by Catriona Mills

Articles in “Doctor Who”

Live-blogging Doctor Who Season Six: "The Rebel Flesh"

Posted 28 May 2011 in by Catriona

So here we are, for a new Matthew Graham episode. I admit, this episode fills me with trepidation, given that I loathed loathed loathed “Fear Her”. But Matthew Graham is a good writer, so let’s hope he hasn’t mis-judged the audience again for this one.

Also, our peanut gallery is back! Well, one half of the peanut gallery is here.

Of course, the peanut gallery is currently distracted by a tennis player’s biceps, but I’m sure she’ll be paying attention again in a minute.

In other exciting news, I have been marking forever (and a day), so I can’t promise that this will be either funny or, indeed, coherent.

Ooh, Alcatraz! Or something. It’s oddly creepy, even for Alcatraz, and it’s full of people in boiler suits.

HEATHER (whispering to Nick): Is it a parking garage?

They head into a room with a giant vat of something. Something smoking. Something that requires hazmat suits. As they take readings on the “acid”, one of them, Buzz, climbs up onto the vat, and is accidentally pushed in by his co-worker.

WOMAN: I shouldn’t have nudged him. Sorry, Buzz, my bad.

But he’s actually melting, as his co-workers leave him behind, complaining about the cost of the hamzat suits.

But there he is outside!

He says he could get worker’s compensation, but apparently he’s not dead but is melting at the same time. And he’s not worth as much as a hazmat suit.

Credits!

In the TARDIS, there’s Muse playing. Why? Oh god, why? Amy and Rory are playing darts, and Rory is either losing or being cheated by his missus. The Doctor runs another pregnancy test.

NICK: Doctor, stop pregnancy testing Amy. It’s creepy.

The Doctor tries to drop Amy and Rory off for fish and chips, but Amy resists, and then they’re hit by a solar tsunami.

Chaos ensues.

They land.

DOCTOR: A cockerel. Love a cockerel.

Rory says they’re not in the thirteenth century, because he can hear Dusty Springfield.

HEATHER: Well, she’s pretty old, isn’t she?

They head in, to satisfy the Doctor’s “rabid curiosity.” Rory burns himself with acid, but luckily it’s old acid, or he would have lost a finger.

Then they trigger an intruder alert, but luckily, as Nick points out, the security is pretty rubbish. That’s because most of the people are locked into some sort of harnesses.

Well, except that they’re also simultaneously running in, holding a variety of weapons.

The Doctor pretends to be a meteorological expert, blaming the solar storm for his presence. But they scan them for bugs—since this is a military base and they’re contractors—and when they come up clean, the Doctor talks them into letting him see their “critical systems”.

WOMAN: Which one?
DOCTOR: Oh, you know which one.
NICK: Total bluff.

Well, it’s a giant vat of fake flesh. Or, as Heather would have it, cream of chicken soup.

NICK: Cream of human soup.
(Pause)
ME AND HEATHER: No.

They’re a long description here about the “flesh” and the “gangers” (doppelgangers), but it’s too complicated to translate here, especially since the Doctor just stuck his hand in the flesh.

Why, Doctor? Why?

NICK: Doctor, you know by now, if there’s something interesting around, you shouldn’t stick your hand in it.
HEATHER: Even if it’s papier mache paste.

Luckily, another solar storm is about to hit.

Jennifer (the cutely accented girl who knocked her co-worker into the acid) climbs into her harness, as they form a ganger for her out of the flesh, in front of Amy, Rory, and the Doctor.

It’s a creepy process, all right. Especially before the face is fully formed. But when it’s done, the ganger looks exactly like Jennifer.

The group prepare to continue pumping acid until the mainland tells them to stop. Especially since they get their power from a solar rotator. The Doctor’s quite enthusiastic about their need to prepare for the storm, but the woman in charge says, well, she’s in charge.

The Doctor heads out to find a monitoring station. But he barely gets there before the solar storm starts shaking the building. The connection to the solar power is the problem.

DOCTOR: I’ve got to get to that cockerel before all hell breaks loose. I never thought I’d have to say that again.

The storm roaring overhead is absolutely gorgeous. Wouldn’t want to be in one, though.

The acid pipes start breaking and the TARDIS starts sinking.

The gangers watch their counterparts, who are helpless in their harnesses. And the Doctor barely reaches the cockerel before the storm hits it and he’s thrown loose. Bit of an echo of “Vampires of Venice” there, but at least this is the beginning, not the end.

The Doctor, coming back to consciousness, finds the manager, and asks her why she isn’t in her harness.

Why does he assume she isn’t the ganger? We have a brief spirited debate on that topic, and I miss some stuff. As I pay attention again, they’re letting everyone out of their harnesses, and the manager explains that once the link is broken, the gangers return to flesh.

But the Doctor didn’t know that, so my question still stands.

Plus, someone is playing Dusty Springfield, so the question still (still) stands.

The Doctor says that the storm has animated the gangers, and the people whose gangers they are freak out completely at this idea.

MANAGER: Stolen lives.
DOCTOR: Bequeathed. You gave them your lives.

The staff still seem uncertain that the gangers can work when they’re not plugged into the harnesses. But Jennifer’s feeling unwell, and she heads off to the toilets. Rory runs after her, saying that the Doctor’s first rule is “don’t wander off”.

HEATHER: ‘I’ve had too many marshmallows”.
ME: What do you mean?
HEATHER: You’ll see.

Then Jennifer throws up a dollop of “flesh”.

ME AND NICK: Ew!

I’ll never eat another marshmallow.

Jennifer, fleeing into a cubicle, sticks out a snake head and tells Rory they just need to live.

It’s not the most convincing effect.

Then the Doctor proves that the manager (Cleaves) is a ganger, as well, by handing her a red-hot plate from the microwave. Then her face goes all funny, she shrieks, “We are living!”, and runs out of the room.

Amy wants to know where Rory is, but, of course, he’s chasing after Jennifer, because she’s distressed and Rory is soft. (And I mean that as a compliment.)

Much running around the castle ensues, as the ganger Jennifer goes looking for Rory. The others manage to follow Rory into the toilets, realising that Jennifer is a ganger, too.

The Doctor clearly knows something about the flesh (as another man points out, he called it “early technology”), but he won’t tell them what it is. He just says that he can fix it. They agree that he’ll head back to the TARDIS and the others will wait in the dining hall.

Amy, though, heads off to find Rory, apparently walking straight through acid to do so.

I only know about three character names at this point, and we’re more than halfway through the episode.

Rory, elsewhere, comes across ganger Jennifer, talking about a time when she wandered away from a picnic and got lost on the moors. At the time, she imagined another Jennifer, a strong Jennifer, a tough Jennifer, who could lead her home. She’s looking at a picture of her child-self as she talks about this, and at her own, partly formed face in a hand mirror. She’s trying to reconcile the fact that she is Jennifer and a factory part at the same time.

Rory doesn’t help, asking where the real Jennifer is.

Ganger Jennifer says that she is Jennifer. “I’m me … me … me,” she says, beating herself on the chest. Every time she strikes her breast, she flips into warm human, and then back to greyish flesh. Lovely, lovely effect.

“Help me, Rory!” she says.

NICK: Help me, Rory. Help help me, Rory.
HEATHER: Stop it, Nick. It’s a very sentimental scene. We don’t need your Beach Boys references.

The TARDIS has sunk into the ground, the flesh in the tank is talking, one of the human crewmen keeps sneezing (relevant?), and the gangers have the acid suits. That means they can strike at will, and they will.

Ganger Jennifer gets excited when Rory says the Doctor wants to help Jennifer. “You used my name!” she coos, and she kisses him on the cheek.

HEATHER: Yeah, well, I wasn’t actually talking about you.

Amy opens a mysterious door, and see the eyepatch woman looking out of what seems to be a blank wall. As she slams the door shut again, Rory and the ganger Jennifer are on the other side. Rory offers ganger Jennifer protection, even though Amy says dismissively, “It’s a ganger.”

Elsewhere, the Doctor find the other gangers, and offers them assistance. He tells them that if they can hold their fully human forms, the others will be less scared. Not if they can see how you can turn your heads 180 degrees, they won’t be.

Ganger Jennifer, in the dining hall, is trying to convince the others that she is Jennifer Lucas, but they’re resistant. They’re even more resistant when the Doctor marches in with a bunch of gangers behind him.

Cleaves, elsewhere, isn’t thrilled about this, mumbling to herself, “Make a football team, why don’t you?”

Well, you can’t make a football team with nine people, for a start.

The Doctor offers to take everyone off the planet, humans and gangers alike. But when one of the gangers starts talking about his son, there’s a strange tension between the groups. The man who knows he’s the father is deeply uncomfortable with this.

Then Cleaves comes back in with a circuit probe, which carries about 40,000 volts (and, which the Doctor points out, Cleaves calls “she”).

GANGER CLEAVES: Oh, that is so typically me.

Ganger Buzz charges Cleaves, and she kills him.

CLEAVES: We call it decommissioned.

The gangers, not surprisingly are not the slightest bit happy about this. They flee, but Cleaves is immune to the Doctor’s reproaches. “If it’s war, it’s war,” she says. “It’s us and them now.”

Elsewhere, ganger Jennifer is saying exactly the same thing. It’s interesting that she’s in charge, and not ganger Cleaves.

Ganger Jennifer says that she’ll take care of the spare running around, and we see Jennifer for the first time since she put herself in harness, limping badly, and being scared by something groping around in the darkness.

The Doctor wants the most defensible room in the castle (the chapel), warning that the gangers are coming back in a big way.

They certainly are, in the acid suits.

Rory refuses to enter, saying that he can’t leave Jennifer alone. And he dashes off down a side corridor as the gangers, in their suits, appear.

The others barricade themselves into the chapel, but something else is already there.

DOCTOR: Show yourself! Right now.

Amy says that this is a horrific mess, and the Doctor agrees. But he’s not the Doctor.

GANGER DOCTOR: Trust me. I’m the Doctor.
HEATHER: I’m a pillow!

I think she means the ganger Doctor, rather than herself.

Next week: more gangers!

Strange Conversations: Part Three Hundred and Sixty-One

Posted 25 May 2011 in by Catriona

While watching the Fifth Doctor story “Kinda”:

ME: Our reactions to this story rather sum up our different approaches to the genre.
NICK: Why?
ME: You said, “It’s anthropological science-fiction in the vein of Ursula Le Guin!”
NICK: And you said?
ME: I said, “Those aliens look a bit Welsh.”

Live-blogging Doctor Who Season Six: "The Doctor's Wife"

Posted 21 May 2011 in by Catriona

Right, things got a bit fraught there for a minute, but now I’m all set to live-blog the Neil Gaiman episode of Doctor Who.

All set, but a bit nervous. Understandable, under the circumstances. I’m anxious to make a good thing out of this, but also anxious that I’ll get completely flustered and the whole thing will become one long fangirl squeal.

Ooops, spoilers.

We open on a creepy, green-tinged planet. A woman who looks like Helena Bonham-Carter says, “Will it be me, Uncle?” And Uncle says, yes: it’s Idris’s turn, and it’s going to be really painful, as Nephew (an Ood) drains her mind and soul from her body, leaving her body empty for a new soul.

“There’s a Time Lord coming,” says a woman.

In the TARDIS, the Doctor tells an unsavoury anecdote about a robot king who wasn’t a robot king, and then someone knocks at the door.

The scrumptious little beauty knocking at the door is a Time Lord emergency message system (a little box) from a Time Lord called the Corsair.

DOCTOR: Didn’t feel like himself unless he had that tattoo somewhere. Or herself, a couple of times. Ooh, she was a bad girl.

Well, that’s Time Lord gender change made canonical, then.

Time Lords are all but extinct in our galaxy, but this is coming from outside our universe, and the Doctor is burning up some spare rooms (including the swimming pool, the scullery, and squash court 7) to get through the Rift and out to a small, greenish planet.

But once they land there, the TARDIS starts to power down. Everything’s draining, says the Doctor, though this is impossible. The soul of the TARDIS has vanished. “Where would it go?” asks the Doctor.

And then Idris comes gasping back to life, but her gasp is the TARDIS dematerialisation sound.

Ooh-er.

Credits.

The Doctor steps out of the TARDIS, into a planet that looks like a junkyard.

RORY: What is this place? The scrapyard at the end of the universe?
DOCTOR: Outside the universe, not the end of it.

The Doctor explains it as being not anything like a soap bubble with a tiny bubble clinging to the end of it. Then he shifts to the universe being a plug hole.

Then Idris turns up and kisses him, calling him her thief.

UNCLE: Strangers. Welcome. Sorry about the mad woman.

He introduces himself, the motherly woman introduces herself as Auntie, Nephew keeps in the background, and Idris is casually restrained.

UNCLE: Keep back from this one. She bites.
IDRIS: Do I?

And she bites the Doctor.

IDRIS: Biting is excellent. It’s like kissing, only there’s a winner.

Idris is clearly not entirely comfortable with language, and keeps trying to snog the Doctor. She tells him that the little boxes will make him angry and that his chin is hilarious. She defines “petrichor” for Rory, telling him that he will need to know what it means at some point, and then faints.

The Doctor spots Nephew, and manages to fix his communication device, which then broadcasts dozens and dozens of messages from Time Lords.

The Doctor’s noticeably staggered by this, though Auntie says that there’s only the four of them, and House.

The Doctor wants to know what House is, and they say it’s the world. They offer to introduce the Doctor to House, and he accepts because he’s fascinated by the fact that somewhere nearby, there are lots and lots of Time Lords.

In a cage elsewhere, Idris is struggling to think of a word, a big word and a sad word.

But the Doctor is realising that the asteroid is sentient—sentient and creepy. I wish I could manage, in the time I had, to express how creepy it is when Auntie and Uncle shut down.

House says that there have been many TARDISes on his back in days gone by, and the Doctor points out that he’s the last one. No more TARDISes here. The Doctor asks whether he can look around, and they say, yes, he can look around all he likes.

Idris calls for her thief.

The Doctor wants to save his friends, though Amy objects.

AMY: You want to be forgiven.
DOCTOR: Well, don’t we all.

The Doctor sends Amy back to the TARDIS for his screwdriver, and then sends Rory off to look after Amy, much to Amy’s annoyance.

RORY: He’ll be fine. He’s a Time Lord.
AMY: It’s just what they’re called. Doesn’t mean he actually knows what he’s doing.

Of course, the Doctor has his screwdriver, so it’s not a good sign when the TARDIS door automatically locks behind them.

The Doctor traces the voices to a little cupboard. He says, “They can’t all be in here”—but they are, because they’re just the cubes. Auntie and Uncle appear behind him.

DOCTOR: Just admiring your Time Lord distress-call collection.

He challenges Auntie and Uncle, realising that they’re cobbled together from bits and pieces from other people. Auntie, for example, has the Corsair’s arm.

AUNTIE: He was a strapping big bloke, wasn’t he, Uncle? I got the arm, and Uncle, he got the spine and the kidneys.
DOCTOR: You gave me hope and then you took it away. That’s enough to make anyone dangerous. God knows what it’ll do to me.

He tells them to run, but Uncle says it’s too late: House is too clever.

Amy rings, and the Doctor reveals that he locked the doors behind them. But the Doctor has remembered that Idris knew that the boxes would make him angry. He goes to find Idris, while the TARDIS is surrounded by a mysterious green light.

The Doctor doesn’t know who Idris is, until she makes the dematerialisation noise.

IDRIS: I’m the TARDIS.
DOCTOR: No, you’re not. You’re a bitey mad lady.

Idris says that the Doctor stole her, and she stole him.

DOCTOR: I borrowed you.
IDRIS: Borrowed implies an intention to give back. What makes you think that I’d ever give you back?

She talks the Doctor into letting her out of the cage.

IDRIS: Are all humans like this?
DOCTOR: Like what?
IDRIS: So much bigger on the inside.

Through a complicated conversation that I can’t repeat, they realise that House removes the TARDIS matrix so that he can feed off the remaining Rift energy without being destroyed. And as the Doctor runs to try and save Amy and Rory, the Cloister Bell starts ringing.

Not the Cloister Bell!

Amy and Rory hold hands, and the TARDIS dematerialises.

Rory says that they’re safe because they’re in the TARDIS, but House says they’re half right—they’re in the TARDIS—and asks why he shouldn’t kill them straight away.

The Doctor runs off to find Auntie and Uncle, but it’s time for them to die, which they do promptly after explaining that House is off to our Universe, to find more TARDISes.

Idris, whose body is failing under the stress, tells him to be calm.

DOCTOR: How? I’m a madman with a box, without the box!

But then he realises that it’s a junkyard of dead TARDISes, which gives him some hope.

DOCTOR: Do you have a name?
IDRIS: 700 years, finally he asks. I think you call me … Sexy.
DOCTOR: Only when we’re alone!

In the TARDIS, House is thrilled by his new corridors, but still wants to know why he shouldn’t just kill them. Rory’s best idea is that killing them quickly wouldn’t be much fun. Which is a fair point, but a bit silly.

House tells them to run.

The Doctor and Idris find the valley of half-eaten TARDISes.

DOCTOR: Are you thinking what I’m thinking?
IDRIS: I’m thinking all my sisters are dead; they’ve been devoured, and we’re looking at their corpses.
DOCTOR: No, sorry. I wasn’t thinking that at all.

No, the Doctor is thinking that he can build a new TARDIS, even though it’s impossible. Idris accuses the Doctor of being like a nine-year-old rebuilding a motorcycle in his bedroom and never reading the instructions.

IDRIS: There’s a sign on my door. You’ve been walking past it for 700 years. What does it say?
DOCTOR: That’s not instructions!
IDRIS: There’s an instruction at the bottom. What does it say?
DOCTOR: ‘Pull to open’.
IDRIS: And what do you do?
DOCTOR: I push.

He says that Idris wasn’t reliable, because she didn’t always take him where he wanted to go. No, she says: she always took him where he needed to go.

She did! says the Doctor. And he thinks it would be brilliant if they could always talk like this. But the TARDIS isn’t built that way. And at this point, they need to keep working, because Idris’s body is failing and the universe they’re in is also failing.

Elsewhere, Amy and Rory keep being separated by the doors in the TARDIS corridors, as House plays with them.

The Doctor has half a console room built, but it doesn’t work.

IDRIS: Did you ever wonder why I chose you, all those years ago?
DOCTOR: I chose you. You were unlocked.
IDRIS: Of course I was! I wanted to see the Universe, so I stole a Time Lord and I ran away. And you were the only one brave enough.

House continues to terrorise Amy and Rory, showing Amy an ancient, tortured, brutal Rory.

The Doctor can’t power his console room up, to his frustration. But he still has the TARDIS, in Idris, and she has the power to get them started.

They dematerialise.

On the TARDIS, Amy stumbles across Rory’s corpse and his anti-Amy graffiti. But as she’s weeping over him, the real Rory comes around the corner, and the corpse and the graffiti all vanish.

They run again.

The Doctor and Idris are locked onto the TARDIS. But the TARDIS needs to lower the shields, and the Doctor asks her to get a telepathic message to Amy.

IDRIS: Which one’s Amy? The pretty one?

Of course, she messages Rory, but she gets the message through, sending him to her collection of archived control rooms. She has about thirty, though the Doctor has only “changed the desktop” about a dozen times.

House keeps messing with them; Amy can’t see and Rory seems to have banged his head. But Amy moves towards his voice, past his unconscious body … towards Nephew. She realises who he is when she grasps the tentacles, and she and Rory run.

The Doctor and Idris tear through the Rift.

DOCTOR: You’re doing it, you sexy thing!
IDRIS: See, you do call me that! Is it my name?
DOCTOR: You bet it’s your name!

Rory and Amy reach the old control room, and Amy realises that the key is telepathic, hence the need to know the meaning of petrichor.

They arrive in an old control room: it’s the Ninth Doctor’s control room, though I’d have liked an older one. They lower the shields, but Nephew works his way into the control room, and, on House’s orders, moves to kill them.

Then the Doctor and Idris rematerialise.

DOCTOR: Amy, this is … well, she’s my TARDIS. Except she’s a woman. She’s a woman, and she’s my TARDIS.
AMY: She’s the TARDIS?
DOCTOR: And she’s a woman! She’s a woman, and she’s my TARDIS.
AMY: Did you wish really hard?

Nephew is dead, and Idris isn’t in good condition, either. But House can still kill them, if he wants.

Rory looks after Idris, while the Doctor tells House that if he deletes 30% of the TARDIS rooms, he can achieve enough thrust to make it through into their own universe.

House says he’ll start by deleting the room they’re in, thus ridding himself of vermin.

And he does.

But the TARDIS has a failsafe. And they rematerialise in the main control room.

HOUSE: Fear me. I’ve killed hundreds of Time Lords.
DOCTOR: Fear me. I’ve killed them all.

And, as the Doctor points out, though Idris is dead, the TARDIS matrix, whom he ripped from her home and forced into Idris’s body, is back in the control room now. And she’s free.

The TARDIS matrix drives House out of the TARDIS, as the Doctor watches and encourages her.

And then Idris calls to the Doctor. She’s glowing with golden light. She tells the Doctor that she’s been searching for a word, a big complicated word, but so sad. And she’s found it.

DOCTOR: What word?
IDRIS: Alive.
DOCTOR: Alive isn’t sad.
IDRIS: It is when it’s over. I’ll always be here. But this is when we talked. And there’s something I wanted to say to you.
DOCTOR: Goodbye.
IDRIS: No. Hello. Hello, Doctor. It’s so very, very nice to meet you.
DOCTOR: Please. I don’t want you to.

But she has to. She’s back in the TARDIS now, but she’s gone, too. She can’t talk again.

Rory says that at the end, she kept repeating, “The only water in the forest is the river.” She said they’d need to know that at some point.

Rory’s bothered by Idris’s death, despite having seen death many times.

DOCTOR: Letting it get to you. You know what that’s called? Being alive.

He asks the TARDIS where they should go this time.

DOCTOR: What do you think, dear? Where should we take the kids this time?
AMY: Look at you. It’s always you two, long after the rest have gone.

The Doctor tells them that he’ll make them a new bedroom, and Amy and Rory ask if they can have something other than bunkbeds this time, despite the Doctor pointing out that they’re beds with a ladder.

They head off to bed, and the Doctor’s left, as always, with his TARDIS.

Next week: a Matthew Graham episode, but it looks much, much better than “Fear Her”.

Strange Conversations: Part Three Hundred and Sixty

Posted 20 May 2011 in by Catriona

ME: So there’s a rumour that River Song is Bernice Summerfield? Surely that makes no sense?
NICK: None whatsoever, even though Moffat’s a huge Cornell fan. And of course River Song bears some resemblance to Benny.
ME: Yes, in that she’s an archaeologist. But Bernice is in the Doctor’s past. She was a companion of the 7th and 8th Doctors.
NICK: Yeah. It’s more of an archetype thing there. It would be the kind of revelation that makes no sense to 99% of the audience.
ME: Oh, you mean like when the Master killed Rassilon with laser bolts from his hands and everyone said, “Who?”
NICK: Mmm, ok, make that 99.9999%.
ME: RTD was not afraid to bewilder 99% of the audience and drive the other 1% psychotic with fury.

Live-blogging Doctor Who Season Six: "The Curse of the Black Spot"

Posted 14 May 2011 in by Catriona

Here I am, in a little side dimension in which Doctor Who doesn’t clash with the second semi-final of Eurovision. You can’t say I’m not a dedicated live-blogger.

In this side dimension, it’s a bit cold and my back really, really hurts. I don’t dare take muscle relaxants, lest the live-blogging degenerate into unfocused gibberish. (I do aim for focused gibberish.) But I’m here, and the episode is here, and my back pain is here, so let’s see if they can all play nicely together, shall we?

I’ll be honest: I’m inclined to dislike this one just on the basis of its title. It seems as though it’s intended to be funny without actually being, you know, very funny.

We open on a misty ocean, with swarthy pirate types rowing towards a ship. They’re not thrilled, and Kenny from Press Gang asks what’s wrong. A man’s wounded, apparently.

They wake Captain Hugh Bonneville.

The captain checks the sailor’s hand, seeing a slight scratch.

He tells the sailor he’s a dead man, just like all the others. And we hear a woman’s voice singing ethereally. The sailor says he can escape, but instead he just disappears into a scream and some off-cuts from the Pirates of the Caribbean soundtrack.

The sailors whine about being shark bait, before the Doctor leaps out of a hatch.

DOCTOR: Yo ho ho! Or does nobody actually say that?

Credits!

The TARDIS is below decks: the Doctor claims that his sensors picked up a ship in distress.

Kenny thinks they’re spirits, and the captain doesn’t seem convinced by the Doctor’s modern gibberish. He thinks they’re stowaways, since the ship’s been becalmed for eight days.

KENNY: What do we do with them?
CAPTAIN: Oh, I think they deserve our hospitality.

That means walking the plank.

The sailors all roar with laughter.

DOCTOR: I think doing that laugh must be in the job description. Can you do the laugh? Great! Grab yourself a parrot. Welcome aboard!

They take the doxy (that would be Amy) below decks, over Rory’s faint protests that “She’s not a doxy, all right?” And the Doctor’s ready to walk the plank, after asking the sailors to do the laugh again.

Amy, below decks, find some cutlasses and a truly awesome coat.

She shows back up deck just as the Doctor is rambling about the small number of crew members.

The captain says a sword could kill them all, and they do seem quite terrified of it. Mind, Amy’s surprisingly good with it.

She manages to slice one of the pirates in passing.

PIRATE: You have killed me.
AMY: No way. It’s just a cut!

That’s good, because Rory’s got a cut as well. And now he has a black spot on his palm, too.

Apparently, the ocean-borne demon can smell the blood, and now she’ll rise from the depths and take Rory and the other pirate.

But the song has an unusual effect, and Rory’s gone all soggy and sentimental, telling Amy that she should dress as a pirate more often.

RORY: Everything is totally brilliant, isn’t it? Look at these brilliant pirates. Look at their brilliant beards!

And then there’s a strange glowing patch on the waters, and the siren rises from the depths, singing (or maybe bringing the music with her).

NICK: I’m sure you could see her knickers at one point there.

Amy holds Rory back, but they just let the pirate walk forwards, touch the siren’s hand, and burst into a puff of dust.

Amy tells the siren that Rory’s spoken for; the siren turns red and fierce, and throws Amy across the deck. And they all flee below deck.

The Doctor raves about Freud and his comfy sofa for a bit before someone is fortuitously bitten by a leech, which distracts everyone. The Doctor says they’re safe from the siren here, before she appears in front of them.

They retreat even further, behind another door. The Doctor says that she’s using the water as a portal, so the captain says that they should retreat to the magazine: since the powder’s kept there, the place is bone dry.

The key to the magazine has gone, but the door is open. Someone else is hiding there.

The door’s barricaded behind them, just in time for them to hear a suspicious coughing from an empty barrel. It’s a small boy, who turns out to be the captain’s son.

The captain says that the boy’s mother will be searching for him, but it’s all right: she’s dead.

This bit I find confusing. The captain recognises this boy as his son, but the boy is talking as though he’s never seen his father, as though he doesn’t know anything but what his mother’s told him. So, if he hasn’t seen his father since he was a toddler (the boy was a toddler, not the father: stupid pronouns), would the father immediately recognise him? And if that’s a stupid question, how would the boy know where to find his father, since this man is clearly not—as the boy’s mother claimed—an honourable man and a navy officer?

Never mind all that. Let’s get back to the killing.

The boy keeps coughing. I’m sure that’s not important to the narrative.

The captain says it’s too dangerous for the boy to stay, but he’s already been marked by the black spot, so that’s all right. The boy hasn’t bled, but he does have a fever. She’s coming for all the sick and injured.

The Doctor says that they can all leave in the TARDIS, just before the boy opens a barrel of water and the siren sticks her hand out.

Leaving the boy and others behind, the captain and the Doctor head out to find the TARDIS, to get them all away.

DOCTOR: We’ve all got to go sometimes. There are worse ways than having your face gnawed off by a dodgy mermaid.

The captain copes quite well with the weirdness of the TARDIS, before Amy nags Rory a bit.

Kenny and the other pirate decide to leave the magazine, while elsewhere the Doctor explains the TARDIS’s workings.

TOBY: He told you to wait, you dog. He’s your captain.

Kenny tells Toby that his father is a pirate, which is maybe a bit mean, but then Toby did call him a dog. He also tells Toby that his father has gunned down a thousand innocent men.

The TARDIS is becalmed.

DOCTOR: You had to gloat, didn’t you?

Toby stops Kenny from leaving by slicing his hand open with a cutlass.

Oh my god: you killed Kenny! You bastard!

(I had to. You understand, right?)

Seriously, that’s pretty cold for a ten-year-old boy. Even a seventeenth-century ten-year-old boy. He really takes this chain of command thing seriously, does Toby.

In the TARDIS, the Doctor can’t get a lock on the plane. And then the TARDIS throws a complete fit.

Elsewhere, Kenny is furious, but recognises that he can’t really shoot them, not with all the powder around, and he can’t leave. But Mulligan, the last pirate, can and does leave.

The Doctor can’t bring the TARDIS under control. She’s about to dematerialise, so the Doctor gives the order to abandon ship. The TARDIS disappears in a familiar green haze with a sick wheeze.

They dash back to the magazine, meeting Mulligan on the way. He has the supplies, but the captain is more worried about his treasure and gives chase. Hiding, Mulligan burns his hand on a lamp. Up pops the siren: bang goes Mulligan. But there’s no water in that room. So how did she get in?

DOCTOR: I was wrong. Please ignore all my theories up to this point.
CAPTAIN: Again?

Apparently, she’s coming in through reflections. So this seems a good time for Toby to polish the medal his father left him.

The Doctor and the captain rush back to the magazine, to warn Amy, Rory, and Toby.

Wait. Where’s Kenny? Did an entire pirate just disappear?

The Doctor smashes everything reflective that he can find, and tries to throw the captain’s treasure overboard. Luckily, the captain seems to listen to reason, and heads off to grab the crown.

A breeze comes up, rippling the surface of the ocean.

Seriously, Kenny’s completely disappeared. How did they lose an entire pirate? Did the siren grab him off-camera? Wouldn’t someone mention that to the captain?

Now Toby says that there’s been no word from his father for three years—presumably, that’s when he turned pirate. But that doesn’t mean that’s the last time he was home. That bothers me.

Amy, dreaming (or not), sees the woman with the eye-patch again, who tells her that she’s doing fine, and to stay calm.

On deck, the Doctor and the captain talk about their experiences as captains. The Doctor’s a bit nosy about how the captain turned pirate, but the captain’s a reticent man.

Where’s Kenny? Does anyone care?

A storm comes up, with what seems like surprising suddenness to me—and I live in a sub-tropical city. The captain demands everyone climb up into the rigging so they can cut loose the sail. Or furl it. Or something nautical. I remember reading somewhere that you cut sails loose in a storm so the ship doesn’t capsize. But then aren’t you short a sail? Maybe you only cut them loose in an emergency?

Note to all: don’t get stuck with me on a sailing ship in a storm. You’ll all die.

CAPTAIN: Heave ho, you bilge rats.
RORY: “Rats” is all I heard.

Toby grabs the captain’s coat … and out rolls the crown. That’s not ideal.

And sure enough, the siren pops out of the crown and draws Toby towards her. He touches her hand and explodes into dust. Amy holds Rory, to keep him from the siren.

The Doctor lambasts the captain for his greed, but Rory’s knocked overboard when the sails (or mast or something nautical) swings round.

Amy wants to leap in, but the Doctor says that Rory can only be saved by the siren, and releases her from the barrel.

DOCTOR: That thing isn’t just a ravenous hunter. It’s intelligent. We can reason with it. And maybe, just maybe, they’re still alive somewhere.

But why would you think that? There’s been no reason to think that, given her past behaviour.

So they all prick their fingers.

Now that’s an insane leap of faith, right there.

Also? Where’s Kenny? How do you lose a pirate?

Seemingly, they’re in an alternative dimension, which overlaps with the captain’s ship. But didn’t the captain say that the siren had been preying on other ships? Were they all becalmed in the same spot, then? Or was that just myth and this is reality?

This episode confuses me. And are we doing the corner-of-the-eye/world-in-the-mirror schtick again?

This alternative ship is the one that was sending the distress call. And there’s some humour about mucus that I’m not transcribing.

In a mysterious room full of floating beds, they find all their loved ones.

CAPTAIN: Toby!
AMY: Rory!
DOCTOR: The TARDIS!

The pirates are there, too. And there’s Kenny! Hey, we found Kenny!

That’s one giant flaw in the editing, right there.

Hiding and looking at the siren as she wanders among the beds, the Doctor decides that her song is an anaesthetic, by which she puts the patients into stasis.

And at this point, Nick guesses what’s going on.

Yes, she’s an emergency medical hologram, just like in Voyager. She won’t let them take the patients out of the sick bay, but apparently her programming is intelligent enough that she can recognise Amy’s prior claim on Rory. Do they have marriage on her planet? How would she understand marriage just from watching a bunch of seventeenth-century pirates? Were they marrying one another to pass the time?

Actually, how did she model herself on an attractive human woman when all she’s come across are pirates? (There’s no one else in the sickbay but the pirates, apparently.)

Never mind that.

They can’t move Rory, because he’s at the point of death, what with the drowning and all. So he has to stay, or Amy has to learn how to do CPR well enough to save her sort-of-drowning-on-dry-land husband once they unlock him.

The Doctor, meanwhile, wants to send the ship back into space, to stop the siren getting to dry land and forcibly healing everyone. (Shades of “The Empty Child”/“The Doctor Dances” now.)

The captain decides to stay with his son, whom the Doctor quickly diagnoses with typhoid fever. And the Doctor and Amy drag Rory into the TARDIS, where they perform CPR on him for roughly twenty years before giving up. But that’s all right: maybe because he used to be an Auton, Rory can be saved by the power of love alone. Remember how that worked in the Winston Churchill episode?

Now, why is this episode reminding me of the Winston Churchill episode, I wonder?

Anyway, he’s alive.

The captain and Toby sail the ship through space, supported by a pirate crew, including Kenny the Amazing Disappearing Pirate.

NICK: Yes, let’s give a bunch of pirates a spaceship.

Amy and Rory head off to bed, while the Doctor checks a scan of Amy’s appearing/disappearing pregnancy and wonders what she’s got herself into this time.

Next time: Neil Gaiman! Neil Gaiman! Neil Gaiman!

Eurovision and the Doctor

Posted 12 May 2011 in by Catriona

Once again, the Eurovision Song Contest is upon us.

And once again, I’m going to be live-blogging the semi-finals: not the final, but most definitely the semi-finals.

But, I hear you say (or maybe it was me), what about Doctor Who? Now that’s on a Saturday night, how ever will you manage to live-blog both it and Eurovision?

Since I wouldn’t miss live-blogging a Doctor Who episode about pirates for the world, I will simultaneously occupy two positions in space and time on Saturday night, in order to cover both. The Doctor Who live-blogging won’t be posted until after the Eurovision semi-final is finished, to avoid confusion on the front page, but the minute the last spangle has been swept from the stage, the TARDIS will appear.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to mark 60 first-year assignments.

But, if you have a mind to cheesy pop songs, join me back here this evening. You have to bring your own drinks, but it’s still a pretty good party.

Live-blogging Doctor Who Season Six: "The Day of the Moon"

Posted 7 May 2011 in by Catriona

No peanut gallery for this live-blogging, and the longer Doctor Who is on a Saturday night, the less likely we are to have a peanut gallery, I think.

Still, I’ve livened the evening up by trying to convince Nick that he really doesn’t need to try and find Vampire Diaries right now, since we’re watching Doctor Who and all. I failed, but I did my best.

And if you’re not watching Vampire Diaries, why not? So awesome, so fast-paced, so funny, and so likely to kill off a major character at least once an episode. Who could not like that?

Am I the only person in the world who finds yachting to be the most boring pastime that rich people could ever come up with? Yes? No?

I suppose there’s always golf. That’s a bit boring, too.

ME: OMG, Moby Dick!
NICK: Do you want to watch it?
ME: Yes! It saves me reading the book, doesn’t it?

Previously, we had Space 1969, a Viking funeral, Richard Nixon, and some creepy aliens who liked killing people.

Also, Amy is pregnant.

This episode, we open with Amy running down a road in the desert, pursued by men in black cars. It’s Utah, which is just so beautiful. Unfortunately for Amy, she comes to the end of a ravine. Canton, calling her “Miss Pond”, pulls up in a car.

AMY: Is that a body bag?
CANTON: Yes, it is.
AMY: It’s empty.
CANTON: How about that.

Amy challenges Canton to remember the warehouse, but he just shoots her.

Huh.

Canton approaches the Doctor, chained to a chair and hidden behind an enormous beard, in Area 51. He tells the Doctor that Amy had strange markings on her hand and asks what they were.

DOCTOR: Why don’t you ask her?

Then he looks again at the spreadeagled hand in the photo.

Elsewhere, River confronts an alien and adds a mark to the one on her arm. But she’s confronted by Canton, at the edge of a high skyscraper, one that’s still being built.

CANTON: You’re coming with us, Dr Song. There’s no way out this time.
RIVER: There’s always a way out.

Then she throws herself off the 50th floor.

At Area 51, the Doctor is being bricked in by dwarf-star alloy. Oh, wow: Warriors’ Gate reference! So awesome.

Then Canton corners Rory.

RORY: What are you waiting for?
CANTON: I’m waiting for you to run. It looks better if I shoot you when you’re running. Then again, looks aren’t everything.

In the dwarf-star cell, Canton—dragging Amy and Rory into the cell in body bags—reveals that this is all a complex plot, and the invisible TARDIS is in there. The Doctor opens it by clicking his fingers—ooh.

Then (purely coincidentally, I’m sure), he goes to rescue River.

DOCTOR: Amy! Rory! Open all the doors to the swimming pool!

So awesome.

The Doctor reveals that his secret weapon in the war against the occupying aliens is Neil Armstrong’s foot and then we finally go to credits.

Post-credits, we drive up to Arkham Asylum. I mean, some creepy orphanage. It’s Canton and Amy, and they check both their palms are clear before heading in.

Because, as we learn in a flashback, not only is Amy not pregnant, the aliens are everywhere. But people can’t remember them after they (people, not aliens) turn away. Hence the creepy markings on their hands and arms.

The Doctor points out that they’re not fighting an alien invasion; they’re leading a revolution.

What’s been punched into their hands is a nano-recorder, which can be used to record their experiences with the aliens. If they’ve left themselves a message, their hand will flash. That’s a bit creepy, frankly.

Then Canton straightens the Doctor’s bow tie, and everyone stares at him—because his hand is flashing. Because he’s just seen one of the creatures in the TARDIS: it’s a hologram, based on Amy’s camera-phone photo. But even the hologram wipes itself from people’s minds. The aliens, it seems, are ruling the word by post-hypnotic suggestion.

The aim, it seems, is to find the little girl—so we loop right back to the children’s home, which seems a likely place for the aliens to have taken a small child.

This whole section is so Southern Gothic: the walls are slathered with graffiti reading “Leave! Get Out!” And it was supposed to have been closed in 1967: I can’t quite work out if the home is called “Greystoke” or “Greystark”, but it’s creepy, either way.

Canton and Amy separate. It should be required for all the Doctor’s companions to play Dungeons and Dragons: then they’d know not to split the party. Amy, heading upstairs, chats briefly to the Doctor, but he’s a bit distracted by having just been caught sabotaging the cockpit on Apollo 11. So Amy just wanders around this creepy place, leaving herself secret message on her hand recorder and marking her own hands and forehead in the seconds between cuts, before she realises that the entire roof of this deserted dormitory is a nesting place for the aliens.

But as they realise she’s there, she forgets them as the dormitory door swings back open.

The Doctor, under arrest by military police, tries to convince the MPs that he’s on a secret mission for Nixon, which doesn’t really work until Nixon turns up (in the TARDIS, flanked by River, in a killer suit and Rory, also in a killer suit) and sweet-talks them out of it. Well, a combo of sweet-talking and bullying, really.

(Rory breaks the model of the lunar lander, salutes awkwardly, and then follows everyone else into the TARDIS.)

Canton, confronting the head of this creepy, deserted children’s home, hears that “The child must be cared for. It’s important. That’s what they said.”

And Amy, wandering the corridors, sees a woman with an odd, metallic eye-patch, peering through a hatch in a door, saying, “No, I think she’s just dreaming.” Amy pushes through the door, now sans hatch, to see a series of framed photographs set out in a twee room: one of them is Amy herself holding a baby. And then the astronaut clomps into the room. Amy demands an explanation, but then the astronaut lifts its visor; it’s a small girl whose face shield has a bullet hole in it.

Amy apologises (a bit of a non-apology) and the child pleads for help before the aliens come into the room behind the astronaut and Amy screams.

Elsewhere, Canton’s interview is interrupted by someone whom the custodian forgets almost instantly. As Canton challenges the alien, he can hear Amy screaming somewhere else.

Canton asks the alien if it’s armed.

ALIEN: This world is ours. We have ruled it since the wheel and the fire. We have no need for weapons.
CANTON: Yeah. Welcome to America.

Then he shoots it. Natch.

Canton calls for the Doctor, who is advising Nixon, and everyone rushes to the creepy room in the creepy children’s room, where they find an empty spacesuit and Amy’s hand recorder, lying on the floor and broadcasting everything an obviously terrified Amy is saying.

Rory is kinda sweet and sexy in this scene. But, of course, as soon as he says he’ll always find Amy, she starts calling for the Doctor.

The injured alien that Canton’s shot is still in the superintendent’s office. The Doctor challenges it, and the alien says that they are “the Silence.” We’re treated to a quick flashback to key moments last season, just in case we’ve forgotten it.

Then Canton strolls out of the dwarf-star cell, trailing Nixon behind him to support his requests for a doctor.

Apollo 11 prepares for lift-off.

River and the Doctor examine the spacesuit, which is filled with alien tech. Apparently, the suit defaults to the highest authority possible, which is why the president keeps getting phone calls.

The Doctor’s a bit distracted by the blue envelopes, but River won’t answer any questions.

RIVER: Our lives are back to front. My future is your past. Your firsts are my lasts.

Rory wonders why the Silence need a human spacesuit, but the Doctor says this is all because the Silence needed a spacesuit.

Apollo 11 lifts off.

The injured Silence, now in the dwarf-star cell, gets medical treatment, and seems bewildered by this.

SILENCE: We have ruled your lives since your lives began. You should kill us all on sight. But you will never even remember that we were here. Your will is ours.
CANTON: Well, sorry to disappoint you. But thanks. That was exactly what I needed to hear. This is a videophone … whatever a videophone is.

In the TARDIS, River wonders if the spacesuit could actually move on its own, and eat its chosen occupants. And Rory listens to Amy talking through the hand recorder, where she talks about the person she really loves, who has a “stupid face” and just dropped out of the sky into her boring life.

That’s cold, even for you, Amy.

DOCTOR: This is kicking the Romans out of Rome.
RORY: Rome fell.
DOCTOR: I know. I was there. (The Romans reference!)
RORY: So was I.

Rory talks a little about his life as a centurion, but we’re all more interested in the impending landing of the lunar module on the moon.

Elsewhere, Amy is apparently about to be subjected to alien experiments.

ALIEN: You are Amelia Pond.
AMY: You’re ugly. Has anyone told you?

She’s no Winston Churchill, that’s for sure.

They tell her that she “will bring the Silence” but the TARDIS turns up, and the Doctor brings out a television. Plus River and Rory.

DOCTOR: She has her own gun and, unlike me, she doesn’t mind shooting people. I shouldn’t like that, but I rather do.
RIVER: Thank you, sweetie.

Then they flirt adorably.

But Amy stops the flirting, and the Doctor moves right back into bombast mode. He tells the Silence that half a billion people are watching the moon landing, and they will never ever forget it.

And right there, after Armstrong says “That’s one small step for man”, they splice in the captured, injured Silence saying “You should kill us all on sight.”

ARMSTRONG: One giant leap for mankind.
DOCTOR: And one whacking kick up the backside for the Silence!

And that would be the downside of post-hypnotic suggestion.

Then the Doctor tells them to run, but he means himself and his companions, because the Silence are powering up their Force lightning.

River has a gun, but the Doctor only has a screwdriver.

RIVER: What are you doing?
DOCTOR: Helping!
RIVER: You have a screwdriver. Go build a cabinet.
DOCTOR: That’s really rude!

The Doctor runs into the TARDIS, and River dispatches the rest of the Silence.

RIVER: My old feller didn’t see that, did he? Because he gets really cross.
RORY: What kind of doctor are you?
RIVER: Archaeology. (Shoots another alien.) Love a tomb.

Me? I love an archaeologist.

Amy reveals that she really meant Rory was the one she loved, while I was busy typing up awesome dialogue, and then the Doctor tells Nixon to let Canton get married and reassures Nixon that he’ll never be forgotten.

NIXON: This person you want to marry. Black?
CANTON: Yes.
NIXON: I know what people think of me, but I’m more liberal …
CANTON: He is.

So Nick called that, and I missed it.

The Doctor drops River back at Stormcage, and she snogs him. The Doctor, unsurprisingly, is a bit rubbish and shaky, but mostly because he’s never kissed River before, much to her surprise and horror.

DOCTOR: You know what they say. There’s a first time for everything.
RIVER: And a last time.

In the TARDIS, Amy is suffering after-effects from her time with the Silence, but the Doctor, while happy to be Amy’s best friend, wants to know why she didn’t tell Rory that she was pregnant. Amy says she told the Doctor because she was worried that the time travelling in the TARDIS might have given the baby a time head, whatever that is.

Then she tells Rory that she’ll take the hand-recorder off him if he doesn’t stop secretly listening in.

The Doctor says that this is all about the little girl, but he’s rather have adventures.

And on the streets of New York, the little girl comes stumbling through an alley six months later, coughing and clutching her stomach.

STREET PERSON: Are you okay?
LITTLE GIRL: It’s all right. It’s quite all right. I’m dying. But I can fix that. It’s easy really. See?

And she regenerates.

OMG WHAT IS THIS I DON’T EVEN.

Next week: pirates!

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