by Catriona Mills

Articles in “Doctor Who”

Live-Blogging Doctor Who: Forest of the Dead

Posted 31 August 2008 in by Catriona

I have a confession to make: I’m doing this live-blogging while finishing watching an episode of 30 Rock and also playing the “Tower of Darkness” adventure on Dungeons and Dragons: Tiny Adventures.

But it shouldn’t interfere: after all, the encounters in Dungeons and Dragons only refresh every ten minutes or so.

30 Rock, on the other hand, was Nick’s idea. It is hilarious. I was uncertain about watching anything with Alec Baldwin in it, but I’m loving every episode. Of course, it’s being shown on free-to-air television at some ridiculous time analogous to the time that Arrested Development was shown—11 p.m. or 11:30 p.m., something like that—but that’s par for the course, isn’t it?

We’ve also decided to revamp our eating habits, and I now have a stomach full of fibre (especially bran) and fresh vegetables. So far, my body isn’t really enjoying this new pattern of behaviour. Apparently, it can cope with one healthy meal a day.

Whoops, the episode has started, while I was rubbishing on about irrelevant things.

I love you, Colin Salmon! You rock.

NICK: Where’s my iPhone?
ME: I don’t know! Just sit down and watch television!

I’m losing patience with Nick’s obsession with his iPhone—but then, I have no power over the situation, do I?

(He still hasn’t found it.)

And we’re back to everyone being chased by the skeletal remains of Proper Dave. Poor Proper Dave.

Oooh, hang on—we haven’t seen this country house before. (Nick is going to try ringing his iPhone.) And that’s Donna. Wait, what’s happening here?

(He’s found it.)

Hang on, that’s Doctor Moon! What’s he doing there? This manipulation of Donna’s memories and her behaviour is intensely creepy: that repeated “and then you remembered” is starting to seem thoroughly disturbing.

It’s so like Donna to go fishing in a black sequined tunic. And now she’s married? Wow. And with children? This is, perhaps, the creepiest sequence in the entire episode.

Fully integrated? Pardon?

Hey, that was the Doctor! And now Doctor Moon’s telling her to forget the Doctor? Okay, this is well disturbing. I don’t like the idea of people having control over my memory; I feel as though I have little enough control over it myself.

This back story with River and the Doctor is fascinating to me; I understand that a big influence was The Time Traveller’s Wife, but I’ve never read that. What it’s reminding me of is Slaughterhouse Five: “Listen. Billy Pilgrim’s come unstuck in time.”

Oh, so they’re quarreling like an old married couple, are they? I’ve heard a lot of debates about what these two are to each other, but to me it seems quite clear: she’s his wife. Or she will be.

Oh, a doctor moon is a virus checker that supports and maintains the computer at the centre of the planet? Well, that answers some of my questions.

Now, that’s why I like River: for much the same reason as I like Donna. Donna is free from jealousy, and River, seeing Donna, demands to know whether the Doctor can get her back. They’re both free from jealousy, because they’re both secure in their relationship with the Doctor, different though their relationships are. We need more women like that on television, instead of the skeletal, insecure child-women that we’re supposed to enjoy. (It’s true: I’ve never got over the idea of Ally McBeal as a role model.)

(On the plus side, I just challenged the Captain of the Guard to a sword fight and won. Yay, me!)

Okay, that woman in the flowing Victorian garb is thoroughly creepy. And now the little girl doesn’t want Donna to have anything to do with her? So what does that imply about Donna’s current existence?

See, this mysterious woman points out that Donna has suspected that this world is not right before it is pointed out to her.

(Wow, that’s a lovely shot, with them all running along the bridge from one building to another.)

She’s not stupid, Donna: that’s my point.

I feel as though I can’t type fast enough to deal with everything that’s being dealt with in this issue. And now Nick’s trying to make interesting ideological points to me, and I don’t have time to deal with them.

Oh, Doctor, honestly: I figured out what the Vashta Nerada were talking about when they mentioned their forests, long before you did.

Oh, dear: now Other Dave is repeating himself. He’s ghosting.

Nick thinks that the fact that the Doctor uses the word “soul” is problematic, since after Time Lords die, their minds are stored in the APC Net—the Matrix, before Keanu Reeves. For Time Lords, that is their afterlife. So the use of the word “soul” is suggestive—and perhaps not canonical.

(I managed to defeat a gargoyle in battle, but took four points of damage.)

Ah, now River’s talking about her Doctor, and how this Doctor doesn’t seem finished in comparison. This is fascinating. Solipsistic, yes, but fascinating. What happens to the Doctor in the interval, that whole armies run from him? Or, more to the point, that he’s willing to put himself in a position where he’ll face whole armies. Has he come to terms with the Time War and his genocide?

Oh, there’ll be reams of fan fiction written about this.

Nick wants me to add that it’s not problematic that someone’s stolen a person’s soul through a computer programme, but that it would be a sore point for the Doctor. I think my garbled rewriting of that is what Nick gets for introducing complicated ideological issues while I’m trying to live-blog a complicated episode.

River’s attitude is intriguing to me: she loves this man, that’s quite clear. But she doesn’t love this man. This man she finds frustrating and immature, essentially hard work.

DONNA: But this isn’t me? This isn’t my real body? But I’ve been dieting!

For some reason, that makes me laugh out loud every time.

I don’t buy the idea that “being brilliant and unloved” are the two qualities needed to reveal absolute truth. That seems odd. Being brilliant and having a frighteningly pixellated face would seem to be closer to the truth.

Damn! The little girl just deleted her own father! Now that’s strangely depressing.

Donna’s children seem to have a better grasp of what’s going on than Donna does.

Oh, dear: now Doctor Moon’s gone the same way as the little girl’s father. Poor Colin Salmon.

Nick’s excited because in the first shot of the gravity platform, you can see its reflection in the windows. Nick is easily excited by CGI.

That the children are conscious that they cease to exist when their mother isn’t looking? That’s horrible. How can they, processed to think that they’re small children, manage to cope with that idea?

Now the Doctor and River, and the others, are in the data core. Remind me never to wake my computer up from sleep mode. Apparently, it’s terribly cruel.

(I’ve just been stabbed by a thief. After chasing him and tackling him down a hill. That doesn’t seem fair.)

This child’s face on a statue is creepy. (I know, I’ve used the word creepy a hundred times in this blog entry, but it’s an intrinsically creepy episode.) I love reading as much as anyone. I dare say that I love reading more than many people do. But spending eternity as a computerised version of myself? In a giant library?

Actually, I’ll get back to you on that one.

Oh, Vashta Nerada—the Doctor’s not stupid. He didn’t need that much time to realise that Anita was already dead. Poor Anita. I felt worse, frankly, after Other Dave ghosted, and he died in a much more perfunctory fashion.

DOCTOR: I’m the Doctor, and you’re in the biggest library in the world. Look me up.

Oh, River! As soon as you punched the Doctor, I knew things weren’t going well.

DOCTOR: That’s my job!
RIVER: And I’m not allowed to have a career, I suppose?

Oh, they’re definitely married.

Now, this angle—the idea that the Doctor knew from the beginning of their relationship when and how she would die—this is the sort of thing that normally makes my brain ache. But Alex Kingston just acts the hell out of this scene.

(Embarrassing admission: I’m closer to crying at this point than I ever have been in all the episodes of Doctor Who. I cried unceasingly for the last ten minutes of season two of Torchwood, but Doctor Who—never. But this scene breaks my heart, and combined with Donna’s separation from Lee is almost too much for my stiff upper lip.)

Oh, Steven Moffat. How you (normally) hate killing people off. And I love you for it. I do so love a happy ending.

Oh, crap: cut to the Doctor staring at (what’s left of) River. That’s not a happy ending.

Dammit, Moffat! How am I supposed to cope now? Now you’ve decided that Lee may just be imaginary? That’s just cruel.

DONNA: Is “all right” special Time Lord code for “really not all right at all”?
DONNA: Because I’m all right, too.

Damn, they come out of this episode damaged.

Oh, Moffat, you bastard! You absolute bastard! (I love you, Steven Moffat!) So Lee is real, but he can’t call out to Donna? Oh, why not just kill people off?

No, Doctor—you can’t leave it at “spoilers”. You know there’s more to it than that. There must be. Moffat hates killing people off! Remember, “everybody lives! Just this once, everybody lives!”

See! I knew that wasn’t the end of the story!

This running scene, here—this is the culmination of all those discussions about how much running the Doctor does. This is the Doctor actually running for his life, running for someone else’s life—not just avoiding a monster, but running when there is nothing else to do, no other way to save people.

And here we have absolute Moffat: he just hates killing people off. So Proper Dave, Other Dave, Anita, Miss Evanglista—all alive. And there’s Doctor Moon! Hurray!

I’ve heard it said that what the Doctor does here is cruel: trapping the woman he apparently loves in a computer that he knows is going to go insane. But I don’t think that that’s supposed to be the end result. I don’t think it should be assumed that the computer will go insane again: there’s a big difference between four thousand minds and five minds.

I understand that Moffat argued his way into keeping Donna’s children alive in the computer at the end of the episode, against executive producer Julie Gardner’s concerns. And that, in the end, they switched positions: she felt the ending with the children alive was ideal, and he came to see it as saccharine.

I can’t remember having any opinion on it at all: I was too busy trying to deal with the rest of the episode.

And that’s “Forest of the Dead.”

Next week: “Midnight.” Oh, dear lord, that’s going to be hard to rewatch.

(Still, I became so distracted by the live-blogging that I managed to kill a grick—I don’t know what that is, but it has tentacles—without noticing.)

Live-blogging Doctor Who: Silence in the Library

Posted 24 August 2008 in by Catriona

And here we are for the first of Steven Moffat’s two-parter about The Library. This, I’m sure I don’t need to warn you, will be nothing but a love-fest. I’ve made my feelings about Steven Moffat clear time and time again, and I adored these episodes.

Or, I would have, if I’d seen them before. Which, of course, I haven’t. Because they haven’t aired here, yet. And so watching them earlier would be bad.


Right, now we’ve got that out of the way, the absence of photographs for tonight’s blogging is a result of my spending this afternoon at a poetry festival, and therefore being very tired, especially since I haven’t quite finished working through tomorrow morning’s lecture. Nor have I finished my marking. Actually, this list of things I haven’t done that need to be done by 9 a.m. tomorrow is making me a little anxious.

Eh, c’est la vie.

Apparently, Australia won forty-something medals. I suppose that’s good? I’ve given up on the Olympics, and haven’t watched a single event this time around. But, hopefully, this means proper television will be back on soon.

I like the tagline “In this library, no one can hear you scream.”

Ooh, Colin Salmon. I love Colin Salmon. Last time I saw him, it was Hex. And before that, he was being sliced to pieces in Resident Evil.

The special effects in this are glorious. Most of it’s set-dressing, I know—but the shots of the young girl floating over the planet are beautiful.

I also really like Donna’s outfit in this—the tunic part, anyway. I’d like one of those.

I agree with Nick that this is one of the best teasers they’ve ever done.

“People never really stop loving books.” Well, good. You do need the smell of books. And their tactility.

A whole planet of books? Awesome. Whole continents of Jeffery Archer? Spare me.

The Doctor loves biographies and Donna thinks it’s because there’s always a death at the end? That’s a telling exchange, especially in light of some later revelations in this story.

Once again, the Doctor promises to take his companion to the beach, and they end up somewhere else. Mind, I’d rather go to The Library than to the beach. Oh, very definitely.

Did that sign read Xeno Biology/Art? How on earth are those two categories next to each other? Surely not? Not even in the Library of Congress system.

Ooh, but the set-dressing in this episode is beautiful. And the lighting—which is hugely important to the plot. But then it is Euros Lyn, who’s a stylish director.

“Count the shadows”? Man, now I’m creeped out—and I’ve already seen this episode.

NICK: Tennant’s quiff extends about three inches out in front of his head in this episode. It’s really quite extraordinary.

Oh, crap—now the lights are going out! Ooh, I’m easily freaked out by things that lurk in the dark.

And now the pay-off for the teaser, which is fabulous. I didn’t see the security-camera angle coming the first time around. I’m also impressed by Donna’s door skills, as the Doctor is (though saying you sometimes need the element of surprise with boyfriends is rather trivialising Donna’s character).

This scene with the Doctor using the sonic screwdriver on a sentient security camera is strangely disturbing—you’d think that the Doctor would know enough about strange varieties of life by now.

DONNA: It chose a real dead face it thought I’d like?

Oh, I’m with you, Donna—that’s just not right.

Ack! What’s casting the shadow? And now the lights are going out again! Damn—now the shadow’s gone. Oh, wow—this isn’t as jump-out-of-your-seat scary as “Blink,” but it’s damn creepy.

Ooh, the others have arrived.

Alex Kingston! Cool. And she’s calling the Doctor “sweetie”? Hmmm—I wonder what the story is here?

DOCTOR: I’m a time traveller; I point and laugh at archaeologists.

You’re a smug man, Doctor. A smug, smug man—but I love you despite that.

Other Dave: you’re not terribly bright, are you? But sweet: not as sweet as poor, dead Ross from two episodes ago, but sweet nonetheless.

The idea of The Library being silent for a hundred years—a disaster, killing everyone and then the whole world shutting down, the books left alone for a century. Fascinating idea.

DOCTOR: Almost every species has an irrational fear of the dark. But they’re wrong—because it’s not irrational.

Good line.

Now is probably the time to point out that I like River Song. There’s something appealing about her. Now I’m not a ‘shipper, and I don’t care personally what her back story with the Doctor is—though it’s quite clear there’s a back story (they’re now comparing diaries, so there’s definitely something there). I do understand that some fangirls have been shredding River Song online, but I have no patience with that, at all. She’s an endearing character, somehow—and a match for the Doctor, it seems.

The TARDIS-patterned diary? Hmm.

Aha! So accessing the security protocols sets things off in the mysterious little girl’s house? (Trying to “call up the data core”? Hmm.)

No wonder the father’s worried enough about the little girl to call in the doctor: all those endless drawings of The Library.

Nick tells me that one of the complaints about this episode online was that it is set in The Library, but doesn’t thematise books or writing, at all. That’s something we can discuss in the comments thread, if you like. I’m not sure that’s an accurate complaint, and Nick thinks some of the arguments were overblown.

There’s certainly, it seems to me, a celebration of imagination, both within the story and in the construction of the episode itself: textually and extratextually, it’s about imaginative power. In part.

MISS EVANGELISTA: My dad said I had the IQ of plankton, and I was pleased.

Oooh, Steven Moffat! That’s a recycled joke from Press Gang! Shame!

Donna is sweet in this episode—I can see why the crew, knowing each other and working together—treat Miss Evangelista as an in-joke. But it is cruel. (Oh, don’t go through that door, Miss Evangelista! No, you silly cow! Oh, too late.) And Donna’s approaches to Miss Evangelista are a mark of a genuinely open and kind nature, which is something that expands in Donna the longer she stays with the Doctor, and the brassiness, for want of a better word, is rubbed off.

Another gorgeous set. I believe this is a decommissioned library, somewhere.

Well, that scream doesn’t bode well for Miss Evangelista.

Oh, dear—dead and stripped of all flesh. Oh, that’s not nice.

She’s ghosting; her neural relay has caught and recorded her consciousness, and now she’s speaking as though she were still alive.

NICK: Correct use of “presently.” Most people would use “momentarily.”

I argue that that use of “momentarily” is largely an American idiom—although you do hear it in Australia, as well—but Nick disagrees with me.

This data-ghosting scene is awful to watch—poor Donna! (Poor Miss Evangelista, too, but she’s dead and doesn’t really know what’s happening.) Donna’s human, and she’s not set up for this, especially when it’s not quite clear whether Miss Evangelista ever really hears Donna’s reassurance that she won’t tell the others. To try and reassure a woman you know is already dead, and then not be certain that you’ve even succeeded? That’s the kind of thing that’ll haunt you at three a.m., when you’re lying awake reviewing the failures of your life.

Ah, Dr Moon is back! Hurray for Colin Salmon.

DR MOON: The real world is a lie. And your nightmares are real. The Library is real.

Oddly, despite seeing the Doctor move through The Library for forty minutes, that exchange blew my mind the first time around.

This exchange between Donna and River Song—Donna’s well able to understand what River is saying, and she does, in a way. But once River realises that this is Donna Noble, the whole thing changes: when Donna realises that River knows the Doctor, but doesn’t know her, there’s heartbreak there.

I’ve seen it argued online that Donna’s heartbreak comes from a sense that there’s a closeness between the Doctor and River that she can’t share, that the heartbreak comes from Donna’s devastation at the fact that the Doctor doesn’t love her.

I think that’s rubbish, frankly—but I’ve been made my point about Donna, the Doctor, and Donna’s complete lack of jealousy quite clear. It’s what I love about their relationship. Donna’s heartbreak, to me, comes from the sense that there’s a point in the Doctor’s future where he know River but no longer knows her. It might be after her death: we don’t know. But it’s something she hasn’t considered.

Oh, no! Proper Dave’s got two shadows! Oh, poor Proper Dave.

Wait, River Song has a sonic screwdriver. In-ter-est-ing.

And what’s just happened to Donna? Damn. Whatever it was, it sounded painful.

Oh, damn—now the swarm’s in Proper Dave’s helmet. And, double damn—he’s repeating himself. Oh, bugger: he’s ghosting. Poor Proper Dave.

Ack! Skull! That’s creepier than it has any right to be.

So River Song has a sonic screwdriver and a Captain Jack-style sonic blaster? Man, she’s cool.

“Donna Noble has been saved”? Damn that little girl’s creepy.

You’ll note that I’ve managed to avoid saying “Vashtanarada” all post. Until now: but I think that’s a plausible spelling. It’s a plausible word, too—or, at least, I like the sound of it. Unlike some earlier words, like the Slitheen’s home planet, which struck me as stupid, though I haven’t the faintest idea how to spell it.

Oh, damn! Donna’s face on a statue? That’s so not right. How are they going to get Donna back? And here’s Proper Dave, again. Or, rather, Vashtanarada swarm in Proper Dave’s suit.

And that’s one hell of a cliffhanger.

Oh, there’s so much that I wanted to say about this episode and that I could have said, if only I could have typed faster. It’s such a rich story—such complex world-building.

But, have at the comments thread, if you noticed anything that I missed.

Live-blogging Doctor Who: The Unicorn and the Wasp

Posted 17 August 2008 in by Catriona

And we’re back on another Sunday night, for one of my favourite episodes of the season. So far, I’ve been sitting here becoming increasingly annoyed by partisan Olympic coverage (and by the emphasis given to the Olympics in the news bulletin). I realise that the coverage is certain to be as partisan (albeit with a different focus) in every other country that competes, but I still find it annoying.

Oh, well: Nick and I have been amusing ourselves by shouting, “That’s un-Australian!” at the television when any suitable opportunity offers itself. We didn’t stop when the Olympic coverage stopped, either.

We make our own fun.

But on a Doctor Who note, I completely forgot last week to upload my should-be-traditional picture of one of Nick’s items of memorabilia.

Let me make up for that now:

I realise that if you look closely, you’ll see that the sky is apparently upside down, but that’s because I had to flip the image. After all, there’s nothing quite so cool as a Dalek-themed oven glove.

And we’re back to images of the medal winners, so we must be close to the actual episode starting.

And, given the Agatha Christie angle, I don’t promise not the shout “book title!” if the opportunity arises. But, of course, none of you are actually in my living room, so the shouting won’t bother anyone but Nick. And he’s used to it.

Nick’s decided we need to watch Double the Fist purely because it has a brief appearance by Bruce Spence. Is that a good enough reason to watch it? I think not.

Hurray! English country house. And the Doctor pointing out that he can smell the 1920s. But Donna punctures his pretensions, again. I do love Donna.

Professor Peach? Why not just call him Professor Cannon Fodder. (Okay, that’s a spoiler, but not much of one). I’m with Donna; I’d like to go to a party in the 1920s.

Ooh, my favourite joke: “But why didn’t they ask . . . Heavens!”

Book title!

Last time I heard that joke, I laughed hysterically and ran off to get the book, so Nick could share the joke. As a result, I completely missed the giant wasp. I’ve missed it this time, too, because I was blogging. It reminds me that, no matter how many times I watch Twin Peaks, I’ve never actually seen the bit where Laura Palmer’s body is discovered.

Dear lord, Felicity Kendall looks good—she’s had some work done, I think. But she looks fabulous.

Oh, I think the son has an inappropriate relationship with the footman. Well, inappropriate for the period.

DONNA: All the decent men are on the other bus.
DOCTOR: Or Time Lords.

And Agatha Christie. She fooled the Doctor once . . . but it was a good once. I do like the image of the Doctor and Donna geeking out over Agatha Christie.

I said, when we heard that Agatha Christie was going to be in the programme, that I really hoped it was about that strange period when she disappeared. But I didn’t have high hopes, because the estate has always kept a tight lid on that time. It’s not mentioned in Christie’s autobiography (whoops, the Professor’s body has just been discovered) and her daughter kept a tight rein on treatments of those events—not surprising, especially since her father came under suspicion. But I’m pleased that they picked this angle on the episode.

Donna is the plucky young girl who helps you out, Doctor? Oh, dear.

Oh, there’s no Noddy? What a shame. I’d have liked to have met Noddy having tea with Big Ears.

The Doctor’s really playing with fire, the way he keeps telling Donna she’s plucky. And I like Agatha puncturing his pretensions; I found it a little disturbing how much fun he was having last week, while everyone was dying.

So the Reverend was in his room, and the son had a pre-arranged meeting with Davenport. The young girl whose name I’ve already forgotten was in her room with a gun, for no apparent reason, and Lady Eddison’s husband was reminiscing about the Can-Can. (I love that two-layer flashback.) Hey, the Colonel was in the theatre owner in Talons of Weng Chiang! Cool! Lady Eddison was drinking heavily and privately.

No alibis! Cool.

The Doctor went to Belgium to find Charlemagne after he’d been kidnapped by an insane computer? I’d love to see that episode. And David Tennant with a bow and arrow? I know a young Robin Hood fan who is probably enjoying this episode.

Nemesis? Book title!

I’m in awe of the sheer quantity of hair that Catherine Tate has. And the lovely colour.

So Lady Eddison had a mysterious illness after her return from India, did she? I wonder if that will prove relevant?

Ack! Giant wasp! I don’t blame Donna for screaming—I’m not good with insects myself, and this one is six-feet tall. But at least she scares it away—I do like Donna. I also like those recessed bookshelves in this room. I wish I had some of those.

Cat among the pigeons? Book title!

Dead man’s folly? Another book title!

Whoops, this housekeeper’s for the chop. Nick thinks she had time to get out of the way of that, but then Nick’s never had to escape from a gargoyle.

They do it with mirrors? Book title!

Of course, the Doctor would think that the giant psychotic wasp is wonderful. That’s the Doctor for you. (On that note, the scene where everyone opens their bedroom doors is one of my favourite scenes.)

Appointment with death? Book title!

Cards on the table? Book title!

Oh, poor Agatha. She’s so sort of beaten down in this episode, so lacking in self confidence. It shows a good sense of the period in her life, the fact that the dissolution of her marriage came at the same time as her mother’s death, when she had to pack up an enormous Victorian house alone and had a nervous breakdown. All that background permeates this episode.

That’s a neat toolkit. I’m not a jewel thief, but if I were, I’d have a kit like that. With the red-velvet lining and everything.

Whoops, the Doctor’s been poisoned. Nick tells me (Sparkling cyanide? Book title!) that people thought this was over the top, but no more so than the removal of radiation from his foot in “Smith and Jones”—and I liked it.

“Harvey Wallbanger? How is Harvey Wallbanger one word?”

“What’s that?”
“Too salty.”

“Campdown Races?”

Love it. There’s always room in Doctor Who for a bit of farce.

Donna, the Doctor’s quite, quite mad, but I think he would have told you if he’d actually poisoned the soup. Or maybe not.

Oh, dear—Roger’s face down in his soup with a carving knife in his back. Poor Roger. And poor Davenport. On a lighter note, I love that sunburst mirror on the back wall, the copper one.

DOCTOR: I’ve been so caught up with giant wasps that I’d forgotten . . .

It’s the brilliance of Tennant in this role that he can pull of that line.

Endless night? Book title!

Aha! The accusing parlour. When I have a house of my own, I’m totally having an accusing parlour. I feel it would come in handy.

Crooked house? Book title!

Donna cracks me up in this scene: sitting in the background with a bowl of grapes, completely unable to guess the murderer even when almost all of the suspects have been eliminated. I’m not good at guessing the murderer, either—that’s how I judge a bad detective novel. It’s one in which I can spot the killer.

Is it just me, or is the Firestone rather ugly? I’m not sure I’d want to wear it every day.

So the girl whose name I’ve forgotten is a jewel thief, the Colonel can really walk, and Lady Eddison had an illegitimate child? Too many motives! Even with Roger dead.

The idea that a well-brought-up English girl would have an affair with a young man whom she knows is actually a giant wasp is . . . rather odd.

Taken at the flood? Book title!

Maybe it’s just because I’m not that keen on insects, but I’m not sure even a great, life-changing love would survive the revelation that he’s actually an enormous, metamorphic, alien insect. Does that make me shallow?

Doctor, you do have to be careful about saying things like “Donna Noble, it was you . . .” when everyone’s in the accusing parlour.

The moving finger? Book title!

Nick thinks that this episode is more dramatic than usual because it’s focalised through Donna’s perspective. But I’m not entirely convinced by that argument—especially since Donna isn’t in all the key scenes. But I’ll leave in there; we can debate that perspective in the comments thread, if you like.

So it was the Vicar? Typical. It’s always the vicar. Actually, was there ever an Agatha Christie novel in which the murderer was the vicar? I can’t recall one off the top of my head.

Honestly, the man’s been a giant wasp for three days, and he’s already calling us “you humans”. It seems that his inheritance came with a healthy dose of arrogance, didn’t it? And a touch of xenophobia.

I mentioned before how this episode seems to rely on a knowledge of Agatha Christie’s state of mind when her first marriage broke down, and that seems to come to the fore here, where she’s driving along muttering “It’s all my fault. It’s all my fault” and actively contemplating suicide. That all seems more plausible if you know what state she was in at the time, though the breakdown of the marriage is probably sufficient.

Death comes as the end? Book title!

(And my favourite joke of the episode?
DOCTOR: “Murder At The Vicar’s Rage.” Needs a bit of work.
I like the consciousness of playing with the book titles.)

Donna’s killing of the wasp and the Doctor’s perfunctory disapproval of it seems a little . . . odd, though. The Doctor’s made a point of having a no-kill policy, and it does seem as though there should have been more fallout from Donna’s actions. Not that I can see what else she could have done.

Agatha Christie the best-selling author of all time? Well, except for Daphne Farquitt.

And that’s “The Unicorn and the Wasp.”

Next week, “Silence in the Library.” Steven Moffat! Hooray!

Live-blogging Doctor Who: The Doctor's Daughter

Posted 10 August 2008 in by Catriona

And here we are for an episode that proved controversial, at least in my living room.

If last week’s blogging was brought to you by wine and Nurofen, this one is brought to you by a lingering cold, slightly less wine, and an enormous pile of marking that I haven’t quite finished and need to get back to once this episode is over.

Sometimes I think I need to get out of my rut and back into the groove.

Then, I remember that I never was in the groove, and that I’ve worked damn hard to get into this “rut,” and I stop feeling sorry for myself.

Plus, not only did I not die in last night’s Dungeons and Dragons session, but I also have two kobold ears in my belt pouch. Good times.

I seem to have lost Nick, by the way, for those of you who look forward to his interruptions. I’m sure he was here a minute ago, but no doubt he’s snatched the opportunity to visit his shiny, white iMistress.

Hang on, he’s turned up again. But he is clutching his iPhone. In fact, that can be taken as a given; whenever I mention Nick, he’s clutching his iPhone.

And fiddling with the speakers, even though he knows that’s really irritating.

Why is an Australian gold medal more important, news-wise, than this burgeoning war between Russia and Georgia?

Ooh, snow. Pretty. But, as Nick points out, it is odd to see gum trees with snow on them.

Double the Fist? Apparently, it’s a new season. I’ve never heard of it. But I don’t think it’s my cup of tea, somehow.

And here we go! “The Doctor’s Daughter”!

And Martha—I know a lot of people don’t like her, but I love Martha.

So the Doctor’s not impossible; he’s just a bit unlikely? Seems about right to me.

Alien planet! We haven’t had enough alien planets in this new version of Doctor Who. Arm stuck in a great machine? That’s never going to be painless. People should know that from watching Flash Gordon. In fact, people should just watch Flash Gordon—it’s brilliant.

In the meantime, a pretty blonde girl completely dressed in leather pants, khaki T-shirt, and full make-up has just stepped out of a cloning machine and called the Doctor “Dad.”

What I want to know here is why Donna and Martha aren’t sampled. Is it just because the creepy (but strangely adorable) fish-people turn up at this point?

Okay, now Martha’s been kidnapped, and is on the wrong side of the tunnel they’ve just blown up. Oh, Martha. I thought you were better than that.

There’s something about this episode that reminds me of old-school Doctor Who, though.

NICK: When did David Tennant get his overcoat on again? I thought he didn’t have it on when he . . . oh, never mind.

Martha and the Hath soldier.

NICK: And here we have the most convincing inter-personal relationship in the entire episode.

I like the Hath—I don’t really know why. But they’re not as warlike as the humans, or they would simply have shot Martha when she put that chap’s shoulder back into the socket. And I like the make-up, and the strange, bubbly, green, tube-like thing they speak through. I can’t think of a better description.

Donna’s so down to earth—and I like that discussion about her friend Neris (Nerys? Don’t correct my spelling!) and the turkey baster. It reinforces the idea that humans shouldn’t be quite so uptight about the odd ways that aliens procreate.

NICK: I think Jenny’s the only one who gets hot pants.
ME: They’re not hot pants.
NICK: They’re just a bit . . . better fitted than the others’.
ME: That’s an understatement.

The scene with Martha being petted by the Hath is strangely charming, when it should be slightly creepy. That’s another reason why I like the Hath—they don’t seem to be natural soldiers.

I like the back story about “early colonists carving buildings out of the rock” they’ve built into the story to explain why they’re filming this in an old theatre of some kind. Lovely sets they are, though.

Ah! They do seem to be planning on breeding people from Donna as well as from the Doctor. I was wondering about that.

Oh, dear—the Doctor’s going to interfere with the map. The Doctor always interferes. Why, Doctor? This never goes well.

And, look: you’ve just increased the xenophobia and blood-thirstiness of the people.

DOCTOR: Look up “genocide,” You’ll see a little picture of me and the caption will read “Over my dead body.”
NICK: Or, “I do it better than you.”

It does seem a little hypocritical. Maybe the caption could read, “In future, over my dead body. In the past, meh.”

So this is the episode when the Doctor has to face his past as a soldier—I wonder how he’s going to deal with that.

I’m hoping something comes up here about the fact that the Doctor once had children. And grandchildren. And, if he’s the last of the Time Lords, they’re all dead. Presumably including Susan; I wonder whether she was recalled to Gallifrey for the Time War, as the Master was.

Oh, Donna—you’re by far the most practical companion we’ve ever had. I don’t think we’ve ever had one before who was so capable of cutting straight through the Doctor’s babbling and showing him that it wasn’t always that important.

Ooh, Jenny has two hearts? Does that make her a Time Lord? Interesting—but I’m not even going to think about re-creating the Time Lords with these two. That’s not right.

That Martha and this Hath can communicate so readily is intriguing, even with all the bubbling.

Martha—you wouldn’t let a little radiation put you off, would you? You were the only person to escape the burning of Japan!

Oh, Jenny—feminine wiles? That’s a little beneath you, isn’t it? (Although I’d like to see the Doctor try that, too.)

NICK: He’d just let Captain Jack do it.

Oh, Doctor—Donna has womanly wiles. Look at that lovely hair, for example!

A clockwork mouse? I bet that first belonged to the Fourth Doctor.

Hey, the Hath have a science-fiction battering ram!

NICK: You can tell it’s science fiction, because it has fluorescent lights in it. Which you’d think would be a little impractical for a battering ram.

Oooh, the surface is rather lovely. Hey, how does Martha know that that Hath was swearing? Is the TARDIS translation circuit still working? But, no: they were sitting right near the TARDIS when she put his arm back in the socket, and we didn’t get the impression that she could understand him then.

So Donna notices the numbers? And the Doctor just dismisses them? That’s interesting.

Now we see that the Doctor’s loving this—he’s brought chaos into this society, which was chaotic enough in the first place—and he’s grinning and loving it. I know he’s somewhat mad, but this seems a little too mad.

And Jenny’s having second thoughts about her profession? I’m not sure that’s even possible—wouldn’t she have been programmed entirely to fight? Why would they programme soldiers with free will?

Oh, dear—the Entrapment scene. Still, it gets Jenny a cuddle from her father. I’m surprised that hasn’t happened before; he’s such a cuddler, this Doctor.

This planet should have more than one moon.

Oh, whoops—Martha’s just fallen in a pit of quicksand. That was a little daft.

NICK: The writer’s last episode still had a bit of poignancy to it.
ME: So does this!
NICK: Well . . . convincing poignancy.

Well, Nick may have a heart of stone, but I think the death of that poor Hath in the quicksand pit rather distressing. I’d grown to rather like that Hath, even if he was a little interchangeable with the other Hath.

Jenny’s surprisingly perky—but now the Doctor’s not thrilled about all of this. Ah! Now he’s going to talk about his old family, isn’t he?


He’s never really talked about this with any of his companions, has he? Not even Rose. Mind, I wouldn’t have mentioned a previous wife and children and grandchildren to Rose: she seemed the jealous type.

So they are dead, his family? Interesting. In the Time War, or earlier. I rather hope that that doesn’t include Susan. After all, she’s the only one we ever came to know.

Ooh, that shot of the building is a nice shot. There’s some lovely CGI in this episode, and it blends well with the location shooting.

Donna still knows that there’s something significant about those numbers, and the Doctor’s still ignoring her. Doctor, you know better than that.

NICK: That’s not a temple: it’s a space station!

Mind, we were just talking about Time Lords being the guardians of peace and justice in the galaxy.

Doctor! Pay attention to Donna! She knows what these numbers mean. She’s not daft, Donna. For all she keeps talking about being “only a temp,” she keeps showing herself as highly skilled.

Seven days? Is that a religious reference? The idea of the world being created in seven days.

Each generation gets killed in the war? That’s wasteful.

NICK: Where do all the bodies go?

Bougainvillea don’t particularly have a scent, Doctor. Trust me: I live in Brisbane.

This scene, where they walked into Kew Gardens [damn! I’d forgotten that Donna made that joke. Now I look less clever], is when I started thinking that his episode reminded me of old-school Doctor Who. But I can’t put my finger on why—it could be the set-dressing—an alien world created with lots of potted ferns. But there’s something about it that reminds me of the Doctor Who I used to watch as a child.

NICK: It’s a good thing that smashing it is how it works. Which does seem a bit weird.

Nevertheless, the Doctor has managed to get the terraforming machine going, and everyone’s laid down their arms, except for General Cobb.

But Jenny’s thrown herself in front of the Doctor. She must be unusually dense in substance, or why didn’t the bullet go straight through her and kill the Doctor, as well.

I’m not entirely in favour of giving the Doctor a new daughter and forcing him to acknowledge her, only to kill her. It seems a little . . . cheap. Even though Tennant does look suitably horrified.

How does Martha know that the Doctor regenerates? Or, more to the point, how does she know what the signs look like? She’s never seen the Doctor regenerate, although he may have told her about the process.

NICK: That General Cobb character is pure cardboard.

I suppose he’s a veteran, though—he must be three or four generations old.

DOCTOR: Make the foundation of this society a man who never would.
ME: Well, the society isn’t going to last long, then, is it, Doctor? Unless you qualify “never would.”

Oh, bloody paradoxes. Those things always irritate me.

That scene with Jenny on the bier—and I would be sadder, but, really, she had “cannon fodder” written all over her, from the start—looks as though it were filmed in a local Scouts hall.

And now Martha’s leaving, again. Bye, Martha! Maybe we’ll see you again, some time?

Back to Jenny—three guesses what happens here.

(Why does the machine put all that eye make-up on? It doesn’t work as camouflage, so why do female soldiers need eye make-up? If this were the original series, then the men would be wearing eye make-up, as well.)

And Jenny’s off! I wonder if she’ll turn up again?

Next week: Agatha Christie! Woo hoo!

(Wait, the DVDs are out already? That’s always seems as though it would cut down on viewing figures. But then we watch them anyway.)

Curses and Blessings

Posted 7 August 2008 in by Catriona

I discovered today that I have come down with the plague.

Of course, people around me are asserting that it’s simply a cold, but I don’t believe them. (And they’re being remarkably unsympathetic: my best friend asked if she’d inherit my childhood toy when the plague killed me, while Nick’s response was, “I have a concert to go to next week! I hope I don’t catch it.”)

I suppose it really is only a cold, but I’m sick so rarely that I’m not enjoying the experience, at all. And, of course, as with all colds, it’s arrived when I have an enormous pile of marking—which needs to be turned around in three days—sitting on my desk.

I consider that a curse.

But, then, I dragged myself home from work—where I’d been intending to stay and mark through the afternoon, after my morning class, but I abandoned that idea in favour of home, comfy sofas, warm cardigans, and tea—and I found this in my letterbox:

This is a Cyberman coloured in by my elder nephew and sent to his Auntie Treena. (Or, since he’s only three and a half, sent by his mother in his name—but it’s the same thing, in the end.) That’s the sort of thing, like ducklings, that would brighten up anyone’s day.

I’m so thrilled to think I have a nephew who colours in Cybermen—I love the new series, but without children of my own, I don’t always recognise the impact the new revisioning is having on the next generation.

And I’ve always thought Cybermen would be more sinister if they had an element of the harlequinade.

Live-blogging Doctor Who: The Poisoned Sky

Posted 3 August 2008 in by Catriona

This week’s live-blogging brought to you by half a bottle of wine and some Nurofen—not, I might add, ingested simultaneously.

I’ve also decided that it would be more practical to start each live-blogging episode—rather than my default pattern of live-blogging ABC New’s weather forecast—with a picture from Nick’s extensive collection of Doctor Who memorabilia.

(I suppose it’s not that extensive, by comparison with some collections that I’ve seen. But there are some odd items in there, as you’ll see in future weeks.)

Tonight, his pride and joy, and the lord and master of our living room:

It always worries me slightly when I have to pick him up by the head in order to dust. Still, at least he doesn’t shriek “Exterminate!”, unlike the bottle opener.

I can’t help but feel that the family photograph in the background—my great-grandmother, although it doesn’t really matter—is rather incongruous.

We’re still a couple of minutes out from the episode, by the way.

Nick fancies watching Freezing—since we’re now up to the before Doctor Who ads—but I think that’s only because it’s got Alex Kingston in it.

Aha! And here we go, with a recap of last week’s episode.

Martha! Hey, Martha! Why don’t you stay a while? And lovely Ross! Hurray!

And we even get a recap of the Sontaran haka that caused so much controversy (well, sort of) in last week’s comment thread.

Poor Donna’s grandfather.

NICK: Okay, at the very least, the sonic screwdriver should be able to shatter glass.

That’s a good point: don’t soundwaves shatter glass? And then at least Donna’s grandfather wouldn’t be choking.

Well of course Donna’s going with the Doctor. Oh, Donna’s grandfather should be a companion; he’s such a lovely, lovely man.

Nick’s impressed that Martha’s password is more than four letters. I bet it’s a non-sequential alpha-numeric password, too. Am I supposed to be thinking about that?

Ah, Sontaran sexism. Honestly, I’ve said this before, but if they’re a clone race, why would they be so misogynistic? Sure, they don’t need women for replication, but do they even have women?

Oh, the Doctor gives Donna a TARDIS key, but Nick thinks the moment is awkwardly delivered.

Whoops, the Sontarans have the TARDIS. And now this strange little megalomaniac Rattigan has gone to inform his students of “planetfall.”

Does he mean the death of the Earth, or is he using the term “planetfall” to mean something else?

Ha, the Doctor knows Martha isn’t what she seems. He’s not daft, that one. (Ooh, understatement.)

Jodrel Banks? They’re rubbish, aren’t they? Didn’t they completely fail to spot the Vogon Constructor Fleet?

Another Rose flash!

The Sontarans are like trolls. And like roast potatoes. But I maintain that Ross is nothing like a pink weasel.

“Belittle” jokes to a Sontaran. Isn’t that a little racist? But Nick thinks that the Doctor has always been a little contemptuous of Sontarans, above and beyond their tendency to kill people. More Sontaran haka, but it seems that the Doctor has no more patience with it than some viewers.

Now, why is the Doctor speaking to Donna in code? Surely no one can actually get into the TARDIS? We’ve seen Daleks trying to break into it, and failing. No one can blow it up. It’s essentially indestructible. So does it matter if the Sontarans know that Donna’s in there? Ah, hang on: that’s just started to make sense to me.

Every time I see Luke Rattigan, I realise that the Sontarans aren’t the only ones in this episode with a Napoleon complex.

NICK: I think Rattigan thinks he’s acting in a completely different episode from everyone else.

Why didn’t it occur to Rattigan that maybe these people didn’t want to leave Earth and move to an entirely different planet? I like the fact that he constructed a breeding programme. Poor boy. But isn’t he a millionaire? He probably doesn’t need a breeding programme to pull girls.

I do feel for Donna in this scene: having the Doctor suggest a way in which she could help and communicate with him and then not being able to put that into practice must be devastatingly frustrating. The more I see of Donna the more I like her as a companion.

Donna’s mother, on the other hand, I could live without. She gets more and more unpleasant as the programme goes on.

Ooh, DefCon One! Nick always accuses me of going to that in arguments. Unfairly, I might add.

And why would nuclear weaponry be a good idea? Well, why is it ever a good idea?

Nick also worries that not all the nuclear-capable countries are on the same side of the planet, so would they all be able to use their weapons? He’s also not certain that they can launch nuclear missiles into orbit, but that’s another story.

Uh oh, Sontarans on the march. Oh, no, lovely Ross! Don’t say he’s in the line of fire! Dammit, not lovely Ross!

No, not Ross! Oh, damn, he’s dead. Poor, poor, lovely Ross. And stop calling him Greyhound 40, you horrible man! Ah, I see that the Doctor agrees with me.

The Sontarans aren’t very sporting fighters—should they really be shooting people in the back? I thought they were meant to be the ultimate soldiers. Oh, well: apparently this isn’t war—this is sport.

NICK: No, this is Sparta!

Brigadier Alastair Lethbridge Stewart! That’s exactly who we need. And maybe Benton: he can’t really still be a Sergeant by now. But we certainly don’t need Yates: he always was annoying.

Oh dear, Rattigan. It’s annoying when you realise that your war-mongering allies don’t actually want to help you achieve a Utopian society on another planet. But at least you’re not dead.

Donna as the Doctor’s secret weapon: I can believe that. She’s tough, Donna. She’s up for anything. But I don’t mind her being legitimately scared. I’d be bloody terrified.

The aspect of the show where the Doctor is constantly irritated by Donna’s belittling of herself is another aspect that I like—it’s understated at this point in the season, but persistent, and builds up to something intriguing.

Gas masks for the UNIT soldiers? I wonder what they could possibly be planning? And the Doctor definitely knows that Martha is not what she seems.

DOCTOR: Are you my Mummy?

That’s hands down my favourite joke of the season. Maybe of all four seasons. No: it doesn’t beat “Rose, I’m trying to resonate concrete.”

Ooh, the UNIT chappy is giving a St Crispin’s Day speech. Still better than the one in Independence Day.

(Do I mean St Crispin’s Day? I haven’t got time to look it up. But I always confuse it with St Swithin’s Day, for some reason.)

Now, using the Valiant to clear away the smog is a clever idea. I do hope that smug Sontaran is killed fairly soon, though. He’s starting to annoy me with his constant harping on the glory of battle.

The Martha clone’s not very clever, is she? Why does she go to the basement with the Doctor?

Why can’t you wear a T-shirt reading “clone” in front of Captain Jack? He doesn’t exactly need encouragement. And what kind of missing adventure could they possibly have had to make the Doctor think of that?

Ah, that Sontaran’s dead. I don’t really support shooting people in the chest, but he really was an annoying walking-potato, troll person.

Clone feed? Oh, ew. I don’t really like the idea of the entire planet being turned into a clone-breeding planet. Plus, as Nick says, surely Earth is a fairly long way away from the Sontaran empire? If it weren’t, surely it would have been over-run years ago.

The coat Martha’s wearing, is that the one the Doctor got from Janis Joplin? Actually, looking at the length of that coat on Martha, it would have been far too long for Janis Joplin, wouldn’t it?

I feel rather sorry for Rattigan in these scenes. He’s so thoroughly ineffective: even when he’s holding a gun, people just walk straight past him, as though he isn’t even there.

Set fire to the atmosphere? Oh, here we go. I’m sorry—I’m devoted to this programme, but this is really rather silly. Wouldn’t this kill absolutely everyone on the planet?

NICK: Right. Watch the Doctor destroy the avian population of the Earth.

And the way he’s saying “please, please, please”—it’s as though he saying, “Don’t kill everybody, mad experiment.”

I’m not sure why that UNIT woman kisses her superior officer. Relief, I suppose.

And now the Doctor’s making a grand sacrifice. But he can’t just send the machine up in the transport on its own, because that’s not the Doctor’s way. Even though this wouldn’t be genocide, which we’ve seen him baulk at time and time again—and we’ve never seen him commit yet, although we’ve heard about it. So he has to give them a chance.

I know Sontarans don’t fear death, but surely they should have some sense of self-preservation. Random death—and more haka!—doesn’t necessarily make you an effective soldier, surely? And is a waste of training, perhaps?

But that’s all right—Rattigan has made his sacrifice, instead. All those bodies on the Doctor’s conscience: this new version of Doctor Who has been a violent one, hasn’t it? Not as violent as some individual episodes of the original series, like “The Horror of Fang Rock,” but with more overall deaths, I think.

Hey, Donna’s grandfather! You should ask the Doctor if you can go, too. It breaks my heart, it really does: his desperation for something he’s never going to experience except by proxy.

No, stay in the TARDIS, Martha!

Oh, it seems she doesn’t have a choice. That’s interesting. And at least one more episode with Martha in it! Hurray!

Next week: “The Doctor’s Daughter.” With, quite literally, the Doctor’s daughter: Peter Davison’s pretty daughter.



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