Friday, 13 May 2011

Ignore All My Previous Theories AKA. Oh My God They Killed Rory (You Bastards) AKA They Keep Killing Rory

Well that was an enjoyable if thoroughly unambitious episode.

What I liked:

The Classic Series style of title.
Amy wielding a cutlass.
The Doctor starring across the dimensions.
A return to Horror of Fang Rock, Pyramids of Mars bloodbath style of plotting.
That the Siren was actually trying to help. This reminded me of optimistic tone of the first series.
Hugh Bonnerville was great raising the level of some rather dodgy writing in terms of his characters motivations.

What I didn't like:

Amy shouldn't have been anywhere near as effective a sword-fighter as she was even allowing that the Pirate's didn't want to be cut.

Everyone lived in the end. Would it have been so much to ask that some died as a result of botched attempts to save them

Rory. Dead. Again. What is the point. At this stage Rory has a better life to death ratio than Jesus and Buffy and is only slightly behind The Undertaker.

Other thoughts.

Interesting to see the online reaction. This seems to be the first episode since The Eleventh Hour where people have realised that the show under Moffatt has plot holes. My feeling on this is very much: Get Over It. The missing deaths of a couple of extra's is not a big deal.

Classic Who often had the problem of padding, not enough story to fit the allotted episodes. This means (arguably) fewer plot holes, but less entertainment. New Who has the opposite problem too little running time for the plots, which tends to result in "holes". As a rule I'll take fast past entertainment any day of the week. Of course, classic Who had stakes of plot holes anyway its just that the fans like to pretend otherwise.

I have had a problem with the Amy/Rory relationship since day one and its finally hit my what it is. I like the Doctor and Amy and I like the Doctor and Rory, but I don't quiet buy Amy and Rory as a married couple. This climax of this episode finally brought home why. There is very little in the way of casual affection between them. Only grand romantic gestures, Amy playing it cool and Rory being protective and insecure. The only exceptions I can think of are parts of Amy's choice and the Pond's at home sequence of The Impossible Astronaut.

Anyway Gaiman's episode is up next so all is cool.

Monday, 9 May 2011

Schrödinger's pregnancy

Well that certainly raised a hellavalot of questions.

It is now beyond any doubt that the upper boat team are taking a new approach to the series. This was very much reminiscent of the X-Files or The West Wing. A two part season opener which tells a mostly self contained story, but which also leaves intriguing threads to be developed as the season progresses.

What I Liked:

The whole opening "on the run" sequence and respective "escapes". The fact that the Doctor seems to have manipulated his captors into building a prison that he needs for his own purposes. Everyone writing on themselves to know that they have seen a silent. The Doctor manipulating the fuck out of the silence re-using the Remembrance of the Daleks gambit (trick the bad guys into killing themselves). River Song killing the fuck out of the silence. Spooky evil TARDIS. Amy in a haunted house (which was blatantly shot like the X-Files). Regenerating little girl (Holy Shit. OMFG etc etc). The Doctor's conversation with Rory.

What I did not like:

"3 months later", 3 days would've done the trick really. The "fell out of the sky line"; yes its a figure of speech, its also the very worst figure of speech you could use if your seeking to re-assure your insecure husband about an alien who fell out of the sky and into your life. Nixon; the River/Doctor conversation about him in the last episode (Some good stuff, Not enough) was about the best way of approaching him. Again, as with Churchill last year we get the Cartoon Historical version. Comparing these political figures with the portrayal of Vincent Van Gogh last year or Anthony Hopkins take on Nixon is like comparing a school boy five-a-side with the Champions League final. The difference really is that startling. To be fair the show was caught in something of a cleft stick here; Nixon was president at the time of the moon landings and a family sf fantasy show can't easily go into a debate on the merits of his presidency. But there was the option to exclude him from proceedings entirely or at least give him some more depth. The approach reaches its nadir when the "punchline" of Canton's homosexual relationship is revealed and played for laughs. The Doctor might have wanted to mention J. Edgar Hoovers proclivities here!

Other thoughts:

I think that Moffatt needs to re-consider the use of celebrity historicals. Twice now major figures have been shoe-horned into SF stories that Classic Who (or indeed the books or audios) would simply have told without.

The Doctor's "genocide" of the silence seems to have caused some ructions. On the one hand Mad Larry archly made the point that it was rather stupid for the silent to order the execution of his own species. This is frankly a case of stating the obvious and missing the point. Who Baddies boasting "you should kill us" is a trope of the series (see most recently the Silurian two parter for a very similar speech). Yes its stupid, but its clear from the episode the silent has been imprisoned for some time and that Canton has been trying to provoke just such a statement for some time. Moreover, if we are going to criticise this kind of plotting, then we may as well give everything in the show post An Unearthly Child a kicking because numerous enemies would have succeeded if they had (1) shut up and (2) killed the doctor rather than banging on about killing him. Moffatt is fully aware of this (Curse of the Fatal Death, I'll Explain Later).

There is also the "ethical" argument against this. I don't propose to spend too much time on this. Firstly, its clear that the Silence exist way beyond the human sphere of influence. I suspect if every human in every time on every world killed every silent they saw, there would still be plenty of them knocking about the universe. Secondly, humanity (and by extension the Doctor) are entitled to act in their own self defence and there is no other way for humanity to defend against the silence given that they can't remember them. Thirdly, contrary to what some would say, the Doctor has previous on this score (just off the top of my head: Macra, Daleks, Jaggaroth, Daleks again, Cybermen, Heamavores, Daleks again, Time Lords).

What was up with the Kid and the eye patch lady?

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

It really wasn't that complicated - a return to 4 part plotting

The Impossible Astronaut has made a splash with great ratings, audience share and AI, not to mention generally favourable reviews and Matt's wholly deserved BAFTA nomination. There seems to be some confusion as to what the plot actually was that I find rather baffling to be honest. I think that Who fans and TV fans in general have become accustomed to one episode storylines. In general even Who's two parters tend to comprise of episodes with their own individual beginning, middle and end. Hence they all (bar the End of Time) have individual episode titles.

This is a relatively new innovation for Doctor Who. For 26 years the TV show merrily spent three, four, 6 or more weeks developing the storyline. Can you really tell for instance what the plot of the say the Dalek Masterplan, Evil of the Daleks or the Curse of Fenric is or will be from part 1. By the time you get to the '90s and the New and Missing Adventures you have story's in which the plot is kept deliberately obtuse or non-linear simply to prevent the boredom of fans who already know the standard tropes and storylines.

Seen this way it should be appreciate that the episode is perhaps rather less confusing than some have suggested. Indeed it is not hard to state the plot:

1) Weird aliens (The Silence) have been on the Earth for a long time. They have built a massive network of underground tunnels using the "other" TARDIS. Nobody on Earth knows about this because The Silence have the ability to make sure that people forget them instantly.

2) The Doctor knows about The Silence. His future self has spent a couple of centuries running from something related to them (probably the knowledge of his own impending death) but he has now decided to face up to this.

3) Future Doctor calls Amy, River and Rory to a meeting to give them the information to get current doctor to America in 1969 (and probably to witness his own death, thereby hoping to retcon it). Future Doctor then dies.

All of this would be "Part 1" under the old 4 episode stories. Its basically setting the scene, but not actually moving the plot along much. Compare with, for instance, Planet of the Daleks wherein 25 minutes are spent wandering aimlessly around a jungle only to find (gasp) a Dalek*. We don't necessarily know the "Why" for a lot of the Future Doctor's actions, but we don't actually need to at this stage. It's not a plot hole, its a point to be developed later in the story.

4) Current Doctor goes to America as instructed and starts to investigate the silence.

5) Amy shoots what she thinks is the Astronaut who killed Future Doctor.

That is episode 2 of the old style structure of story. Nothing complex about that at all.

One review I read made the point that the episode felt very much like the first part of a season finale and that may well prove to be the most astute observation as the indications are that season 6 will be at least as intense and intricate as season 3 was. Looking back, The Impossible Astronaut matches the approach of The Pandorica Opens far more than The Eleventh Doctor (or perhaps more fairly Smith and Jones). New Who has generally applied the KISS principal for fear of alienating the general audience and Moffatt is to be commended for attempting a shake up, particularly at the start of the season.

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

"Don't forget me"

We never did and we never will. RIP Elizabeth Sladen, Sarah Jane Smith. Say hello to Jon, Ian and Nick from us Who fans.

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Nick Courtney - RIP

Very sad to have come home from work to see that Nick Courtney, The Brig, has died. There will be countless obituaries and tributes over the web in the coming days from fans. Most will be able to provide a better description of the man and his achievements than I ever could.

I am however saddened by his death and I want to take the opportunity to pay my respects.

I never met Nick and I was not a child of the Pertwee era. But, one thing that is apparent is that the man and the character he portrayed are both revered in fandom.

By all accounts, indeed one might say be EVERY account, Nick was a thoroughly decent and humble man with a great sense of humour. He treated the show and its fans with nothing but respect. His colleagues loved him. Tom Baker has said that he agreed to play the Doctor again mainly because he wanted to work with Nick again. Sadly, the decline in Nick's health prevented that reunion from happening.

The real loss is to his family and friends, those who truly knew and loved the man. But it is a testament to his talent that every Who fan will know that they will not see the Brig in action again and that we will all feel genuinely bereaved because of that.