by Catriona Mills

Articles in “Liveblogging”

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

Posted 6 October 2012 in by Catriona

Synopsis

WAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!

What, you want a longer synopsis?

Well, all right, then.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What worked for me in this episode

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(See what I did there?)

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

Posted 23 September 2012 in by Catriona

Disclaimer

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

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

But …

Synopsis

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

Of course, that comes after another favourite line:

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

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

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

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

What was I saying?

Oh yes.

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

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

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

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

What worked for me this episode

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

And I really liked Jemma Redgrave, who was fabulous.

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

But that’s not important right now.

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

What didn’t work for me in this episode

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Still just lying there.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted 22 September 2012 in by Catriona

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

Synopsis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What didn’t work for me in this episode

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What worked for me in this episode

Spain. Spain worked for me.

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

But that’s a story for another day.

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

You know what else worked for me? Ben Browder.

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

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

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

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

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

So now I love him even more.

(The whole interview is here.)

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

I asked Nick what worked for him:

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

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

Posted 15 September 2012 in by Catriona

Synopsis

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

Okay, it was a bit more complicated than that.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What didn’t work for me in this episode

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What worked for me

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

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

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

Posted 7 September 2012 in by Catriona

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

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

So, “Asylum of the Daleks”, anyone?

Synopsis

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

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

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

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

Through Dalek intensive care.

Now there’s a scary phrase.

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

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

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

Right?

Wrong.

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

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

What didn’t work for me in this episode

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

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

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

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

So many whys.

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

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

What worked for me

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

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

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

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

What I’m uncertain about

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

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

Wondering About The Live-blogging?

Posted 2 September 2012 in by Catriona

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

She says, modestly.

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

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

Eurovision 2012: Semi-Final Two

Posted 26 May 2012 in by Catriona

And here we are for the second semi-final. Well, not quite. But let’s just get it all set up now, shall we? Then we can get back to picking on people’s outfits.

Before we got started, I had this conversation with my mother this afternoon:

MOTHER: I rang to explain a lie I told you.
ME: Really?
MOTHER: I didn’t mean to. But I said we’d watched the Sherlock you gave me, but we thought we’d re-watch it the other day, and we realised we’d never watched it at all.
ME: Are you sure? You didn’t watch it and forget?
MOTHER: Well, that’s possible.
ME: We had a long conversation about it!
MOTHER: I know!
ME: You told me which episodes you liked!
MOTHER: I know! But I hadn’t actually watched it yet.

The burning question of the hour is “Why are we not listening to SBS Eurovision radio right now?”

Oooh, actual Eurovision semi-final!

Is anyone else filled with a burning desire to visit Azerbaijan? It just looks so pretty! And who is making these green rooms?!

Gosh, that blue dress the host is wearing is pretty. Gorgeous colour and a lovely fit.

This awkward host banter is awkward.

Serbia – Zeljko Joksimovic – Nije ljubav stvar
Apparently, the song is called “Love is Not a Thing.”

NICK: Also? Love don’t cost a thing.

I always hope women are going to pop up out of any piano that appears on the Eurovision stage. I mean, it’s not a fetish or anything. Does everyone remember that woman popping up out of the piano, or am I sounding really weird?

Does this song sound deeply familiar to anyone else?

I swear I’ve heard this song before. Am I having flashbacks to something other than Road to Eurovision?

It’s not terrible, it just sounds so, so familiar.

NICK: It sounds a bit like Scottish Highlands folk music.
ME: But I don’t listen to Scottish Highlands folk music.

Nick also thinks it’s “Euro-bombastic.” This is a positive thing, judging from his tone.

FYR Macedonia – Kaliopi – Crno i belo
Kaliopi is a good name for a singer.

I like the suit, but the hair is completely distracting. It looks, from some angles, as though she’w wearing a purple wig over black hair. I’m sure she’s not—or is she?

Actually, I can’t talk: I said to Nick this morning, “how does my hair look?” and he actually snorted. Don’t worry: he still lives.

Oh, this song just turned it up a notch. Not bad.

So far, this semi-final interests me much more than last night’s.

The hair looks better now, too, since they changed the lighting.

Netherlands – Joana Franka – You and me
Oh.

My.

God.

Is anyone else feeling really awkward about their ethnicity right now?

Also, that really doesn’t go with an evening dress. Those are two competing levels of formality, right there.

NICK: Well, musically, this is making me wish I was blind.

This is awful on so, so many levels. Mostly racial.

NICK: It’s screaming Apple iPad advertisement, but the visuals are all wrong.

Malta – Kurt Calleja – This is the night
Goodness me, Azerbaijan is beautiful. I want to go there very much.

I hate this already. I don’t have a reason. Well, except the hair. And the line, “Hey, look at me. Can’t you see, I’m into you?” Get away from me, creepy stalker dude.

Seriously, “This is the night. This is the night. I won’t be stopped”? This is creepier than “Hungry Eyes”.

NICK: This is the strangest advertisement for heart surgery that I’ve ever seen.

Also, it’s a bit flat. Not musically. Well, I don’t know about that. But in terms of energy levels: it’s just … a bit flat. Yes, even with this strange guy in the lemon-coloured trousers. And the fireworks. And the perfunctory key change. And that note! God.

Belarus – Litesound – We are the heroes
I like the random gazelle tagging. There aren’t enough gazelles in Eurovision, as a rule.

NICK: Oh god! They’re Reavers!

Don’t they know that the Reavers are never the heroes? They’re the villains, dude. The villains!

Oh, this does nothing for me. I’m sorry. I obviously jinxed it by commenting on preferring this semi-final.

Wait, what’s with the leaning?

That key change was slightly less perfunctory.

They even seem to be singing “We are the Reavers”.

NICK: We are the Reavers. We’ll come and eat ya.

I said to Nick, “Is it wrong that I kinda want to see Rock of Ages?” and he said, “Why? Did it awaken something in you?” Don’t worry: he still lives after that, too.

Portugal – Filipa Sousa – Vida minha
I’m always keen on the ones where they bring in something a bit different. Hopefully, this is one of those.

That dress looks fantastic when she’s moving, but not quite so flash when she’s standing still.

NICK: Okay. This going to need at least three key changes to be interesting.

And that was the perfect opportunity for a key change! But did we get one. No. No, we did not.

Also, if you’re called “Sousa”, I expect something a bit more bombastic.

Ukraine – Gaitana – Be my guest
I was going to say “What’s with the outfits?”, but then I remembered that Julia insisted on calling this a “big gay anthem.”

ME: Blue Man Group branching out a bit?
NICK: To the rest of the spectrum.

Nick thinks she’s being upstaged by her own floral arrangement. We’d also both like to add that we were not at all keen on Julia’s description of this song.

But neither of those things are as important as the question of what the back-up dancers are wearing. Sorry: I mean what the hell the back-up dancers are wearing.

NICK: Traditional Ukrainian by way of Hypercolour, maybe?

Ooh, I don’t think she hit that.

Insert your “hit that” jokes here, if you must. But you probably don’t need to.

Bulgaria – Sofi Marinova – Love unlimited
NICK: You’ve got to read the fine print on these “love uncapped” plans.

The outfit is terrible, and as far as I can tell, this song is about the Luftwaffe. Am I missing something?

NICK: The outfit’s a bit Star Trek: The Motion Picture by way of Hercules: The Legendary Journeys.

Nick can’t hear the references to the Luftwaffe that I keep hearing.

Oh god: Catherine wheels! I was once chased around the garden by a poorly secured Catherine wheel. True story. Also, isn’t that a horrific kind of concept on which to base a firework?

Slovenia – Eva Boto – Verjamem
Oh good: a hood.

NICK: She’s only sixteen. I can’t be too critical, I guess.
ME: Yeah, but she’s not the one wearing the hood.
NIK: Every year there has to be a Druidic entry.

See-through dresses and random leaning. Not really my cup of tea. Though she might want to talk to Peter Jackson if he’s thinking of adapting The Silmarillion.

ACK! I just got a good look at her dress!

Um, don’t panic, anybody, but I think the Triffids are taking over the world. Starting with the Eurovision costume room.

NICK: They’ve cornered the market on voluptuous back-up singers, too.
ME: Nick!
NICK: I’m just saying!

Croatia – Nina Badric – Nebo
Oh, even the Azerbaijan food looks fantastic! Pomegranate! Let’s all go to Azerbaijan!

Oh good: another ballad.

Even the back-up dancers are bored by this. I move more enthusiastically at my physiotherapy appointment.

And, for the record, I like blokes in skirts. There’s jut nothing to get excited about in this.

NICK: Ooh, is she about to be defeated by those singers in white? Because that would be pretty cool.

I think I fell into a coma during this song.

Sweden – Loreen – Euphoria
So this one’s the favourite? She was charming in the interview, but I’m not sure. I’m just not sure.

I do like her fancy cardigan, though. I’m a sucker for a cardigan.

NICK: Her kung fu appears to be very strong. So she’s got that going for her.

Then he added, “Look, it’s Euro-cheese, but it seems to be aged appropriately.”

Of course, he is quite drunk. And so am I.

NICK: She does throw shapes pretty well, too.

I don’t feel committed to this song. It might be my native contrariness coming to the fore, though.

NICK: She’s doing pretty well, considering it’s snowing. That must be hard. Snowing. No shoes. And it’s Eurovision.

Georgia – Anri Jokhadze – I’m a joker
Right, who’s coming to Azerbaijan with me? This is glorious!

Oh no! Mad monk!

NICK: Look, monks are a pretty versatile character class. I’m just not sure you can defeat Eurovision with one.

White piano! A woman better come out of that. (It’s not a fetish.)

NICK: Costume change! He’s changed from a monk into a douchebag.

Oh, what the hell is happening now?

NICK: This is what I live for as far as Eurovision’s concerned, though.

This really isn’t doing anything for me. At all.

Turkey – Can Bonomo – Love me back
NICK: I quite like Turkey’s entry most of the time.

I’m prepared to like one, honestly.

NICK: Okay, there’s a bit of cape action. Six seasons and a movie!

Nick and are I liking this because we saw him interviewed and he was terribly charming. Plus, as Nick says, “He has a kind of grin like, ‘Hey. it’s Eurovision’.”

NICK: I’m not sure if the steampunk Batman motif is really working for his back-up dancers, though.

Prepared to like this as I am, it’s … kinda not working for me. It sort of is, but I need something else to happen. Something other than what’s happening now. Which is swirling capes.

Okay, making a boat out of your capes counts as “something happening.”

NICK: There’s a Bahktinian thing happening!

Estonia – Ott Lepland – Kuula
The Ronan Keating of Estonia? Tell him I hate him! Or tell him I hate Ronan Keating. That might be simpler.

Oh, I think I just travelled twenty years back in time. No, make that thirty.

NICK: The back-up dancers are going to have to re-enact the Spanish Civil War to make this interesting.

This is about the third song I would swear I’ve heard before. This time, I think it was a Bon Jovi B-side.

Not that I listen to Bon Jovi B-sides.

Ahem.

He’s hitting his notes and, as Nick says, he’s got a nice voice. Plus, not-at-all-perfunctory key change!

We’re now totally behind this boy, despite the fact that his waistcoat is chained together.

Slovakia – Max Jason Mai – Don’t close your eyes
I’m just going to like this on principle.

ME: Oh, what a shame. It’s just not ’80s enough.
NICK: He’s not wearing leather pants. There must be some export restriction issues.

Although that jacket is pretty ’80s.

He’s got energy. I’ll give him that. And I am a sucker for a man in heavy eye make-up.

NICK: Thank you, Slovakia.

Norway – Tooji – Stay
“From the ridiculous to the sublime”?

NICK: I think we’ll be the judge of that, thank you, Julia.

Moore hoods? And slow-motion walking? I think I hate this.

If we’re talking about “the sublime to the ridiculous”, shouldn’t we be talking about those pants? ‘Cause they ain’t sublime.

NICK: This song is basically three different choruses.

ME: Okay, nice flame effects.
NICK: Oh, god. They’re not even finished yet.

Bosnia-Herzegovina – Maya Sar – Korake ti znam
Another piano, another failure of a woman to rise up from inside it. (Not a fetish!)

The shoulder pads are impressive, but look a bit too much like a leftover from the Once Upon A Time wardrobe department.

NICK: The outfit looks like Necromancer dolling up for a night on the town.

And it is not flattering from behind.

I am so, so bored by this stuff. So bored.

Stop trying to make me feel things, Bosnia and Herzegovina!

Lithuania – Donny Montell – Love is blind
Is he wearing a blindfold?

Oh, I see, It’s a literal metaphor. Doesn’t that rather defeat the point of, you know, a metaphor?

ME: Am I getting old, or are these love songs a bit creepy?
NICK: Well, when you’re wearing a blindfold, it’s creepy, yes!

I just can’t get behind the Bedazzled blindfold. (Unlike this chap. Boom boom!)

NICK: Like a rhinestone blindfold!

Cue gales of hysterical laughter.

NICK: All is forgiven, Lithuania!

If you can’t believe she’s gone, you might want to take the blindfold off more often.

NICK: Do a few more somersaults. Bring it home, lad. Bring it home!

I think this is meant to be James bond, but it’s just pervy.

And that’s the semi-finals. Don’t worry: I’m staying here for the voting. I’m just going to be a little bit quiet for the interval act, unless it’s completely hilarious.

And now we have the constant re-playing of the acts.

For the record, Nick and I are partial to … not The Netherlands! Not the Netherlands! We’re partial to … well, very few actually.

Turkey, because they made a boat out of their capes.

We wouldn’t be surprised is Sweden won, but it didn’t do much for me. And Nick described Georgia as “awful, but quintessential Eurovision.” Nick also thinks Estonia will go through, and I concur. Slovakia, we liked.

I have added my tres ’70s poncho on top of my winter ensemble, because it’s suddenly freezing, and the poncho was right there. Plus, it just feels Eurovision.

NICK: This is like The Avengers of Eurovision!

I’m still loving that blue dress on the host: it makes her look about seven feet tall, and the colour is magnificent.

I’m not recapping the songs from Azerbaijan and the big five: I lived through the OH MY GOD TWO PEOPLE IN GAS MASKS KISSING last night.

But here are for the winners. Sort of. We have to deal with some awkward host chat first.

1. Lithuania. Really? Lithuania? Okay, then.
2. Bosnia & herzegovina. Are we sure they’re reading the winners?
3. Serbia. No surprises there.
4. Ukraine. I’m not liking any of these. And neither is Nick.
5. Sweden. Zero surprises there, then. Except that they didn’t leave her till last.
6. FYR Macedonia. Yeah, that was okay.
7. Norway. Oh, I’m so bored by all these. Bring on Turkey!
8. Estonia. I’m am so not surprised. I am a bit bored, though.
9. Malta. I have forgotten Malta already.
10. Turkey? TURKEY! Thank goodness.

And that’s semi-final two. And with that, that’s the Eurovision live-blogging for another year. You know I don’t live-blog the final, because of an urgent need to get drunk. But I’ll be back here in 2013, unless something horrible happens in the meantime.

Let’s hope that doesn’t happen.

Eurovision 2012: Semi-Final One

Posted 25 May 2012 in by Catriona

I’m getting this whole thing rolling a little early, so I can be ready when the actual music starts.

As always, Nick will be moderating comments as we go, even though I just tried to break up with him, because he claimed that he’d never heard Johnny Logan’s Hold Me Now.

I don’t know what’s wrong with that man, sometimes.

To really get into the Eurovision spirit, I’ve also spent part of the evening adding tassels to my lovely, lovely orange, green, and brown pseudo-poncho, which I intend to wear for the final.

NICK: Hey, do you want a drink?
ME: Yes. Yes, I do.

Apropos of nothing, I am typing this while sitting on my new carpet. It’s exceedingly exciting, because we’ve lived in this rental house for nearly eleven years and no one but us has ever walked on this carpet before. Except the people who installed it. You couldn’t say that about the old carpet.

Hooray! Eurovision!

Oooh, I love the bombastic Eurovision music. I’m marching round the living room right now, in fact.

I hope the male host isn’t a jerk this year. Have we ever had a male host who wasn’t a jerk, though?

A quick poll for the comments, while I’m getting started. Am I cold enough to wear my cardigan? I can’t make up my mind.

ME: That host was born in 1989?
NICK: Jesus. But he has facial hair!

And we’re starting with Montenegro.

Montenegro – Rambo Amadeus – Euro Neuro

Really? He loves both Mozart and Rambo? I would never have guessed that. And also? Why?

Oh good: a Trojan horse.

NICK: When did they start letting Sith Lords into Eurovision?

I don’t know how to feel about this. Somebody tell me!

I suspect it needs to either be less insane or more insane. At the moment, it’s not insane enough to attract me but too insane to actually be, you know, watchable.

Iceland – Gréta Salóme & Jónsi – Never Forget

Now, I’m trying to work out whether this is the Jónsi from Sigur Ros. If it is Sigur Ros I’m thinking of. Oh, who am I kidding: my knowledge of Icelandic ambient post-rock is shocking.

ME: Shall we have a quick game of musician or serial killer?
NICK: I’m waiting for a maypole to descend.

That robotic arm movement is really distracting.

The song’s not awful, and I daresay it’ll go through. It’s not my cup of tea, I admit. And those four men just standing on the stage are completely bizarre—oh, wait. They’re singing now. Good.

Also I think a couple of them might be women, now I look properly.

Key change! Drink!

Greece – Eleftheria Eleftheriou – Aphrodisiac
I’m worried already about this song, just on the strength of the title.

Yep, those are legs. But that’s … that’s not an outfit. It barely covers one side of her and doesn’t cover the other side at all! I hope she doesn’t take any of it off: there’s barely enough as it is.

The illuminated clam shell is classy—and symbolic.

This is so Eurovision. “You make me dance, like a maniac. You make me want your aphrodisiac.”

Firstly, doesn’t sound like an aphrodisiac is necessary. Secondly, that’s a bad euphemism. Bad euphemism!

NICK: Every inch of your aphrodisiac, from the sounds of it.

Blame him! Not me!

Latvia – Anmary – Beautiful Song
A self-referential song about winning Eurovision. Oh, really? Oh no.

NICK: What’s with the staging? It’s like an Amway convention.
ME: In 1965.

I am so, so bored.

The staging’s pretty, though.

Did she just name-check Mick Jagger in the middle of this song? I just … I can kind of see where she’s going with this, but it’s not doing a single thing for me. Costume change? Key change? Fireworks? Something! Anything!

Was that a key change? It was a bit perfunctory. Really, you can’t even manage a key change?

Albania – Rona Nishliu – Suus
Azerbaijan is pretty, huh?

I do like the songs that aren’t in English. It’s so much more boring when they’re all in English.

Not typical Eurovision, eh? That can be a good thing or a very, very bad thing.

Unlike that hair, which is just a bad thing.

NICK: She looks like one of the Bene Gesserit.

The problem with this being in Albanian is that I feel I should be having an emotional response to this, but my Albanian’s just not up to it.

NICK: She’s telling us that fear is the mind killer.

Oh, do you think she meant to miss that note?

Is her hair actually trying to kill her, d’you think? This is really starting to feel like an out-take from Once Upon A Time, and I feel bad saying that, because there’s probably something really traumatic and painful behind this.

Bit like that note.

NICK: I want to give her a hug and tell her it’s only Eurovision.

The chappie from Iceland is quite charmingly mad. Or Icelandic. I can’t quite tell.

Romania – Mandinga – Zaleilah
This is only song six? This feels as though it’s been going for forever. Maybe that was just Albania.

Why did they bring seven people and then make Tony the trombone player sit in the green room? Poor Tony!

Oh.

Um.

Oh.

NICK: Why? Oh, god. Why?

I can’t process this song at all: I’m too distracted by the bagpipes and what Nick calls the singer’s “leather control knickers”.

Then again, when have I ever talked about the songs in this live-blogging?

Still, flame-throwers! I do like flame-throwers.

Switzerland – Sinplus – Unbreakable
Oh, good. Fake guitar playing. And English lyrics in a transatlantic accident.

NICK: It’s a little bit Nickelback at this point.
ME: Nick!
NICK: Okay, that was a bit harsh. Sorry, Switzerland.

Does anyone else get the impressive that he’s struggling to keep up with the pace of the song? It reminds me of the time Nick walked too quickly down the hill to the laundry and ending up trotting frantically in an effort not to face plant.

Only with singing.

Oh, and they’ve got things shaved into their hair. I can’t be having with that. No, even the flame throwers aren’t helping here.

Belgium – Iris – Would You?
Julia, if she’s only 17, then you really shouldn’t be asking that rhetorical question.

The staging’s been really pretty this year. But if she’s only 17, they really should have checked her dress with the back-lighting before she actually performed.

I’m amazed she can even open her eyes with those eyelashes.

The song? Totes boring. As Nick says, there better be a key change.

NICK: Hmm. Key change, but I didn’t feel it.

I looked up just in time to see her grasping for the camera. I may have screamed out loud.

Finland – Pernilla Karlsson – När Jag Blundar
I’m liking Finland just on the strength of that lovely green dress. Such a pretty colour. And that’s how you wear a dress in front of a wind machine!

Plus, not in English. Bonus.

Of course, I don’t think I’d have matched both my nail polish and my eye shadow to the dress, but what do I know?

NICK: She’s okay, but she’s no Lordi.

I quite like this, actually. It’s about the only one so far that I haven’t deeply hated.

Israel – Izabo – Time
Azerbaijan is awfully pretty. I had no idea.

Retro? Oh, lord. Give me strength. Though I do like the Hebrew/English combination.

Oh.

My.

God.

You see, there’s good retro. My pseudo-poncho, for example. And then there’s bad retro. This, for example.

NICK: The bass player’s doing some retro ’60s dancing. Okay, now he’s humping the bass drum. Less impressed by that.

Quick poll: this is awful, right?

San Marino – Valentina Monetta – The Social Network Song
Nick complained about this song for a full half hour, and he’s already forgotten about it. He’s a fickle creature.

Oooh, social commentary. She says, on her blog.

“If you want to come to my house, and click me with your mouse”?

The song-writer’s not really got any idea what cyber-sex is, does he? Why would he need to come to her house, if it’s cyber-sex? The mouse comment also makes me suspect he doesn’t have a good grasp on ordinary sex, either.

On another note, those pants are horrific. And I don’t know why there’s a cheerleader.

I’m frightened …

I’m not big on gimmicky songs, but I’m even less keen on rubbish gimmicky songs.

Cyprus – Ivi Adamou – La La Love
Nick has been looking forward to this one ever since he saw the singer an hour or so ago.

Sam Pang’s a bit obsessed with bridesmaid dresses tonight.

Well, the dresses are okay, but who on Earth would wear them with knee-high socks and then wear those knee-high socks with sandals? And I’m saying this as a woman with a poncho, people!

The song is deeply dull. So deeply dull that I’ve only just noticed that her bodice is see-through.

And have we had a single costume change yet?

NICK: She put a lot of faith in her tailor just then.

All the key changes have been a bit perfunctory, haven’t they?

Denmark – Soluna Samay – Should’ve Known Better
It always goes so quickly once it starts. Only five left after this.

Writing your first song at ten is really only impressive if the song’s not, you know, terrible. I’m not saying it was terrible, I’m just saying we can’t say it’s impressive in and of itself.

Oh god: epaulettes. And sunflowers! I’m anticipating a flying space dolphin any minute now.

What’s missing rain? I can’t quite make it out. Of course, I also can’t quite care. Oh, she’s good enough, but a bit dull. Still, at least she can hit her notes.

Russia – Buranovskiye Babushki – Party For Everybody
Good on you, Russia. Glad to see you’re breaking the mould here.

Is that actually an oven behind them?

This is the first song I’ve bopped along to all night. I’m officially going for Russia.

I’m not anticipating a costume change here, though.

I think this is the first time anyone’s ever baked during their Eurovision performance.

I love the Russian grannies so much. So adorable. And having so much fun.

Hungary – Compact Disco – Sound of Our Hearts
Oh, good: a hood. I hope it’s not another Montenegro.

I was inclined to like Montenegro, too, because of Nero Wolfe. Then he actually started singing. Shame, really.

Do you think Nero Wolfe would like Eurovision?

Not keen on this being in English, but at least it’s not another ballad.

Hooray! Flame-throwers.

Nick’s throwing his vote behind Hungary. I guess they’ve got a Goth vibe. The music’s a bit swinging, too.

Okay, I’ve got to give these guys credit. It’s not boring. There’s a lovely swing to it, and they’re certainly whole-hearted.

I’m not big on the “oh-oh, oh-oh” bits, though.

Austria – Trackshittaz – Woki mit deim Popo
I just skipped straight over Austria and into Moldova. So confusing, for a moment.

Oh god: there actually is pole dancing.

NICK: This is the douchiest thing I have ever seen.

Then he made a comment about waxing, which I’m not going to repeat here. He’s not wrong, though—and the cameramen are making sure we know it.

Please, please don’t let Austria get through. I don’t want to watch this again.

NICK: You know who else was from Austria …
ME: Nick!
NICK: It’s a meme! It’s a meme!

I can’t blog my reaction just then. Imagine gales of hysterical laughter.

NICK: I need help reacting to this!

Moldova – Pasha Parfeny- Lăutar
ME: Well, this is lively and terrifying.
NICK: The perfect Eurovision combination.

Nick just pointed out that the singer looks like Colin Farrell in knickerbockers.

I have no idea what’s happening here, but it’s refreshing to see the women in something other than stilts.

We can’t work out his jacket, though. Nick thought it was a crotchless kilt, except it doesn’t seem to have a back, either. So it’s just sides? Why? Does he need extra pockets?

Key change!

I’m not hating this. I hated Israel. But I’m not hating this.

Ireland – Jedward – Waterline
Final song. Here we go!

NICK: Paladins of daftness! Bless them.

Somehow I can’t bring myself to hate Jedward. I know they’re ridiculous. But I think they know they’re ridiculous.

Lord, they make me tired, though. Where do they get all the energy from?

Are they in a fountain? Or is that a fake fountain? Either would be awesome.

Oh, bless.

Oh, slightly awkward gymnastics! Aren’t they adorable?

And that’s the performances over. But look! They’re put in another one of those completely identical Eurovision voting rooms that look like something out of the Galactic Senate. Who is making these things? Is there a factory devoted to their production? Or do they just re-use the same one and move it across Europe every year? I need to know! The identical Eurovision voting room is one of the great unsolved mysteries in my life.

I’m still here, by the way! Just sitting back and waiting for the votes.

For the record, Nick and I were partial to Finland, Russia, Hungary, Moldova, and Ireland.

Oh, the free-entry six!

England: Well, yeah. That’s what I expected.
France: OH MY GOD WERE THOSE TWO PEOPLE IN GAS MARKS KISSING?! WHAT THE HELL, FRANCE?
Italy: Not terribly exciting. Bit boppy, I suppose.
Azerbaijan: Oh, good. Another ballad.
Spain: And another one. Ballads galore!
Germany: Forgotten it already, actually.

The results!

1. Romania. Not one of my favourites.
2. Moldova! Hooray! We loved them.
3. Iceland! No surprises there. And they look so happy, bless them.
4. Hungary! Nick’s very excited. He really bonded with Hungary. That’s two of our five.
5. Denmark! Even fewer surprises there.
6. Albania! Oh, wow. I don’t want to hear that again.
7. Cyprus! I think that’s a vote for the bodice, myself.
8. Greece! We’re doing this in silence, because the sound’s gone. Is it just us?
9. Russia! Hooray! Bless the Russian grannies.
10. Ireland! I knew it. Nick was terribly worried, but of course they went through.

So, no Israel. No Montenegro. Not too worried about those.

See you again tomorrow night, all? I’m off the make tassels.

Eurovision Semi-Finals 2012

Posted 24 May 2012 in by Catriona

It’s been such a completely crazy time lately, with the renovations and the teaching, the marking and the scholarly bibliography (and the chapter edits. And the … oh you get the idea) that I haven’t made something very important clear to you, lovely readers who put up with my intermittent updating.

I will most definitely be live-blogging the Eurovision semi-finals again this year.

Tonight and tomorrow night, just like every year.

As I said on Facebook earlier, I’m quite witty, until I get too tipsy. So, kind of a reverse Terry Wogan.

Join us! It’s bound to be completely mad, as always.

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

Posted 27 December 2011 in by Catriona

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

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

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

Synopsis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What didn’t work for me in this episode

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

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

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

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

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

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

In fact, their relationship lead to this conversation:

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

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

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

What worked for me

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Live-blogging Doctor Who Christmas Special 2011

Posted 26 December 2011 in by Catriona

Merry Christmas, lovely readers.

A brief update, for your delectation and elucidation.

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

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

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

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

Posted 10 October 2011 in by Catriona

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

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

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

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

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

I would like my own mammoth.

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

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

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

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

Credits!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Whimper.

This is the breaking point for the Doctor.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until Amy Pond turns up.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I would totally be up for texting and scones.

TMI?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And she readjusts Madame Cavorian’s eye-drive.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Which show am I live-blogging again?

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

Which means the Doctor’s dead.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The head of Dorian says that the question still waits.

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

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

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

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

Posted 3 October 2011 in by Catriona

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

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

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

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

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

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

Craig tries desperately to stop the Doctor opening a door.

The manager worries about mysterious noises in the changing rooms.

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

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

Credits!

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

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

The baby calls himself Stormaggedon, Dark Lord of All.

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

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

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

It’s true: adults love lamps.

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

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

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

It’s definitely a Cybermat.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And then the Cybermat attacks.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Well, we’ve all been there.

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

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

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

Damn straight.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He tips his hat, and he’s off.

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

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

Can it?

Live-blogging Doctor Who Season Six: "The God Complex"

Posted 27 September 2011 in by Catriona

Nick and I can’t agree on whether this is a good name or a bad name. I have my own opinions about this episode, but I think I’ll keep the main one for a witty and pithy joke at the end of the live-blogging.

We’ll stick with calling this live-blogging, despite the heavy delay this week, on the grounds that “not-quite-live blogging” makes me sound like a zombie.

We open somewhere on the Isle of Wight. Or something like that. It’s a hotel, anyway. Terribly retro. Apparently occupied solely by a policewoman.

During her soliloquy (in which she tells us she’s the last one left), she opens a variety of hotel rooms, finding a clown, and a person taking photographs, and a gorilla. The gorilla’s intended for her, apparently, going by how she screams. And as she sits to write down her experiences, she shifts, between one sentence and the next, from a panicky desire to notate something strange to the repeated phrase “Praise him.”

Something comes storming down the corridors towards her, and she smiles us into the opening credits.

Apparently, the Doctor promised to take Rory and Amy to a place where the people are six hundred feet tall (you have to talk to them in hot-air balloons and the information centre is made out of one of their hats), but instead they’re “in a rubbish hotel on a rubbish bit of Earth.”

No, the Doctor says: this isn’t Earth. It’s just made to looks like Earth.

DOCTOR: The same way that ex-pats open English pubs in Majorca.

The Doctor’s thrilled by this, though the photographs of people with mysterious phrases under their names (“That brutal gorilla”, “Plymouth”, “Defeat”) aren’t so comforting, especially as one of them is that nice policewoman Lucy, who we last saw being terrified by a gorilla.

Then a bunch of people come pouring into the reception area, and it’s all a big moment of confusion and fright, in which the Doctor develops a crush on one of the people, an attractive female doctor.

DOCTOR: Amy, with regret, you’re fired.
AMY: What?
DOCTOR: I’m kidding.

Then he mimes “Call me.”

NICK: Down, boy.

There’s a great deal of discussion about the shifting nature of the hotel, and the nightmares in the various rooms, and the most invaded planet in the galaxy, but the important things are that the TARDIS has disappeared and that’s a really huge number of ventriloquist’s dummies.

Basically, these people are starting to go the way of the people who arrived in the hotel with Lucy, all raw and terrified to begin with, but coming around to a state of grace and praise.

Joe (the fourth member of the trapped party, currently tied up in a hotel room and surrounded by ventriloquist’s dummies) demonstrates this by making an Archie Andrews joke and laughing uproariously. (Know Archie Andrews? He was a ventriloquist’s dummy who had a long-running and highly popular radio programme in England. Yes, I said “radio.” Yes, I said, “ventriloquist’s dummy.” No, no one knows why that was a good idea. But at least they’re less frightening over the radio.)

Joe tries to tell the Doctor to leave, and the Doctor does, but he takes Joe with him.

At Howie’s request, they “do something” about Joe, which basically means putting tape over his mouth. And then they traipse around the hotel, while Howie talks to Rory about conspiracy theories.

RORY: Amazing.
HOWIE: It’s all there on the Internet.
RORY: No, it’s amazing that you’ve come up with a theory even more insane than what’s actually happening.

But Howie is drawn towards a door, behind which are some completely awful girls, who mock him until he shuts the door, stuttering that this is all some CIA thing.

The Doctor says he’s right but it’s a little worrying that Howie is already saying, “Praise him.”

Rory finds an exit, but no one’s paying attention to him, because something is coming down the hallway towards them.

They all scatter and hide in various rooms.

In one, Rita (the clever doctor on whom the Doctor has a bit of a crush) is terrified by her father, who castigates her for a B in mathematics. And in another room, Amy is terrified by some stone angels, but they’re no more real than Rita’s father.

There’s something more real in the corridor, though, and Joe’s seeking it.

When the noise dies down and the others head out into the corridor, Joe is being dragged down the hallway, and the Doctor goes haring after him, only to find his dead body propped up against a wall.

In the ballroom, the Doctor shrouds Joe (watched over by the now silent dummies), while Rita makes tea, and Rory and Howie barricade the door.

And Amy explains to the guy from the oft-invaded planet how she has faith in the Doctor.

AMY: The Doctor’s been part of my life for so long now. And he’s never let me down, not even when I thought he did, when I was a kid and he left me. He came back. He … saved me.

He’s not much comforted, just telling Amy that if the stone-angel room wasn’t for her, then her room is still out there somewhere.

Meanwhile, Rita and the Doctor get pally.

RORY: Every time the Doctor gets pally with someone I get this overwhelming urge to notify their next of kin.

Amy laughs. Rory flinches.

RORY: Sorry. Last time I said something like that, you hit me with your shoe. And you had to literally sit down and unlace it first.

Rita isn’t too sure about the Doctor, though. She says, “You are a medical doctor, aren’t you? You haven’t just got a degree in cheese-making or something?”

The Doctor says it’s both, actually, and I decide not to write my pro-Ph.D. rant in here, because I just remembered how awful Rita’s father is, and decided she’s probably just a warped product of her abusive family environment.

DOCTOR: And this is a cup of tea!
RITA: Of course. I’m British. It’s how we cope with trauma.

Rita talks a little to the Doctor about her (Muslim) faith and her belief that this is Hell, though she is a bit surprised by the whole ’80s-hotel vibe.

Rita’s not too bothered by finding herself in Hell, because she knows that she’s tried her best to live a good life. But the Doctor’s conversation with her is cut short by Amy remembering that she has Lucy the policewoman’s notes in her pocket.

The Doctor reads them out loud, but Howie starts saying, “Praise him.” It’s what happened to Joe, and everyone’s completely freaking out, including Howie (or Howard? I’m just going to call him Howie. We’re mates, me and Howie), who really doesn’t want to be eaten.

But the Doctor thinks that once Howie is possessed again, they can ask him some questions.

For example, why aren’t they all being possessed? Howie says the others all have too many distractions. Too much going on in their heads.

The Doctor tells the others (out of Howie’s hearing) that the creature feeds on fear, so they have to cling on to whatever gives them strength. And then they can catch themselves a monster.

They hide in various locations, including Amy and Rita in one of the rooms, though not their own nightmare.

RITA: How’s it going?
AMY: Don’t talk to the clown!

And using Howie’s voice over the sound system, they manage to trap the monster in a distant room. Howie, meanwhile, is in reception, being watched over by the alien from the oft-invaded planet, which seems a poor choice of guard to me.

The Doctor, interrogating the prisoner, realises that this is a prison.

Howie continues trying to convince the alien (who I’m just going to call “The Coward”) to let him go to seek his glorious death.

And the Doctor continues interrogating the minotaur, which is what this creature (this creature of instinct, with no name) is.

Lord Nimon! It is I! Soldeed!

Nope, wrong episode. In this episode, Howie manages to get away, and the minotaur breaks loose to chase him down.

RORY: Oh, somebody hit me. Was it Amy?

The Doctor finds Howie’s broken glasses and Amy finds a room that calls to her—which she opens, despite being told repeatedly not to do that.

And then we pan past poor Howie’s body, slumped against a wall, just as Joe’s was. The Doctor’s not pleased with The Coward, but now is not the time for recriminations.

Howie’s picture appears on the wall in reception. The Doctor and Rory both stroll up to contemplate it, and the Doctor asks Rory if he’s found his room yet.

DOCTOR: Maybe you’re not scared of anything.
RORY: Well, after all the time with you in the TARDIS, what was left to be scared of?

And here’s the bit that I think sums up Rory. He tells the Doctor about Howie’s being in intensive speech therapy, and overcoming a massive stammer. And that’s not a huge shock, because we saw the girls mocking his stammer, asking him if he was speaking Klingon, and Howie stammering in response to their mockery. But the thing is that of all these people, only Rory would know that. Only Rory has the kind of conversations with people that elicit that sort of information. And only Rory cares enough to remember these kinds of details and to value them. Because he thinks people are important, does Rory. He thinks minutiae and personal victories (big and small) and daily life are important things.

I love Rory.

I bet he’s an excellent and beloved nurse.

The Doctor tells Rita that he’s very close to getting them all out of there.

RITA: Why’s it up to you to save us? That’s quite a God complex you’ve got there.
DOCTOR: I brought them here. They’ll tell you it was their choice, but offer a child a suitcase of sweets and they’ll take it. Offer someone the whole of time and space, and they’ll take that, too.

But Rita’s starting to praise him (not the Doctor). And the Doctor’s found room 11, and opened the door, despite instructions. Whatever’s inside, we don’t see, though we do hear the tolling of the Cloister Bell.

But the Doctor—and the rest of us—are distracted by Rita, who has walked off into the depths of the hotel, feeling the rapture coming on and wanting to “be robbed of my faith in private”. She asks the Doctor not to watch, but he waits long enough to see the monster come into view before he turns off the security cameras.

And then they go and find Rita’s body, to lay her out alongside Howie and Joe. And the Doctor’s more furious than we’ve ever seen him, a smashing-crockery kind of fury.

But he has come to a realisation of what the beast is feeding on. It’s not fear, because Rita wasn’t frightened: she was strong and brave. No: it’s feeding on faith. Because when you’re confronted with your primal fear, you fall back on what you have the most faith in. So the Doctor telling them to dig deep and stay strong is actually making them vulnerable.

And, he says, the beast doesn’t want Rory, because Rory’s not religious or superstitious. It wants Amy, because of Amy’s faith in the Doctor. That’s what brought them to the hotel.

And now Amy’s praising the beast.

They run, because that’s what Doctor Who is: all running-sexy-fish-vampire-minotaurs.

And they end up in a room, where the Doctor tells Amy that he stole her childhood, and led her by her hand to her death. And he knew it was going to happen. Because it’s what always happens.

DOCTOR: Forget your faith in me. I took you with me because I was vain. Because I wanted to be adored. Look at you. Glorious Pond. The girl who waited—for me. I’m not a hero. I really am just a madman in a box. And it’s time we saw each other as we really are. Amy Williams: it’s time to stop waiting.

I’m not touching the “Amy Williams” bit (comments!), but I will point out that Amy flips between Amy and young Amelia (who is sitting on her suitcase, staring out the window, in this room, the room of Amy’s greatest fear), and it’s rather lovely and sad and sweet.

Out in the corridor, a minotaur is dying.

Sorry: not a corridor. It’s a holodeck. Will people never learn? Those things malfunction all the time.

The minotaur is a distant cousin of the Nimon, who set themselves up on distant planets and are worshipped as gods. So my “Horns of Nimon” joke earlier was even wittier than it seemed at the time.

There’s much technobabble here about how the prison works, but I’ll ignore it all in favour of this next exchange.

MINOTAUR: An ancient creature, dredged in the blood of the innocent, drifting in space through an endless, shifting maze. For such a creature, death would be a gift.
DOCTOR: Then accept it. And sleep well.
MINOTAUR: I wasn’t talking about myself.

And now we’re at a house (which is a real house, without any goblins or minotaurs), and, outside it, a car that happens to be Rory’s favourite car. And Rory is sent off to investigate the house (RORY: She’ll say we can’t accept it because it’s too extravagant and we’ll always feel a sense of crippling obligation. It’s a risk I’m willing to take), while Amy comes to the realisation that the Doctor is leaving.

DOCTOR: And what’s the alternative? Me standing over your grave? Over your broken body? Over Rory’s body?
ME: Well, you’ve already done that last one at least twice. Maybe three times.

Amy lets him go with a good grace, in the end, though she’s clearly quite broken up about it. She tells him that if he runs into her daughter, he should tell her to visit her old mum occasionally.

And then he’s off.

RORY: What’s happened? What’s he doing?
AMY: He’s saving us.

But it’s not quite that simple, because, alone in the console room, the Doctor definitely has something else on his mind.

Well, that was “Curse of Fenric.” I mean “The Fenric Complex.” I mean “The God Complex.”

Next week: Craig versus the Cybermen.

Live-blogging Postponed Due To Parental Incursion

Posted 24 September 2011 in by Catriona

The third postponement in as many weeks, but the Monday-night blogging seems to be working for people (including me), so let’s hope it works this time, as well.

My parents are up for a visit (bringing with them the pretty Edwardian sewing cabinet that I bought on Ebay and had sent to them), so I’m a bit busy having conversations like this one:

ME: Didn’t my sister teach herself to crochet out of a book?
MOTHER: She taught herself to crochet out of that book with my help. And she doesn’t give me enough credit for that.
ME: When is she supposed to give you credit?
MOTHER: Constantly! “Oh, I couldn’t have crocheted this without my mother’s help!” “Wasn’t it kind of my mother to teach me to crochet?” How hard could that be?

I promise that’s verbatim.

So you can see we’re a bit busy.

But we wouldn’t miss out on live-blogging an episode like this.

See you in this space in the not-too-distant future.

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