Eleven

Something That Matters

Apr
27

Review of The Impossible Astronaut
Warning:  This review contains episode-specific spoilers and wild speculation about future episodes.

Wow.  Where do I start?
 
Maybe it's best to back up and explain that in the lead-up to Series Six, especially in the last couple of weeks, I've been doing my desperate best to avoid seeing any spoilers for the series - I've even avoided some of the official BBC news items.  Hopefully this attempt at isolationism will allow me to come to the series with a suitable sense of surprise as new plot points are revealed to the Doctor and his Companions. (If you've already read all the spoilers, you'll probably be able to tell me exactly where I'm going wrong in my analysis and speculations, but please don't.  I really want to find out in my own time, by watching the episodes.)  I have to say, I found plenty of surprises, but even more tantalizing tidbits that could be either clues or red herrings (with Moffat you never know).
 
From the moment in the prequel when Nixon assures his caller that "there are no monsters in the Oval Office" (a beautiful political double entendre that you can apply to your administration of choice), it's clear that we're in for a doozy.  And the action really is pretty much non-stop from the rapid strides of an irate monarch right through to the moment we hear the sting into the credits.
 
As I understand it, one of Moffat's goals was to make the season opener feel more like the finale in scope and drama.  For my money, he's done it.  Surely there has never yet been a single episode so crammed full of quotable (and quite possibly notable, in terms of story arc) quotes.  Some are just plain hilarious (like the exchange when the Doctor's asserts that River's wearing her "'he's hot when he's clever' face"), some are poignant ("We do what the Doctor's friends always do:  what we're told."), and some set off little alarm bells ("You lot.  Thought I'd never get done saving you...").
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Confession #8: I'd Love to See More Classic Baddies (and Think We Will)

Mar
30

Part of the bread and butter of Doctor Who is introducing new creatures to be antagonists for the Doctor.  Writers experiment with it, thrive on it, even cash in on it (~cough~TerryNation~cough~).  Despite our perceptions, though - thanks mostly to institutions such as the Daleks and the Cybermen - most of them show up no more than twice.  So it's not surprising that we end up with such one-offs as the Sycorax, clockwork robots, the Carrionites, the Vashta Nerada, and the Krafayis (some of which fully deserve to remain relegated to the annals of history).  We've also, however, had recurrences of the (rather regrettable) Slitheen, the Ood, and the Weeping Angels as well as the return of the Autons, the Sontarans, and (WTF?) the Silurians.

But what I really want to see is more links back to some the more interesting - and not yet overused - pre-RTD-era baddies.  Here I'm thinking of entities such as the Toymaker, the Black Guardian, the Valeyard, or Omega.  In fact, all of these crossed my mind at one point or another as a possibility for the culprit behind the as-yet-unexplained Silence and reason for the TARDIS's explosion in Series Fnarg.  And while Toby Jones' brilliantly creepy Dream Lord could well have been interpreted as another aspect of the Valeyard, I don't honestly think either the Valeyard or the Toymaker are good fits for the Big Bad of Series Six.  My money (and a huge pent-up fangirl squee, if this wishful thinking pans out) is on Omega.

It's recently been brought to my attention that I'm behind the curve on this idea.  So I'm certainly not an original thinker on this front, but I submit that I am at least an independent thinker (like Newton and Leibniz, or Hertzsprung and Russell).  Suffice it to say, I had the idea myself - it sprang from the murky depths of my own fandom, not from cruising others' forum posts.

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Confession #5: I Have My Own Theories About River Song

Feb
16

This is more an "admission" than a confession, but hey - it's my blog.
 

Especially with Series Six coming up in a matter of weeks, and a promise that "everything changes," ideas about who River Song "really is" are as abundant as fans who watch Nu-Who (if not more so).  I figured now was as good a time as any to put forth my own.

Perhaps I should start with a brief list of the most common hypotheses that I don't buy.  For example:

  • She's the Doctor's wife.  Yeah, right.  They may act "like an old married couple" and there have been hints dropped left and right that they are, but I just can't credit it.  Undoubtedly, there's a romantic (or even just sexual) component to the relationship, but if River is the Doctor's wife, then that is only a fraction of the whole story.  Otherwise, the rest makes no sense.
  • She's a future incarnation of the Doctor.  This idea clearly comes out of certain fans' long-standing desire to see a female Doctor, but River Song is no Valeyard.  While she clearly knows how to handle herself in the TARDIS and such, she's much too comfortable with violence in general, and guns in particular, for me ever to believe she's the Doctor.
  • She's another Time Lord.  I'm more willing to believe this one than some of the others, but it still doesn't ring true to me.  If she's traipsing around the 51st century, why is the Doctor convinced all through the rest of Nu-Who that he (or, for a time, the Master) is the last of the Time Lords?  Supposedly he can sense other Time Lords, regardless of where (or, presumably, when) they are.  None of that fits with what we know of River.
  • She's the Doctor's mother/daughter.  Are these people on drugs?  There is nothing either maternal or filial in River's attitude toward the Doctor.  If there were, then other comments would be distinctly incestuous in nature, which is far too creepy for someone like Moffat to include in a show that is - at least in Britain - specifically aimed at a family audience.  I'd sooner believe the Woman in White from The End of Time had either familial relationship with the Doctor (most certainly not my interpretation) than that River does.
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Confession #3: I Might Like Matt Smith Better Than David Tennant

Jan
26

Blasphemy!  Heresy!  Buuuuuurn heeeeeer!

OK, that's probably overstating the reaction a bit, but I may well be ostracized at my own get-together after this one.  The Ladies of WhoFest are firm Tennantites, so admitting my Smithian leanings is sure to engender some antagonism, or at the very least disdain. I can't deny it any more, though.  I think Eleven has surpassed Ten for me in terms of watchability.

Don't get me wrong - Ten is my Doctor.  I fell in love with him (yeah, I mean it that way - how Mary Sue of me; and yes, I wept like a pregnant lady during The End of Time...), and through him learned to love all the Doctors, each in their own way.  But there's something a bit off-putting about The Lonely God after a while.  While I loved the Saddest Doctor when he was in a manic phase - oh, that smile... - I got tired of him getting screwed (metaphorically, and - depending on how you interpret a few things - literally) all the time.  The guy couldn't catch a break.  Given how RTD chose to write his story arc, I have to say it was probably time for Ten to regenerate; I mean, how much lower could he go?

Perhaps it will come as no surprise, then, when I say that what I've come to love most about Eleven is the return of his joie de vivre.  Sure, the pain is still lurking there in his eyes when someone forcibly reminds him of it, but for the most part, he can put it out of his mind the way anyone who's lost a loved one learns to do(or, as Two put it in Tomb of the Cybermen, "I have to really want to - to bring them back in front of my eyes. The rest of the time they... they sleep in my mind, and I forget.").  But overall, Eleven gives off a kid-in-a-candy-store vibe, like he hardly knows where to begin because it's all so fabulous - sort of like Ten's breathy "that's beautiful!" upon first seeing the werewolf in Tooth and Claw, except all the time.  New regeneration, new companion(s), new outlook; in a sense everything that Ten was really did die.  And while part of me misses him, another larger part just doesn't have the time, because watching Eleven is too damn much fun.

This certainly wasn't a quick or simple transition.  I went through a real grieving process for My Doctor (details are irrelevant, and vaguely embarrassing).  How many times before had fans gone through this?  "This Doctor was so good; how can the next bloke possibly measure up?"  Over and over again, though, it worked (with a possible exception of the Five to Six transition, which really wasn't Colin Baker's fault so much as his writers').  Knowing that, I resolved to remain Cautiously Optimistic.

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A Dickens of a Good Time

Jan
11

Review of A Christmas Carol

Try as I might, I cannot find a way to make “Christmassy-wistmassy” sound good in a sentence.  But how else do you accurately describe the action in A Christmas Carol, which is simultaneously about as timey-wimey as we’ve seen and also unrelentingly inspired by the holiday season (and, more specifically, by its namesake)?  After a somewhat shaky start (“Christmas is canceled!”? What kind of rubbish line is that?), the episode turns rollicksome and barely pauses for breath.  Little details made me smile before the story really even began.  I mean, how can you not love Amy & Rory’s discomfiture at being caught with their barely-metaphorical pants down?  And after all that happened last series, it’s brilliant finally to see Arthur Darvill’s name in the credits.

From the title down, the whole episode is deliberately Dickensian – the Doctor himself makes a conscious decision to mimic the story when his answer to Amy’s query changes from “a Christmas carol” to “A Christmas Carol”.  Thus it’s no surprise right off to hear Kazran’s rant (“I call it expecting something for nothing!”) so closely echo Scrooge’s complaint that Christmas is “a poor excuse for picking a man’s pocket every twenty-fifth of December!”  It’s almost like a game to find as many references as you can, though perhaps it would be wise to stop before you started counting every little quasi-Victorian detail on the set.

While I’m on the topic of minutiae, I may as well mention the Doctor’s new jacket; his fabulous entrance; and the way he continues to be as frenetic as ever, delivering viciously funny lines that are all too easy to miss while you’re still laughing at the last one.  (A few of those – like the whole bit about the face spider – feel like something Moffat couldn’t bear to leave on his Wonderfully Scary Ideas clipboard despite the fact they wouldn’t support a stand-alone episode.)  I could point out how wonderful the Doctor’s comment about never having met someone “who wasn’t important” is or how well his eyes say “if only you knew” when Kazran spits his venom about trying on a broken heart for size.  Maybe I should mention the subtle use of the Doctor’s Theme when Kazran’s father tells him of the machine’s completion, and he seems to reject it, going to the drawer for the sonic screwdriver before finally rejecting the Doctor.  Or the way Amy’s exchange with the Doctor outside the TARDIS at the end harks back to the end of Forest of the Dead.

Perhaps, though, it would be more interesting to examine some of the overall themes of the episode.  With that in mind, I’ll present the rest of my thoughts on a theme-by-theme basis.

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