strange_complex: (Eleven dude)
I should have posted this review nearly two weeks ago now, but was feeling very sluggish at the time, thanks to what [livejournal.com profile] ms_siobhan calls 'the ladygrims', and just didn't have the surplus brain-power while also greeting new students and finishing articles. I seem to be back to normal now, but still had to prioritise my article until I knew I had managed to meet the deadline for it. Still, any time before the season finale counts, right?

Anyway, this story was pretty damned good for me, and certainly one of the stronger episodes of the season, but I felt it lacked the appropriate emotional weight )

Setting and symbolism )

Rita )

Meh, there's probably other stuff I would have said about this episode if I'd got round to writing it up earlier. It was clever and gripping, made good use of its characters, and dropped in plenty of interesting symbolism and continuity references for geeky types like me to chew over. But I think that will do for now. Here's looking forward to the season finale, and hopefully a few resolutions, tomorrow evening. :-)

Click here if you would like view this entry in light text on a dark background.

strange_complex: (Seven Ace)
Right, I think it is about damned time I got caught up on my Doctor Who reviews. I actually had to stop watching it over a month ago, as I already had a back-log of four reviews to write, was too busy to write them and couldn't bear it to get any worse. Which was rather miserable, really. But now I am rather more on top of things once again, so let's see if I can't get back on track.

Waaaaayyy back in April (apparently), I began at the beginning of the McCoy era with Time and the Rani. Since then I have worked through four of the other five of his stories which are currently available on DVD. (I'm leaving out Survival, because I am saving that until The Very End - even though I know it doesn't really offer very much in the way of closure, and I'm pre-empting matters rather with my shiny new icon anyway). This means that during late April and early May I experienced Remembrance of the Daleks, The Curse of Fenric, Battlefield and Ghostlight in more or less rapid succession, and HOT DAMN! They are good. I'm well aware that I've got a warped impression of the McCoy era by doing this, as the BBC have very sensibly released all his best stories on DVD first (a situation which I believe will be somewhat balanced out by the release of Delta and the Bannermen this month). But still! He is good, Ace is brilliant, and I now very much see where the fannish consensus that the stories were just getting good again when the series was cancelled comes from. More detailed responses follow below.

Seventh Doctor: Remembrance of the Daleks )

All in all, it's pretty much perfect. Not every Doctor Who story can be like this - it would be tedious if they were. But a programme with a pedigree Who had developed by this time certainly should be producing stories like this one on at least a reasonably regular basis.

Seventh Doctor: The Curse of Fenric )

Battlefield and Ghostlight remain to be written up, of course, but I think this is quite enough for one evening.

Click here to view this entry with minimal formatting.

strange_complex: (Janus)
For at least the last twelve years of my life - possibly slightly longer - I have worn, every single day, the pendant shown below:

Eye of Horus pendant )

If you have ever met me IRL, you'll have seen it. Or if you didn't, it will only have been because I was wearing a high-necked top and it was tucked underneath. I will have been wearing it - I guarantee.

That pendant's history and significance )

Why I need a new one )

Gravitating towards a TARDIS key )

But I liked the idea of the key very much, and I began to feel that a smaller, more feminine version of the same thing, made nicely out of proper silver, would actually be a very worthy replacement for my old Eye of Horus. And this is where [livejournal.com profile] nalsa comes into the story.

Nalsa's handiwork )

It is, quite frankly, awesome. It's just exactly what I wanted - light-weight, and feminine, and in fact able to pass quite readily as a piece of interesting abstract jewellery to anyone who didn't know what it actually was. I can wear it to conferences, I can wear it to teach in, I can wear it out to dinner. But to me, and to anyone else who's geeky enough, it is in fact also a compelling emblem of fantasy, and adventure, and one man's quiet battle to make the Universe a better place. If I can trust any small piece of metal to keep me safe, help me access the past, help me journey on into my future, and help me find my way back home again if I ever get lost - then this is it.

The history and experience I've written into my old pendant can't just be thrown aside lightly, though. Perhaps there are some things it's witnessed that it's best to leave behind now, and stop carrying around with me. It may be time anyway, even if it weren't for the worn old silver, to move forwards, and let the new pendant receive an impression of the present and future me. But the present me has been forged by the past me, and for that reason I need to keep my connection with the old pendant, too.

So, right now, downstairs in my fire-place a candle is burning, and in front of it the two pendants lie, back-to-back - one facing into the past, and one facing into the future, just like the god Janus (see icon). Once the candle burns down, the 'transfer' will be complete, and I'll be able to leave the old pendant behind and move into the future with the new one. I'm not quite sure what I'll do with the old one after that - but as [livejournal.com profile] glitzfrau said the other night in the pub, the right thing will come to me.

strange_complex: (TARDIS)
Fourth Doctor: Underworld )

Fourth Doctor: The Invasion of Time )

That now brings me to the end of both Leela as a companion, and season 15 as a whole (for my reference, write-ups of the other stories from this season are here, here, here and here). I'm still underwhelmed by Leela. She's OK when she gets to do a bit of fighting, but that isn't always the case, and otherwise I still find her to be rather a one-note character (as I originally complained). Still, there are plenty of companions who are far worse, and she does have her moments. Meanwhile, season 15 has a slightly higher quotient of weak stories (The Invisible Enemy, Underworld) than the previous three Baker seasons; but then none of those were perfect either (and often for the same reason).

It also seemed to me to have just slightly more in the way of unifying themes to it than most of the previous seasons (though season 12 is tied together by near-continuous action between all five stories) - perhaps an early step in the same, more structured, direction then taken by season 16 (Key to Time)? It probably wasn't originally planned to start with the Rutans and end with the Sontarans (given the production circumstances of The Invasion of Time), but nonetheless that's how it worked out, and it could well have been done consciously for the sake of structure, once the opportunity presented itself. Meanwhile, The Sun Makers and Underworld both present exploited masses who are eventually liberated by the Doctor's intervention, and the manifestation of the Fendahl Core as a goddess-figure in Image of the Fendahl goes nicely along with the religious themes I've noted in the two stories above. It's not quite as structured as the Key to Time arc, but it's recognisably moving in that direction.

Next - season 17.

strange_complex: (K-9 affirmative)
Yes, that was an episode on top of its game, all right. I know it had some things in it that people are tired of by now - like the Doctor-as-Christ references in the white light spilling around him as he saves the Caecilius family, and the shot of him reaching out for Caecilius' hand like God and Adam on the Sistine Chapel ceiling. But even those bits have to get points for trying (albeit trying too hard). And on the whole, this episode seemed to me to be very much in command of both the Doctor Who format and the Classical receptions genre.

It wasn't just that the people who made this episode knew what had come before - it was that they used it so effectively. There were a plethora of references to previous Who stories and genre staples, but none of them weighed down the story, or tied it to worn-out tropes. What we got here was a fresh yet knowing look at the Pompeii story, which really made the most of the opportunities offered by the setting to explore the character of the Doctor and his modus operandi. (Oh look, I'm a Celt. There's lovely).

Let's start by collecting up some of those references, and what was done with them. Firstly, the genre references )

Yup - all self-assured, all cleverly-handled. And then there are the hat-tips to previous continWhoity )

So all the more reason for me to be glad I launched myself on my Classic Who-watching marathon in January - and those are just the references I got from the stories I happen to have seen (or heard) so far. There may well be more.

It's a bit meaningless to comment in too much detail on the sets, given that most of them came from HBO's Rome, but the costumes and props (which were the responsibility of the Who team) generally seemed sound enough )

And, finally, what about the story itself as an ongoing contribution to this series of Doctor Who? Damned good stuff, I'd say )

I'm still nervous about the rest of the series. I can't help but feel that when we find out where all these clues are actually leading, it'll be a terrible disappointment. But right here, right now - this is seismic television. I am so going to be watching this episode again. :-)

strange_complex: (Pompeii sundial)
It's taken me a fair old while to finish this book: in fact, I interrupted it for The Merlin Conspiracy for a while, as it seemed a bit much back in late February, and I was in need of something lighter. Bulwer-Lytton's prose style is so famously overblown that there is an annual bad fiction contest named in his honour; and as for the florid Victorian poetry which he inserted at every available opportunity - well, reader, I skipped it.

This is not to say he's actually a bad writer. Once you attune to his rhythms and get into the highly mannered spirit of his prose, it can be marvellous fun. Check out this fantastic description of the Witch of Vesuvius, for example:
"With stony eyes turned upon them — with a look that met and fascinated theirs — they beheld in that fearful countenance the very image of a corpse! — the same, the glazed and lustreless regard, the blue and shrunken lips, the drawn and hollow jaw — the dead, lank hair, of a pale grey — the livid, green, ghastly skin, which seemed all surely tinged and tainted by the grave!" (Book 3 chapter 9)
Now that's a proper witch, all right. But an endless succession of passages like that can get a bit tedious, especially when the subject turns to long-winded musing or moralising.

Nonetheless, it was worth persevering - not least, of course, because I have now finished it just in time to see whether or not it's conveyed a legacy to the forth-coming Who episode, The Fires of Pompeii. Judging from the trailers so far available, it looks like the influence isn't going to be that direct. But then again, this novel is really the ur-text as far as fictional representations of Pompeii go, and I can certainly see traces of it in the Who audio adventure, The Fires of Vulcan now I've finished it. More on that, later...

Historical realism )

Ancient religion )

Romantic idealism )

Bulwer-Lytton and the visual arts )

Finally, because I can, and because I want to know what's come from where when reading or watching further fictional representations of Pompeii, I finish with a table summarising key story elements in the three main examples I've encountered so far:

A very big table )

Just a few more hours now till I can see how The Fires of Pompeii fits in with all that!

strange_complex: (Bettie Page shoes)
Yesterday evening, I ventured along with [livejournal.com profile] nalsa, [livejournal.com profile] big_daz, [livejournal.com profile] myfirstkitchen and two other folk (who are probably on LJ but I don't know their usernames) into the remarkably friendly and agenda-free territory of the University Chaplaincy, for the sake of an audience with Doctor Who writer, Paul Cornell. We got there a bit early, so had time to settle down with free cups of coffee amongst the bean-bags, and chat to Paul (whom [livejournal.com profile] myfirstkitchen already knew) while we waited for the talk proper to begin.

And an excellent session it was, too )

Finally, while I'm writing, I also want to rave about my fantastic new shoes! )

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