good thing I’ve finished my dinner.

And now the guards have whips. Charming.

It’s true: the Doctor didn’t question the Oods’ status in the last two-parter. It didn’t occur to me at the time, but that really isn’t like the Doctor.

Ah, mysterious warehouse bathed in red light. I’m not good at delayed gratification: I want to see what’s in the pit now. And I’ve just noticed that the mysterious song that we heard around the dying Ood has started up again now we’re in the warehouse.

Ah, evil executive who also taunts his enslaved workers? I wonder if we’re supposed to sympathise with him?

Donna’s a Hammers fan? Cool. I think it’s a shame we never get a rousing chorus of “I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles.”

Oods in shipping containers: this series hits quite hard with the social commentary at times. The hardest one to watch I think is still “Turn Left,” which we don’t hit for another couple of months, but this warehouse full of silent queues of slaves is hard to watch.

Oh dear: the head of Security is a bloodthirsty psychopath. I didn’t see that coming. Still, this scene with the Dcotor being chased by the giant hook is well done.

Hang on: the Ood that Donna’s trapped with have red eye.

DONNA: Oh no you don’t.
NICK (as Eric Cartman): Pink eye!

So the Ood aren’t locked into these containers? They’re standing there in ranks? Man, that’s depressing. It’s also looking a bit silly, now they’ve all got red eye.

The Doctor seriously misreads that PR woman’s sympathies. Of course she agrees with what they’re doing—she knows exactly how they’re being treated, so why would she suddenly think, “Hey, you’re right! This isn’t cool!”

More Ood song—it’s hard to judge this, but . . . the Doctor can hear the song because Timelords, like the Ood, are telepathic. But Donna can’t hear it, because she’s isn’t. But we can hear the song—as part of the soundtrack, but as diagetic music not extradiagetic music. But then when the Doctor enables Donna to hear it, it becomes different, more prominent. So am I misreading the earlier examples of music, as when the Doctor comments on the song of the dying Ood? Is that not Ood song? And if it is, should we be able to hear it, when we’re not psychic?

Anyway, these poor sad Oods have their brains in their hands. Well, their hindbrains.

NICK: This is completely daft, though.

It doesn’t seem as though this is a practical evolutionary decision. I can see why it’s what breaks Donna, though—this idea of lobotomising them to make slaves is grotesque.

I like Donna’s insistence that a creature with its brain in its hands would have trust anyone it meets: it’s a neat argument, but I still don’t think that it’s a sensible step for evolution to make, even on a planet where the Ood seem to be the only lifeforms.

Oops, the Ood in the salesrooms all have red eye, now.

I’ve lost any sympathy I might have had for that PR woman—hang on, she was killed by an Ood while I was typing.

I think I’d find this factory setting more alienating and frightening if it didn’t look exactly like the back of the engineering buildings at university.

See, now the evolutionary system is just becoming more disturbing: if a creature with a separate hindbrain and forebrain would be at constant war with itself, why would evolution take that particular step?

Oh, never mind.

Now Donna and the Doctor are being menaced by red-eyed Ood.

The fact that the Ood can turn the red eye on and off, apparently at will, is the creepiest part of this episode, I think.

And now everyone is converging on Warehouse 15, for the final showdown. That means we finally get to see what’s in the big, eerily glowing, red pit.

Ah! Giant brain! Ew.

Of course, looking at the episode again, I should have guessed that it would have been some kind of brain, but I don’t think I did guess the first time around.

So, hang on—Tim Mcinerney was saying earlier that they Ood roamed the ice like animals, when they found them. But then they found a giant brain?

(Oh, ew—some guy’s just been thrown into a giant brain. That can’t be good for the brain. Or the guy.)

So, they found a giant brain. And they applied a damper to lower the telepathic field? So they knew that the Ood had a sophisticated way of communication? So, were they animals? Or not? Or was Mcinerney lying when he said they found them as animals?

Nick won’t watch this next bit. It is rather disturbing, when he peels his own scalp off. What gets me, though, is when he vomits up the tentacles. That’s revolting.

Ew, and then he vomits out his hindbrain. I’d completely forgotten that bit.

Donna’s point that her established moral code is crumbling under the new experiences to which the Doctor is exposing her is an interesting one: the Doctor’s claim that not knowing right from wrong is “easier” is just lazy.

The music for this episode is rather lovely, I think—but then I’m partial to choral music.

The Ood are thanking the Doctor and Donna and promising to sing of them forever—but they didn’t really do much, did they? The Ood pretty much had it under control.

And that’s “Planet of the Ood”!

Next week, Martha! Martha! Martha! And Mike from The Young Ones as a Sontaran.


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.

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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