strange_complex: (Doctor Who anniversary)
Still with the muscle aches and general tiredness. I do think it is starting to get better at base level now, but between the approach of term and me wanting to go off a lot at weekends and Do Things, I suspect I am also cancelling out a lot of the gains. So this morning, the first time for three weeks that I haven't had to set an alarm, my eyes gradually opened at around 11:30am. Which is fine, because my whole plan for today was to Do Nothing, but I clearly need a few more of those.

Anyway, by around 13:30 I had eaten some breakfast and read the internet, and was looking for something nothingy to do, when I came across the Eruditorum Press Doctor Who Poll. Perfect! I have now voted, and since I started out by writing up a short-list of stories and ranking them, I have a record of what I chose which I may as well preserve here. Votes in different categories, including brief recaps of the poll rules, under the cuts.

Best televised Doctor Who story - five points )

Nineteen other top televised Doctor Who stories - one point each )

Twenty also-rans - nul points )

Top five non-televised stories )

Five hate votes )

Best People etc. )

Polls close at the end of September, and the results will be on the Eruditorum blog over the course of October, apparently.

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strange_complex: (Barbara Susan planning)
OK, so here's me trying to catch up with Doctor Who reviews. I'll aim to keep them short(ish... for me), as there are so many to catch up with. And obviously, I'm now doing this with hindsight, so I'm unlikely to be saying the same things here that I would have said if I'd written about each episode at the time. But I do have the notes I wrote while watching each episode to hand, so can see what I thought about them on initial viewing.

Between its Viking setting and its explicit concern with the consequences of time travellers changing history, the first half of this story reminded me strongly of The Time Meddler, and was clearly supposed to. My own notes for the latter remind me that it was the first Doctor Who story to articulate the idea that time travellers shouldn't change history, as opposed to the idea that they can't (which is what we get the very first time the issue comes up at all in The Aztecs). As the Doctor says to the Monk, "You know as well as I do the golden rule about space and time travelling - never, never interfere with the course of history" - though it's noticeable that this rule has only ever applied to Earth history, as known to a contemporary TV audience. The Doctor can clearly change history on other planets as much as he likes!

This story is all about the Doctor breaking that 'golden rule' and creating a tidal wave where he should leave only ripples. At the time of broadcast, this was clearly signalled as a pivotal moment both emotionally for the Twelfth Doctor, and structurally for New Who as a whole - particularly through the explicit flashbacks to his decision to save the Caecilius family in Fires of Pompeii and his self-identification as someone who 'saves people'. And now in retrospect we can see how much it foreshadowed, too. The first half of this story put a lot of emphasis on how in saving Ashildr by using Mire technology, the Doctor had created a hybrid of the two races, and the second had Ashildr referring to herself simply as 'Me'. To join those dots, the closing words of Heaven Sent:
You got the prophecy wrong. The Hybrid is not half-Dalek. Nothing is half-Dalek; the Daleks would never allow that. The Hybrid destined to conquer Gallifrey and stand in its ruins is me.
Of the two halves, I preferred the second. That's not to say I disliked the first, and especially its core idea of the Mire being defeated with the power of imagination, stories and spin rather than brute force. But the second half appealed more aesthetically, offering a lot that was Hammeresque or generally Gothic, while its explorations of the consequences of immortality were suitably emotionally weighty. I also liked many of the smaller touches in the second episode - like comedy highwayman Sam Swift, Ashildr / Me trying out life as a man for a while (very Orlando), or her use of journals to work around the problem of a limited memory but an unlimited life-span. I'm only 39, but I am beginning to know the feeling!

Meanwhile, I found myself wondering whether both halves of this two-parter could actually have been handled as pure historicals, rather than pseudo-historicals. This takes us back once again to The Time Meddler, which was the first Doctor Who story to insert an alien threat (the Meddling Monk himself) into a story set in Earth's past. Both halves of this story qualify likewise, thanks to the presence of fake-Odin and the Mire in the first and Leandro and his people in the second - but could much the same plots otherwise have unfolded without them? I'm pretty sure it could have done for the first episode, with Ashildr's village simply facing down a more powerful neighbouring warrior tribe instead of the Mire and making them look like fools to be laughed at around camp-fires up and down the land. The only adjustment needed would be to establish that the Doctor carries medical chips of some kind around on the TARDIS which could take the place of the Mire chip - but that wouldn't be hard.

It would perhaps be slightly harder for the second episode, as it's important to Ashildr / Me's emotional arc in this story that she is trying to find a way off the Earth to more exciting prospects beyond - this is what makes her collaborate with Leandro, kill Sam Swift and then realise that she has done something awful in a flawed cause. But I should think a clever story-teller (not me!) could still come up with some way to put her through that arc which didn't involve aliens. Perhaps she could instead have ended up aspiring to some kind of apocalyptic destruction-of-Earth plan, in the hope that it would put paid to her own unwanted and unending life along with everyone else's, but realised once her plan began to unfold that she didn't want this after all, and needed the Doctor's help to stop it? (Though that may be too utterly dark for Doctor Who, even now - defeating an alien-of-the-week is always a much safer bet for a feel-good story.)

But my point is that I felt that we were dancing on the edge of not really needing the alien element in either of these episodes - like it was there because that is simply the accepted Doctor Who format, rather than because it was actually necessary to what the stories were trying to do. Certainly, these weren't celebrity historicals - indeed, they stayed well clear altogether of touching on any specific Earth history as it might be known to a contemporary TV audience, which as I've suggested above is the real 'golden rule' of time travel. The matter of whether or not a particular Viking village was defended successfully against attack, or whether someone called Sam Swift was or wasn't hanged at Tyburn, wouldn't break our suspension of disbelief about these stories (and thus the whole of Doctor Who) taking place within our history, and our universe as we know it. And if we've got to the point where Doctor Who is producing historical stories that barely need aliens in them to work, then could it be possible that some time soon we'll take the next step onwards from there, and get to the stage of having a historical story which doesn't have aliens in it at all? That's something I have to say I'd really like to see after all these years without one.

Finally, I don't really watch Game of Thrones properly, though I've seen enough of it to have been able to recognise some of its musical cues in The Woman Who Lived in particular. But I enjoyed Maisie Williams' performance last year as the central character in the Channel 4 film Cyberbully, and was impressed again across these two stories - and of course Face the Raven, which I've also seen since. She has already appeared in the 'next time' trailer for Hell Bent, and I'm glad that we will be seeing both her and her character again.

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strange_complex: (Penny Crayon)
I am very happy to say that I now have my laptop back. Since several of you were kind enough to comment on my post about the original fault, and some of you got really quite into speculating about what the problem might be, I will report back that it was indeed a hardware problem. It now has a new screen and LCD back-light unit, and is fine again. Which means that I can now write reviews from the comfort of my sofa once more - yay!

So, continuing with my Doctor Who reviewing, I reach new writer Jamie Mathieson's second story - another good effort, justifying Moffat's confidence in giving him two episodes right from the off. That said, although it was solid all round in ideas, realisation, characterisation and script, and also did a very professional job of carrying forward the big themes of the series, I don't think I have anything very major or original to say about it, especially some ten days after broadcast. So just a few notes follow.

The most obvious 'hook' to this episode is that the Doctor's imprisonment in the TARDIS allows Clara to take on his usual role - something which she has progressively been doing anyway over the course of this series, but which is fully developed and articulated here. Early on, she takes possession of the sonic screwdriver, joking "Does this mean I'm you now?"; by about mid-way through the episode, she is going round saying things like "I am the one chance you've got of staying alive"; and by the time the TARDIS is in siege mode and she can no longer communicate with the Doctor, she explicitly switches from asking "What would the Doctor do?" to "What will I do?" The answer, of course, is to save the day by working out that she can use the 2D beings' power against them - though it very much deserves notice that the detail and execution of the plan falls to Rigsy, whose painting of a door provides the 'bait' needed to attract that power and recharge the TARDIS. This isn't the absolute first time that a black character has saved the world on Doctor Who - Martha did it too, and indeed took on the role of the Doctor herself while he was a shrunken puppet living in a cage. But it's still too rare, hence the need to notice it and to hope for more.

Just like The Mummy on the Orient Express, this story had a high body-count, but because this time the Clara is in the Doctor's role, balancing individual lives against the greater good, Flatline importantly gives him the opportunity to see what that sort of behaviour looks like from the outside - something which evidently unsettles him. At the end of the story, he finds Clara just a little too 'chipper' given how many people have died, and when Fenton (the community service overseer) callously declares that they were just "community pay-back scum-bags", and that the objective in a forest fire is to save the big trees by sacrificing the brushwood, he feels moved to snap, "It wasn't a fire. Those weren't trees. They were people." This is a stark contrast from his coldly scientific usage of dying people to extract information about the mummy in the previous episode, suggesting that he has actually learnt something about himself from the experience, and in the end his judgement on Clara articulates it quite clearly: "You were an exceptional Doctor, Clara. Goodness had nothing to do with it." Clara, by contrast, has perhaps learnt rather less, as she continue to lie to Danny about her activities with the Doctor like it's going out of fashion, even when it's obvious that he knows it - something which should, of course, build into a meaningful emotional confrontation in the next episode, but I already know does not. :-(

Like the previous week's episode, this one too was buzzing with Whovian intertexts. We've seen the outside of the TARDIS shrink before in Logopolis, but shouldn't forget also The Time Meddler in which the Doctor shrinks the inside of the Monk's TARDIS so that he can't get into it, or Planet of the Giants, in which its inside, outside and inhabitants all shrink to approximately the size of ants in a thimble. Post-2005 Who was also strongly in evidence. Non-corporeal beings tried to take over dead human bodies in The Unquiet Dead, the relationship between real people and 2D drawings was central to Fear Her (though to much poorer effect), and the Doctor's proclamation that "This place is protected" as he sends the 2D people back to their Universe is of course a repeat of what Ten told the Sycorax. Meanwhile, as Matthew Kilburn has pointed out, the very subject of 2D beings can be taken as a meta-reference to the entire show, which is of course (nearly) always experienced by its viewers in 2D, and at its best feels as though it is emerging into and taking over our 3D world. On the whole the effect of these is merely the simple, obvious one of reminding us that this story forms part of a much larger complex narrative which its writer is intimately familiar with, but that in itself is always pleasing.

Finally, Water-and-Breathing Watch wasn't entirely sure there was any 'significant' water this week, though obviously there was some from time to time - e.g. unexplained steam inside the TARDIS, drizzle while Clara was looking at the mural, or a water-bottle clutched in the hand of the community service bloke who told her to "Cheer up, love". More striking, though, was the fact that as the life-support system on the TARDIS began to fail, the Doctor inside was struggling to breathe - now a repeated theme this season, which I'm sure will feature in the finale.

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strange_complex: (Strange complex)
Yes, I thought I might want to write a little about this. I'm still concerned that I might find tonight's special a little disappointing (though also still hopeful I won't), but even if I do, this went a long way towards marking the anniversary appropriately for me. I do very much love the William Hartnell era after all - enough that that is where my LJ username now comes from. And it is a great pleasure to be able to use the Doctor Who anniversary to help develop and refine my work-related thinking about anniversary commemorations, as well.

It's fair to say, as Laurence Miles has done most forcefully (in a post now sadly deleted from his blog), that An Adventure in Space and Time both mythologised and stereotyped some of its main characters )

Anyway, as both a work of drama and a nostalgic tribute, An Adventure in Space and Time was brilliant )

Fannish tick-boxes and tributes )

Cameos and casting )

Anyway. 50th anniversaries are funny ones, I think. They stand on the cusp between memory and history. Enough time has passed for things to have changed a great deal, for memories to have become distorted, and for the need to reinterpret the past in a way that makes sense now in the present to have arisen. But it is generally not long enough for all those involved to have died, so that there is also a need for negotiation between direct memory and reinterpretation - sometimes both at work within the same people. If Doctor Who marks its centenary, which I very much hope it does, the line of direct memory to its origins will by then have been broken. It will all be about second-hand interpretation of the recorded past, via archives and photographs and interviews and of course the show itself. But it will be enriched by the fact that the 50th anniversary has served as a prompt to add to our collective store of direct memories, now while we can and before they are gone forever.

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strange_complex: (Eleven dude)
And so at last we get to the season finale! New Who Season 7 has been pretty patchy all told, but I really enjoyed this closing episode. It was well-paced, well-scripted, exciting and most importantly has given me lots to talk about! I'll work through the bits which most struck me in roughly the order in which they occurred. You can assume I thought anything which I don't discuss explicitly below was generally jolly good.

Companions and assistants )

Trenzalore )


Prophecies and their fulfilment )

Clara's decision )

Good Doctor, bad Doctor )

Minor trivia )

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strange_complex: (Adric Ugg boots)
Yay! For the first time this season I was able to watch Doctor Who live on broadcast, it was a good episode, and I have time to write up my thoughts this evening! Happy times.

I am so glad that the Jenny, Vastra and Strax Show is becoming a regular feature, and even more so that we haven't had a weak episode with them in it yet. I wouldn't call this episode mind-blowing, but it definitely qualified as a really good romp, and because it didn't try to position itself as anything more it left me well satisfied. The running jokes around Strax's battle plans and Mr. Thursday repeatedly fainting, the proper mad-scientist-style steaming coloured liquids in conical flasks, and the brilliantly groan-worthy satnav urchin all helped to seal the silliness deal. Meanwhile, Diana Rigg and Rachael Stirling both entirely lived up to their promise, were done great justice by the script, and delivered the proper character-driven drama which I craved and missed in Cold War and Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS.

We have seen the 'crazed villain tries to enslave humanity with the help of an alien parasite' plot a quazillion times before on Doctor Who of course, but by framing it as a Jenny, Vastra and Strax story, keeping the Doctor off-screen for the first ten minutes and even then revealing him as helpless and paralysed, it felt fresh enough to capture the attention. I loved the flashback scenes in which the Doctor explained how he and Clara had arrived in Yorkshire, too, with their fake 'old film' look - a classic device. That said, I wasn't too sold on the magical machine which could undo the effects of the red poison, which felt like a rather easy cop-out - although I suppose it could reasonably be explained as the end result of the experiments which Mrs. Gillyflower performed on Ada. I also wasn't sure what we were supposed to make of the Doctor kissing Jenny, followed by the rather teenage joke involving his sonic screwdriver when she stripped down to her leathers. Matt Smith's Doctor has reacted uncomfortably in the face of previous romantic advances from both Amy and governess!Clara, and has shown no interest (that I can remember) in Jenny before, so it seems oddly inconsistent to have him suddenly going all Benny Hill over her.

Still, it was great to have a story set in Yorkshire, and some fab northern jokes to go with it as well (Bradford - "All a-swarm with the wretched ruins of humanity"). 'Sweetville' wasn't just riffing off local industrial magnate Titus Salt's planned workers' village Saltaire. It used the design of the factory there directly, with even the concept drawing unveiled at the talk which Jenny attended clearly based on the real equivalent for Saltaire. Apparently the actual filming happened in Bute Town, though, which would explain why the stonework on close-up shots of the cottages looked wrong. People were very into regularly-laid square-cut stone in Victorian Yorkshire, but the cottages of Sweetville have irregular stone.

Finally, sure enough, as I predicted earlier in the week, we had a prominent reference to the Fifth Doctor era, in the form of the line about struggling to get a 'gobby Australian' (i.e. Tegan) back to Heathrow. But, as you'd expect with a series that has as much back-catalogue to draw on as Doctor Who, and a writer who knows that catalogue as well as Mark Gatiss, there were other nods and winks for the knowing as well. The gramophones playing fake factory noises in particular reminded me of the Meddling Monk's recordings of Gregorian chants in The Time Meddler, while the line about the red leech growing fat on the filth in the rivers recalled the eco-warrior stories of the Pertwee era - and especially The Green Death, which seems to have inspired the structure of the title as well.

I feel much better for that episode, and am actively looking forwards to next week's now. Having actual children in the TARDIS promises to be interesting, and certainly something which I don't believe has ever happened before outside of the two films made with Peter Cushing. I wonder if it is in part a reaction to the fact that The Sarah Jane Adventures sadly cannot continue any longer, with the format of the spin-off being folded back into the main show? Anyway, it is certainly something new for new Who, and I hope it makes for interesting new story-telling possibilities as a result.

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strange_complex: (Eleven dude)
I am horribly behind with Doctor Who reviews, partly because I was in New York when this (half-)season started, and partly because I didn't find the first few episodes very inspirational anyway. This is an attempt to catch up.

7.7 The Bells of Saint John )

7.8 The Rings of Akhaten )

7.9 Cold War )

7.10 Hide )

7.11 Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS )

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strange_complex: (Eleven dude)
And now, for my return train journey, let us consider the matter of A Town Called Mercy.

History and past continuity )

References beyond Who )

Kahler Jex and the Doctor )

Weaknesses )

Cool bits )

Future implications )

And now I think I deserve to finally watch The Power of Three...

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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 [ 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. :-)

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strange_complex: (One walking)
Right then. This is me trying to catch up on unwritten book reviews from 2010. Today, that means reviewing a book which I read last April, and took no notes on at the time. So that's bound to go well...

I've only read a couple of Target's Doctor Who novelisations before, so I'm not intimately familiar with the genre. But my understanding is that they were usually (though not always) written by the same person who produced the original television script, and basically aimed to present the same story for fans to enjoy a second time in a context where home video was not yet the norm.

This one is indeed written by the original script-writer, Donald Cotton, although at a distance of twenty years from the original time of broadcast. And presumably that means even he could not have rewatched the original story when preparing the novel, since it must already have been destroyed by then. Rather cleverly, though, he actually integrates his own distance from the original broadcast into the novel, by having the whole thing narrated in a first-person format by 'Homer', himself looking back over events which he had witnessed some forty years earlier. This means that any deviations from the story as broadcast instantly become excusable - they are simply the effect of Homer's faulty memory. And that in itself fits in beautifully with Cotton's general approach of treating the Greek myths as garbled versions of real events which I commented on in my review of the TV story.

That same approach is at work throughout the novel, too - mainly as applied to the same ideas and events, since the plot is pretty close to the original broadcast story, in spite of the time-lag before it was novelised. But the device of inserting Homer as a character into the story does allow Cotton to be a bit more explicit about what he is doing. At the end of the novel, Homer reports that he later wrote up what he had witnessed at Troy as The Iliad, but explains that he left any references to the Doctor and the TARDIS out because 'the public expects' the gods instead. The implication is that what we have just read is the 'real' version of events, and that they were consciously altered to better suit the conventions of the literary genre when the epic poems were composed.

That said, I didn't find the use of Homer as a first-person narrator entirely satisfactory. For one thing, it means that he needs to witness every event of the broadcast story, on both the Trojan and the Greek sides, in order to be able to recount what happened. Cotton tries to make this work by merging him with the character of Cyclops from the original TV story - a sort of mercenary go-between, who is sent from one side to the other on spying missions. But that isn't really enough to explain the extent to which Homer seems to rush back and forth across the plain of Troy from one camp to the other. The reasons why he might do so began to seem awfully thin and unconvincing before very long.

Cotton also seems to have been rather ham-strung by the fact that the one thing everyone 'knows' about Homer is that he was blind - which is a real problem in a first-person narrator. He seems to have decided to handle this by having Homer blinded, first in one eye, and then the other, during the course of the story. This is mildly clever on one front, since he loses his second eye just before Achilles is killed and Troy is sacked, offering one explanation for why neither event is included in the Iliad or the Odyssey. But it also means that we have to believe that he carries on rushing back and forth between the two camps after having had one eye poked out with a marlin-spike by Odysseus about two-thirds of the way through the novel - which doesn't seem entirely credible, for all the character's references to being in terrible pain and fear as he does so.

Anyway, in the novel, Homer remains behind with Troilus and Cressida-Vicki after the departure of the TARDIS crew and the end of the TV story, so that his narrative is able to tie up a few loose ends which the TV broadcast could not. He relates how the Greek forces carry their booty (including Helen) down to the shore and sail away, while he himself leaves with Troilus, Cressida-Vicki and the other surviving Trojans to found a new city - via, of course, a brief detour to Carthage. And at the very end of the story we discover who the mysterious visitor to whom he has been relating this whole story in an olive-grove actually is - the Doctor, unrecognised by Homer because of his blindness, and come back to catch up on the aftermath of his own adventure. I like the idea of the Doctor in those odd, quiet moments of his which we never see on TV, mooching through time to relive former adventures - and especially to find out what happened to former companions after he had left them behind.

All told, I enjoyed reading this, and certainly felt that it had something more to offer beyond the TV broadcast version of the story. But it's hardly a great work of literature, and given how little and how slowly I read, I don't think I'll be rushing to work my way through the other Target novelisations any time soon. If I do read more, though, I will definitely continue to select from the early historical stories, mainly for the little extra insights they can provide into how the script-writers / authors were thinking about the programme's approach to the past in this period (as I'm very aware is discussed explicitly in the introduction to The Crusaders). Indeed, I already have Marco Polo lined up for that very purpose. :-)

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strange_complex: (Chrestomanci slacking in style)
This is normally the time of year when I look back over the books, films and TV which I have consumed over the past twelve months. Previous posts in this series can be found at the following links: 2009, 2008 and 2007.

Unfortunately this year I am at a bit of a disadvantage in looking back over the books I have read in particular, as I have completely failed to keep on top of reviewing them. I knew I'd got behind, but have just looked at my books read 2010 tag, and it turns out that I have only actually managed to review three books this year, with the most recent written up in February. I am also behind by one film review and two Doctor Who reviews - although in both of those cases that represents a much smaller proportion of the total. I've been actively focusing on clearing the backlog of film reviews during December (I managed six - not bad), and was going to get on to the books and Doctor Who after that, but never quite made it.

Nevertheless, I am going to write up an overview post now anyway, in keeping with my normal practice, even though not everything I'll be looking back over has actually been written up here yet. And I do want to get on top of the unreviewed material, so that is a little goal which I am setting myself for January - try to write up my unwritten book, film and Doctor Who reviews for 2010, while doing my utmost to avoid accruing any more. And maybe also learn to write shorter reviews, so that this doesn't happen again in the future. Although I do believe that I resolve something of the sort around this time every single year, and I never manage it - so I may as well just accept the status quo.

Books )

Films )

Doctor Who )

Other television )

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strange_complex: (Cyberman from beneath)
The plot of this story has to be one of the most non-sensical Who has ever served up )

The Cybermen )

Earth in the near future )

The First Doctor's last story )

Ben, Polly and brewing up coffee )

General Cutler and Agamemnon )

The handling of black characters )

Not perfect, then, but overall a pretty good story. And with that in the bag, I have now seen all of the First Doctor's televised stories - at least as far as that's possible today. That makes him the third Doctor for whom I've reached that position, the previous ones being the Fourth and the Sixth. I've really enjoyed this era of Doctor Who - the historical stories, the character of Barbara and Hartnell's Doctor himself have been particular draws, but really it has been consistently good on almost every important level. I think it deserves a proper overview eulogy post, just as I did for the Fourth Doctor. But this has been quite enough for one entry!

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strange_complex: (One walking)
I’ve been slack on the Classic Who front for a fair old time – I blame the BBC for making too many new shows that I’ve wanted to write about instead! But a weekend at home has given me the chance to fill in another slot in my viewing of the Hartnell era.

The setting for this story makes it very clear that change is in the air. We’ve seen almost nothing of 1960s London since An Unearthly Child: only Barbara and Ian’s return there at the end of The Chase, and a passing visit during The Dalek’s Master Plan. But now here we have it in all its glory – the programme’s first full contemporary-Earth story since 1963.

In fact, The War Machines falls into a particular sub-category of contemporary Earth stories, in that there is no alien menace in it )

Other fore-shadowings of later stories )

Swinging Sixties London )

Dumping Dodo )

Picking up Polly )

Bouncing off Ben )

Class tensions )


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strange_complex: (Obelix boar)
So with all the historicals covered now, and my paper delivered, I can go back and fill in the stories which I had to skip over before the CA conference.

First Doctor: The Savages )

The Doctor as intergalactic hero-figure )

Steven )

Dodo and gender divisions )

Still, on the whole, not a bad effort, and certainly an important step forward in the grand tradition of rebellion-fomenting Doctor Who stories.

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strange_complex: (Eleven dude)
Yeah, so - for the fifth time this season, I spent the weekend doing things that stopped me seeing Doctor Who on Saturday night, and then most of the rest of the week writing about them. It's going to happen for the season finale, too, which is a bit sad.

I'm afraid I was quite disappointed by this episode )

The history and geography were a mish-mash, too )

Still, all that said, there was some good material here too, which I believe I will present as bullet-points:
  • I liked the gradual emergence of information about the Krafayis - at first presented just as a straightforward monster, but later something which we develop compassion for as we come to understand it better.
  • Bill Nighy as the art critic was just great - absolutely perfectly cast doing exactly what he does best.
  • The structure of a story which begins with paintings in a Parisian art gallery and later requires a visit to the era when they were painted was a HUGE shout-out to City of Death, for which much win - though poor old Foury never did get to meet Leonardo da Vinci (or not in that story, anyway).
  • It's interesting to note that the Doctor puts particular stress on telling Van Gogh when he is depressed on the bed that the one thing there always is is hope - surely a fore-reference to how the opening of the Pandorica is going to be resolved at the end of the story?
  • On a similar note, interesting also that the casual references to unscreened adventures at the beginning of the story are to visits to 'Arcadia' and the 'Trojan Gardens'. I'm reading those as places in space which happen to have Classically-resonant names rather than actual Arcadia or a garden at the historical Troy - but they still fit nicely with the season's theme of myths and legends, and with the Pandorica, which is presumably another example of the same thing.
  • Bored!Doctor waiting outside the church for the space-chicken to appear was really funny.
In fact, there were some great Doctor moments throughout this episode, and indeed plenty of good individual moments and well-crafted lines for all the characters. I did enjoy watching it, for all I've said above. But I didn't feel that it entirely lived up to its own pretensions.

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strange_complex: (Vampira)
Basically, I loved this episode, except for some reservations about the way the black characters were handled. Because unfortunately both of them succumbed to a spoilery racist trope )

Other than that quite serious flaw, though, it was a really good story )

The story as a historical )

The Doctor )

More on the handling of Earth history )

Amy and Rory )

The plot arc )

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strange_complex: (Cities condor in flight)
I watched this and The Highlanders out of sequence so that I could make sure I'd seen all the early historicals before leaving to give a paper about them at the CA! That was worth doing from the point of view of the paper, but a bit of a pity otherwise, because both involved new characters whom I hadn't seen introduced properly. Still, without having had the benefit of Ben and Polly's formal introduction, this is what I made of The Smugglers.

Heroism and historiography )

Ben and Polly )

Genre and double-entendre )

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strange_complex: (One walking)
So this one is from the same hand as The Myth Makers (Donald Cotton) - and to me, that means: Do. Not. Underestimate. On one level, Cotton does here what I thought he was going to do in The Myth Makers (and which was really pioneered by Dennis Spooner in The Romans, anyway) - that is, he gives us a story which draws broadly on the Wild West films and TV series that the audience will have been familiar with, serving up a sort of pastiche while showing scant regard for the real history of the era. But I don't think what's going on here is quite as simple as a case of just ignoring the real history of this era (this time known, of course, with a security that was never possible for The Myth Makers) and having a laugh. To me, this story also demonstrates much the same kind of knowing commentary on what he is doing that Cotton presented in The Myth Makers.

A fancy dress party gone horribly wrong )

Lyrical narrative )

Comments on the Doctor Who format )

The Doctor's double (again) )

The Doctor out of his depth? )

The Doctor's new ethical stance )

Audience reaction )

Heh - it's been a busy weekend, during which I've done virtually nothing but watch and write about Doctor Who. But that's pretty much my ideal weekend anyway. As a result I have at least got myself into a situation where there are only two of the early, 'pure' historicals left for me to watch - so it is perfectly possible for me to do that (though probably not also to review them here) before leaving for the CA on Wednesday morning. OK, so there are also four other stories in between them which I really ought to watch for total familiarity with this era. But I think I can hold my own now.

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strange_complex: (Darth compels you!)
Oh, Michael Gough! How I have loved you ever since I saw Hammer's Dracula as a tiny child! How marvellous it is to see you enjoying a good Doctor Who villain role - and what a pity that only one episode of your performance now survives intact. Still, like Christopher Lee, Tom Baker and Alan Rickman, it is also true that one of your very best qualities as an actor is your voice - so thank goodness that, at least, remains.

The Toymaker )

A Lonely God? )

Childhood tropes and themes )

Meta-references: television screens (again!) and William Hartnell )

Dodo and Steven )

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strange_complex: (Cathica spike)
Wow, a story with moving pictures! After so many still reconstructions, I was genuinely quite confused by that at the start of this story. It didn't help that it opened with a still shot of a lizard on a jungle floor, which resulted in me sitting there squinting closely at it thinking: "Is that thing moving? Eh, surely it can't be? But - whoa! It is!" I've just, in fact, had a very similar experience this morning thanks to The Gunfighters' opening shot of an empty street in a frontier town, followed by the sudden entrance of three guys on horseback. It's almost like the directors of these stories knew that the ones in between would be reduced to still images at some point in the future...

The overall writing and structure )

Dodo )

Colonialism and racism )

Dodo's cold )

Television screens as meta-reference )

The development of the Doctor and resonances in future stories )

The TARDIS as an intelligent navigator )

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