strange_complex: (Rory the Roman)
So, the Doctor Who Christmas special, then. I am usually an absolute sucker for these, frequently believing them to be far better on the day of viewing than I later realise is really justified. But sadly this one failed to wow me even on Christmas day itself. [livejournal.com profile] swisstone has already covered most of the plot-holes and lazy clich├ęs, thus saving me the trouble, and I agree with his basic thesis - that Steven Moffat is not really giving Doctor Who the attention it needs or deserves. So I will stick to noting a few things which particularly struck me as I watched.

The two stand-out aggravations for me were mystical motherhood and negotiable death. On the mystical motherhood side, I couldn't shake off an icky feeling throughout the story that someone had pointed out to Moffat some of the sexist tropes which have cropped up in his previous stories, so he decided to Do Something About It and redress the balance - but completely failed because he assumed that femininity is essentially equivalent to motherhood, and can only understand motherhood anyway by treating it as strange and mystical and quasi-supernatural. I thought while I was watching that I recognised this as a common trope by male writers who are trying to portray women positively, but still fundamentally viewing them from a patriarchal and reductive point of view. However, having typed a seemingly endless string of searches involving words like "trope" "women" "feminine" "motherhood" "mysterious" "mystical" and "magical" into Google, I still can't seem to track down a basic description of it or a list of other examples, even on TV Tropes. Surely I'm not making this one up, am I? More likely I'm just using the wrong search terms. Anyway, it's annoying.

As for the negotiable death, Moffat has done this so often now that it is intensely predictable, and I groaned with resignation at the inevitability of what was to come as soon as Madge started seeing visions of her husband's 'death' in the time vortex. That's annoying in itself, because it makes Moffat's stories less able to surprise or enthral, but I find this particular device repellent even if it is only used once. It undermines our ability to engage meaningfully with in-story deaths, so that any emotions which they provoke have to be regarded as temporary or provisional until we can be sure whether or not the death is 'real' - often much later in the story. And it toys with the viewer, dangling a hard-hitting narrative with a very powerful emotive force, but then just waving it all aside without working through its consequences properly. I would respect Moffat very much if he had dealt with parental death properly in the Doctor Who Christmas special, and equally much if he had chosen not to include it at all. But what he actually did smacks of wanting to have it both ways - maximum emotional impact and a fairytale happy ending - without being prepared to do the creative work necessary to make the two consistent with one another. In other words, it is lazy writing again - not to mention insulting to people who have had to deal with the utter non-negotiability of death in the real world.

Other than that, I also felt that we hadn't had enough time to get to know the family and their wartime lives before they came to their Uncle Digby's house, so that it was difficult to get any real sense of how fantastic the house might seem to them in comparison to everyday normality, or how badly they needed such a wondrous experience. Here, in fact, it would have helped if the children had known by the time they arrived that their father was dead, so that we could have seen them briefly being able to forget their pain and loss as they got caught up in the magic of what the Doctor had in store for them. As it was, all the Doctor's efforts seemed rather embarrassingly over-blown from their point of view. And although this in itself could have been been used to move the emotional trajectory of the story forward by tipping the children off to the fact that something more fundamental was wrong within their family, it wasn't.

Meanwhile, I'm sufficiently steeped in the work of Ray Harryhausen at the moment to notice how similar the design of the Tree King and Queen was to that of the wooden figurehead who comes alive and starts attacking people in The Golden Voyage of Sinbad, and to be very little surprised to come across yet another example of the extent of his influence:



But as for Doctor Who, I don't really have anything else to say about this story.

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strange_complex: (Amelia Rumford archaeologist)
I couldn't post this last night, because I just could not get onto LJ at any point after Doctor Who ended. So what follows was actually written in Yahoo! Notepad yesterday evening, and lightly edited this morning in order to get the tenses right.

Gosh, well. I think I can only possibly start writing about this with the end first )

So where the hell does this go now? )

Anyway, as for the rest of the story, yes, it did play out much like Three's encounters with our reptilian cousins )

The Doctor and Ambrose )

Nasreen Chaudhry )

So, Chris Chibnall may not be the most highly-regarded of Doctor Who writers, and it may well be that without the shock ending (which must surely have been largely Steven Moffat's work), this would have ended up as another largely predictable and forgettable story. But, as it was, it worked for me. Looking forward to yet more historical action next week.

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strange_complex: (One walking)
First Doctor: Galaxy Four )

First Doctor: Mission to the Unknown )

Two stories in a row which display a distinctly sexist world-view, then. And you might well say - "But Penny, these stories were made in 1965. What did you expect?" Except that two seasons' worth of stories featuring strong, independent women (especially Barbara, but not just her) talking to each other, doing amazing things as though it were completely normal, and enjoying the total respect and trust of the men around them have shown me that Doctor Who is capable of a great deal better than this. I don't want to lose that - but here we are, with Verity Lambert still not even properly out of the door yet, and things already seem to be crashing and burning horribly.

So, to cheer myself up after all that, I went right back to the Good Old Days. You know, before the BBC Ruined Our Show by, like, broadcasting it on TV, and shit. Jeez, talk about selling out...

First Doctor: An Unearthly Child (untelevised first attempt) )

So, yes, that is better, and I'm ready to continue forwards now - not least because the next story is The Myth-Makers. But I proceed with caution and lowered expectations from here on in.

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strange_complex: (Penny Dreadful)
Because its vice-chancellor thinks it is OK to publish an article like this one (scroll down to the 'LUST' section) about sexual relationships between (female) students and (male) staff at Universities, which includes such choice phrases as these:

"Equally, the universities are where the male scholars and the female acolytes are."

So, no female scholars, then? All the women at University are there purely to enable men, and possibly drink admiringly from the founts of male knowledge?

"The fault lies with the females"

Like everything, of course!

And, worst of all in my view:

"Normal girls - more interested in abs than in labs, more interested in pecs than specs, more interested in triceps than tripos - will abjure their lecturers for the company of their peers"

I think I would like to go and vomit now. What a wanker!

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strange_complex: (Tom Baker)
Read online at the BBC Classic Doctor Who website.

Science Fiction fans often express concern about why it is that more women don't seem to be interested in the genre. I know they do, because there was a panel to that effect at Mecon 11 in the summer.

Unfortunately, this book is a prime example of the reason why. Apart from Romana and a tea-lady who makes a brief cameo appearance in chapter 2 before being blown to smithereens, all of the female characters in the book are crazed dominant-yet-also-subservient femdroids who turn out to be modelled on the inner workings of K-9. In fact, the total lack of any plausible female characters for the entire duration of the novel even gets the writer into plotting problems towards the end of the book. Realising that the Metralubitans at the centre of the story are in the position of needing to rebuild their society from a small pool of people after surviving a catastrophe, the Doctor has to turn to their President and ask, "Premier, there are females down in your dome, aren't there? Real ones, I mean?"

Dear Gareth Roberts: here is a clue. If you want your readers (and especially your female ones) to find Metralubitan society plausible enough for them to either a) believe in its ability to regenerate itself or b) care, write both sexes into that society in the first place. Don't just suddenly assert that they are there when the plot demands it. Gah.

The world moves on, though. Since writing this, Roberts has proved himself capable of better things, especially in regards to his Sarah Jane Adventures scripts. So my annoyance is more directed at the fact that this is such a common failing in SF contexts in general than it is against him personally. But it is disappointing, and lets the book down considerably.

Which is a pity, because on the whole this is a pretty decent story. The ending gets a bit contrived and hand-wavey, and winds up with Roberts writing himself into corner which nothing but a literal Big Red Button can get him out of. But the essential set-up of a war between two rival parties who actually rather like one another socially, the basic conceit than most human(oid)s are sufficiently vain that they can easily be manipulated into non-sensical and immoral behaviour via a bit of flattery, and the comic touches (especially the parody of Marxist revolutionaries) were all well worth reading. Plus the Four!love was most satisfying, and came complete with a nicely-realised Romana II and a charmingly unhinged K-9 into the bargain.

In short, then, basically good fun, but with a Russell T. Davies-style ending and an apparent failure to register the existence of half the human(oid) population. If you love Four, you should definitely read it.

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strange_complex: (Penny Farthing)
Third Doctor: Spearhead from Space )

In summary: a good story, but heading in a direction I'm not wildly keen about.

Third Doctor: Inferno )

Overall, then: a very refreshing break-out from the usual constraints of this era. May not be perfect, but its strengths definitely outweigh its weaknesses.

And that? That would be me bang up to date with my write-ups. A good feeling, I can tell you. :-)

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strange_complex: (Invader Zim globe)
Well, I haven't posted a Doctor Who write-up here since August, it would seem. What with Belfast, and then Vienna, and then term starting, I haven't had much time for anything but memes and cut 'n' paste lately. Which isn't to say that the last month or so hasn't been enormous fun. Just not conducive to writing about cult TV.

Now, however, I have a whole weekend to myself and nothing in particular to do - for the first time in about six weeks. So it's time to start catching up!

Fifth Doctor: Earthshock )

All in all, good stuff - and I look forward to seeing more of the stories which precede and follow this one.

Second Doctor: The Invasion )

Overall verdict - a real classic with some brilliant moments. Just a pity about the feminist failure surrounding Isobel's venture into the sewers.

What's more, with those two stories written up, I do believe I can allow myself to actually start watching Doctor Who again now, rather than getting by on old episodes of Poirot and Sex and the City in an attempt to stop my write-up backlog growing even larger than it already was. Hooray!

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strange_complex: (C J Cregg)
I've just received an email from a female student, addressing me as 'Miss X' - not at all an uncommon occurrence. I like to think I'm not the kind of person who would feel the need to go round with a stick up my ass about people getting my title wrong like this - except that the rest of her email goes on to demonstrate perfectly why, nevertheless, I do. Within three sentences, she has gone on to mention (in the context of possible dissertation supervisors for next year) two of my male colleagues - and both of them are referred to, entirely correctly, as 'Dr. Y' and 'Dr. Z'.

Just for the record, it's not that she hasn't had every opportunity of noticing that I am a Doctor, too. She took one of my modules last year, so would have seen it on the module documentation. Meanwhile, this year she is studying in Italy, and as such has received numerous emails from me in my capacity as Study Abroad coordinator, all of which included my full name and title in the signature file. Also, one of the male colleagues she mentions is of a very similar age to me - so this should rule out the possibility that she is assuming I am too young to have become a Doctor yet. All that's left is an apparent unconscious assumption that female academics are not equivalent in status to their male colleagues.

It's not the first time I've seen this, or the first time I've seen it coming from someone who is female themselves. I recognise that a lot of people don't really understand what academic titles mean, or how you earn them. But even if you don't know the fine details, I think it's generally clear enough that 'Doctor' is an honorific, earned title. Seeing female academics regularly stripped of it by underlying assumptions about their intellectual status, while their male colleagues are not, is just one more sign of how unbalanced gender relations continue to be.

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