by Catriona Mills

Articles in “Doctor Who”

Please Stop Questioning My Fandom

Posted 29 September 2008 in by Catriona

In honour of the controversial ending to season four of Doctor Who, I want to run through, in a diffuse and undirected fashion, something that’s been bothering me for a while.

I want people to stop telling me what criteria I need to meet before I can call myself a Doctor Who fan.

Sure, no one’s actually telling me this in person, but I’m seeing blanket statements more and more often, and they’re frustrating me.

I was surfing around the other day, looking for a version of Tim Bisley’s rant about The Phantom Menace from Spaced so I could quote it in a comment thread, and I came across another version of this statement on a blog I’d never visited before.

I’m not going to link to the blog, because that’s not important: the author is entitled to their opinion (which is, in a nutshell, what this post is about), and it was just one more iteration of the comment that’s been bothering me.

And that comment, paraphrased, is this: You’re not a fan of Doctor Who unless you get all gushy about the Doctor’s relationship with Rose.

Well, I don’t get particularly gushy over the relationship, but I see no reason why my fandom should be constrained or questioned as a result.

Why am I not particularly invested in that relationship? Many reasons.

Partly, it has to do with the fact that I found Rose thoroughly whiny at the end of season four, and lost much of the sympathy I’d previously had for her as a result.

But partly it has to do with the fact that Rose’s relationship with the Doctor opened up the subsequent unrequited-love angle for Martha and the argument, which I still see posted on various sites, that obviously Donna is in love with the Doctor: everyone is in love with the Doctor.

This argument, to me, has shades of another old chestnut that I despise: Men and women can’t ever really be friends, because sex keeps getting in the way.

I can’t count the number of ways in which that statement frustrates me, but here are a few:

  • it’s patronising: not everyone is locked into a mode of thought where a sexual relationship is the only possible relationship.
  • it’s deeply heternormative: what if one member of the pairing is gay? What if both are? And what on earth does this suggest about our friendships with people who aren’t heterosexual?
  • it suggests we should live in a climate of trepidation, suspecting that everyone we meet wants something from us that they’re hiding behind a facade of friendship, and if we ever acknowledge that facade, the whole friendship will crumble.
  • where do married couples or couples in other forms of long-term committed relationships fit in here?

It seems to me that Rose’s relationship with the Doctor has opened Doctor Who up to this type of reading. I can’t fathom how it is possible to read Donna as in love with the Doctor, but no text is translucent, so presumably people are pulling something out of it that I’m not seeing.

But this is only my personal problem with the programme. When I watched it as a child, there was no suggestion of this in my mind. (With the possible exception of Romana.) The Doctor has companions, and they travelled the galaxy together, and we all wished we could travel in the TARDIS one day. If anything else was going on, it was going on behind closed doors, and I, for one, never thought about it.

Looking back, I think that was one reason why I liked the show: it was one of the few shows out there that didn’t subscribe to the “men and women can’t be friends” mentality.

Well, those days are over, as far a large proportion of Doctor Who fandom is concerned.

And that’s not the issue with which I have a problem.

I’m not attempting to assert that my view of the programme is the only true and right one.

Fandom is not monolithic.

There are as many different ways of being a fan as there are different ways to read a text, and there are as many ways of reading a text as there are readers (provided the text is of sufficient complexity. I don’t know how many ways there are to read Spot books—though I did once have students demonstrate a brilliant reading of a Spot pop-up book through the conventions of Gothic literature, so maybe I shouldn’t be so restrictive.)

You experience great joy out of being a Rose-Doctor ‘shipper? Great! ‘Ship away!

But don’t dare tell me that if I don’t subscribe to your view of the text then I’m not a fan.

I’m a fan of Doctor Who.

I’ve been a fan of Doctor Who my entire life: I can’t remember a time when I didn’t watch this programme, growing up in the household of parents who started watching the programme in 1963.

I was an open fan of the programme back when Doctor Who fans were unilaterally perceived as anorak-wearing weirdos (though I ascribe no particular virtue to this on my part: I never have been cool).

I’ve said this before but I’ll say it again: Doctor Who is blood and bone to me, the only television programme that I’ve ever felt exists under my very skin.

So I don’t gush over the Doctor’s relationship with a recent companion.

Why should I feel compelled to abandon a life-long fandom on those grounds?

Live-Blogging Doctor Who: Journey's End

Posted 28 September 2008 in by Catriona

This live-blogging of the final episode brought to you by the fact that we had to chase two possums out of the kitchen this evening: the second time this week we’ve had to chase native animals out of the house.

I love Brisbane.

(Of course, the last great possum chase was slightly derailed by the fact that the possum was running hysterically in one direction and Nick was running in the opposite direction looking for his camera, while I was stopping the possum from making it into the bedroom, and wondering aloud why Nick needed to take pictures of the incident. But that’s not important right now.)

So this is the final real episode of Doctor Who until 2010: sure, there are the specials next year, but it’s not the same as a full season. We’ll see how it works out.

And he we go: the beginning of the final episode. And we have a brief recap of the events of the last episode, to begin with, including Davros. Davros!

And Gwen and Ianto.

And terrified Sarah Jane. (Nick tells me I gave away a spoiler there, last episode. Sorry about that: it’s hard to type and watch at the same time. I do try to keep things spoiler free, honestly.)

And here’s the episode, with the Doctor regenerating, but forcing that regeneration energy into his severed hand.

NICK: The Doctor Who equivalent of the Hand of God goal.

And here come Mickey and Jackie to save Sarah Jane.

And something mysterious to save Gwen and Ianto.

(I have to say, I wasn’t fooled by the regeneration sequence at the end of the last episode. I knew we’d have heard if Tennant was leaving the episode.)

Damn: Doctor and Rose angst. So over this.

Nick points out that the Doctor has technically used up a regeneration, even if he didn’t actually regenerate.

Now why won’t Captain Jack give Donna a hug?

So Torchwood is locked down: Captain Jack is outside, but Gwen and Ianto can do nothing because of Tosh’s time lock. And the TARDIS has been caught in a temporal loop and transferred to the Crucible, the Dalek control ship.

But Sarah insists on the three of them surrendering, so that they too will be taken to the Crucible, where the Doctor is. (Jackie, of course, is only interested in following Rose.)

Martha won’t explain what the Osterhagen Key is (Hee! Daleks talking in German! Funniest bit of the entire episode) but she’s going to activate it, anyway.

NICK: It’s a wonderful McGuffin.

Rose is explaining that her world is ahead of this one, and that this is how they know that the stars are going out—and that all the dimensional timelines converge on Donna. Donna, naturally, immediately puts herself down again, but we know what Donna’s capable of.

Even the Doctor’s scared, here: as he says, this is a Dalek empire at the height of its power. Not like the last time they fought the Daleks.

But something odd’s happening to Donna: she can hear a heartbeat that no-one else can hear.

Rose and Jack are pretending to be tough about the whole thing—but they’re scared. Jack’s terrified, even though he knows he should be fairly safe. And even Donna, who doesn’t really know what the Daleks are like, is concerned—but she keeps getting side-tracked by that heartbeat. The Doctor thinks she’s scared, but it’s more hypnotic than that.

But now Donna’s scared, because she’s trapped in the TARDIS, and the Daleks intend to destroy what they rightly identify as the Doctor’s greatest weapon. They’ve deposited it into the heart of the Z-neutrino energy that powers the Crucible, which will destroy it.

Now, Russell T. Davies: I warned you I’d stop watching if you destroyed the TARDIS.

The Doctor is, rightly, more concerned about Donna, but the loss of the TARDIS must hurt him, too.

Donna, meanwhile, has touched the Doctor’s hand, from which the heartbeat is emanating. And the glass breaks, and the hand glows, and a new Doctor grows from the severed hand.

A second Doctor. Completely naked, if that’s your cup of tea.

He activates the TARDIS and it dematerialises, but from the original Doctor’s perspective, it looks as though it has been destroyed.

Jack shoots the red Dalek, and is exterminated. This freaks Rose out: the Doctor, obviously, slightly less.

Rose and the Doctor are being taken to Davros; as they leave, Jack—who, remember, cannot die—winks at the Doctor.

Donna is freaked out: “Lop a bit off, grow another one? You’re like worms!” But this Doctor is much more frenetic than the original, and David Tennant does a nice Catherine Tate impression. This one only has one heart, and he owes his existence to Donna: part Time Lord, part human.

And he’s more intuitive than the original Doctor. He knows that Donna lacks self-confidence, that she really does think that she’s worthless. But he knows better. The original Doctor does, too, but he doesn’t see any reason to convince Donna of it; he doesn’t really see her fragility.

He emphasises again that the way in which he and Donna keep meeting each other over and over again is not common, that there must be something more to it than that.

Martha, meanwhile, has reached her destination, and met an old woman who has stayed while the soldiers—boys, all—have fled in terror. The woman has heard of the Osterhagen Key, and she knows what it does. She blends this with memories of a single trip to London, the central thought in all her memories—all spoken in a mixture of untranslated German and English, so we don’t understand all that she is saying—but she can’t bring herself to shoot Martha.

Jack is being incinerated, but he works his way out. What kind of incinerator has a lock on the inside? Still, it’s good for Jack that it does.

Sarah, Mickey, and Jackie are being taken for “testing.”

The Doctor and Rose are being “contained” in Davros’s vault. The Doctor suspects that Davros is no longer in charge of the Daleks—he claims Davros is the Daleks’ “pet.”

Dalek Kaan is ranting, again—Davros is committed to the idea of the prophecies that Kaan is repeating. His trip into the Time War means that he saw “time,” and that is what has driven him mad.

Once again, he emphasises that one of the companions will die, but the Doctor, of course, thinks that Donna is already dead.

Davros repeats the idea of “testing,” but this time he mentions that they are testing a “reality bomb.” Sarah easily runs away from the group, and Mickey follows her. But Jackie has stopped to help a woman who has fallen down, and now the Daleks are looking directly at her. She can’t escape.

The planetary alignment field allows them to power the reality bomb—and z-neutrino energy in a single stream. The Doctors know what this means, but everyone else is in the dark. The test subjects will soon find out, though—but not Jackie, because her teleporter has recharged; she can still escape, and does so.

Everyone else in the firing lines dissolves into their constituent atoms, leaving nothing but dust.

Donna and Rose both ask their respective Doctors what happened, but neither answer: Davros tells Rose that the reality bomb cancels the electronic field that holds the atoms in any object together. With the help of the twenty-seven planets, Davros can send the wave through the entire galaxy and through the interstices between galaxies, destroying all of reality.

(I originally wrote that as “destorying,” which is fair enough, but not quite accurate.)

Detonation is near: the Daleks are retreating.

Captain Jack meet up with Mickey, who’s both pleased to see him and not:

JACK: And that’s beefcake.
MICKEY: And that’s enough hugging.

Sarah Jane, though, has a warp star: an explosion waiting to happen.

And Martha has two other people on line, and that’s enough to activate the Osterhagen Key, but she won’t activate it yet, not until she’s tried one more thing.

And that’s contact the Daleks on behalf of UNIT.

(The clone Doctor, on the other hand, has an idea to lock the reality bomb onto Davros’s DNA, which will cause the plan to backfire.)

Martha explains that the Osterhagen Key—invented by someone called Osterhagen, the Doctor supposes—will detonate nuclear bombs below Earth’s surface, tearing the planet apart.

The Doctor objects, but Martha points out that the Dalek needs these twenty-seven planets, and have no use for twenty-six planets.

Jack also pops up on the monitor, with the warp star. It gives Sarah, too, a chance to confront Davros, whom she originally met back on Skaro as a much younger woman. I’d love the deal with that confrontation in more detail, but I don’t have time.

Because Davros is pointing out that the Doctor has killed many people over the years: his daughter, the stewardess, River, the tree woman from season one, Rattigan, the man from “Tooth and Claw” . . . many, many others whose names I can’t remember, and that’s only the people who’ve died in the past four seasons. Many more died in the Doctor’s name between 1963 and 1989—it might have been nice to see some of them.

Martha and the others are drawn into the Crucible’s vault, with Davros, the original Doctor, and Rose.

DAVROS: Detonate the reality bomb!

And then the evil cackle. For one friend of ours, that was his sole update on every social-networking site around for about three days after this episode aired. “Detonate the reality bomb! AHAHAHAHAHAHA!”

But now the clone Doctor and the TARDIS are here: unfortunately, the clone Doctor is a bit rubbish, and ends up getting shot and locked in a cell. Donna, trying to activate the weapon, is also shot.

But the bomb isn’t detonated? Why not?

Donna!

Donna’s not dead—and, as the Doctor points out, she can’t even change a plug. So what’s happened?

She has control of the Daleks, who are horribly confused by the fact that they can’t exterminate anyone.

The Ood saw this coming: the Doctor-Donna, they mentioned.

(Ha! The spinning Daleks make me giggle every time. And they remind me of the sad, wailing Daleks dying of lack of radiation in the original William Hartnell Dalek story. So sad, that was.)

So it was a two-way meta-biological crisis (or something like that: this is a hard episode to recap), and now Donna is part Time Lord, as the clone Doctor is part human. And Donna knows what needs to be done to send all the planets back home: without those, the reality bomb is no threat.

SARAH: So there’s three of you?
ROSE: Three Doctors?
JACK: Oh, I can’t even tell you what I’m thinking right now.

Jack, we all know what you’re thinking of right now. You’re not exactly an opaque character, in this regard.

Dalek Kaan has been manipulating the time lines: in his trip into the Time Wars, he has seen what the Daleks have done, and he objects. He is working to the end of the Daleks, but he needs the Doctor to do it.

The Doctor won’t.

But the clone Doctor will. He reverses the power feeds, blowing each and every Dalek in the Crucible, in all the ships, into dust.

Oh, and the Doctor is not happy. Because he’s seeing himself re-commit the genocide that we know he committed. And Davros is left alone on his burning battleship: the Doctor wants to save him, but Davros refuses—he forces the Doctor to accept the fact of his genocide. And Dalek Kaan insists that one will still die.

The Doctor calls Torchwood, and he calls Luke and Mr Smith—but wait! What’s this? K9!

K9! Good dog, K9! I’ve been waiting all episode for you!

With the help of Torchwood and Mr Smith (and K9!)—but not Jackie, who’s not allowed to touch anything—the Doctor can fly Earth back home, towing it behind the TARDIS with the help of the rift.

A little silly? Perhaps.

Lovely music, though. And Ianto seems to be enjoying himself. And I like to see Ianto enjoying himself.

Plus, this is a bit of a break from the recapping, because we’re still ten minutes away from the end of the episode, and I’m already thoroughly confused about whether I’ve mentioned all the main points or not.

So Donna finally gets her cuddle from Captain Jack? I don’t know how I feel about the fact that Donna’s not just the only woman, not just the only human, but the only sentient being that Jack’s been reluctant to cuddle.

Back on Earth, Sarah’s off, to see to her teenage son.

Mickey’s off; he doesn’t want to go back to the parallel world.

Jack and Martha are off: Jack’s been deprived of his teleport, but hints at another possible career for Martha, other than UNIT.

Mickey’s not stupid, he says: his Gran’s dead, and he can see which way the wind’s blowing, so he’s off after Jack and Martha.

The Doctor, meanwhile, is back to Bad Wolf Bay: Jackie’s not thrilled about being in Norway, because she’ll have to get Pete to pick her up.

Rose doesn’t want to return to the parallel universe, but the Doctor says she has to, because the clone Doctor needs her. He, she says, is himself when he first met Rose, fresh from committing genocide and scarred by his war experience. The Doctor wants her to heal him, as she originally healed the original Doctor.

Rose is reluctant, but Donna points out the great gift that the Doctor is trying to give her: this Doctor has only one heart, so he will age and die as Rose does. He can spend the rest of his life with her.

Rose is still reluctant, but when the clone Doctor completes the sentence that the original Doctor never managed to finish in “Doomsday,” Rose grabs him and kisses him.

She still runs after the TARDIS when it leaves without her noticing, though.

I feel a little sorry for the clone Doctor—I think things are going to be a little difficult for him at first, with Rose or without her.

Donna, on the other hand, is breaking down. Her brain can’t contain the effects of the human-Time Lord meta-crisis (I must go back and correct this), and the Doctor knows what’s happening.

Donna knows, too, but she doesn’t suspect the consequences.

Until right now. She knows what he’s going to do—she can see it in his face, and he apologises, but she’s crying and she’s begging him not to, and this scene breaks my heart, because he’s going to strip everything away from her, everything that makes her Donna.

He’s going to do what the humans did to the Ood.

Damn, I don’t want to watch this again.

And he does it.

And he takes the unconscious Donna back to her mother and her grandfather, stripped of every memory of the Doctor. And no one can ever mention it to her again, for the rest of her life. She can’t ever know what happened to her.

And Bernard Cribbens is weeping: he knows what this means. He knows that Donna grew and stretched while she was with the Doctor, and now that’s all gone.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: this is the cruelest thing that the Doctor has ever done.

And I know Sylvia is trying to be supportive of Donna here—the whole “She’s my daughter” thing—but it breaks my heart to see that braying woman on the phone, not knowing who the Doctor is or what they did, and knowing she’s been dumped back into that suffocating life, with her hen-pecked grandfather who has to escape up the hill to be able to breathe and a mother who’s constantly berating and belittling her.

Oh, Donna.

What Rose goes through—a parallel universe, sure, but with her mother, her formerly dead father, her ex-boyfriend, and a clone of her recent boyfriend—is nothing compared to this wholesale destruction of Donna.

Okay, I can see in his face that the Doctor feels the horror of what he’s done.

Good.

I say again: this is the cruelest thing you’ve ever done, Doctor. Ever.

(For those of you watching these as they air on the ABC, some of us had an enthusiastic conversation about this episode here. It was spoilerific, but no longer.)

Live-Blogging Doctor Who: The Stolen Earth

Posted 21 September 2008 in by Catriona

I was a little uncertain about the practicalities of live-blogging this episode, since there seemed to be an enormous storm heading straight towards us and, Brisbane’s power-grid being what it is, I was rather alarmed about the possibility of the power going out.

But, as with last night, the storm seems to have boiled away to the north, so we should be all right.

There’s more rain coming, but not sufficient to warrant a severe storm warning. It has, at least, cooled everything down, which is an advantage. I’ve never acclimatised to Brisbane’s weather—at least, not the warm weather.

So here we are, for the second-last episode of season four.

(And I tell a lie, apparently—there is still a severe storm warning for Brisbane City. But if the power goes out in the middle of the episode, I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.)

(I’m giving a lecture on—partly, anyway—cliches tomorrow morning, and that always seems to have a detrimental effect on my writing. So keep an eye out for further cliches in this posting. I’m sure there’ll be plenty. Does that qualify as a cliche? It’s certainly not inspired writing.)

But all that’s beside the point—this is the first of the two-part story line that ends season four. I wonder what can possibly happen in this episode?

And here we are on earth—the Doctor panicking about what “Bad Wolf” can mean, but finding that nothing is wrong at all. Apparently.

Donna’s a bit stunned that she’s just met Rose, but the Doctor’s more worried about what Rose’s ability to travel between universes means for the health of the universes themselves.

Of course, he leaves too early: things start going haywire as soon as he gets back in the TARDIS—and the Earth is gone. The TARDIS is fixed, but the Earth has vanished.

Oh, bless, Donna—she’s so free from jealousy, insisting to the Doctor that isn’t it a good thing that Rose is back? I’m not sure about that, myself—but we’ll see.

Martha! She’s in the U.S.

And Torchwood—still in Cardiff. Captain Jack dashing out to see what’s happened, while Ianto and Gwen boggle.

And Sarah Jane, with her adopted son and “Mr Smith,” the computer with the melodramatic fanfare.

And Donna’s family—and Martha, and Captain Jack, and Sarah Jane, all staring up at the sky.

And there’s Rose—and we pan up, following her eye line, to see a sky full of planets, hanging so close to the earth that you’d think we’d be pulled into one of them.

And, the world’s longest credit sequence!

Donna, practical as always, is worried that with the absence of the sun, everyone on earth will freeze to death. And the Doctor’s astonished by the power of the technology that could move the planet.

That’s a nice encapsulation of their differences.

Richard Dawkins! Say hello to Romana for me!

And the Doctor’s going to the Shadow Proclamation—that’s something we’ve been hearing about for several seasons, now. I’m looking forward to seeing how that pays off.

Damn—I can’t keep up with what’s happening. Now there’re two hundred spaceships heading straight for earth. Not that anyone would notice, because they’re all too busy looting the shops, getting drunk in the streets, and beating each other up.

Rose isn’t fussed, though—she’s carrying an enormous gun, so she’s perfectly secure.

Martha’s phoning Captain Jack, to see whether he’s heard from the Doctor. Martha’s on Project Indigo. It’s top secret, but Jack’s heard about it, because he met a soldier in a bar—strictly professional, he tells Ianto.

And now the Daleks are broadcasting “Exterminate!”—and Sarah’s crying, and Jack’s terrified, and Rose looks like she’s barely holding it together. They all know what two hundred Dalek spaceships mean.

And, of course, last time Jack met the Daleks, they killed him. It was a heroic last stand, but he still died.

Supreme Dalek! All red and shiny. He’s pretty funky. But I’m with Jack and Sarah; I don’t like where this is going.

The Doctor, meanwhile, tells us that the Shadow Proclamation are intergalactic policemen—I suppose rather like Interpol. Turns out the Jadoon (don’t correct my spelling!) work for the Shadow Proclamation.

The Shadow Proclamation tell the Doctor that twenty-four planets have been ripped from the skies. Oh, yes, Donna—you’re every bit as important as the Doctor; she’s the one who notices that Pyrovillia is part of this pattern, and the Adipose breeding planet. She doesn’t mention the Lost Moon of Poush, of course, because she wasn’t there for that conversation, but she’s still the catalyst for the Doctor realising what’s happening.

(And he does mention that they’re in a perfect pattern, which is why they’re not falling into each other.)

And the Doctor mentions the Daleks in “The Dalek Invasion of Earth” trying to move the Earth—he doesn’t mention the Time Lords moving the planet in the distant future, in “Trial of a Time Lord.” Self-editing again, Doctor?

Jack’s freaking out almost as much at the idea of Project Indigo as he is at the two hundred Dalek ships. But Martha knows that she takes her orders from UNIT, and she activates it.

Jack tells us that it’s experimental teleport scavenged from the Sontarans—but that without stablisation, Martha’s dead, scattered into atoms.

I know that voice! Oh, damn—Davros! That’s Davros! Brilliant!

And Dalek Kaan—driven insane, somehow, burbling of the arrival of the Doctor. Oh, wow, that CGI for the Shadow Proclamation headquarters is beautiful. Prettiest thing this season, I think.

One of the workers approaches Donna, telling her that there was something on her back, and that she’s so sorry for the loss that is to come.

Oh, I do hate these hints about what’s to come. They keep me worked up for the coming week.

Doctor, don’t dismiss Donna’s advice, even when it’s the bees disappearing. Bees are aliens? I’ve never trusted bees. But they leave a trail that the Doctor can follow. The head woman for the Shadow Proclamation wants to co-opt the TARDIS, to have the Doctor lead them into battle. But she’s also terribly naive, so he just takes off.

The Daleks are rounding people up in the streets, but not every street. Nevertheless, Bernard Cribbens wants to attack them with a paint-gun—he thinks if he blinds them, they’ll be helpless. While he’s explaining this to Sylvia, Donna’s mother, the Daleks blow up a house when a family defies them and runs back inside.

Bernard Cribbens is a good shot, but the Dalek burns off the paint—and then explodes, as Rose appears behind him.

Bernard Cribbens wants to know if she wants to swap guns with him.

Sylvia is learning the truth about where Donna is, as her father tells her that they’re travelling the stars. The Doctor, meanwhile, is following the bees’ trail, but it stops in the middle of the Medusa Cascade—the centre of a rift in time and space, which the Doctor hasn’t visited since he was a boy of ninety. The Doctor’s defeated here—which the very Ennio Morriconian music (as Nick points out) reinforces. This is the point of ultimate defeat: the Doctor has no idea where to go, Sarah is devastated, Torchwood is stalled, Martha seems to be dead . . .

But then a voice comes out of nowhere on the subwave network.

Everyone thinks it’s just a desperate cry for help, until the voice says, “Captain Jack, shame on you!”

It’s Harriet Jones, former Prime Minister. And she’s calling for Jack, Sarah Jane, and Martha, who’s not dead, but in her mother’s home.

(Rose, meanwhile, wants to talk to Harriet, but the Nobles don’t have a webcam—Sylvia thinks they’re naughty. Rose started annoying me, here—she’s a little whingy.)

Jack, of course, is hitting on Sarah Jane. I don’t blame him—and it is Captain Jack.

(And Rose whinges, again.)

The subwave network was invented by the Mr Copper Foundation—and Mr Copper was the man who survived the wreck of the Titanic and left to start a new life on earth with a million pounds. He seems to have brought his alien technology to bear.

Harriet shuts down all possibility of using the mysterious Osterhagen Key. (Don’t correct my spelling.)

(And Rose whinges, again. You were there first, Rose—but there were many companions after you.)

Torchwood, Mr Smith, and Martha are combining their knowledge and technology to send a message to the Doctor, boosting the signal through the subwave network. It will be traced back to Harriet Jones, but she’s not worried about that.

And the Daleks have detected the transmission and are tracing the signal back to its origin: Harriet.

(Rose, the Doctor is in space: is holding your phone up to the ceiling going to make a difference? Oh, never mind.)

The Daleks have found Harriet Jones, who’s masking the location of Sarah, Torchwood, and Martha.

Now she’s transferring control to Torchwood. She knows what’s coming through her door.

And she stands up:

HARRIET: Harriet Jones, former Prime Minister.
DALEKS: Yes, we know who you are.
ME: (Chuckle)
HARRIET: Oh, you know nothing of any human. And that will be your downfall.
DALEKS: Exterminate.
ME: (Sniffle)

It’s a good death, for a character whose every appearance has been fascinating.

And now the Doctor’s skipped forward to the Medusa Cascade, which has been pulled a second out of time from the rest of the universe. And he can see Torchwood, Sarah Jane, and Martha—but not Rose. He hopes Rose is there, but she doesn’t have a webcam.

And then another voice comes in—and Sarah Jane knows that voice. She remembers the genesis of the Daleks.

Davros—Davros resurrected, though Sarah thinks he’s dead and the Doctor knows he’s dead, that his command ship flew straight into the jaws of the Nightmare Child at the gates of Elysium (don’t correct my spelling).

Dalek Kaan gave his mind, flying again and again into the time-locked Time War to rescue Davros. And Davros stripped the flesh from his own bones, literally—NICK: That’s grotesque and implausible—to create a new race of Daleks.

And Dalek Kaan can forsee death for the most faithful companion of all—everlasting death. I really hate these future warnings.

The Daleks have located Torchwood—and Jack is out of there, having used Project Indigo to get his teleport working again. And he also has an enormous gun.

But the Daleks are coming, and there’s only Ianto and Gwen left.

Sarah is leaving, as well—like Jack, she wants to find the Doctor, although she’s leaving her son behind in the car of Mr Smith. And where’s K9? I want K9, dammit!

Rose is off, too—another one seeking the Doctor. She, too, has some kind of teleport technology. But hers can take her straight to the Doctor, who’s landed on an empty street outside a church.

So there’s Rose and the Doctor, staring at each other—and Donna grinning to see it.

And they start running—but the Doctor’s not looking where he’s going. And there’s a Dalek: Rose sees it, the Doctor does not. And it catches him a glancing blow, before Captain Jack arrives and blows it up.

Donna and Rose drag him into the TARDIS while Jack covers them.

And back at Torchwood, Gwen and Ianto are insisting they’re going out kicking and screaming, like Tosh and Owen.

The Doctor is looking pretty bad.

And Sarah Jane is pulled over by a Dalek patrol—who is shot by mysterious benefactors.

The Daleks break into Torchwood, and Gwen and Ianto are shooting them.

The Doctor’s starting his regeneration cycle . . . and the episode is “To Be Continued.”

You bastard, Russell T. Davies! You magnificent bastard!

Live-Blogging Doctor Who: Turn Left

Posted 14 September 2008 in by Catriona

So, there are only two episodes left after this one. And I’m really not in the mood for this episode; I found it intensely difficult to watch the first time around. So depressing. And after a weekend of marking and being horribly ill, I’m in the mood for a more light-hearted episode.

I know!

I could live-blog the Agatha Christie episode. How about that?

No?

Okay. I’ll stick to “Turn Left.”

I mentioned this episode to my mother last week, when we talking about “Midnight” and what a good episode it was. Mam is not at all sure about an episode that is largely devoted to Donna and with very little Doctor. But I liked this one: I’ve come to increasingly like Donna over the course of the season, and she develops in a fascinating fashion here.

But it’s one of the episodes I really . . . well, “enjoyed” isn’t quite the right word, but it will do for now.

(I’ve just had a quick phone conversation with my brother that included the lines (on my part) “How do you walk into a soccer-boot emporium and come out with a new car?” and “How on earth can you not be sure whether you still have that cockatoo skeleton under the seat in your car?” He also reminded me of the time the power cables fell on top of his car while he was innocently driving along, and then told me that the same car was repeatedly kicked by a man who was apparently bleeding very heavily. It’s not every day you have a conversation like that.)

Wow, even the Doctor Who promos sound depressed at the thought of this episode.

Yet another reason to love the ABC (apart from the fact that that was the only station I was allowed to watch, growing up): is anyone else covering the Paraolympics?

Hey, we’ve wandered into Firefly!

NICK: Hey, it’s crude ethnic stereotype planet.

Apparently, this irritated a lot of people. I know the accent on this fortune teller—who played the insect woman in the Master episodes—irritated a lot of people in my living room.

Oh, Donna! You idiot! Why do you keep wandering away from the Doctor. That is never, ever, ever a good idea. And this fortune teller is creepy—and can’t keep her eyes on Donna’s face, even though she’s clearly not supposed to be looking at that chittering sound behind Donna.

Donna, you’re feeling woozy. Shouldn’t this be a hint that you should leg it out of this tent? Even before you start hearing the chittering sound?

Oh, dear: it’s Donna’s horrible mother. And why is this fortune teller so keen on pushing Donna to the point where she turns left instead of right?

Damn, that’s cold: when Donna’s mother tells her that all city men need temps for is practise. Oh, she’s an awful woman. Truly awful.

Okay, this object on Donna’s back doesn’t look that convincing, but I hate insects so much that it frightens me anyway.

Don’t turn right, Donna!

Oh, she turned right. That’s not going to end well.

That’s got to be the longest trailer we’ve ever had on this programme. And Billie Piper’s in the credits! I feel I should be more excited about that.

Christmas! I love Christmas! But which Christmas is this? Is it the Runaway Bride Christmas? I suppose we’re about to find out.

And Donna’s friend can see something on her back—that’s creepy.

A Christmas star? Then it is the Runaway Bride Christmas. Ken Livingstone spends money on Christmas decorations? Red Ken? Surely not! And now the Rachnos ship is starting to shoot everyone. But Donna’s friend can now see what’s on her back, and it’s freaking her out. It’s freaking Donna out a little, as well.

The army brings the star down, but what’s this? UNIT is there. And an ambulance—and a body? A body with a sonic screwdriver? Oh, damn! The Doctor’s dead! (I think that’s Sergeant Dead Meat! Or was that Private Cannon Fodder?)

Rose! Hang on, what’s happened to Billie Piper’s diction? She sounds as though her mouth is too full of teeth—and she seems to have lost the accent, as well. Rose can see what’s on Donna’s back—but she vanished before Donna can challenge her.

And the Doctor’s dead! Damn!

Now Donna’s been sacked—because the Thames has been closed off after the Doctor’s behaviour in the Rachnos episode.

Oops, it’s “Smith and Jones,” now—the hospital disappears while Donna is stripping her desk and insulting the staff: “Cliff, I’d leave you the mouse mat, but I’m afraid you’d cut yourself.”

The hospital is back, but with one survivor—and it’s not Martha. Damn, Martha’s dead, too? No! Yep: she sacrificed herself to save Oliver. Oh, dammit: the Doctor and Martha.

Bernard Cribbens’s right, though, Donna: it is getting worse. (And I see they’ve written Donna’s father’s death into the script.)

Sarah Jane Smith’s body was recovered from the hospital? Oh, dammit! Sarah Jane can’t be dead!

This is the point where I jumped off the sofa and sat half a metre in front of the television for the last part of the episode, hoping everyone would come back to life.

Here’s Rose again—stepping out of an alleyway in a mysterious blue light. I’m not sure why, but I have a sense there’s a mystery here. (Dramatic understatement.) Now why is Rose suggesting that Donna might want to leave the city for next Christmas? And how does she know about that raffle ticket? I don’t blame Donna for not trusting her. I wouldn’t trust her, either.

But Donna does use the ticket, and here she is with her mother and grandfather—and Bernard Cribbens has reindeer antlers on his head. I love you, Bernard Cribbens! (Donna’s father has died at some point before this episode.)

(Is Donna’s mother sharing that bed with her daughter? In that red satin nightie? I’d go for flannel under those circumstances.)

The chambermaid at the hotel can see something on Donna’s back—and she enables Donna to see it. And now the Titanic is falling out of the sky onto central London. Into Buckingham Palace. And the television goes dead just before they feel the impact of the shock.

Damn—a mushroom cloud is rising over London, from the effect of the Titanic’s engines. It’s a beautiful shot, but I’m old enough to get the shivers from the sight of a mushroom cloud.

Refugees flooding out of the south of London, to escape the radiation: Donna and her family are billeted into a house in Leeds.

And this is my favourite bit of the episode: the neighbour woman complaining that a perfectly nice family, who missed one mortgage payment, have been kicked out in favour of southern billets, and Donna descending into northern stereotypes about whippets. Not only does it bring the southern/northern dichotomy sharply to the forefront, but it’s such a complicated exchange: there’s so much going on behind that, about the impact on the south of London and the fact that this will have a devastating effect on the rest of the country.

And the Adiposians take their product into the U.S. since England is no longer available? Dear lord, the bodycount in this episode is high!

Donna’s mother almost breaks my heart in this scene, lying on her campbed, in her coat, in the kitchen of an overcrowded billet, thinking of more people that she knows who are now dead.

The fact that she insists “we’re refugees; we don’t count”—that ties in with the slap last episode from Mrs Cane about the Doctor being an “immigrant.” And perhaps also the tensions about Polish workers that Nick suggested were present in the ATMOS episodes. Man, there’s some complicated stuff coming to the surface in this episode.

And now, speaking of ATMOS, the cars are starting to go mad now, but Britain’s lack of petrol is helping. A soldier has seen the object on Donna’s back, and is threatening to shoot her.

So when Rose turns up in the middle of this, it’s to point out that Gwen and Ianto from Torchwood are dead, and Captain Jack has transported to the Sontaran homeworld. Is he dead, too?

As Nick pointed out earlier, they’ve killed off every spin-off, in this one episode.

The Doctor’s hair isn’t that great, Rose.

So Donna saved the Doctor’s life? I think that’s true—and in more ways than one. That scene with the Rachnos devastated me when I first saw it; that Doctor was implacable. Horribly so. We’ve seen that subsequently—notably in the Family of Blood two-parter—but that was the first time I saw it, and it broke my heart.

The darkness is coming? Damn.

Oh, Donna. Why do you always think that people are mocking you when they tell you how awesome you are?

Nick’s just reminded me that I’m so busy trying to cover everything in this episode that I haven’t been hitting the update button.

England for the English? Labour camps? Oh, shit! I saw what was coming here long before Donna did. And it’s giving me goosebumps, watching it again. Donna’s grandfather knows, too—but he remembers the camps the first time around, too. As he’s just said.

And now he’s weeping, and Donna finally realises what’s happening. Oh, shit—this is awful.

And it gets harder to watch, with Donna’s mother. She’s completely shut down, now. I don’t really blame her: she’s had a hell of a year, when you factor in the death of her husband. But when Donna says she supposes she’s always been a disappointment, and Donna’s mother just says, “Yeah.” Totally flat. Oh, damn—no wonder Donna has no confidence in herself.

That’s an interesting shot, that one, too: as Nick points out, they’d normally do it in deep focus, so that both actresses are in focus. But having Donna blurry behind her mother pulls up all those ideas about Donna losing her sense of self and her world, and the way in which her mother strips her of everything, even confidence, so she’s left with only a brassy aggression that covers a lack of confidence.

And now the stars are going out—so Donna is ready to go with Rose, to UNIT. And Rose has some standing here, though it’s unclear what, since they don’t even know her name.

And there’s the TARDIS! Salvaged from under the Thames—and a shade of the old Donna, laughing delightedly at the idea that the TARDIS is bigger on the inside than the outside.

The music’s dropped away here, which gives the scene a kind of dead feeling—though the music comes back when the TARDIS comes briefly to life. It’s dying, in the absence of the Doctor—and I mean “dead feeling” in a good way. It feels static, much as Donna is in this new world.

Rose strikes me as a little unsympathetic in this scene: it’s not the ruthlessness with which she pursues her plans with respect to Donna. I can understand that. But she’s from the same time and the same world as Donna: shouldn’t she be able to see how shell-shocked Donna is by the events of the past year or so? But she’s not really interacting with Donna, not soothing her or even answering her questions. She doesn’t even really seem to see how close Donna is to a breakdown, here.

So the thing on Donna’s back feeds off time? It’s like the blind angels in “Blink,” I suppose. And it’s found a good host in Donna. It makes sense to me that these kind of creatures are attracted to time travellers.

The Doctor and Donna are needed together to stop the stars going out.

GENERAL: This is to combat dehydration.

I love that line. And I love the music in this scene. I don’t know what it is about it that I love, but I love it.

So Donna’s going back in time with equipment cannibalised from the TARDIS. And she thinks this will save her, that travelling back in time will help her avoid Rose’s promise that she will die if she does this. But Rose can’t promise that. And, to give her credit, she doesn’t even try.

So Donna will travel in time, even if she never meets the Doctor.

And here she is in London in the past, before the bomb blast. But she’s half a mile away from where she needs to be in four minutes time. I couldn’t run half a mile in four minutes.

And we’re back to original Donna, arguing in the car with her mother, coming to the junction where she needs to turn left and her mother is bullying her to turn right. And past Donna is running and running, but she’s not going to make it in time.

So she stops. And she thinks. And while original Donna’s mother is haranguing her into turning right, past Donna steps out into the road in front of a garbage truck, causing the traffic to back up, blocking the right-hand turn.

And Rose turns up, and whispers two words in Donna’s ear as she dies.

And original Donna turns left—and time turns back into its original position.

Back on the planet of ethnic stereotypes, the creature falls off Donna’s back and the fortune teller is terrified by Donna’s ability to resist the creature’s abilities.

And, of course, the Doctor turns up then, not being certain that anything has happened, and looking like a puppy seeking out a new friend.

The Doctor does point out at this point that there’s a lot of coincidence around Donna—including more than one parallel world created around her, which is a good point.

Now Donna remembers the messages that Rose has told her to pass on to the Doctor. And the Doctor suspects: he suspects it’s Rose.

The two words? Bad wolf.

Now that’s not good. And now “Bad wolf” is plastered everywhere, presumably a residual effect of the time that Rose spread them through the universe.

The Cloister Bell! Damn! I’ve been waiting twenty years to hear that noise again. That’s a bad noise.

And next week, the first of the two-part finale—with everyone. And a mysteriously familiar-sounding evil chuckle.

And that’s “Turn Left.” Wow, that was tiring. I’m for a cigarette.

Live-Blogging Doctor Who: Midnight

Posted 7 September 2008 in by Catriona

So far this weekend, I’ve run errands, done the grocery shopping, hung a print in the bedroom after collecting it from the framer’s, baked a chocolate cheesecake, helped kill a dragon (and some kobolds), tidied the house, done three loads of washing, and prepared and hosted a high tea for Nick’s dad.

I didn’t manage to get any more marking done, alas.

I’m a little tired, now.

And I’m not sure I’m in the mood for this episode, which wasn’t easy to watch last time around.

So this is “Midnight,” the first of two episodes that concentrate largely on one of the two characters: this one focuses on the Doctor and next week’s (also so difficult to watch) focuses on Donna. My understanding is that they wanted to film the two simultaneously, and this was their solution. It’s certainly an interesting notion.

Ooh, a gorgeous shot, but Nick says spot the green screen when it turns up.

Finally, the Doctor succeeds in taking his companion on vacation, after all those promises that they’ll go to the beach.

Oh, there’s the green screen! Behind his head when he hangs up the phone! Well, it wouldn’t be Doctor Who if the sets weren’t a little wobbly. So to speak.

And both the Doctor and Donna do need a holiday, after the last two episode.

David Troughton! Last seen as the king in “The Curse of Peladon,” a Jon Pertwee episode.

I would absolutely go on this trip, if I had the opportunity. A waterfall made of sapphires? Awesome.

I like this hostess, too: she’s so weary and mechanical, as though she’s done everything, even told those jokes, over and over again. And there’s the Doctor’s reiteration of allons-y: I mentioned back in “Voyage of the Damned” that that would pay off in an interesting way—this is the episode.

He’s like a puppy, this Doctor, especially in this episode: look at him wondering who he can make friends with.

The Lost Moon of Poosh, eh? (Don’t correct my spelling!) I wonder if that will become relevant later in the season.

(Apparently, and this is interesting, the fact that the long-term relationship that this woman just ended was with another woman is an example of Russell T. Davis’s gay agenda, which frequently drives some on-line Doctor Who fans—the nutters—to slavering fury. As far as I can tell, Davies’s gay agenda rests on revealing that, apparently, some people are gay. I would add “how dare he?” but sarcasm doesn’t come across well in print.)

NICK: I wish they’d called it a leisure hive.

DOCTOR: Sorry, I’m the Doctor—I’m very clever.

Pay attention to that line.

Of course the Doctor wants to look outside. He’s the Doctor. And of course he convinces Driver Joe and Engineer (trainee) Claude to look outside. And the scenery is amazing.

Wait, Claude looks freaked out. He see something. I see nothing, and I’ve seen this episode before.

NICK: I’m trying to look, and I’m not sure I can see anything.

We’re geeks: we want to know what’s going on.

So, while things are settling down to wait for the rescue ship, I can run back to cover something I wanted to mention before: the passengers. We have the crusty professor and his put-upon research assistant Deedee who wants to do her own research; the middle-class tourist couple and their Gothy, surly son; and the hard-boiled businesswoman with a broken relationship. And the stewardess.

And they’re all turning on each other already, even before we get this: the knocking on the outside of the carriage.

Ooh, I don’t like this sort of thing. This, and inanimate objects moving on their own, really freaks me out.

Ha! The Doctor’s got his stethoscope out—I’ve always wondered why he’s carrying one of those. But then he also carries a clockwork mouse in his pocket, so a stethoscope isn’t such a stretch, really.

Ah, now the businesswoman is freaking out. She says, “she said she’d get me” and “it’s coming for me.” Now, that’s interesting: what on earth is the backstory to the breakdown of her relationship, that she freaks out this intensely, far more than the other passengers, and that it involved threats (Rose on the viewscreens, again!) of vengeance. That’s far more than the standard “She said she needed her space” that the woman—her name is Skye, by the way—mentioned to the Doctor when they were talking.

While I’ve been typing that, something has ripped into the ship, throwing them all around and killing both Driver Joe and Claude. Poor trainee Claude.

There’s something wrong with Skye, though.

Now Jethro, the surly teenager, is already starting to frighten people with the idea that whatever was outside is inside now.

And, judging from Skye’s face now she’s turned around, he’s right. This actress is fabulous—she looks completely different in this scene than in the previous ones.

So, even the Doctor finds it irritating when people mimic him. And yet he apparently had children—and all children find at some point that that drives people mad, and do it for as long as they can get away with.

So, she’s not just repeating: she seems to be ripping the words straight from the speaker’s brain.

Ah! And now she’s not just repeating any more. Now she’s speaking at exactly the same time as the speaker. Oh, Jethro: that’s not just weird. That’s horribly creepy. But, as Nick points out, the technical side of this episode is extraordinary.

And, of course, the Doctor would test her with the word “Bananas.”

This is disturbing: this episode is showing the Doctor in his most basic form. A new life form, it seems: one that has taken Skye over entirely. And, of course, he doesn’t approve of that. But he’s fascinated, and he can’t help that. He’s the Doctor.

He’s also, though, at his most arrogant in this episode, and that’s a problem.

Ah! And now the passengers turn. Mrs Cane—Jethro’s mother—wants to throw Skye out of the vehicle. And now we see the shift. Already there was the casual cruelty that Jethro—in an unthinking fashion—was applying, using the stricken Skye as a puppet, to make her say, “My name is Jethro” and “666.”

And now we have this: calculated murder.

I don’t know that I blame them. I hope—I hope sincerely—that I wouldn’t behave this way under these circumstances. I hope that my crippling fear that this might happen one day would stop me from going along with this kind of mob behaviour. But I can’t be sure. Of course, I can’t be sure.

And now they all turn on the Doctor. And, for once, his ambiguous nature—and, and I like this point, the joy he takes in this type of chaos—is being used against him. As when he says he’s a traveller and Mrs Cane responds, “Like an emigrant?”

Damn, this is hard to watch. But I admit, the fact that he takes joy in this chaos is something that has been worrying me for a couple of seasons.

And now Skye’s stopped mimicking everyone—everyone except the Doctor.

Oh, dear.

The fact that they’re not just saying “She’s stopped” but keep insisting “She’s let me go” is fascinating: they’re terrified. Of course they are. She’s been mimicking them as they speak: she’s been inside their heads. And I think we can all understand how insanely terrifying that concept is.

Oh, damn!

Now she’s speaking first.

NICK: On “Do we have a deal?” So she breaks the deal straighaway. Or refuses it.

Now all the passengers see the Doctor as the one repeating. They assume that whatever it is has passed into the Doctor.

And yet, Skye still doesn’t look the same as she did in the beginning of the episode. This actress (Nick tells me she’s one of Davies’s favourites) is brilliant: without shifting clothes, or hairstyle, or make-up, she’s created three different characters in the space of about forty minutes.

Ah, Deedee knows what’s happening. She doesn’t trust the argument that it’s passed into the Doctor and that Skye is safe.

Oh, I don’t like to see the Doctor immobilised like that, helpless, unable to act. It’s not natural.

Ah, and the hostess isn’t certain about the majority opinion. Deedee argues that Skye is using the Doctor’s voice, but that she’s still the one possessed. And she’ll be right, as she was right about the mechanical problems and the hydraulics.

But now Skye is suggesting that the creature—she says the Doctor—is creating this chaos, this violence, by messing with their emotions.

And now they are moving—now they are intending to throw the Doctor out of the vehicle, and they talked about doing with Skye. Even Jethro gets involved, conflicted as he looks.

Until he tricks Skye into saying “allons-y”—and then the hostess knows. And she throws herself out the door into the fatal extonic sunlight, clutching Skye.

Damn.

The passengers are breaking, now—especially Jethro and the professor, both of whom were the most conflicted about the idea of throwing the Doctor out of the ship. Even Mrs Cane shows remorse; I suppose, at least, that that’s what her “I said it was her” is supposed to show. But the Doctor quite rightly greets that with nothing but flat scorn.

(Frankly, given that the driver, the engineer, and the hostess are all dead, I’m surprised the passengers aren’t all up on murder charges.)

Oh, damn; the Doctor’s so traumatised (gorgeous music, at this point) that he can’t even bring himself to return Donna’s hug for a moment. That’s bad, for this Doctor.

And that’s “Midnight.” That was a laugh a minute.

(The actress who played Skye was Lesley Sharp, by the way.)

Next week, “Turn Left,” the largely Doctor-free episode. Don’t let that put you off. Seriously.

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