Wild Blue Yonder

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  • #74731
    Craig @craig
    Emperor

    Following on from last week, thanks to Donna spilling the coffee, the out-of-control TARDIS takes The Doctor and Donna to the furthest edge of adventure, to face the most desperate fight of their lives, with the fate of the universe at stake.

    I could find very little online about this episode. It’s been kept very quiet. Russell T Davies described it as “darker, not scary, it’s genuinely weird”.

    From what little I could glean The Doctor and Donna land in the middle of hostile action. And the TARDIS has the HADS – the Hostile Action Displacement System. It dematerialises. But what is the threat? And can the TARDIS be recovered?

    It’s written by Davies and directed by Tom Kingsley.

    Kingsley is best known for directing all the episodes in the first two series of “Ghosts”, which is a sitcom about a group of ghosts haunting a country house. He also directed the three-time BAFTA-winning Channel 4 sitcom “Stath Lets Flats” (which, I have to admit, I had never even heard of).

    So a sitcom director. Maybe expect comedy? I dunno. I hope it feels a bit more grand, more special than last week’s special. That was maybe just the first act. We know Davies can go big if he wants to, and he has the budget now. Fingers crossed.

    #74742
    Juniperfish @juniperfish

    Dopplegangers are unfailing scary, as gothic fiction knows, and these double-walkers from the universe’s edge with their too long arms, were certainly that.

    And why not, when you’ve got two great actors, with great chemistry, and only three episodes, stick them in the black emptiness at the edge of everything and watch them spark together.

    I enjoyed the episode a lot for the pure fizzing chemistry; the Doctor and Donna picking up the threads of their friendship and deepening it in extremis. Superb work from Tate and Tennant.

    I was also very intrigued by the fairy-tale counting salt and the vampires and the Doctor’s cryptic remark worrying about the mythology he’d unleashed in the plastic space of the universe’s edge. Did anyone else think about E-space from Tom Baker’s day, and the Great Vampires?

    Loved the idea of slow bomb too and the clever equine-skeletoned captain and her last clever act.

     

    #74743
    UNITPICKER @unitpicker

    An enjoyable romp I would say. As a signposting of Doctor Who to come it seems very significant that RTD has opened the fobwatch marked ‘Chibnall era’ and made clear that for better or for worse, the Flux and the Timeless Child are not going to be ignored. In fact he’s pretty much referenced the flux more times than Chibnall did in the three episodes after they happened.

    There was body horror and serious tension amongst the inevitable pacing through narrow corridors and the almost inevitable explosion. It did slow down a bit at times but that was necessary for some character focused scenes after the breakneck speed of last week’s episode.

    I’m not quite sure why so much about this episode was such a closely guarded secret though. It rather gave the impression of being a bit standalone aside from the ending.

    #74744
    Miapatrick @miapatrick

    So, last episode bought us back the double act, the Doctor and Donna, whilst solving the Doctor-Donna crisis, with a lovely reference back to 1980s comics.

     

    This episode lingers on their dynamic, even to the point of sinister and tells us that it all, the flux, the timeless child, remains canon.

     

    One thing I love here is that the casting – the two main stars – and a confined space -evokes a bottle episode. Even though they were doubled and we really saw some of that sweet Disney money. (And I do think it’s sweet. The Doctor’s greatest enemy has always been the BBC sci-fi budget. And I honestly think Disney are mostly after the prestige. Plus I honestly like what they’ve done with Star Wars, principally via tv). But it was a bottle episode all the same, it did the things those do. And not too much. He had a much needed conversation with Donna. Only it wasn’t Donna.

    And so they’re not as close as they could be. As they would be if she knew.

     

    I don’t know why this episode felt so much like coming home. I like old who – which is previous to MY Doctor, who is McCoy. I liked RTD who. I fell in love with Moffart Who. I don’t quite know why this episode made me quite so happy. Maybe the conceptualisation of maverty.

    #74745
    Miapatrick @miapatrick

    @juniperfish chemistry was the name of the day here. regarding the salt – I think that’s calling forward. But I also really enjoyed the idea of weaponising English ideas regarding the Fae in a Pratchetian way (varies are terrific, they begat terror) and Other Donna Donnaring it.

     

    Also what is harder? counting grains of salt, or correctly identifying your mate from an imitation?

    #74746
    UNITPICKER @unitpicker

    These three episodes are definitely being stuffed to the brim with things that fans who remember series 4 will remember fondly. This was Midnightesque in a lot of ways and had a dash of The impossible Planet/Satan pit and maybe even a snifter of Utopia. 

    That isn’t a bad thing. People aren’t expecting these Fourteenth Doctor specials to be an absolutely wild departure from the latter part of the Tenth Doctor’s era. When the shiny new Doctor arrives, I would expect the really fresh ideas to flow.

    #74747
    blenkinsopthebrave @blenkinsopthebrave

    Well, I enjoyed that very much! In a funny sort of way, it reminded me of some ST: Next Generation episodes where (because they were running short of budget) they would have a contained episode with only a couple of the cast. But clearly there were no budget issues with this! The special effects were great (and logical–i.e. no self-repairing burning streets, as in last week’s show).

    More thoughts may occur to me later, but both Tennant and Tate were in top form. In fact the only question I was left with was about “mavity”. Surely, that joke/word is first uttered by Newton after they have flown off, so why are they playing with it on the spaceship?

    #74749
    Miapatrick @miapatrick

    <span class=”useratname”>@blenkinsopthebrave I think for Donna that is now the word. Not gravity but mavity. I noticed the Doctor looked at her when she said it, noticing that something had changed.

    </span>

    I mean that’s how important a person Donna is. Changing English vocabulary with a mum joke. And it was so much fun just watching her make it. I almost feel Tardis travel is wasted on everyone else.

    #74750
    WhoHar @whohar

    Terrific.

    Creepy and funny, and with a hesrtstring tug (Wilf!),  which is always makes for a good Episode.

    The bit with the Doctor “skateboarding” the TARDIS towards Donna made me actually laugh out loud.

     

    #74751
    WhoHar @whohar

    And agree with the mavity/gravity wording @miapatrick and the Doctor’s salt-vampire superstition concerns @juniperfish . There is something going on….

    At last! I’ve written a post without any tpyos!

    #74752
    Mudlark @mudlark

    @blenkinsopthebrave

    ….  “mavity”. Surely, that joke/word is first uttered by Newton after they have flown off, so why are they playing with it on the spaceship?

    My assumption was that their encounter with Newton and Donna’s joke (Boom Boom!) had altered history, with consequences yet to be seen. Otherwise it would have been pointless.

    As for the word itself, presumably it’s intended to derive from mass rather than weight so isn’t entirely nonsense,  although it did also remind me a bit of the Children in Need sketch, with the Kaled technician trying every combination of the letters in Kaled except the correct one. (Hope that doesn’t count as a spoiler; apologies if it does).

     

    #74753
    Juniperfish @juniperfish

    Back for breakfast…

    @blenkinsopthebrave and @miapatrick <waves>  I’m guessing “mavity” isn’t just there for fun, but it’s going to be a butterfly effect, which will come back to haunt them in the next episode?

    Newton uttered the word after Donna left in the TARDIS, but although she didn’t hear it, it would have been written down as such by Newton in his <i> Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica </i>and taught subsequently down the centuries. You can see the Doctor clocking the change with a quizzical look when Donna says, “At least we’ve got light, air, and mavity” on the space-ship at the edge of the universe.

    But what else will flow from that small change, in terms of ripple effects in time?

    I had a look at Twitter (unfortunately, Musk’s ever descending cesspit, X, now) last night, after the episode aired, and of course a certain contingent were spluttering and screeching into their cups that Newton was depicted by Nathaniel Curtis, who has a British Indian Dad.  At least there were plenty of funny replies along the lines of, oh really, an outsize gonk with the voice of Miriam Margolyes doesn’t strain your credulity but this you’re stuck on etc.

    Curtis was in It’s a Sin, and I’m always a fan of writers/ directors who develop relationships with actors and recast them in their work over time. I’ve just been on a Mike Flanagan watch-a-thon and he does this, e.g. with the incredible Carla Guigno.

    Of course, second on the list of the Who outrage machine, was Fourteen describing Newton as hot:

    Donna: “Was it me, or was Isaac Newton hot?

    Doctor: “He was so hot… Oh? Is that who I am now?”

    Donna, “Well it was never that far from the surface, mate… I always thought…”

    This is the second time Fourteen has asked himself who he is now. Last week he said out loud to Unit’s Shirley Bingham (with her Q’d up wheelchair) that he loved Donna, and then pulls up in surprise:

    Doctor: “Well, that’s what I’m worried about. Because I’ve got this friend called Donna Noble, and she was my best friend in the whole wide universe. I absolutely love her. Oh. Mmm. Do I say things like that now?”

    Shirley: “It sounds like a good thing to say.”

    I think the implication, in both these cases, is not that the Doctor didn’t have such feelings before (pansexual attraction, and love for his travelling companions) but, as we know, Ten was too buttoned up to say such things out loud. After the experiences of Eleven, Twelve and Thirteen, all of whom went through a lot of love (platonic and romantic) and pain, in relation to their various travelling companions, it seems Fourteen has aquired a greater degree of spoken out-loud emotional literacy than the previous incarnation with the same face.

    I really like this differentiation between Ten and Fourteen.

    And I’m also delighted that, from RTD1 through Moffat and Chibnall to RTD2, we’re arrived at a Doctor Who fit for the twenty-first century, where the Doctor can regenerate as any gender, any ethnicity, and love anyone.

    And each showrunner has built this in incrementally over the arc of Nu Who to date, from Gaiman’s The Doctor’s Wife (6×4) when we first hear about Time Lords regenerating in a gender-fluid manner, via discussion of The Corsair, to the appearance of Jo Martin’s fabulous (and first Black) Doctor, The Fugitive Doctor, in Fugitive of The Judoon (12×05).

     

    #74754
    Robert Caligari @robertcaligari

    I almost feel like falling down to my knees in the front of all the Tenheads among the viewing audience, clawing at their feet and sobbing like a pathetic wretch:

    “There! You’ve been given THREE WHOLE EPISODES of Tennant! One of them was LITERALLY just Tennant and Tate! Tom Baker was NEVER that lucky! Will you PLEASE move on now?! Will you PLEASE continue watching the show even after Tennant’s left for the UMPTEENTH FRIGGIN’ TIME?! For the love of GOD!!”

    Then I curl up into a fetal position, stick my thumb in my mouth, and rock back and forth, gibbering the language of a mad idiot.

    #74756
    JimTheFish @jimthefish
    Time Lord

    Afraid I’m going to have to be the dissenting voice here and say that I didn’t love this one much. Didn’t hate it, just didn’t love it. For all the talk of this being ‘something Who has never done before’, this seemed to me to be little more than a mash-up of Listen, Flatline and Midnight (another story that I’ve never quite understood the love for). It also reminded me of Sleep No More, which I think I probably enjoyed more (something I never thought I’d say. Yes, it’s Capaldi but it’s 2nd tier Capaldi imo).

    I thought seeing Wilf at the end might have made up for it but I found myself just feeling so concerned for his frailty. Just kept thinking ‘the poor guy’s in his 90s and, as it happens, weeks away from death. Maybe he’s not up to this.’ Still, maybe he wanted to do one last gig but Who is frenetic and if he’s in next week’s I’m going to spend all his scenes just fretting for him.

    Still it looked great (aside from some of the ropey transformation effects) and Tennant and Tate were great as ever. Interesting that RTD is integrating the Timeless Child into mythos — although if he’s apparently about to hit the Big Reset Button maybe he figured it didn’t really matter. The bit of pre-credits trolling with Isaac Newton was funny but not sure the ‘mavity’ joke worked for me. I mean, it’s not as if Newton invented the word, which as far as I’m aware comes from the Latin, but merely gave it a new meaning. But perhaps the scene’s got more significance than that and altered timelines are going to be a thing either in the last specials or going forward. Certainly, I get the feeling that with the salt 14 has created something that is going to come back to haunt 15.

    All in all, an OK episode that would have been mid-tier in a full series but to have what is essentially a bottle episode as one of your anniversary specials seems a bit of a waste and, well, a tad unambitious….

    #74757
    Robert Caligari @robertcaligari

    At the risk of sounding like yet another hyper-conservative creep…I’ll admit to feeling a tad uneasy about Nathaniel Curtis’s casting as Isaac Newton. (He’s Indian on his father’s side.) Fictional characters in historical stories are one thing, but when you screw around with a real-life figure in history who was…well…an actual white guy, whether we like it or not…

    Look, folks, let’s be brutally honest: If they ever cast Hugh Grant as Martin Luther King Jr., do you REALLY think no one would be just a little bit peeved? I wonder how Russell T. Davies would respond if I asked him that same question.

    #74758
    Miapatrick @miapatrick

    @juniperfish yes the differences – and his awareness of them – are interesting. I mean, metacrisis Doctor was pretty much sold to Rose on the basis of his being able to say he loves her (I believe that’s what he whispered to her to make her kiss him like that). Each Doctor incarnation is a distinct personality influenced by the same (and making new) memories. Doctors Eleven through Thirteen, and their experiences, have clearly left a mark.

    I saw someone say elsewhere that after Moffart undid the trauma of the time war (I think they exaggerated the extent of this, HurtDoctor clearly had a lot of other scaring experiences) Chibnell did remake it somewhat with the Flux and the Timeless Child – and now rather than the last Time Lord, we have the first Time Lord, who still doesn’t know where he came from. Ah but the difference was, the Doctor had friends with her this time.

    @robertcaligari I mean they’ll watch it anyway to complain about it, so there’s that, for the ratings… but we were so very spoiled with the Tennant this week. My Doctors are McCoy, Smith, and Capaldi, but I really enjoyed it. And double Donna.

    @jimthefish it’ll be interesting to see if (try to imagine Donna saying this here) the Newton thing was just a passing joke, or has minor or more mave consequences.

     

     

     

    #74759
    Juniperfish @juniperfish

    @robertcaligari  Well, representation, casting and identity are certainly complicated contemporary questions, on several fronts, so, having a discussion about it is perfectly acceptable!  The people I have contempt for on this question are those with no interest in thoughtful debate, who just want to scream that some cultural artefact or other is “woke” because it no longer centres people like them and/or, more cynically, because it garners them attention in the outrage economy we all, unfortunately, inhabit.

    In the case of Wild Blue Yonder, I wonder whether Donna and the Doctor are in the same universe as the one they left, given that the ship the TARDIS ended up on after the coffee spilling incident “fell down a wormhole” to the edge of space.  So, one intradiegetic (in-story) explanation is that Newton is mixed-race in this alternative universe.

    Extra-diagetically, Netflix’s Bridgerton (not really my cup of tea, but very popular) and its bodice-ripper Regency fantasy world seems to have pioneered what is often called contemporary “blind casting” with respect to ethnicity in (loosely) historical drama.  What is great about this is it allows actors from diverse ethnic backgrounds to fully participate in this kind of drama. And it should be noted that the whiteness of fantasy (see the Peter Jackson Lord of the Rings films) has also been somewhat transformed as a result (see the, later, Amazon Lord of the Rings, which has some POC elves and hobbits).

    What is perhaps most “fake” about Bridgerton’s kind of “historical” drama is that racism is erased. There were about 15,000 Black and brown people living in Britain in the Regency period, but they mostly worked in domestic service and their lives would have been impacted by the transatlantic slave trade and the concatenation of white supremacist “racial theory” associated with it:

    https://historicengland.org.uk/research/inclusive-heritage/the-slave-trade-and-abolition/sites-of-memory/black-lives-in-england/#:~:text=In%20the%20latter%20half%20of,service%2C%20both%20paid%20and%20unpaid

    https://www.linnean.org/learning/who-was-linnaeus/linnaeus-and-race

    I tend to think that dramatic license is absolutely fine in entertainment (and positive. as it also means contemporary POC actors do not have to play parts constantly inflected by the trauma of racism in historical fiction) as long as we’re not erasing such history in serious historical spaces. Often, in fact, the opposite is happening, and contemporaneous history is taking a serious look at the history of race and racism. The Linnean Society would not, fifty years ago, have explored the racist implications of Linnean theory!

    Casting Hugh Grant as Martin Luther King would clearly not be acceptable today, but that’s not equivalent to blind-casting Newton as someone British mixed-race in Doctor Who, because a foundational part of King’s story is his struggle, as a Black activist, against racial segregation in a US which discriminated against African Americans. “Race” (a persistent social construct, as all geneticists will tell you) is central to King’s story.

    Historically, of course, “blind casting” has gone the other way. For much of the 20thC, as earlier, Othello was played by white actors in blackface; another practice that we would not find acceptable now (given the racist history of blackface).

    Nathaniel Curtis was a lovely Newton, and no doubt his appearance in Doctor Who will have encouraged lots of folk to read Newton’s Wikipedia page and learn a bit more about the actual historical figure, which can’t be bad. Newton, incidentally, was probably, to use our modern categories, asexual or gay.

    #74760
    JimTheFish @jimthefish
    Time Lord

    @robertcaligari–

    Basically what @juniperfish said. There’s a long history of a one-way street in blind casting so it’s nice to see it going the other way (not that it’s not still unproblematic.)

    However, it’s still a question of context. I’d agree if that had been a Rosa-esque episode focused solely on Newton’s life and influence then maybe the casting might have been questionable (in the same way that casting Hugh Grant as MLK might be) in which case they might have had to look at Newton’s own links to the slave trade and just what an unpleasant git he was (in comparison to the rather sweet portrayal yesterday).

    But in the case of a few-minutes of pre-credits teaser, I don’t think it’s a problem, especially as it’s essentially based around a (meh) joke (unless it isn’t, as @miapatrick says). Plus if you also take into account that it’s based on an event that’s apparently apocryphal anyway, I’m not inclined to think it too much of an issue.

    #74761
    Juniperfish @juniperfish

    Nipping back to say, that seeing your doppelganger was considered an ill omen and a harbinger of your death, in Gothic literature, as in Poe’s poem Silence (1833) here:

    There are some qualities—some incorporate things,
    That have a double life, which thus is made
    A type of that twin entity which springs
    From matter and light, evinced in solid and shade.
    There is a two-fold Silence—sea and shore –
    Body and soul. One dwells in lonely places,
    Newly with grass o’ergrown; some solemn graces,
    Some human memories and tearful lore,
    Render him terrorless: his name’s “No More.”
    He is the corporate Silence: dread him not!
    No power hath he of evil in himself;
    But should some urgent fate (untimely lot!)
    Bring thee to meet his shadow (nameless elf,
    That haunteth the lone regions where hath trod
    No foot of man,) commend thyself to God!

    https://poets.org/poem/silence-4

    and also in Rossetti’s spooky doppelganger painting How They Met Themselves (1864) modelled on himself and his wife Elizabeth Siddal on their honeymoon (when she was also dying of consumption and laudanum addiction).

    https://www.leicestergalleries.com/browse-artwork-detail/MTY5OTA=

    I really did lose a breath in Wild Blue Yonder and consider that actual Donna might be left behind on the exploding space-ship with doppelganger Donna having fooled the Doctor longer term.

    It’s not a spoiler to say we already know Fourteen is heading for “death” (regeneration). Whether that will tie back to the faerie lore he unleashed with that line of salt tale at the edge of the universe or not remains to be seen:

    “We must not look at goblin men,
    We must not buy their fruits:

    Who knows upon what soil they fed
    Their hungry thirsty roots?”

    Goblin Market, Christina Rossetti (1862)

    #74762
    UNITPICKER @unitpicker

    The real refreshing aspect of this is the total lack of romantic tension between Doctor and companion. After so many years of companions pining after the Doctor barring a few exceptions it has been nice to avoid all that.

    #74763
    syzygy @thane16

    @juniperfish exactly, to all your points. And @jimthefish and
    @robertcaligari

    I think we’ve had excellent responses covering points as to why it’s acceptable -if not necessary – to consider a non-white Newton.

    The argument, that an actual famous person shouldn’t be black or brown because he’s an actual white guy, folks, neatly summarises our problem: in 1666 how many non-White guys or gals with sufficient familial prosperity confidently marched into Cambridge in 1665 to pen a discovery of fluxions?

    To me, it’s interesting WHY Davies chose Newton…. The issue of colour is as interesting as Mavity, perhaps ….wherein he investigated the nature of sunlight refracting thru prisms, leading to a conclusion that different colour rays of light must also differ in refrangibility.

    I hadn’t heard of The Meep but really enjoyed that episode. However, *this* episode was on another level of happy terror & addresses my own nightmare since childhood: a large hand connected to an enormous long arm, sweeping out from under the bed to grab my ankle…..

    Halllooooo & love to all! Puro.

    (oh, & the new theme is grand)

    #74764
    syzygy @thane16

    @juniperfish I love the goblin market & recall it was referenced during Moffatian times here too.

    #74765
    Devilishrobby @devilishrobby

    Just done my second viewing of this weeks episode. Didn’t really pay too much attention to the initial scene with the future Sir Issac  on the first viewing though did think the casting was a little odd but I now wonder at the casting though but there might just be a reason for that that I’ll get back to . The episode as a whole was an  interesting and frightening concept but I am now wondering if someone’s comment made prior to the first anniversary special airing when the Toymaker return as speculated and they were speculating weather each episode was actually going to be a puzzle/game set by the Celestial Toymaker.
    Those that who may have seen the original Celestial Toymaker story or have read the book version like me may remember  in the original story the Celestial Toymaker kidnaps the HartnellDoctor and crew to his own personal universe where he makes the Doctor and companions take part in sadistic games to gain thier freedom. The HartnellDoc gained their freedom but destroyed the Toymakers universe by beating him. I was stated by the Doctor because the Toymaker was an Eternal he would return and he (the Doctor) expected a rematch at some point.Now what if He (The Celestial Toymaker) has again kidnapped the Doctor whilst he was mid Regeneration and interfered with the regeneration to cause the regression to this 10 like 14 and what has happened since has all happened in the celestial Toymaker universe. Hence we have a false Sir Issac and the casting may have been to provide an intentional clue to us the audience. Now I’m not saying Donna is not the real Donna as the Toymaker will have possibly/probably kidnapped and manipulated real people connected to the Doctor into this universe like in the original story. That my mad Theorising/waffling over for now.

    #74766
    blenkinsopthebrave @blenkinsopthebrave

    Mrs Blenkinsop and I just rewatched the final episode of the Hartnell story “The Celestial Toymaker” (the only episode to survive), and am intrigued by the suggestion above by @devilishrobby. Yes, it could, indeed, unfold that way. All three Tennant specials could all be part of a game implemented by The Toymaker, and, indeed, “London Town” could be a simulacrum of Earth (one where exploding streets can magically repair themselves). I particularly like your idea @devilishrobby that it may have been The Toymaker who engineered the regeneration to turn 14 into a version of 10. Whether it turns out that way or not, I am eagerly awaiting Saturday!

    #74767
    Devilishrobby @devilishrobby

    @blenkinsopthebrave yes I also am eagerly awaiting the final episode of the 60th specials in part because it seems to be shaping up to be more of a Special episode. As a side note I read or watched somewhere, as I have a tendency to watch multiple YouTube Who bloggers, that there are plans put it on the list to recreate the missing episodes of “The Celestial Toymaker” as an animated version. But yes the more I have seen of the trailers for the next episode the more I am getting the convinced that the feeling this has been some kind of TCT shadow universe version of ‘London Town’. Perhaps  TCT was released by the events of the Flux and events in ‘Power of the Doctor’ left the Doctor susceptible to the regeneration manipulation.

    #74768
    Miapatrick @miapatrick

    @robertcaligari it’s interesting that ‘what if a white man was cast to play Martin Luther King’ is the example so often used, because it’s a really, really bad example. Unless Newton was campaigning against racist laws and politics applied against white people by people of Indian heritage.

    @jimthefish plus there is the largely under explored debt Newton and his work owed to Indian and Arab scholars… @thane16 the irony is that it was coming in contact with Islamic scholarship and accent texts preserved by the Eastern Roman Empire and then the later Islamic that lead to the establishment in Europe of Universities as we know them.

     

    #74773
    JimTheFish @jimthefish
    Time Lord

    @devilishrobby

    Yes, must admit I like that idea a lot. It’ll be interesting to see the Toymaker back but I do wonder if expectations might be a little high. What with the Gough original only been seen in a few isolated clips and photos I wonder if he might have been built it up in fans’ imaginations. I know he’s a character I’ve built up to epic proportions in my own head canon.

     

    #74776
    Mudlark @mudlark

    Finally, space and time to put some of my thoughts into writing.

    Once again, there was nothing complicated about this episode, it was just a good Doctor Who story, well executed in all respects, and with Tennant and Tate in top form, the double act all the more effective in what was essentially a two hander. As @jimthefish noted, it recalled elements of Midnight, Listen and Flatline, but it was none the worse for that as far as I’m concerned.

    It was enough to draw me in completely, and I remained fully immersed for the duration, emerging at the end of the 60 minutes with a slight shiver to realise that my heart rate had increased, even though one knew that the Tardis was bound to turn up again in the nick of time, the only remaining tension then being when the Doctor, preoccupied with the Tardis controls, would notice that the ‘Donna’ he had pulled aboard wasn’t the original – and there was more than just the size of her wrists to betray this.

    It had all the ingredients to be properly scary: an abandoned and apparently very old spaceship with vast echoing spaces, sudden unexplained noises and enigmatic PA announcements triggering reconfiguring of the interior, and extreme and imminent danger signalled by the Tardis engaging HADS and departing. And for fans of running in corridors it was a feast, with corridors aplenty.  When the Tardis scarpered was the point at which many viewers were probably muttering, ‘Don’t do it, stay together, stay put; it’s obvious that if you go wandering off it won’t end well’, but this is the Doctor, so curiosity must be satisfied.

    Doppelgangers are always unsettling, and morphing doppelgangers even more so. Some found the ‘arms too long’ effects very funny, but for me they added an extra frisson of horror. Afterwards, in Doctor Who Unleashed , they showed how the prosthetic arms were constructed, based on scans of the actors’ arms and hands, and in close up the hands, in particular, looked very realistic. They could even be operated to flex, although I’m not sure how much this was apparent in the relevant scenes. I very much appreciated also the subtle as well as not so subtle indications which, from the first, betrayed the differences between the doppelgangers and their originals. I don’t know why some people say that Catherine Tate cannot act, she managed this quite effectively.

    A second viewing of such an episode can’t have quite the same effect, but it did provide an opportunity to appreciate some of the detail properly. At one point I noted that, in a scene in one of the dark service corridors, the actors’ breath was visibly condensing – or appeared to be so. This was filmed on some of the hottest days of the record summer heatwave of 2022, so conveying the sudden drops in temperature must have been difficult.

    Question: The Doctor has more than once been to the end of the universe, timewise, but never before to beyond the edge of the universe, spatially. That this is possible is waved away by mention of ‘camboolian flat mathematics’, but what does it actually mean?  The universe is still expanding, so what kind of dimension is it expanding into? and do the spaceship and people within that hypothetical dimension create a mini-universe of their own?

    Small niggle: the horse headed captain is portrayed as a skeleton, but in the absence of matter of any kind, even hydrogen, and in  what one presumes is a temperature of absolute zero, wouldn’t a corpse be freeze dried and mummified, rather than decay  to a skeleton?

     

    #74777
    Mudlark @mudlark

    As for the fuss about the casting of the young Isaac Newton, I really can’t see the problem. I wasn’t previously familiar with Nathaniel Curtis and on first viewing I truly didn’t notice the colour of his skin, and it’s not even as if his features are markedly un-european, so why the fuss? Granted he bears little resemblance to the portraits of Newton, but how often does an actor playing an historical character look like the original? In the TV adaptation of Hilary Mantel’s novels about Thomas Cromwell Mark Rylance looked nothing like Holbein’s portrait of the man, and it didn’t matter a jot.

    #74778
    Mudlark @mudlark

    Sorry about the multiple posts, but I just wanted to add that, like @jimthefish , I very much like @devilishrobby ‘s suggestion that this and the previous episode might be part of a scenario devised by the Toymaker, thus providing a link between the three specials. I’m not entirely convinced about The Star Beast, since it was based closely on an old graphic story, but in this episode the apparent changes wrought by the initial encounter with Newton certainly indicate that we ‘aren’t in Kansas any more, Toto’.  Bur then when were we ever, where the Doctor is concerned?

    #74781
    blenkinsopthebrave @blenkinsopthebrave

    @jimthefish Part of the reason I am attracted to the suggestion of @devilishrobby is that there is more than a few isolated clips and photos of the Gough Toymaker. The entire last episode still exists, and is available on the DVD “Lost in Time” which contains a series of Hartnell and Troughton episodes that survived the ’60s cull. The DVD is still available (and full of some gems–last night we watched the first episode of “The Crusades”, which was a great example of Verity Lambert’s belief in mixing sci fi with educational “historicals”).

     

    #74782
    JimTheFish @jimthefish
    Time Lord

    @blenkinsopthebrave

    ah, mea culpa. Hadn’t realised that it had a full episode intact. Thought it was reduced to just clips and telesnaps. I do have a copy of Lost in Time somewhere but I’m ashamed to say that I’ve still not watched it.

    #74783
    Mudlark @mudlark

    @jimthefish  Yes, the last episode of The Celestial Toymaker is also available on BBC i player, along with all the other surviving and reconstructed BG episodes

    #74785
    Juniperfish @juniperfish

    @thane16 Hello Puro and son!

    There’s just been a really good exhibition on the Pre-Raphaelites at Tate Britain in London – notable for exploring Christina Rossetti’s work and Elizabeth Siddal’s work, and for bringing the class dynamics of the so-called “brotherhood” to the fore in a way earlier exhibitions of this kind would not have done (middle class men like Rossetti and Morris and their working-class models/ muses, whose own artistic contributions have been previously sidelined).

    I can’t remember the reference to the Goblin Market from Smith-Doc’s tenure but his was definitely, as we discussed at the time, the most “fairy-tale” oriented run (and my favourite Nu Who to date).

    #74788
    BobbyFatv2 @bobbyfatv2

    Explain the brilliance of this episode in five words or less:

    ”my arms are too long”.

    #74789
    BobbyFatv2 @bobbyfatv2

    https://www.telegraph.co.uk/dance/what-to-see/lunar-halo-cloud-gate-dance-theatre-sadlers-wells-review/

    i went to see this about the same time as the episode broadcast- as will be seen from the photos the arms are too long…

    the performance was in part about how social media is transforming perceptions of the human body so definitely some weird synchronicity with wild blue yonder..

    #74790
    BobbyFatv2 @bobbyfatv2

    And last and least some random disjointed observations… body dysmorphia <_> gender transition… 10 and 14 and 14 and his doppelgänger… doctordonna and  donnadoctor

    #74792
    JimTheFish @jimthefish
    Time Lord

    @bobbyfatv2

    Oh, that’s interesting. I never thought of that and it’s starting to make me think of the episode in a whole different light now.

    @mudlark

    I was wondering if the various bits and pieces were on there as well as the full stories. Right then, I’ll check out the lone episode of The Celestial Toymaker before the weekend.

    #74794
    PhaseShift @phaseshift
    Time Lord

    Sorry I couldn’t comment last week. I enjoyed it as I enjoyed this one. It’s actually a pleasure to be faced with Doctor Who that I actually want to watch a second time (or even more). But …

    I’m actually finding myself weirdly disconnected from the episodes to the extent that I’m wondering what they are for exactly.

    When the Disney deal was announced, and the 60th Anniversary was to be the start of that, I kind of decided that a multiple Doctor anniversary was probably not going to happen. Too confusing. I imagined a short ‘seasonette’ to ease new viewers into the show while throwing enough references to the past to sate long time viewers. The kind of stuff Steven Moffat did throughout his run (montages of the Doctors, the First Doctor on Elevens Library card, you know the sort of thing).

    Only that isn’t really the case is it? The Star Beast starts with an off-putting exposition dump to explain the Donna situation that rivals “It was on the planet Skaro” from the eighth Doctor movie. That’s a real parallel for me. Back then we knew the future looked like Paul McGann, but before we got there we had an exposition dump and then spent some time with an ersatz seventh Doctor. We seem to be in a similar position now as we await the next Doctor. It’s better written stuff, but I honestly wouldn’t recommend these episodes to start anyone off on a Doctor Who journey. Would you?

    Couple this with the (apparent) unwillingness to engage with the history of the show (other than 2008-2010) and you start to get the feeling that it’s taken for granted you should be happy enough with the dynamic duo back. I am, as it happens, but I can understand the point of view which suggests this is arrogance. I enjoyed Tennant and Tate the first time round, but you all know I rate the Eleven, Amy and Rory years much higher.

    I was pondering the ‘mavity’ sequence and suddenly thought ‘this is a problem with history that needs sorting out’. I’m willing to guess that’s emblematic of what RTD is doing. ‘Solving’ perceived problems with the history of the show.

    So we have Davros-gate from the CIN special and behind the scenes commentary. Davros is emblematic of a monstering of the disabled (as someone who increasingly uses a wheelchair I think he got this one wrong and blended a number of tropes together). Disabled people need better representation it’s true, and the way to do that is to introduce cool disabled characters. Like he did last week.

    We spoke some time ago (the Chibnall reintroduction of the non consensual mind wipe) about how Clara and Bill calling the Doctor out on this was a ‘corrective’ to Donna’s fate. Here RTD goes back to Donna and corrects.

    In this episode we get a firm indication that he’s going to be addressing both the Timeless Child and Flux ‘revelations’. Well, give him points for attempting to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. He managed to give more emotional heft to those ideas in 10 minutes than Chibnall managed in 3.5 hours of specials. I think Chibnall should be quaking though. If RTD actually does make something useful out of all this, he’s going to look like even more of a useless plank in the long term.

    So – what further things can we correct from the past? Phew – Mel. Literally, for many years she perilously hovered just below Adric as ‘companion we were most glad to see the back of’. Bonnie Langford. Hired for her ability to scream at a certain pitch. Bonnie Langford. Who was promised so much character development in order to come back after Colin Baker was sacked. Who had to witness what little character she had AND her performance lampooned mercilessly by Kate O’Mara for the entertainment of the audience. Maybe her reappearance can heal those wounds and give her an actual character.

    And finally, The Toymaker!

    This is just a guess but don’t be surprised if RTD gets serious again behind the scenes. He may explain how the original Toymaker was called The Celestial Toymaker which is offensive in the context of the clear ‘yellow peril’ tropes he operates in. That was the past, he’s now like this. He’s always been like this through the ‘new lens’.

    Problem though – is having a German sounding supervillain in any way better? (Yeah, I can guess that he’s going for a ‘Geppetto’ kind of thing, but still) . Maybe we can discuss that next week if he doesn’t make clear that the Toymaker is just the kind of guy who finds adopting foreign stereotypes hilarious.

    So celebrating the 60th anniversary through some of the perceived ‘mistakes’ of those 60 years? Not the way I would have done it, but what the hell. It’s still more entertaining than Chibnall.

    #74795
    PhaseShift @phaseshift
    Time Lord

    @juniperfish @miapatrick

    Did anyone else think about E-space from Tom Baker’s day, and the Great Vampires?

    Actually your musings on salt and mythology reminded me of something else from Tom’s era. If you fancy looking at it on i-player, it’s in season 15 and called ‘Image of the Fendahl‘. It shares a link with ‘State of Decay‘ in that the Fendahl is an entity from the past that the time lords ‘dealt with’. Salt plays a critical part in fighting the Fendahl in a couple of ways (barriers for defence and shotgun shells filled with it for offence). It has Sherlock’s mum in it.

    The idea of the not-things actually reminded me of a story called Enlightenment in season twenty. ‘The Eternals’ were creatures from outside spacetime. That got form and thought by telepathically reading humans minds. They are more thought and emotional vampires than the body horror of these things but share a lot of similarities. The Eternals got a couple of name checks in RTD1 and, spookily, in the Chibnall episode where The Toymaker is also referenced. If anyone hasn’t seen it I think it’s a good story. Very rare example of both a female script writer and female director. You can’t beat images like tallships in space!

    #74798
    WhoHar @whohar

    @phaseshift

    the Toymaker is just the kind of guy who finds adopting foreign stereotypes hilarious.

    Well, he is the “villain”. It reminded me of this from Blackadder II:

    Blackadder:
    Oh, yes. We are proud of our comic serving-wench voice, aren’t we? Just because we can say ‘Zur’ instead of ‘Sir,’ it seems at all social gatherings the tedious little turd who keeps putting on amusing voices.

    Prince Ludwig:
    [miffed] BE QUIET!

    Blackadder:
    What else have you got in your astoundingly inventive repertoire, I wonder? Aaah, a brilliant drunk Glasweigan, no doubt. An hilarious black man: ‘See you Jimmy, where am dat watty-melon?’ Oh, fabulous. I can’t wait for your side-splitting poof, and that funny little croaky one who isn’t anyone in particular, but is such a scream. And most of all, I like the one you do all the time, the fatheaded German chamber pot standing in front of me.

    The Doctor back on the Elizabethan court but with Blackadder, Nursey, Melchett et all. Now that’s a crossover I’d like to see…

     

    #74801
    ScaryB @scaryb

    Ah, sorry so late to the discussion, had to be out of town on Sat, Sun and just caught up. Lots of interesting discussion above which I’ll get back to (and great to see everyone including @whohar @thane16 @miapatrick @phaseshift again)

    The episode – WOW! I really loved it. But then I’ve loved weird Who since way back to Edge of Destruction! Not sure this was quite doing something Dr Who has never done before, even in AG Who there was Midnight (as others have pointed out) but I really connected with Wild Blue Yonder, and was very nearly behind the sofa for a lot of it.

    What struck me with the line “my arms are too long” was the connection with AI image generating programmes like Midjourney which are notoriously terrible with hands. They’re approximately 80% there at the moment but learning fast… much like these doppelgangers. This episode seemed to me to be riffing on the idea of deep fakes and how in a few years, or probably sooner, it will be near impossible to tell what’s real and what’s been faked. The kinds of “mistakes” the not-people make are remarkably similar to AI errors. Funny and terrifying simultaneously.

    Not-Donna at the end wasn’t spotted by the Doctor, it was the TARDIS that clocked it (although maybe the Doctor asked it to check) – see this little clip (01:25-01:27 – close up on the screen). And given that the TARDIS had scooted off at the first sniff of danger that seems fair! HADS – really flawed idea if you ask me! Almost as stupid as a sophisticated creation like the TARDIS being susceptible to a mug of coffee being spilt on it – and providing a coffee machine at the console!

    I thought the performances by both Tennant and Tate were awesome! They really sold the idea of the doppelgangers being “off”. And I loved the idea that Tennant-Doc worked out that in order to slow down the copying he would have to stop thinking… Yeah! Like that would ever happen. Tate’s portrayal of Donna when she thinks she’s going to burnt up in about 3 seconds really sold it – not panic, not screaming, just a deep sadness that this is it – the realisation that she’s not going to see her family again.

    Other passing thing that amused – the Doctor when he looks into the rebooting TARDIS – now a blank slate – and says “but it was so new!” 🙂

    #74802
    ScaryB @scaryb

    Sorry – that was a bit long!

    As to the “Why” which has been brought up. In reality I suspect the Beeb offered 3 episodes for the 60th, Disney came up with the extra budget and Tennant and Tate and RTD had got off on the idea of bringing them back for another shot (and the chance to re-set Donna’s mind-wipe). Maybe to being back old 10 fans before the whole new era with Ncuti.  I also think it’s about showing multiple facets of what Dr Who can be – big and spectacular, threatening worlds or just plain weird and where the peril is much more contained (I know the universe was threatened if the not-people escaped with the TARDIS, but the imminent threat was to the Dr and Donna, and Donna in particular). Personally I don’t mind not having multi-doctor episodes, I think the 60th can be celebrated by showing what the show does well, with great stories and production.

    I really liked going into this with minimal advance info/spoilers  – more of that please! (Tho it may have backfired by raising the ARSE* reaction in the nether regions of t’internet).

    OTOH – The Toymaker – as well as dodgy makup(!), he was known for having the power of being the ultimate trickster/manipulator and able to create fake worlds  – the 1st Doctor only just spotted his final trick at the last moment.

    I’ll be disappointed if “mavity” doesn’t reappear and like many above I suspect that the salt superstition may also come back to haunt the Doctor.  Actions have consequences. And I suspect there will be some through-lines to the next episode. But first we needed to spend time with Dr and Donna to get to know them as they are now, and understand how they’ve changed since we last met them.

    *ARSE – A Righteous Sense of Entitlement (that because you want/expect the show to be one thing that you have a right to complain id the writer comes up with something different 😉 )

    #74803
    ScaryB @scaryb

    And finally:

    @bobbyfatv2

    Explain the brilliance of this episode in five words or less:

    ”my arms are too long”.

    Just that – totally brilliant.

    #74808
    Mudlark @mudlark

    @phaseshift

    I’m actually finding myself weirdly disconnected from the episodes to the extent that I’m wondering what they are for exactly.

    This question set me pondering in the early hours. I came to the tentative conclusion that, because these three episodes are intended to mark the 60th anniversary, the return of a generally popular Doctor and companion pairing along with references to the past provide an appropriate tribute, before a significant reset with Ncuti Gatwa in the forthcoming season. Also, as @scaryb suggests, it is reassuring territory to lure back existing fans of the show before a plunge into the new.

    At the same time, RTD does seem to be setting up situations and themes which could be carried over into future episodes. The business with the salt is one such, though maybe only for the next episode, in which it looks as if the unreal may be about to invade the real in our corner of the universe thanks to the intervention of a certain Eternal.  The Doctor’s worry about the possible consequences of his invocation of the salt superstition reminded me a little of Pratchett’s Hogfather, in which, for a while, every casual mention of the kind of quasi-mythical entity commonly invoked to account for an annoying occurrence causes its physical embodiment  to materialise.

    #74809
    Robert Caligari @robertcaligari

    @juniperfish See, my concern with a show like Bridgerton is the fact that it basically exists in a utopian alternate history where racism was never a problem. I would give almost anything to live in such a world, but sadly, we don’t. On the other hand, what exactly is preventing our children and our children’s children from getting the idea in their heads that this is the ONLY “version” of history worth keeping in the books? If we try to “paint over” all the ugly blemishes in human civilization to make it look pretty, what’s going to prevent those same blemishes from re-emerging?

    @miapatrick Okay, Captain Oxford, if MLK is a bad example, how about Ben Affleck playing Bill Cosby? Does that get your personal seal of approval of “Good Example?” Or are you going to push your spectacles up your noise and lecture me about why Cosby was campaigning for women’s rights? How about Idi Amin? Is he a better example?

    Please stop talking to me.

    #74810
    Devilishrobby @devilishrobby

    @scaryb  I think the  HADS system is a trop used several times in Who over the years even in the BG era though I have to admit I am very hard pushed to remember what stories. I seem to remember it was used in the in a Pertwee era story and even in a Tom Baker story.

     

    #74812
    JimTheFish @jimthefish
    Time Lord

    @robertcaligari

    It’s a contentious subject I know but can we please keep it civil? You’ve started an interesting discussion here (imo) and everyone’s entitled to agree and disagree but let’s try to do it in a friendly way? Part of the point of this site’s inception was as a refuge away from the more combative corners of the internet and we should strive to keep it that way, I think.

    @devilishrobby

    As far as I can remember, HADS made their debut in The Krotons way back in Troughton’s era. Can’t recall it coming up in the Pertwee or Baker ones, though it quite probably did. Certainly it seems to be rather inconsistent. Like how come the TARDIS just let the Master plunge it way back to Event One in Castrovalva when presumably the HADS should have kicked in. And there’s probably a gazillion other examples too….

    #74814
    Mudlark @mudlark

    @devilishrobby

    As I recall the most recent deployment of the HADS function prior to this was in The Magicians Apprentice, when the Tardis was fired on by Daleks. Missy, with Clara in tow, employed a different sneaky system to exit the scene

    #74815
    UNITPICKER @unitpicker

    The Isaac Newton situation is an interesting one. I tend to think changing the ethnicity of a real figure from history is acceptable if you are using that change to tell a story from that new paradigm such as in the musical Hamilton for example.

    Even in the flawed comparison of a white MLK, I think that if someone was looming specifically to tell a reimagined hypothetocal version of that civil rights story, there would potentially be justification for that. It couldn’t be done just for pure shock value or just for the sake of it. If these things are done without narrative justification (such as that bizarre Channel 5 Ann Boleyn drama) then it invites unnecessary controversy.

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