Forum Replies Created
16 April 2020 at 15:37 #70472
Late to this one too, although I did more or less watch it ‘live’.
Heaven Sent is actually a really difficult story to talk about as it’s so unique, such a one-off. Others in the watchalongs, like Vincent and the Doctor and The Doctor’s Wife, also have very unique and special aspects but they still seem to exist within the general narrative of the programme. Heaven Sent, like Listen and Midnight, are more experimental and seem to demand to be discussed on their own terms.
The obvious reference point, aside from the highly effective writing is Capaldi’s performance. This could have become very stagey and static but there’s always a kinetic energy to the episode. This is largely thanks to Rachel Talalay’s brilliant direction but also, of course, to Capaldi’s deft performance. It’s also a nicely defining episode for 12. By the end of this episode, you get a very clear sense of who this Doctor is. It is, in fact, an episode that perhaps could only have been made with 12. It’s hard to imagine too many other Doctors being able to pull it off.
But as others have said, the score deserves some kudos too. Murray Gold has produced some incredible work over the years but this really has to be his defining moment. I can’t think of another episode of Who (or of too many other programmes, in fact) where the score has been such a significant component of the narrative. If you removed it, or changed it in any way, then the entire episode would be different.16 April 2020 at 15:27 #70471
The Moment, especially. And the calculations.
I’d have to check but I’m pretty sure that The Moment as a Who concept predates both Moffat and Gaiman. Part of me wants to say that it feels like a Lance Parkin thing, though it’s possible that it was one of the Time War names reeled off by RTD at one point. Certainly, I’ve always felt that it must be some kind of close relation to the Apocalypse Device of the comics.
The eccentricity and strangeness is great in one episode, but at that level, over a longer period, it would drive the audience insane
It would certainly be toned down over the long term, yes. But that’s not wholly what I was meaning really. I was thinking more in terms of the whole look, the fairytale madwoman costume as well as the un-selfconscious alien oddness of the performance. Yes, she’s playing a TARDIS and the performance reflects that but there’s still a sense of how a female Doctor could be played, rather than the ‘over-caffeinated Play School presenter on the school run’ that we currently have.
See Jo Martin for an example of a one-episode performance judged for probable call-backs
Yes, I’d agree. Although what do we actually know of JoDoc other than she’s kinda ruthless. We were given very little of actual personality in Judoon (and even less in Timeless, when she was reduced to a Exposition Node). All Jo Martin’s character work was done for the character of Ruth and next to none for her Doc. Perhaps they’ll be some in s12. I’d be tempted to say that Chibs can’t write the Doctor if it wasn’t for the fact that he did great work writing for 11. But it says something when I find that the most vividly I’ve ever seen 13 written is in a short story by the previous showrunner.
But it’s proof of Crowley’s demonic nature that, whenever he’s around, every piece of music anyone tries to play invariably turns into a track from Queen’s Greatest Hits
That’s undoubtedly true on the meta level. But counterproductive on the level of actually getting people to watch your show. I have to admit I only got through one episode of Good Omens before deciding not to bother with the rest. And it wasn’t just the annoying levels of Queen either. While the performances were good (Well, Michael Sheen was as great as ever. Tennant, I felt, was phoning in something pitched halfway between 10 at his most dickish and Kilgrave) but the writing seemed to me to be Gaiman at his most overly mannered. I do think he’s a very good writer when he trusts his own ideas but descends into a self-conscious ventriloquism at times, especially when he’s collaborating on something. (It might be argued that it’s there in The Doctor’s Wife a little too. There are a few moments where you get just the slightest feeling that he’s trying to ‘write like Moffat’, although it’s maybe difficult to tell what with rewrites and everything.) But in Good Omens, the moment we got the faux-Adams God voiceover, I had a feeling was going to struggle with it. If you start a show by rolling your eyes at it then you’re probably not going to recover.16 April 2020 at 15:01 #7047014 April 2020 at 15:38 #70454
I don’t normally post here but here’s a (very tenuous) link to tie in with The Doctor’s Wife. Amanda Palmer (Mrs Neil Gaiman) doing a really evocative version of Bigger on the Inside….14 April 2020 at 15:34 #70453
A little late to this party but here we go. Like Eleventh Hour, this was always another one of my comfort Whos, although I have to say I seem to have gone off it just slightly of late. I do love the metatextual cleverness of the title (JNT had it as fake story in his notes at one point to see if there were leaks in the Who office, or so the story goes.)
I think perhaps I’m feeling a little ambivalent to Neil Gaiman at the moment. This is partly because I just couldn’t get along with Good Omens — I’m sorry, but I just can’t listen to that much Queen, even ironically. I do feel though that his best work was in Sandman, which was proper inventive and weird, compared to often mawkish and self-conscious quirk of recent years. And for me, TDW was falling into that category (and Nightmare in Silver doesn’t survive it as a story). The junkyard world and Uncle and Auntie especially seem to be the major examples of it in this ep.
However, this rewatch has made me amend my curmudgeonliness a little. It’s a great episode and provides all the right feels and thrills. The only really flat stuff is the Amy/Rory stuff in the TARDIS and as Gaiman’s really interesting and definitely worth checking out Twitter feed explains this was largely down to budget constraints. It would have been great to see the planned scenes in the swimming pool etc. As it is, while they’re low-key, these scenes are still effective because they’re rooted in the character work already done — and it speaks to Gaiman’s skill as a writer that this is the direction he went in. On a more superficial level, it’s a shame that both this and Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS haven’t managed to give us a really interesting TARDIS interior yet.
In fact, he writes 11, Amy and Rory really brilliantly. So much so that it’s odd that Silver is so lacklustre. Perhaps he just didn’t like the 11/Clara dynamic quite as much. But all the callbacks to Rory the Centurion, fish fingers etc etc. are just great here.
As are 11’s interchanges with Idris, which form the real joy of this episode. Their ‘goodbye’ scene is genuinely touching and Suranne Jones does great work in suggesting what a great female Doctor could look like.
It was also kind of nice seeing the Eccleston TARDIS again, if briefly. It might have been nice to have seen another console room from the past (or perhaps even from the future) but that was obviously beyond the realms of budget.
And if nothing else, this episode should probably be lauded for making everyone go off to look up the meaning of petrichor….14 April 2020 at 15:02 #70452
Have to say that I love that trailer. It’s probably my favourite of all the ones so far.7 April 2020 at 19:09 #70425
I’d very much like to see Moffat do a story for 13. This is probably too short a sample to give a definitive sense but it seems to me that he can certainly write her character and that even now he still seems to have some interesting things to say about Who. I do wonder how much truth there is in the rumours that they don’t get on. Certainly Chibs’s era seems to have been antagonistic to Moff’s right from the get go.
Maybe @blenkinsopthebrave is on to something and that this story is essentially SM clearing his throat meaningfully….
But it has to be said, I did like this story a lot and I hope that even if he doesn’t write for the show again, I’d at least like to see another novelisation from Moff….7 April 2020 at 13:14 #70412
Here’s rather a spiffy new story from Mr Moffat. Not only is it rather nice that he seems to be absolutely capturing 13, it rather brilliantly encapsulates Who’s mission statement…4 April 2020 at 16:20 #70397
This is one of my favourite comfort Who watches. It was interesting of how dismissive Moffat was of it plot-wise on Twitter and, yes, it is kind of plot-lite but only in the same way that Rose was. It’s what works best for introducing a new Doctor. Whittaker suffered from having too much screen time taken up with Ryan, Grace and Graham and Capaldi from a slightly overly complex plot and then being sidelined by his predecessor for the crucial final five minutes.
But this is a joy. Smith has nailed the Doctor almost right from the off. It’s an incredible performance not bettered by any other actor in the role imo. Also I’d been swithering between Amy and Bill being my favourite companion but I think I’m down for Team Amy. 11, Amy, Rory and River are my Fam I think.
However, beyond the leads, there’s so many other great elements in place here. SM perfectly pitching from comedy to drama. So many great lines. The Atraxi are by no means a classic villain but still offer up some genuinely creepy moments. And Olivia Colman brings a nice line in truculent insolence to the final confrontation. Oh, and the score, this is Murray Gold at his best, if you ask me.
All in all, I’d say that if I was looking for one episode to introduce a newbie into the world of Who, it would quite probably be this one….1 April 2020 at 13:32 #70368
Well, Richard Curtis getting the blame for romantic gloom rather than vice versa. There’s a certain irony there, I suppose.
I agree. It’s Curran’s performance that makes this episode and it’s definitely the best portrayal of a historical figure in Who. Only Vinette Robinson as Rosa comes even close. Normally they have a much more broadstroke, almost Horrible Histories edge to them. (Yes, I’m looking at you Simon Callow.)
And I must admit that this rewatch has prompted me to finally read that copy of Lust for Life that’s been sitting on my shelf unloved and untouched for years.1 April 2020 at 13:26 #70366
That’s a pretty colossal piece of news. Wonder how they managed to keep that hushed up, if true. Certainly would much rather see Smith back than Barrowman — but that’s just me.
Notices date….. hmmmm31 March 2020 at 18:34 #70355
Yes, I must admit that I can see your points about Love Actually and while I’m not sure I’d say it actually enrages me, it’s not one that I’d ever really want to watch again. But I do kind of like Four Weddings and I thought About Time was OK when I watched it recently — clearly Who had had an effect on him for that one.31 March 2020 at 13:11 #70352
Yes, you’re quite right, I was being a bit literal and focused on the Who-i-ness of it. But those tweets from RC were very interesting and I too will be seeking out Sabine. I definitely would have liked to have known more on how the writing process had worked. What the interaction with Moff had been, what his brief had been etc.
It’s odd about Curtis’s other work. I have to say I find Blackadder terribly overrated and too sixth-form smartarse for my liking but I have to say that any time I’ve sat down to watch one of his movies, I’ve always done so grudgingly but always come away happy and in a better place than where I went in…30 March 2020 at 23:05 #70346
Well, that was just excellent. Not sure that I’ve got much to add from my original review above (although interesting to see that I’m grousing about Chibs even back then. No bandwagon jumper me.)
However, just to heap more praise on Tony Curran’s fantastic performance as Vincent as well as a very subtle one from Bill Nighy (he would have been a fantastic Doctor if things had gone that way). And it really brings home how much I miss Amy. Best TARDIS team for me, I think, with Bill, Nardole and 12 coming a close second.
There’s almost nothing to bitch about in this episode except perhaps the Doctor getting it so spectacularly wrong about the Grafayiss. But then, the Doc has got it wrong before (and since) and Matt’s performance here is so spot on that it’s easy to forgive. His moments with Vincent in his bedroom, of comforting the dying Grafayiss and of comforting Amy at the end are just pitch-perfect and really quite wonderful. (And frankly show 13’s ‘socially awkward’ callousness to Graham to be the bollocks that it is. The Doc is plenty empathetic and has, in fact, learned it the hard way throughout all her regenerations.)
The Twitter feeds were a bit lacklustre this time. I think these things probably work best with a showrunner involved as they’re perhaps more deeply involved in the lore and production of the show as a whole. So, it’s good that Moff is back for The Eleventh Hour on Friday. But I have to say that I’ve probably enjoyed these rewatches far more than I have the entirety of s12.
But, all in all, that left me feeling quite teary and frankly all ready for a full rewatch of s5, which remains easily the best single run of the show since Hinchcliffe and Holmes walked the earth….29 March 2020 at 13:21 #70324
Crikey! That’s harsh
Yeah, it was a bit. In my defence, it seemed funnier in my head. And I definitely agree with your point that it was perhaps easier to shock in those days. Not sure I’d agree that the Pertwee era deliberately set out to push boundaries. It wasn’t afraid of injecting political ideas into Who, certainly and there were topics that Letts wanted to discuss but I’d also say he had a pretty good barometer of tone and decorum and that he didn’t deliberately set out to shock in the way that Hinchcliffe/Holmes and JNT/Saward did.
Treating a beloved vehicle as a joke, less so. S1 veered to much toward the latter for my taste.
Which is totally fair enough. And I’d agree that the first three or four episodes are tonally inconsistent. But it’s by no means the most egregious example. I find s17 all over the place, for example, and far less to my taste than Series 1 of Nu Who. (If there’s ever been a seriously overrated Who story then it’s City of Death imo.) And I’m inclined to give s1 a bit of a free pass as it probably took the production team a while to figure out where Who was going to fit in the 2005 media landscape.
I would have preferred a better actor in the role
Again, it’s subjective I suppose but I struggle to see how Tate (or anyone) else could have been better in the role. I do sometimes feel that Tate gets looked down a little by fandom because she was so popular as a comedian but she’s a proper actor and an alumni of the Central School and the RSC.
a proper audience proxy with zero hint of nausea-inducing will-they-won’t-they
I think in this day and age we probably have to accept that the Doctor is as much a romantic/sexual being as any other dramatic character (which is why River is such a good and necessary character — having the Doc married off takes a bit of that immediate heat away. Although it seems to have returned with a vengeance with all the Thasmins of the Chibnall era.) With Martha, I’m not sure the unrequited love angle was really the problem — beyond the fact it showed that RTD had become overly infatuated with the character of Rose. The problem was that he didn’t take the time to not make it the only aspect of her character. Agyeman did great work but I’d argue that she wasn’t given half enough to work with as Piper was.
My problem with Moffat companions is, however great they are on paper, he always made them part of the plot rather than the viewer’s avatar
That’s a common criticism but I always feel it needs a bit of qualification. Yes, the companion is the viewer’s avatar but I’m not sure that’s all they have to be (or can be). They can’t be too passive either and they have to have an arc (some of those arcs both in RTD and SM were a little grandiose admittedly). It was a different case when the show was more serialised, when the real narrative was that of whatever serial the main characters had been injected into — that the story arc was that of Marco Polo, or the inhabitants of the Moonbase, or of Jago and Litefoot, to use random examples. Now the focus is far more on the Doctor and the companions and because it’s a cosmic and fantastical show, then their arcs have to be to an extent cosmic and fantastical (which, in the end, even Bill’s was).
Amy and Clara were mysteries to be solved
Again, I’d argue that it’s easy to overstate this. Amy wasn’t really a mystery to be solved. We knew everything we needed to know about her right from the Eleventh Hour. Again, yes, her endpoint is slightly cosmic in that she’s River’s mother and maybe her career as a model is less than relatable (but still not the most outlandish career a companion has ever had) but she’s essentially the same girl from Ledworth with her Raggedy Doctor that she always was.
It’s definitely more of an issue for Clara but I’d say only between The Snowmen and Name of the Doctor, which isn’t that long really. SM had kind of painted himself into a corner character-wise there but I’d argue it was necessary for the very clear endgame that he had in mind there. And I’d also argue that the Clara we get with Capaldi has freed herself from the Impossible Girl schtick and is a pretty strong and memorable companion in her own right. Again, it’s all very subjective, but I think both she and Amy are still highly relatable. Being ‘ordinary’ isn’t necessarily the key, I’d argue. The Fam are all very ordinary and all have very clearly defined backstories but I don’t really consider them terribly relatable, largely because they’re all so terribly boring.28 March 2020 at 19:01 #70311
I thought it was great. The series was consistently strong throughout. And I immediately went off and rewatched both parts of ‘All Good Things’ which I thought was also extremely pertinent….28 March 2020 at 14:26 #70306
Oh, and in a shameless piece of (sort of) promotion, if you’re at a loose end during self-isolation, there’s an online literary festival happening for the next two weeks (I’ll be moderating a few of the events). And there is a Who connection — Who author Una McCormack will be reading from her new Star Trek Picard novel tomorrow at 4pm and Una, Simon Guerrier, Jonny Morris and Jac Rayner will be in discussion on Wednesday. Do dive in if you fancy any of it.28 March 2020 at 13:54 #70305
The killer doll provoked a lot of complaints at the time for making children scared of their own toys.
Yes, it did, but all that really suggests is that people were just as idiotic in 1973 as they are now. And while Robert Holmes definitely had ‘scaring the little buggers’ in his sights as part of his remit, I don’t think he wasn’t considering doing it in a tongue-in-cheek way.
The armchair didn’t work, but there was no hint of tongue in cheek about it.
I think it’s totally tongue in cheek and the cast and crew know it. It’s in everything from the twinkle in Delgado’s eye to the rather arch death performance of Harry Towb. The entire series is pretty tongue in cheek and I think you really only have to compare it to his sister serial to see that. In the first few episodes, RTD is definitely still calibrating the tone but I don’t think he was wrong to think that absurdity and humour are just as much a part of Who’s DNA as scares are.
Not sure that the Autons were wasted myself. They were in fact perfectly chosen. All you need to know is ‘alien’, ‘malevolent’, ‘plastic’ and so you don’t have to squander loads of time on backstory, exposition and motivation, leaving space for the important character stuff that’s needed in a new era episode, especially this one. It’s the same reason why Prisoner Zero is so sketchy (all you need to know is ‘alien convict’) or that Deep Breath riffed off The Girl in the Fireplace for its antagonist.
He understood their relationship to the audience in a way Moffat never really did, and Rose exudes this
I’m not sure I agree with this, although I do agree that Billie Piper was just terrific as Rose. But I think Moffat’s grasp on the companion dynamic was just as strong as RTD’s, possibly more so. After Rose, RTD pretty much dropped the ball with Martha, remaining too fixated on Rose. He just wasn’t interested enough in her. Donna was in improvement but a big part of that was down to Catherine Tate’s performance. After that, he gave up on companions altogether. Moffat’s companions were all pretty strong, I’d argue, with the only wobble really being the ‘Impossible Girl’ arc of early Clara. But aside from that, Amy, late Clara and Bill (and even a few one-offs like Sally Sparrow and Shona) show that Moff had a definite gift for companions, I reckon.28 March 2020 at 13:38 #7030426 March 2020 at 21:22 #70289
That sequel was fab, wasn’t it. It can never be stressed too many times that RTD is just an absolutely cracking writer. In fact, all the related content around this one was great. And was it just me but was it also subtly recontextualising The Timeless Children slightly?
I can’t remember commenting on Rose last time around, so apologies for any repetition. Firstly, I’ve been seeing people online talking about how ‘dated’ it is and it is incredible to think that this is 15 years!! ago. But to be honest, I didn’t think it felt all that dated. Even watching it this time around, it had an exuberance and a freshness to it. Almost a sort of 70s ITC Randall and Hopkirk-ey sort of vibe that works now and probably worked just as well back then. Interesting how Murray Gold’s music has changed over the years too. It’s more rambunctious here, maybe less lush than it becomes later but that’s probably as much to do with the show’s narrative evolution as much as anything else.
On which note, aren’t those opening titles glorious? Probably still the best iteration from Nu Who for my money.
It’s really Billie Piper who carries this story though, isn’t it? And it’s easy to forget just how much of a risk her casting was back in the day; just how much sneering there was around it. And she’s great from her first scene. And I’m not sure it’s until 12 and Bill that we see a companion and Doc click quite so immediately as 9 and Rose do here. (Amy and 11 don’t count imo because there is the slight ‘cheat’ of Young Amelia doing some of the bonding in that relationship).
It’s been a while since I’ve watched 9 and I think my estimation has gone up a little. I think Chris Eccleston is a fantastic actor but that he’s not a natural fit for the Doctor. But he does bring gravitas to the part: it’s just in the lighter moments he feels a little forced. Though I think part of my problem with him is that his costume is just not quite Doctorly enough. He obviously wasn’t going to be a McGann-style flamboyant and I like the leather jacket/jeans thing but I just feel there should have been more flourishes of the kind that we saw in The War Doctor’s costume. But looking back now, I do wish that he’d stayed for a second series. I think narratively speaking Doomsday would have worked better with 9 rather than a 10 who had just bedded in.
The sheer whackiness of this story can seem surprising looking back too. It’s easy to forget that the first half of s1 does tend far more towards this whackiness and it’s not until the halfway point of Dalek and The Empty Child that the more serious tone starts to take hold. Part of this will just be everyone finding their feet, still figuring out what sort of show they’re making. And part of it, I guess, is just an initial fanboy squee among the writers that they’re finally actually writing proper telly Doctor Who again.
But the Autons totally fit that tone and they’re actually the perfect BG Who monsters to choose. Not too heavyweight like the Daleks or the Cybermen, but still with a sense of genuine threat, a low-level familiarity for fans but also with that hint of the absurd. And tonally RTD gets them absolutely right too. The burping wheelie bin might have upset some diehards but it has the same absurdity as the killer doll or the suffocating armchair from Terror of the Autons. I have no doubt that both Robert Holmes and Terrance Dicks would have approved.
Pacing wise, it’s a bit halting. The Doctor, Rose and Mickey spend an awful lot of time hanging about at the denouement and that 10 minutes with Rose and Clive does feel a bit draggy now but the sheer amount of pyrotechnics and action it contains is quite startling really. Even the later finales didn’t seem to have quite as many explosions and physical action from the regulars as this has. But I guess this episode very much has to be statement of intent. And boy, did it bloody work.
In short, I really enjoyed that. Russell’s Twitter commentary was quite entertaining and the prequel/sequels were great too. Now, bring on Vincent and the Doctor.25 March 2020 at 18:16 #70266
I honestly didn’t know where to put this, so it might as well be here. A short prologue to The Woman Who Fell to Earth, penned by Mr Chibnall…25 March 2020 at 18:15 #70265
Really sorry to hear that. Sending warmest thoughts and hoping you and yours and doing as well as can be expected under the circumstances…24 March 2020 at 18:30 #70256
That’s an excellent review and wholly deserved on Fellowes’ part.
On Picard, I’m limbering up for a promising finale. I had been hoping that Narek discovered a better nature but now I’m very much onboard with him getting what’s coming to him. The synthetics community was very much one of your typical TNG utopian communities that always made me kind of barf a little bit. Was I the only one being reminded of Insurrection at points in the last episode?
I have high hopes for the finale though and this has been a really fun watch imo. It’s been fun and smart and compassionate. And the fan service by and large served a purpose in the plot rather than being tacked on. I’m not sure I really want a second series though (depending on where the finale goes). I think this would be a nice little coda to the character of Picard as it stands. Now, a spin-off with Seven of Nine being a badass in her rogue Borg Cube, on the other hand….24 March 2020 at 18:17 #70255
I think that’s one of those indefinable ‘lightning in a bottle’ things, partly down to writing but mostly to personal chemistry. I always tend to look at how Liz Sladen seemed to strike off Tom Baker far more than with Jon Pertwee (and also how Adric seemed to be less irritating with Baker than he became with Davison).23 March 2020 at 10:57 #70241
I think RTD injected something quite unique (but utterly different from SM) into his novelisation of Rose but, yes, Cornell very much gives you a straight up-and-down, no-nonsense adaptation. Which is fair enough as it isn’t his story.
Yes, I believe Rose is coming up next to be followed by the Eleventh Hour. Definitely up for those. (Must admit those gaps are going to bug me now that @phaseshift has pointed them out. But maybe that’s something for the future.)22 March 2020 at 18:07 #70221
I’ve just had a rummage through the archives and it looks like we’ve covered every episode of Nu Who, some of which obviously retrospectively. That’s no reason we can’t dig into them again, of course, it people want to do that.22 March 2020 at 15:06 #70219
Yes, that’s exactly what DotD is. Very well put. You can feel the love and affection oozing out of every pore of this story.
Yes, I know that there are many out there who love the Zygons and they’re very much the epitome of Old Who men in rubber suits. Which, now I think of it more, are why they’re maybe the perfect monster for this story. I even loved the way that old-school sound effects were used for their technology.
Just a heads-up that there will be a similar thing happening for Rose later this week, with RTD live-tweeting throughout. That will be worth tuning in for too, I would think. I believe there’s also plans to do The Eleventh Hour at some point too. (It also makes me wonder whether we should as a forum go back and revisit the RTD and early SM eras, maybe week by week, as if its being broadcast. I think we only came into existence round about s6, so there maybe be a gap to be exploited there. I can’t recall offhand.)21 March 2020 at 22:00 #70209
Well, that was just fantastic and certainly revived my love for Who. A nice palate cleanser after Timeless Children. Love the little Strax intro too. I’d still love to see a proper Paternoster spin-off. The Big Finish audios are nice and all but it’s just not the same. And to echo @phaseshift, I’d recommend checking out Moffat’s Twitter feed for the rewatch. Nothing ground-breaking in there but it’s very amusing and worth a scan.
But what to say that hasn’t been said already? The performances were all terrific. Matt and Jenna were at the top of their game and John Hurt is incredible in solidly convincing as a Doctor within the space of one special episode which he has to share with two established stars in the role. It’s such a shame that we never got to see more of him in the role. The interplay between all three Doctors is terrific throughout. (A note to Chibs for when the 60th comes — three is the optimum number for screen Doctors at any one time. Remember not to overcrowd them.
It’s a terrific opening too, isn’t it. From the blast of the old-school opening titles to the sly giving us of both Coal Hill School and Barnes Common. And the airlifting of the TARDIS to me cements Kate as very much her father’s daughter for sheer operational ineptitude. I could totally see this scene being played out with the Brigadier and the Third Doctor with not much of a change.
The plot itself seems to be rather typical of peak Moffat — seemingly complex and timey-wimey but actually far less complicated than it seems (something he points out in his Twitter feed. It’s Queen Liz who saves the day!!). But it’s the journey more than the destination that is the point and I think it’s often forgotten that the appeal of SM’s Who is as much the well-handled character work as much as the involved plots — and, in fact, one of his defter writing skills is the careful dancing around massive infodumps as we’ve seen recently by circumventing them with a load of playful nonsense about Cup-a-Soups or whatever.
Then there’s the Zygons. I get that they were a little present to David Tennant but I’ve never particularly liked the Zygons. Terror of the Zygons is a fun enough story in a generic, 70s alien menace runaround kind of way. Even at the time of broadcast, it felt rather incongruous — as if a Pertwee story had escaped to run amok in another era. Their rubbery unwieldiness is, for example, a little at odds with the otherwise charged nature of the Zygon Invasion/Inversion. But here the Zygon plot is unobtrusive enough that they don’t overturn the emotion of the Gallifrey arc.
The denouement of which is nicely elegant too. Having Gallifrey found but lost, in existence but in a pocket universe was a clever way of returning Gallifrey to the Whoniverse, removing the angst of the ‘Last of the Time Lords’ shtick but without making them too dominant, without returning the universe to the parochial place it had become in the 1980s. It was a delicate balance to achieve and it’s a shame that it’s been (apparently) lost now.
And then there’s Tom’s cameo. Which was lovely. The man is clearly still bonkers after all these years and his performance is nice in that it evokes the Fourth Doctor but which also allowed Tom to play to the strengths of his ‘oldness’ instead of just trying to ignore it (in a way that some of his Big Finish audios have to do with sometimes mixed success). I do still hope that we’ll see some ‘old favourites’ revisited in the future.
Finally, I’d say to any fans of this story who haven’t read the novelisation, I’d encourage you to do so immediately. It changes and deepens the story in all kinds of ways and contains oodles of SM’s engagingly tricksy humour within it to boot.21 March 2020 at 13:34 #70200
You just beat me to it. New Moffat-written content dropping online at 6.30 this evening (for the benefit of those who don’t click through)….19 March 2020 at 22:04 #70183
An admirable policy. So you literally do have your own Fortress of Solitude….19 March 2020 at 20:36 #7018119 March 2020 at 20:01 #70179
Glad to hear you’re hopefully in recovery mode now. We’re in self-isolation mode now and I’ve had to conduct the last of my lectures and seminars via online technologies. Which has all worked out pretty well so I wouldn’t be surprised if this becomes increasingly standard in the future.
Books and TV bingeing are definitely the way to go. (There is, by the way, an international communal rewatch of Day of the Doctor happening this Saturday at 7pm. Steven Moffat is one of those on board for it, so maybe those of us on the forum might wish to join in too.) I was about to start reading Boomsday by Christopher Buckley but it now seems horribly inappropriate to do so. Instead, I’ve gone for Tomorrow by Damian Dibben, which I’m liking a lot so far. It’s like Orlando but with a dog.
I shall look forward to your blog, @phaseshift. Wasn’t trying to rush you or anything but just didn’t want to steal your thunder by starting Penny Dreadful too early. On which note, I propose a season by season blog as we did with Buffy, giving everyone a chance to weigh in on the comments. I’m happy to do these but also for anyone else to do the honours.16 March 2020 at 20:01 #70151
Hope you’re doing OK. And to everyone who’s having to self-isolate. Make sure you all take care of yourselves.12 March 2020 at 12:47 #70113
There was some talk of doing a Penny Dreadful rewatch blog after S12 was over. Just testing the water to see how many would be interesting in doing it. (Will probably leave it a couple of week anyway till we’ve had @phaseshift‘s blogpost on s13 and Chibs, if he’s still planning that….)10 March 2020 at 13:44 #70107
His Dark Materials was really good, wasn’t it? And I’ll bet you’ll really enjoy Picard too. It’s great.10 March 2020 at 13:43 #70106
Yes, the treatment of the actual Good Place is really interesting and the point that for anything to be truly ‘good’ that it has to have ‘an ending’ and basically ‘death’ in it is actually a pretty challenging one for what’s essentially a sitcom. It’s essentially critiquing mainstream Christian assumptions really. (I wonder how this show would have fared if it had been on regular network television and if it would have attracted some criticism.)
And I bet Moffat really, really wished he’d come up with Jeremy Bearimy….10 March 2020 at 11:17 #70099
Also Jeremy Bearimy deserves to enter the pop culture lexicon in the same way that ‘time-wimey’ has.10 March 2020 at 11:13 #70097
I thought it was mostly adept at knowing when one particular approach to the concept was wearing thin and to shake it up a bit. The s3 stuff back on Earth was to my mind the weakest scenario but even that was still lots of fun and it worked because the characters had well and truly bedded in by then and the jokes were always good. Sure, there will be scenarios that some like more than others. Personally, I preferred the first two series when we still got a ‘bad’ Eleanor and and ‘evil’ Michael. The later series where everyone was ‘good’ was maybe less delicious in it’s humour. But it was all great. And it possibly has one of the best finales to a show ever. All down to character, of course. I actually found Jason quite annoying initially before growing to love him by the end. And I don’t mind saying I was in bits when he stepped through the doorway.
And yes, I’m glad I got to binge it. I don’t subscribe to this fogeyish view that it’s better to get streaming shows week by week. I like to binge. Give me it all, man. I’m finding it quite maddening, for example, having to wait for Picard every Friday. I guess I can see the point, in that encourages subscribers to stick around but largely I prefer to wait until the run is finished so I can watch it at my own pace.9 March 2020 at 22:12 #70093
That’s a great scene. I’ve always loved it. And a great performance. It’s an interesting one because we’re seeing a pretty arrogant, self-obsessed character and yet by the end of it he’s captured our sympathy and the insecurity behind the intellectual bravado is exposed. It’s great writing, great direction and great acting.9 March 2020 at 19:49 #700919 March 2020 at 11:50 #700858 March 2020 at 16:27 #70077
Yes, it’s a good piece but as you say could have done with a bit of editing. Whenever I see a lot of repetition, I don’t necessarily get suspicious but think that they should definitely call for an editor. I do agree with both you and their central point that Moffat was all about subverting the expectations of what Who fans, in particular, sometimes wanted from a story. I also agree with him that Chibs has utterly failed to understand this.
His reading of A Good Man… as a deliberately subverted rape-revenge story is peculiar and difficult to swallow, and I don’t think Let’s Kill Hitler was mocking anything other than Hitler.
I don’t know. AGMGTW as ‘rape-revenge’ narrative is not something that had occurred to me before and I found myself largely convinced by his argument. Definitely the part about how it’s a narrative deliberately constructed to exclude the Doctor. You’re right, I think, that it’s one of the most slyly subversive episodes ever produced and is definitely a bit underrated. It’s almost deconstructing the whole concept of Who RTD-style finales in a way.
I also find myself agreeing with his summation of Let’s Kill Hitler. It is possibly over-stating the case slightly, but the sheer fact of the choice of Hitler, as opposed to another morally questionable (or even fictional) villain is significant. And I do think that it’s Moffat deliberately pointing out just how unsuited Who is to engaging with situations like this. That there are limits to where Who can go, what it can do.
It definitely feeds into my view that you can break down the Who showrunners like this:
- RTD – The Spielberg one. Celebrating the ‘ordinary’ person flung into ‘extraordinary’ situations, even if this means stumbling into oversentimentality and overblown spectacle on occasion.
- Moffat – the Christopher Nolan one. Largely small-scale stories of human connection contained within Russian Doll-narrative structures and often challenging those structures themselves.
- Chibs – The Zack Snyder one. All too often mistakes edgelord grimdarkism for maturity or depth. Is willing to shortcut logical character work in the rush for spectacle.
His whole run had an increasingly classic-era vibe, and failed (never tried) to allow the righteous warrior of the time war opportunity to judge, convict, and execute the bad guys.
Yes, I think I agree. Moffat returned to the messianic Doctor trope constantly and while it has to be said that he occasionally used it himself when he found it useful, his era was largely about dismantling the concept as well as, as you say, reconciling AG and BG Who into something coherent and cohesive. And it’s this that Chibs has probably been most narratively tone-deaf about.7 March 2020 at 23:11 #70073
As a final coda to my burbling ramblings above, this is a long but pretty good read, I think:7 March 2020 at 21:00 #70072
Just finished The Good Place. It was all kinds of perfect.
And now I’m feeling rather … emotional.7 March 2020 at 18:20 #70071
Agree about the lack of TV writers like Chabon in the UK, but Chabon is probably pretty unique as a TV show runner in the US, come to think of it
That’s very true. I’m glad that he’s finally got to get involved in genre film and TV as it’s clearly been a long-standing interest — his book of essays on among other things Howard Chaykin, His Dark Materials and Sherlock Holmes is really good imo. I was aware that he’d submitted a treatment for an X-Men film many years ago and that it had gone nowhere. I wonder if Picard has put him off the TV process in general and if he couldn’t be tempted to have a little spell on Doctor Who once Chibs goes. I wonder if he’s a fan….
Will definitely stick around to ruminate on what’s left of Picard. And perhaps for a blog discussion on Penny Dreadful, if people are still interested….7 March 2020 at 14:12 #70067
Yes, the Piper analogy is really cool (and didn’t occur to me at all till you mentioned it). I guess it’s meant to contrast with the coldness of the Borg cube and the Romulan tech. Nice to see Riker and Deanna again too. (And was sad to say goodbye to Hugh again so soon. Couldn’t they have kept him around for a while longer?)
I’m struggling to think of a Chabon-like saviour who could come into Who, largely because I don’t think the UK has produced an author remotely of his calibre for decades.7 March 2020 at 14:01 #70066
Yes, on Chibs these are largely not new arguments and we should probably agree to disagree.
If this reaches the stage of discussing semiotics, your local vicar should be able to suggest some suitable deliverance ministries.
Yes, they’re coming for me now. Taking their time about it though. And I must admit that I probably did some violence to the fabula/sjuzet terms by forcing them into Who. Basically, as I understand it, fabula is a theoretical concept of a story, the raw events as it were, which can only then be accessed by a particular interpretation of them (sjuzet). Thus every version of, say, Hound of the Baskervilles is a sjuzet of a theoretical masterprint, as it were, Conan Doyle’s ‘original’ included. And yes, the fabula would be a strictly chronological rendering, with fancy playing around with time, perspective etc. only something that can be done at the sjuzet level.
Other writers have changed the Doctor’s biology, his morality, the ordering of his lives, how many of those lives he’s had and how many of those lives he/she is restricted to. RTD changed Rassilon from ‘Father of his People’ to ‘Mad Genocidal Dictator’
Exactly, that’s the point. Those changes are not ones that change the fabula, which we could maybe define as ‘The Doctor is a Time Lord from Gallifrey who becomes a rebel explorer and goes out into the universe, righting injustices wherever she sees them’. Things like Time Wars, number of regenerations, the character of Rassilon, none of them change those essentials, however much they are informed by them.
Chibnall’s changed the planet the Doctor comes from, her sex and her skin colour.
No, he’s done a lot more than that. Those things would be fair enough really and more power to him. But he’s basically changed the character of the Doctor herself. @phaseshift has rather annoyingly presented some of the same arguments more eloquently than I am about to, so I hope he forgives me for that and I also hope you’ll forgive injecting a little bit of personal reminisce into it too.
The Doctor’s backstory is something that grew rather organically. Slowly at first. Throughout the 60s, it was contained basically in The Time Meddler and The War Games. In those, the Doc is portrayed as, let’s say, a talented amateur. A nosey parker with a developing sense of morality, aided by a variable wit, an insatiable curiosity and a level of natural ability. She’s only the smartest person in the room when that room is full of humans and sometimes not even then (something that both RTD and Moff have been at pains to emphasise again and again). When that room happens to include other Time Lords she’s emphatically not the brightest, the most powerful, or even the most attractive or nattily dressed. As Time Lords go, the Doctor is decidedly mediocre, save for the fact of her desire to do good, to do right, to make the effort that no one else on her planet was willing to do. Holmes and Dicks translated this relationship into that of the Doc as a precocious but not necessarily gifted undergraduate, suffering both the indulgence and occasional censure of this tutors (Time Lords like Borusa, Flavia etc). But at its heart, this is still the same conception that Lambert, Newman and Whittaker formulated back in 63, even if they hadn’t yet given it those details.
Now, as Phase says, there was something quite attractive in that core character. If you’re a socially awkward, averagely intelligent and not particularly athletic schoolchild, the Doc becomes something between the ideal teacher, the cocky elder sibling, the relatable father/mother figure. And in a cultural ecosystem of square-jawed action men/women that’s something to be valued. The Doc belongs to a literary tradition of the able dilettante. Passionate without necessarily being committed or obligated to the state or its apparatus and institutions and who can therefore put them into sharp relief. She belongs to the tradition of Sherlock Holmes, Miss Marple (not Poirot, who has Hastings to tie him to the establishment) and perhaps even at the more ridiculous end of things characters like Paddington Bear. What she emphatically is not is James Bond or Bulldog Drummond or Jane Tennyson, who are all instruments of the state.
And that’s what Chibs’s rewrite does. And not only is the Doctor an instrument (or even a former instrument) of the state with her connections to the Division, you could say she actually is the state, by being the cornerstone of regeneration and therefore of Time Lord power (because when you get down to it, it’s not time travel that makes them unique, it’s their ability to regenerate). And that’s not even the worse of it. As Phase says, there’s now an unpleasant tang of genetic superiority to the Doctor now. She’s not special because of her determination to do right, regardless of her own abilities and shortcomings, she’s special because of her genetics. What Chibs has done has basically made the same fuck-up that the Star Wars prequels did and still haven’t been able to recover from. Heroic Exceptionalism. The Doc’s special regenerative ability is Who’s equivalent of midichlorians. She’s not just a talented amateur anymore. She’s the Chosen One. She’s Superman. She’s Interdimensional Space Jesus with a touch of Jason Bourne layered on top. And that is a fundamental change in the very DNA of the show. That’s like someone taking Sherlock Holmes and basically turning him into James Bond.
Jim, I think you’re taking a fan theory (that the sequence of events in the Master’s reconstruction show abuse and exploitation rather than acceptable medical research or the Master being an unreliable narrator) and blaming the writer for what’s presently a fan idea rather than anything their script has said
I don’t think I am. And I don’t think it’s a fan theory, or at least not as far as I’m concerned. I’m largely going by what we saw on screen. Which was a dark and dingy laboratory that in terms of iconography had as much of the torture chamber or Frankenstein’s laboratory to it as anything else. I saw an aloof ‘mother’ who never once made any kind of gesture of warmth or affection or reassurance towards her ‘daughter’. I saw someone basically using a child as ‘resource’, which is what all abusers do, and whether it’s a resource for physical gratification or scientific advancement is actually kind of by the by.
You’re right, of course, and that we have to treat the Master as an unreliable narrator (and I’m still not convinced that this won’t all be some kind of Matrix-induced hoax or at the very least the Master is going to have been coming to some erroneous conclusions). But until we see that on screen, we have to go by what we have been given. And that, to me, means the above. And it’s not, by the way, opposed to this general plotline; it has potential I think. But lumbering the Doctor with this rewrite of her character is damaging in all sorts of ways, and ways, I think, that Chibs probably didn’t intend in the first place. His trademark is lobbing stuff into a story because it looks/seems cool without thinking through the consequences and I think this time he’s pushed it just a bit too far. Far better, I think, would have been to have made Susan the Timeless Child and have the Doctor the regular old normal Time Lord she always was but one who ‘kidnapped’ Susan in a fit of conscience and escapes into the universe in a Type 40 to keep her safe, maybe even get her home.
I suppose you could say that in Chibber’s first series we saw a Doctor trying to escape her past, and in the second she discovers that the past she was trying to escape – is only part of a much larger past.
But is it though? I’ve seen it said on this board and elsewhere that this restores the mystery to the Doctor’s character but I’d say that it doesn’t at all. It’s designed to give the impression of mystery but what enigma is there really? That the Doctor is from another mysterious Otherwhere than the one previously thought? So what? To borrow a line from someone on Twitter, that’s like finding out your childhood friend is from Cardiff rather than the East Dulwich you previously thought. And if anything, it’s reduced the mystery not added to it. Unless the Timeless Child wasn’t really a child when discovered, then there’s not that much to get excited about. The original mystery of the Doctor was that there was a whole adult life that we didn’t know anything about. Now we pretty much know the Doc’s entire past (the Matrix’s Division-era gaps notwithstanding. In that case, we know the general outline of the Doc’s life at that point, if not the details of specific events). It’s not a new mystery, it’s a bit of narrative sleight of hand.
I’ve also seen it argued that this only changes the Doctor’s character pre-Hartnell and to all intents and purposes we’ve got the same rebel explorer that we always had because … memory wipe. But that doesn’t wash either, I don’t think — for the simple reason, we’ve not been memory-wiped. If we go back and watch City of Death, The Daleks, Terror of the Autons now, we’re no longer watching a precocious ingenue in charge of their own agency. We’re watching someone trapped in a delusion. All those stories essentially become subplots in an overarching narrative of a cosmic patsy.
Now, you’re probably right that we’ve only seen part of an arc, that there’s more to come, perhaps even a full re-re-retcon of this mess. But I’m afraid I won’t be there to see it. It’s not that this new direction is uninteresting or won’t yield some dramatically interesting stuff. It’s just not the show I signed up for. A Doctor coming from this place and direction is not the Doctor who I grew up with, who contributed a not insignificant part of the cultural DNA of my personality, of my emotional outlook. And so, while it still stands, I’m done with Who. I shan’t be back for Revolution of the Daleks. I shan’t be back for Series 13. Simply put, there are a great many other IPs out there more worthy of my attention, who are not relying on what I guess has essentially become habit at this point. Especially as Who has once again reached the point of using itself as its own frame of reference – ‘hey, this is just like RTD/being different than Moff/at least not as bad as Season 23’ etc. Who was at its best when it was able to hold its head up with the stories contemporary with it, as being of the same or greater quality. At the moment, when you put it up against Picard, The Good Place, Altered Carbon or the many other shows out there, it just doesn’t measure up.
And so in the words of Tegan, ‘It’s just not fun anymore.’ For the time being at least and it’s actually looking like it might even be for good, I’m out I think.6 March 2020 at 00:21 #70020
Yes, I think it’ll be well into s13 before we see any of this stuff returned to. I fully expect we’ll be seeing RuthDoc back in some form or another.
Yeah, there is already what amounts to a DWEU, I suppose. But I wonder if we are about to get something that keeps that extant but has another branch that can be explored independently, as it were. Maybe we are going to see celebrity one-off Doctors. Maybe @phaseshift and @bluesqueakpip are right and plans are moving ahead for a separate movie series. Or maybe it’s just never going to be a thing at all….5 March 2020 at 14:25 #70010
Still building it…. You can’t rush these things, you know….5 March 2020 at 14:13 #70007