setsuled: (Doctor Chess)


I wish the Doctor would visit the 17th century more often so I was happy to hear the Eighth Doctor in 1650s England in the 2011 audio play The Witch from the Well. Accompanied once again by Mary Shelley, I was pleased to hear writer Rick Briggs evidently knew his subjects well enough to make an interesting 19th century perspective in the 17th. It's a nice story with lots of enjoyable turns.

The Doctor (Paul McGann) and Mary (Julie Cox) are visiting the present day when they rescue a pair of twins from some kind of witch monster. The Doctor determines that they must visit the same area in the 17th century to find out the genesis of the monster--when they arrive in the past, they find "Witch-Prickers" headed by a John Kincaid (Simon Rouse) tasked with finding and punishing witches in the area. John Kincaid seems a lot like Witchfinder General Matthew Hopkins, which makes me wonder why he's not Matthew Hopkins since the writers seem fine with using Mary Shelley. Maybe Hopkins turns up in some Doctor Who novel or comic the audio play producers didn't want to risk contradicting.

Among the people Mary mentions when talking about how excited she is to be in the 17th century is John Milton, which should be no surprise to anyone who's read Frankenstein. It might have been really cool if the Doctor took her to meet Milton but I can imagine that being a lot of pressure for a writer. But it was fun hearing Mary discovering and being shocked by some things about Lord Byron when she travels to the present in this story. The Doctor is stranded in the 17th century while Mary spends time with the modern day descendant of a 17th century squire, both played by Andrew Havill, who does kind of a Terry-Thomas impression for the modern version. It makes it all the funnier when he's trying to impress Mary with his knowledge and love for Byron. Mary is decidedly unimpressed.

The witch plot back in the 17th century has the usual balancing act between wanting to show witch persecutors as crazy while also showing that witches actually exist. In this case, of course, they're aliens, which adds another layer of destabilisation. The world may be as dangerous as Kincaid believes but it's much weirder than he can imagine.
setsuled: (Doctor Chess)


The Eighth Doctor finally returned to the monthly Big Finish audio play range in late 2011 and he brought Mary Shelley with him. The Silver Turk picks up after The Company of Friends, a 2009 audio play which ended with the Doctor (Paul McGann) dashing off to adventure with the famous author of Frankenstein as his latest companion. The Silver Turk is filled with basic problems about setting and character but writer Marc Platt comes up with some interesting ways of having Mary Shelley (Julie Cox) react to the Cybermen, who are, after all, descendants of her creation.

Intending only to travel through space and not time the first trip, the Doctor accidentally takes Mary more than half a century into the future to 1873 Vienna, something neither of them somehow realise until Mary reads a newspaper at a cafe, despite the fact that fashions changed pretty drastically, as one might expect, in those years. There's a series of mysterious murders where people have their eyes gauged out and meanwhile a miraculous "Silver Turk" is being presented, apparently similar to the famous Turk from the eighteenth century but able to play piano and various games in addition to chess.

It's fun hearing Mary arguing with the Doctor about the motives of the Cybermen--she's much more willing to see their point of view than he is though I'm not convinced the real Mary Shelley would have been. The Doctor only late in the story realises that if Mary Shelley dies then Frankenstein not being published might cause a significant disruption in the timeline, something I suppose we should really blame the previous writer for, not Marc Platt, but it's an awkward moment. I would have preferred an explanation for why the Doctor might not be worried at all. The two have a nice chemistry and it could develop into something better but it so far can't hold a candle to Eight and Charley.

The story introduces a new theme for the Eighth Doctor. It rocks. The television theme would do well to emulate it.



Twitter Sonnet #1034

A boxing glove dissolved in shadow leaves.
The scattered light disrupts the polka dots.
Attacking orange contrasts with crimson sleeves.
Arriving late detectives ink for blots.
The frozen fish moved yet too quick at sea.
A weightless glam to fry in silver sun.
The verdant, shim'ring scales are chilled to lee.
And yet too hot the skin reflected none.
The prison rogues and bandits weighed the cost.
The hanger drew a cat to distant stars.
Across a state a mem'ry wanders lost.
The trout provides a home for desp'rate cars.
The drifting atoms dry and gather to a band.
A long and sinking sun has warmed the land.
setsuled: (Doctor Chess)


I've said before I'm a sucker for stories about groups of characters trapped in a house or a ship or some place else, preferably dealing with a haunting. So I liked the 2011 Doctor Who audio play The House of Blue Fire which begins in a house where four amnesiac strangers have been gathered. Ultimately, the story doesn't go to anywhere especially interesting but the performances are good and I enjoyed the dialogue.

Like most of the audio plays, it's divided into episodes in much the way the old television serials used to be. The first episode barely features the Doctor (Sylvester McCoy) at all, focusing instead on two amnesiacs who, because they've forgotten their names, call each other by their room numbers, 18 (Amy Pemberton) and 5 (Miranda Keeling). It's somewhat similar to a short Sixth Doctor audio play from just a few months before this one was released, "Question Marks", where the amnesiacs tried to guess things about each other from their personalities expressed in the process of trying to solve the puzzle. 5 is much more aggressive and cynical than the more open minded and cooperative 18 and I enjoyed the experience of listening to them figuring out how an indoor pool could be covered with leaves and pondering other problems.

I guess one thing Twin Peaks has recently made me very aware of is how much more interesting the questions are than the answers. The final episode of this audio play isn't bad but it really doesn't pay off the scope of mystery it introduces, boiling down to another case of the Doctor versus a big monster. McCoy is really good in this, of course, and he's exceptionally well suited for this story, where the Doctor is finally introduced as a figure with mysterious and unknown intentions.
setsuled: (Doctor Chess)


The Seventh Doctor seems really confident he can save Nostradamus and the rest of humanity from destruction in the 2011 Doctor Who audio play The Doomsday Quatrain. It's an entertaining adventure that doesn't quite succeed in connecting questions about prophecy with questions about what it means to be a sentient being.

The Doctor (Sylvester McCoy) is surprised to find when he visits 1560 Florence that Nostradamus (David Schofield) is predicting an end of the world quite different from the one the Doctor has personally witnessed. Things are further complicated when a young woman from the future (Caroline Keiff) seems to be treating Nostradamus as some kind of experiment and a force of intelligent reptiles tries to take over everything.

It's fun listening to the Doctor outsmart everyone in strange situations but he seems oddly overconfident in this one. His dialogue where he manipulates the reptile leader (also played by David Schofield) is pretty delightful, though.

Travelling without a companion, Seven seems still to be some time away from his appearance in the 1996 TV movie, but it is nice to hear him make use of the sonic screwdriver in this one.
setsuled: (Doctor Chess)


If one watches Doctor Who through from the 1963 première to present, one notices there has been a definite feminist evolution on the show. It's something the writers have been quite conscious of as you can see in the moment in The Five Doctors when the Fifth Doctor has to apologise for the First Doctor automatically ordering a woman to make him some tea. Watching the gradual change on the show gives one a peek into how attitudes about the place of women in work and society were changing in the world at the time. From The Daleks, the second serial, when Barbara, a schoolteacher, fearfully asks fellow teacher Ian what's going on when there's no reason to expect he should know more than her; to the Second Doctor's young math wiz companion, Zoe; to the Third Doctor's first companion, Liz, who was actually a respected scientist. It was during the Third Doctor's era that feminism started being discussed more by the characters in dialogue--Three and Liz are amused and disappointed by a chauvinist administrator who doesn't want her included in a meeting in The Silurians. And when Three's second companion, Jo Grant, was introduced, she specifically mentions "women's lib" in sticking up for herself. Arguably she did need to make her case as the show deliberately dropped the knowledgeable Liz so the Doctor could have a more traditionally clueless companion to explain things to.

The show would take a step back now and then, as in the Fourth Doctor's first season when his companion, Sarah Jane Smith, was reduced to a whiny damsel in distress, which I suspect was a factor in actress Elisabeth Sladen almost leaving the show. But in the Fourth Doctor's second season, partly due to some great improvisational chemistry between the two actors, Sladen made Smith a fuller character capable of courage and ingenuity, which makes for a more interesting dynamic in addition to being less obnoxious.



Anyway, this is all a lead up to me saying I watched the Fifth Doctor serial, Four to Doomsday, again this past week. When I was complaining about the lack of Chinese characters on the show after Talons of Weng-Chiang, someone reminded me that Four to Doomsday has Burt Kwouk as Lin Futu, the head of a group of Mandarin Chinese men detained on the giant spacecraft on which the serial takes place.



I'd completely forgotten him, possibly because he doesn't have much of a role in the serial. He's about for the whole thing but doesn't actually have any significant dialogue until the fourth episode where the Fifth Doctor swiftly convinces him to come over to his side. This was only the second time I'd watched the serial and I'd forgotten other things, too, like the beautiful moment when the Doctor calls Adric an idiot.



I've watched State of Decay and Keeper of Traken a few times but generally I avoid watching any serial featuring Adric. When I want to watch a Fifth Doctor serial, I'm most likely to watch Arc of Infinity (I love the stuff in Amsterdam), Enlightenment, Frontios, and of course, The Caves of Androzani. Though I would say the Fifth Doctor has some of the worst written episodes of the series and it's not all Adric's fault--Time-Flight is tedious and Warriors of the Deep tragically squanders an appearance by Ingrid Pitt.



But the reason I started talking about feminism is because one of the reasons I hated Adric so much was that he took valuable time away from Nyssa. As shown in the first episode of Four to Doomsday, she's a lot smarter and more sensible than Adric but by the fourth serial, in a disappointing throwback to Barbara in The Daleks, Nyssa looks to Adric as a figure of strength and reassurance in a moment of danger, crying out, "Adric!" for no apparent reason. Ugh.



To be fair, it's clear we're meant, in this serial at least, to find Adric annoying--thus the Doctor calling him an idiot. And I kind of like how some of the drama in this serial comes from Adric and Tegan being twits. Though when Tegan tries to run off by herself in the TARDIS, it's a lot more satisfying watching her stomp on the TARDIS manual in her heels than it is to listen to Adric being a snot.



It's hard to believe Peter Davison had to fight for Nyssa to stay--she wasn't supposed to stay on as a permanent companion. I'd forgotten, too, how Adric and Nyssa were written as a pair of mildly competitive children, I'm so used to the nearly romantic chemistry between Nyssa and the Fifth Doctor in the audio plays.



Despite some awkward writing and staging for the collection of earthlings on the ship, Four to Doomsday is a pretty good serial, one of the better in the Fifth's first season. Davison is particularly good in it, at turns guilelessly enthusiastic to learn about this strange place and people, at turns carefully playing the circumstances to outwit the arrogant would-be invaders.

Twitter Sonnet #1027

The alphabet's composed of rubber balls.
You can't festoon a cloud with painted cans.
Forgotten throats will never clear the halls.
Across the yard a hare'll load the vans.
What autumn comes in fire's folded sleep?
What shaky turning bed beheld the cell?
In time with ticking planes the punch was deep.
But careful chords could not replace the bell.
To metal turned the sighing morning grass.
Found late at night but made for dawn it was.
Behind some worlds the stars concealed a mass.
The calmer dream runs as it always does.
At last a certain note returned to blank.
The final eyes could see the islands sank.
setsuled: (Doctor Chess)


Those looking for more stories about oppressed robots on Doctor Who can check out the 2011 audio play Robophobia by Nicholas Briggs. A sequel to one of the best regarded Fourth Doctor television stories, Robots of Death, Robophobia doesn't cover a lot of new ground beyond putting the Seventh Doctor in the situation but it's an entertaining enough story.

As I noted in my review of "Smile" from the latest season of Doctor Who, there are problems inherent in treating even sentient robots as a metaphor for slavery race relations, problems which rendered the end of "Smile" ridiculous and embarrassing. Robots of Death handles the issue differently, taking time to explore the issue of an emerging sentience in a class of servant machines rather than throwing it in as a twist plot point. Robophobia is less interested in the robots, portraying them all as saintlike, endlessly helpful servants, but as the title suggests, the focus in the story is more on the nature of the the bigotry. Though, more than anything else, the story is a murder mystery.

Set on a transport ship, one of the officers, Liv Chenka (Nicola Walker), views footage of one of her crewmates apparently being murdered, along with the Seventh Doctor (Sylvester McCoy), by a robot. We subsequently learn that reports of the events of Robots of Death have been hushed up. When the Doctor turns up very much alive--and not having regenerated--some suspicion falls on him. Seven isn't terribly helpful, either, being in full master manipulator mode, he holds his cards close to his chest, something that proves fortuitous as characters realise there were conclusions about robots and people which Seven hoped they'd come to on their own.

The climax is of course a bit melodramatic but it's an interesting statement about how irrational human hatred can be built on buried or repressed feelings.

McCoy, as usual, gives a great performance and Nicola Walker is good as a one-off companion. She later joins the Eighth Doctor as a companion for a series of audio plays.
setsuled: (Doctor Chess)


Politically motivated journalists, a mediaeval castle, the second World War, Margaret Thatcher's election, and a particularly nasty mythological creature are all connected in the 2011 Doctor Who audio play Rat Trap. Carried especially well by a performance from Peter Davison as the Fifth Doctor, this story is funny and sinister and ties its various threads together as nicely as a wad of rats' tails.

Maybe you've heard of the Rat King, the extremely rare case of a group of rats who've gotten their tails tangled up. In Rat Trap, a government scientist begins working in the aftermath of World War II to create a super-intelligent, telepathic being by experimenting with rats, connecting them in such a manner in the tunnels beneath Cadogan Castle. Intending to visit the middle ages and witness some jousting, the Doctor and his companions, Nyssa (Sarah Sutton), Tegan (Janet Fielding), and Turlough (Mark Strickson), find themselves beneath the castle in 1983 where a group of journalists are trying to uncover the truth about the place before it's taken over by Heritage in the wake of Thatcher's election and any unsavoury history can be hidden away.

Just this layering of concept is fun but the characters are nicely rendered, too. The group of journalists the Doctor encounters squabble and have distinct personalities--one had brought along a dog whistle to ward off any dogs when breaking into the castle, at which the Doctor wryly asks if they realise dog whistles attract dogs, not scare them away. Davison is in top form here and I was particularly impressed by his ability to speak great lengths of dialogue in a single breath. He usually played the Doctor as seeming almost out of breath and the impression he gave was of someone who's acutely conscious of time rapidly running out but whose sense of decorum insists that he say everything that needs saying in just the proper way. We see this in Rat Trap when, in rushing from one point to another, he manages to ask very quickly but very politely that he be reminded of a stash of napalm he'd left behind and that he should dispose of it properly when time allows.

Nyssa continues the plot thread started in Cobwebs that finds her much older than she was on the television show. She's given a moment to dramatically chew on the underused point about the Master possessing her father's body. Turlough, meanwhile, has an entertaining adventure in the TARDIS with a defibrillator.
setsuled: (Default)


This week I listened to a 2011 Fifth Doctor Doctor Who audio play called Kiss of Death which sadly did not feature Richard Widmark and Victor Mature. But it's a nice enough heist story with romance mixed in, focused on one of my top two favourite male companions, Turlough.

The Doctor (Peter Davison) is with the Fifth's optimum Companion group again in this one--Tegan (Janet Fielding), Nyssa (Sarah Sutton), and Turlough (Mark Strickson). While the TARDIS is temporarily out of commission for dimensional maintenance, the group are stranded on a space station where Turlough is kidnapped by a couple of thieves. They take him back to his home world along with his childhood lover, Deela (Lucy Adams). Before the events of the civil war we find out more about in Turlough's final episode, Turlough and Deela, who came from families on opposite sides, met in a secret room where the thieves think there's a great treasure now and the only way the room can be opened is if Turlough and Deela kiss.

It's obviously all arranged to get some relationship drama going on and I enjoyed the sinister idea of material gain got from reopening someone's private wounds. An ancient alien security system makes things more difficult for everyone--this is the problem the Doctor focuses on for most of the story, basically playing background to the companions in this one but it's still always nice to hear Peter Davison performing in one of these.

The audio format forces Nyssa to explain in dialogue again that she's much older now than listeners are used to, this story, like the previous Fifth Doctor audio, taking place after Nyssa returns from a lifetime spent on Terminus. She muses a little on how experienced she is now when talking to Turlough about his romantic troubles but it's clear the writers aren't quite sure what to do with aged Nyssa. The initial idea was interesting but I can't see them keeping it up for long.

Twitter Sonnet #1020

Through tapes recovered late we found the proof.
The links appear to make a clearer field.
Too crowded was the team's assembled truth.
And now a waffle iron's fit the yield.
The stomach eggs return like boomerangs.
A catcher's mitt explodes beyond all thought.
In hallowed bins a muppet still harangues.
We'll say that all the drifting down was caught.
In cups predicted now and then it sprouts.
No time was like the present put to paint.
The pots are much too steep for shorter spouts.
The message leaves transmit to us but faint.
A waiting queen resorts to rooks and knights.
A single game could last a thousand nights.
setsuled: (Doctor Chess)


Here are a couple Doctor Who cosplayers I met on Friday, dressed as the Twelfth and Seventh Doctors. Apart from that there's not a whole lot of Doctor Who at Comic Con I can tell you about that you can't experience yourself by watching the full YouTube videos of both panels:





I took notes for the Classic Doctor panel figuring that one might not go online. Of course, it did. I am glad I managed to post a clip of Peter Davison, Sophie Aldred, and Colin Baker discussing the first female Doctor as early as it did, particularly with respect to Peter Davison who seems to be getting thrashed for having a past preference for a male Doctor despite expressing full support for Jodie Whittaker now. I kind of knew trouble was coming when, while Colin Baker was enthusiastically putting out tweet after tweet about how great it was to have a female Doctor, Peter Davison's first tweet on the subject was only one about how we should be encouraging to fans who are "uncertain about change." I'm sad to see now that Davison has deleted his Twitter account over the backlash he's faced. Though I think this may have been an overreaction on his part the rancour that has been aimed at him, even though he has more than once expressed his support for Whittaker, is disappointing and I can see how it might make him want to stay away from social media.

At the same time, the reason I do think Davison's initial tweet was a blunder was that it doesn't seem to reflect the nastiness with which people were reacting against Whittaker, posting flagrantly misogynist and sexist comments and commentaries. I have yet to see, apart from Davison himself, anyone expressing an articulation of "uncertainty" about a female Doctor that's truly respectful.

One of the problems I have with the vigorous efforts of so called Social Justice Warriors--I know many who self-describe that way, so I don't know if it's a pejorative anymore--is that there's a tendency in their publications to respond aggressively and dismissively to people for not knowing the definition of a term that's only current in Social Justice circles. For example, I saw an article recently that blasted an article in the New York Times that spoke in favour of cultural appropriation. The response to the article was to say that the author didn't understand that what he considered to be positive instances of cultural appropriation were in fact something called "cultural engagement". So I often see this seemingly unconscious, but aggressive and sometimes belligerent, conflation of an inevitable ignorance of niche or new definitions of terms with racism or sexism. It's no wonder when people are put off by what seems to be obnoxious pedantry.

I want to say this in preface because it seems Peter Davison is exhibiting the kind of misunderstanding that reflects white male privilege. He's not been forced to have the perspective of a woman and he evidently hasn't spent time trying to imagine what that perspective is like. Otherwise, he might be responding more like Colin Baker. Six remains my least favourite Doctor so it's somewhat awkward that I seem to be agreeing with him more in terms of social politics than with Davison--Colin Baker counters Davison's only really articulated argument so far, that it's a shame boys are losing a role model, by saying that there's no reason a woman can't be a role model for boys. Though I wonder if the realities of gender role barriers in English playgrounds support the viability of boys looking up to a woman.

Personally, I find the idea of not wanting the Doctor to be a woman to be difficult to imagine. Not just for statistical or political reasons but simply because I've always liked female protagonists and I like Doctor Who so it follows I should like a female Doctor Who. But since a young age I've been resistant to ideas of behaviour prescribed by gender so there's a whole lifetime of experience in trying to create oneself as a particular gender identity that I don't really have. People who have had that experience might support the idea of a female Doctor on an intellectual level but have to deal with residual feelings from that lifetime of experience.

In my first post about Whittaker, I casually referred to people who didn't like the idea as sexist, Davison's tweet made me wonder if this was the right tact for me to take. I think Davison failed to consider the issue fully but on the other hand I do agree with what I think is at the heart of what he's saying. The Doctor, after all, walked up to the Silurian and extended the hand of friendship. I'm not saying I feel the slightest sympathy with anyone expressing outright hostility to a female Doctor. But I find myself hesitant to express hostility myself when it might push away anyone for whom this upcoming season might be the thing that changes their minds about what--or who--women can be. This is the sense in which I think Davison advocated being "encouraging".

Someone has compiled a nice video of former Doctors reacting to the concept of a female Doctor:

setsuled: (Doctor Chess)


This crab was on the rocks watching everything outside the Indigo Ballroom yesterday where it turned out there was a panel I wanted to see, a Doctor Who panel, which I'll be posting more about when I have time. For now, here's Peter Davison, Sophie Aldred, and Colin Baker responding to the casting of Jodie Whittaker as the 13th Doctor:



Twitter Sonnet #1015

As minty buttons pop the cream of ice,
The grace of ploughing bows impressed a thaw,
Invoked a chasing ray to spark it twice,
The northern lights, a body's moving law.
Excessive spinach fell beside the ore,
The veins exposed in pick and shovel wrath,
Absorbing drops of sandwich, tea, and more,
Awash in chips and ale, its dinner bath.
An ogre's pants upset the drawing man
Beside the storm that brought to hats a fish
Unsuited sharks adorn the festive pan
Outside the pit of bats it was a dish.
The rocks outside uphold the chitin queue.
A coat can be a dress or nightgown, too.
setsuled: (Doctor Chess)


It's Jodie Whittaker, aka the Thirteenth Doctor, seen here where I first saw her in the first season of Broadchurch. Her casting was announced to-day after the Wimbledon Men's Final (I thought it was funny they chose to do it after Wimbledon Men's Final) with this kind of cheesy video:



Here the young Doctor can be seen foraging and she has a lot of work to do laying up acorns for the winter. It's kind of like Planet Earth: Time Lord. Time Lady? I guess "Time Lady" is considered sexist but I'm not really clear on why.

I'm really happy to see a female Doctor. I look forward to seeing what happens in the next season and where new showrunner Chris Chibnall takes the series. I had varied reactions to his previous episodes of Doctor Who but I really liked the first season of Broadchurch, which he created and wrote every episode of. I don't see him approaching the heights of Steven Moffat or Russell T. Davis at their best but I'll be happy to be proved wrong.

I think Jodie Whittaker's a good actress and I look forward to see what she does. And yet . . .

Well, she's kind of normal. Theoretically, being a good actress means she can put in an appropriately weird performance for the Doctor. I don't know. It feels to me like another baby step--throughout the past few seasons, despite the impression you might get from the ravenous Moffat haters, the show has been seeded with little things to build up to a female Doctor, repeatedly confirming a Time Lord can change sex with a regeneration, changing the sex of the show's second most prominent Time Lord character, the Master, and finally the recent finale which is loaded with big hints about a more female future. Hopefully all this helped coax some of the more sexist fans into being a little less sexist and, to make a really optimistic statement, make the world a little less sexist generally. But there's something kind of default about Whittaker. I don't know, maybe it's too much to ask for the first female Doctor to have bug eyes, a big nose, and/or prominent teeth. Or someone like Michelle Gomez who has a wonderful, intense weirdness.

But I'll keep an open mind. I hope she at least gets a weird costume.

Tuber Tank

Jul. 15th, 2017 04:59 pm
setsuled: (Doctor Chess)


It's hard to take the talking potatoes seriously. I listened to Heroes of Sontar last night, a 2011 Doctor Who audio play that features Sontarans, an alien warrior race first introduced in the Third Doctor era but which manifest on the show now only in the form of Strax, who's played for laughs. Heroes of Sontar's Sontarans are all portrayed as similarly buffoonish and I wonder if this was an influence on how Strax was portrayed on the show from then on. There's actually an explanation for the foolishness of the particular group of Sontarans in Heroes of Sontar, though, and I was able to laugh at them a little more than at Strax, who I always tended to resent for taking valuable time away from Vastra and Jenny. Heroes of Sontar is an all around decent story.

It features the Fifth Doctor (Peter Davison) with his optimum companion crew, Nyssa (Sarah Sutton), Tegan (Janet Fielding), and Turlough (Mark Strickson) and follows from a series of audio plays released the previous year in which the Doctor with Turlough and Tegan encounter Nyssa at a point after Nyssa's final serial on the television series, Terminus. Nyssa is much older, having led a full life on Terminus, apparently now the same age as Sarah Sutton at the time of recording the audio play, judging from the CD cover. One reason this setup is a good idea is that Nyssa left the TARDIS before Turlough's subplot with the Black Guardian concluded so any story set before her departure would have to work in that subplot somehow. There's also a hint in this episode, when Tegan teases Nyssa and the Doctor for sounding like an old married couple, that there's meant to be romantic chemistry between Nyssa and Five. Which is a vibe I get from the other audio plays where it's just the Doctor and Nyssa though I don't remember it ever being directly explored. Maybe it's a chemistry the writers noticed but didn't dare explore until they'd aged Nyssa up a bit, since her relationship with the Doctor began, when she met the Fourth Doctor, with more of a father/daughter feel. Or maybe Uncle/Niece. Despite Peter Davison having been so young in his tenure compared to other Doctors he may have had the smallest amount of sexual chemistry with his companions, I think mainly because he tended to have many companions at one time so it was harder to establish a one on one dynamic.

Also, the writing in Five's era is the worst in the show's history, aside from some stand out serials, which is one of the reasons it's so nice hearing him and his companions in some well written audio plays. Heroes of Sontar takes place on an abandoned planet covered with a strange moss, the remnants of a biological weapon. Writer Alan Barnes concocts some nice problems for the characters to solve or escape, splitting the group into pairs, the Doctor and Tegan dealing with one problem while Turlough and Nyssa find themselves battling a moss infection on Nyssa's hand and trying to overcome the infamy of Turlough's cowardice. As bad as the writing was in Five's era, Turlough has always been one of my favourite companions, I sort of wish the audio plays would allow him to actually exhibit more cowardice and treachery than just having the other characters talk about it. Tegan comes off as a little hardier in this story, which is nice, and I don't think it undercuts too much the nature of her departure in Resurrection of the Daleks.

Twitter Sonnet #1013

Electric wings from poisoned soil sprout.
In clouds, the gas conducts a system burn.
The charcoal tips of dreamless horns are out.
From crumpled pages tin has much to learn.
The egg that didn't disappear awaits.
In promised thoughts the brain advanced the team.
About the board a cable sends the mates.
For pawns aglow outside the port redeem.
And not too like saltines the snack was soft.
In crying words the crows turned over cups.
But wooden mills can bear the note aloft.
Inside you'll find a dozen eggy pups.
Apportioned rows of lizard shoes appear.
Along horizons green they're worn by deer.
setsuled: (Frog Leaf)


Last night I read "Fairy Tale of Wood Street", one of the best Caitlin R. Kiernan stories I've read, featured in the new Sirenia Digest. The story of two lovers who go to see a movie, it's very simple on the surface but tells something much bigger with a kind of magical restraint. There's a sweetness to the understated rapport between the two protagonists, the narrator and her girlfriend, Hana, that culminates in a wonderfully sensual sympathy between a supernatural creature and a human, or the delicate nature of learning to live a life where perceptions are inevitably uncertain. It's also a much better hulda story than Thale.

Yesterday I also listened to a 2011 Sixth Doctor Doctor Who audioplay called "Industrial Evolution", an entertaining sci-fi perspective on the Industrial Revolution, featuring an alien robot who hates machines. The story starts with the POV of Thomas Brewster (John Pickard), a recurring audio play character--a Victorian urchin--whom the Doctor (Colin Baker) has set up with a job in a brass mill in the 19th century. The story complicates the usual narrative of exploitative industrial tycoons and desperate labour forces by introducing a secret alien. Not one of the greatest audio plays, but perfectly serviceable, especially since it feature's Six's best companion, Evelyn Smythe (Maggie Stables).
setsuled: (Doctor Chess)


If the next Doctor is not a woman, Steven Moffat has done a good job making the people who avoid casting a woman look like massive dicks. That's a little flip but it's true and one of the takeaways from the bittersweet season finale of Doctor Who that aired to-day. If one thinks a bit about the plot, there are a lot of things that don't make sense but the thematic stuff is so good I kind of don't care. "The Doctor Falls" brings a new dimension to the season long focus on mentalities that regard other people as less then human to justify subjugation or murder, the most interesting thread in the episode relating to gender and even gender dysphoria.

Spoilers after the screenshot



I really didn't find John Simm half as annoying as he was under Russell T. Davies, maybe because now he's channelling Delgado and Ainsley so much, but also here he's working as a nice representation of resistance to the idea of a female Doctor along with empathy and femininity in general.

The Master: "Do as she says? Is the future going to be all girl?"

The Doctor: "We can only hope."

This seems a pretty loud and clear way of Moffat saying, yes, the next Doctor ought to be a woman. Moffat also uses Simm's Master to bully Bill (Pearl Mackie) on her gender, the above exchange arising from a subtle reconfiguring of the Cybermen, as a concept, to a socially enforced gender construct. The way Missy (Michelle Gomez) awkwardly apologises to the Master for calling Bill "her" is part of Missy perfectly being placed as the transition point, the people caught in an old fashioned view of gender realising that recognising someone's gender identity is truly more natural than trying to force one on them. Missy really has learned empathy, or gotten back in touch with it.



The episode is both about the experience of not being taken as what one sees oneself as and also about the pain involved in change. It's painful for Missy to face that she's not the Master anymore, it's painful for the Master to contemplate his future, and it's painful for the Doctor (Peter Capaldi) to contemplate change again as he begins the process of regeneration.



Capaldi, it needs hardly be said, is magnificent in this episode, in big and small moments. His discomfort when trying to explain to Bill what's happened to her is so nicely layered with sadness and empathy. This episode actually invokes that word and the Doctor even mentions Donald Trump, making it clear that this season long theme has very much been motivated by the world's current political climate. It leads to a really fitting modification of the Third Doctor's phrase, "Where there's life there's hope" to "Where there's tears there's hope."



I loved the fact that Twelve gets to offer someone a jelly baby (he offered one in a cigarette case in his first season, like the Fourth in Face of Evil, but this time he was actually able to say it). I like it because, really, more Doctors should do it, there's no reason it should be so married to the Fourth--the Second was actually the first to do it--and I also liked it because it was like the Doctor taking the line back from Simm's Master who used it in one of his Russell T. Davies episodes.



Nardole (Matt Lucas) had a couple nice moments and his goodbye was good though it mostly made me wish more time had been taken to develop him over the season to earn his protestations about being likely to sell children on the black market.



One could say Bill's resolution is very much like Clara's only taken a step further--like Clara, Bill has died and been reborn and has gone off with another woman to have adventures, only Bill's relationship is explicitly romantic. And really sweet. I wish there'd been more build up of a relationship with Heather (Stephanie Hyam) but her appearance and the role in the resolution was so cool I'm willing to accept it. Now they're both water and, as Heather tells Bill directly, change has become for them something easy and fun.

I wonder if the appearance of David Bradley at the end was prompted by leaked set photos from the Christmas special. It made me curious to see how this unfolds, in any case. Bradley isn't that much like Hartnell but at least he's a good actor.
setsuled: (Doctor Chess)


I really enjoyed "World Enough and Time", to-day's new episode of Doctor Who, though it certainly wasn't the most cheerful episode and one could argue there's not much that's new about it. But sometimes that's a good thing.

Spoilers after the screenshot



I'm so happy to see a return to the original design for the Cybermen. I've always said it's so much creepier. I wrote in 2011:

The two part Cybermen episode of Doctor Who--"Rise of the Cybermen" and "Age of Steel"--is the first one to really disappoint me from David Tennant's tenure. Although I don't really hate the full armour, alternate universe design for the Cybermen, I do hope it remains alternate universe. Somehow I doubt I'll get my wish. For me, the original Cyberman look from The Tenth Planet is the creepiest.

And in 2016 I wrote:

The Cybermen on Doctor Who really haven't been menacing to me since the Second Doctor era. The black and white helped enhance the creep factor of their scary doll faces, though they were even better in The Tenth Planet when it was just a cloth mask. Just imagine how much creepier they'd be than in their current Power Rangers getup if their masks were a thin material barely concealing rotting flesh? Somehow vulnerability is scary, I suppose because it reflects mortality. Think of the Mummy or Dracula in his coffin. Or the lady in the bathtub in Kubrick's adaptation of The Shining.



Really, "World Enough and Time" is the first proper Cybermen story on the television series since the Second Doctor's The Invasion. They weren't seen at all during the Third Doctor era and when they reappeared in the Fourth Doctor's first season they'd become just another conquering alien race, their main difference from the Daleks being that they were less distinct (and vulnerable to gold). Not that the stories they were in were always bad--I particularly appreciate Earthshock for killing Adric--they just weren't really about the Cybermen.



It's fitting Peter Capaldi's ending his last season with a Cybermen story since that's how his first season ended. "Dark Water"/"Death in Heaven" did feature a return to themes of death and desperate attempts to prolong life that are integral to the original Cybermen concept but it's with "World Enough and Time" that the story actually goes to the idea of surgery, the idea that the Cybermen have their emotions wiped because otherwise they'd be in constant pain and terror, something established in a memorably horrific moment in The Invasion. It's not unlike Spare Parts, the best Cybermen story since the Second Doctor era. Spare Parts is a 2002 Fifth Doctor audio play which, like "World Enough and Time", shows a Mondasian society forced to rely more and more on surgery to stay alive, a far more horrifying story than the more vanity oriented obsession in "Rise of the Cybermen"/"Age of Steel". Spare Parts creates a world where the suffering population seem slowly creeping to a painful doom. That's the real difference between the Daleks and the Cybermen--the Daleks became what they are through a drive to become better conquerors, the Cybermen started out just wanting to live.



"World Enough and Time" is a title that comes from Andrew Marvell's "To His Coy Mistress". One could read "Mistress" as "Missy" here and see the poem's argument, about how life is too short not to love each other now, being somewhat ironic when the Doctor and Missy (Michelle Gomez) have known each other for thousands of years (well, depending on how their timelines match up). Missy's flippant remarks at the beginning take on graver connotations when this is considered--only Time Lords can be friends of Time Lords because species like humans are too short lived. There's some support for this idea in the fact that the Doctor's justification for wanting to redeem Missy is that Missy is more like the Doctor than anyone else he's ever met.



Poor Bill (Pearl Mackie), her life looked like it was going to be even shorter than expected. She's been so good this season, her getting shot emphasises how unfair it seems that her tenure on the show is to be so brief. I do hope there's still some chance of her coming back for Chibnall's first season but I suspect the BBC wants next season to start as cleanly as possible. I still strongly suspect it's someone with more authority at the BBC that's against the idea of a female Doctor, not Steven Moffat. If Moffat haters could calm down for just a moment, I would point out that Moffat has thoroughly laid the canonical groundwork for a female Doctor. Too often nowadays, people respond to people who disagree with them with a "Fuck you," directly or ironically expressed, but if we remember the substantial number of Doctor Who fans who still don't want to see a female Doctor, think of all the things Moffat has done to slowly change their minds, not only showing a Time Lord change sex last season but even making the Master a woman--I'd argue, in fact, the best incarnation of the Master. And "World and Time Enough" establishes that the Doctor might even have been a woman at one point. This suggests the First Doctor may not, in fact, be the First. Moffat has pointed out, in an interview about the War Doctor, that the Doctor doesn't label his incarnations with numbers the way we viewers do, though I do feel like I've heard him do that before. Maybe just in audio plays, the canonicity of which has been flexible.



"World and Time Enough" is so much like Spare Parts, in fact, I hope it doesn't establish Spare Parts as being outside canon. I suppose one could say there were two independent geneses for the Cybermen--on the colony ship by the black hole and actually on Mondas.



John Simm's incarnation of the Master may in fact be my least favourite. I don't love to hate him--he was just plain annoying in his episodes with Tennant. But I guess he's not so bad in "World and Time Enough", though even if I hadn't known about him being in this season I would have wondered why that guy had all the makeup and the phony accent. It seems really clear that whoever was in charged of promotion for Doctor Who this season fucked up in spoiling Simm's role--it would have been more satisfying to be surprised. Even so, I think it would have been better to go subtler with the makeup and maybe avoid the accent, it looks too much like a disguise.



What a bastard he is for making Bill love him in a relationship they apparently developed over years. Again, poor Bill. I hope something happens in part 2 that makes her end on the show not quite so miserable. Now the Doctor's seen the Brigadier and a companion turned into Cybermen. I guess it's not unlike Oswin getting turned into a Dalek. The Doctor's having to face more and more there's worse things that can happen to his companions than death. But we can't very well have the Doctor travelling without a companion, can we? He really shouldn't be alone but that's always going to be a point for drama, hopefully one that doesn't get exhausted--there needs to be some more companions who simply decide to leave, it's not going to look good if every companion gets killed or locked in a cursed dimension/time zone. If it keeps happening, the Doctor's going to look like an asshole for letting anyone travel with him.



If this regeneration at the beginning is only a tease, it would be the second one this season, which leads me to think it's not. I'm more impressed with Capaldi's hair, though, which almost looks full Pertwee. It's appropriate we see him using Venusian Aikido in this episode. I also liked the Doctor calling out Bill for moralising while eating a ham sandwich, perhaps confirming that one of the few things I liked about the Sixth Doctor era, the Doctor becoming a vegetarian, is still true.

Twitter Sonnet #1006

Redeeming soups absorb reversal bread.
Upon a cracker plate they'll matter not.
In nebulae the spinning lobster's red.
In ocean noise it's green as mint and pot.
Imposter panoplies import a drip.
In time to tinkling talcum snow it sang.
A message bow impressed an arrow tip
Articulate illumination sprang.
Descending suns of pulp detect a shell.
Tornado paper wrapped about the eye.
A caution sign adorned the gilded well.
In alloy wet we baked an armoured pie.
Accounts align condemning numbers through.
Gestating digits grab the pipe of glue.
setsuled: (Doctor Chess)


A little historical perspective isn't too painful, is it? To-day's new episode of Doctor Who, "Eaters of Light", did something I wished the show did more often--it incorporated aspects of history into its plot and argument in a way that also potentially educates the viewer. This was part of the original series concept, after all, back in 1963, and I never thought it was such a bad idea. Although the writer for to-day's episode, Rona Munro, just barely qualifies as a classic series writer--she wrote Survival, the 1989 final serial of the classic series--"Eaters of Light" definitely felt like old Who in ways I really liked.

Spoilers after the screenshot



The season long theme of colonising and people oppressed based on race or nationality takes a form surprisingly resonant with to-day's politics in this new episode. Here we have racially diverse, sexually liberated Romans invading the lands of the all white, rural Picts, and the two of groups need to set aside their differences to confront a threat to the entire universe. Whether it was intended or not, one could see this as reflecting the politics of relatively affluent liberals versus poor conservatives--Londoners versus people outside the city who voted for Brexit, in other words, or in the U.S., educated liberals versus ignorant and out of work Trump voters. And the realisation that all these people need to work together if we want any hope of addressing the threat of climate change. As a being that eats light--something that foils enlightenment--the episode's monster could be seen as a manifestation of a compulsion to avoid empathy. This really does feel like a natural evolution of the political themes in the Seventh Doctor era.



There's even something very Seventh Doctor-ish in the off-hand way Twelve (Peter Capaldi) explains the crows who can talk. Though maybe Peter Capaldi is more appropriate for this story because he's a Scotsman with Italian ancestry. Well, either one would have worked. I love Capaldi's performance this season, his understated grace is a long way from the stupid peevishness in "Robot of Sherwood".



I love how Munro used the TARDIS translation circuits to say something about what the Doctor does. In all the analysis of the Doctor as a character that's endemic to the new series, it's not until now we have this very simple thing--the ability for the TARDIS to automatically translate language facilitates communication. Suddenly the Romans and the Picts can talk to each other on the same footing. It seems a small thing, but it's essential to the Doctor's characteristic strategy of assuming anyone can be met as a fellow sentient being.



I could quibble that Bill (Pearl Mackie) ought to've known the basics of Roman culture if she was so well read on the Ninth Legion. But her discovering the different perspective on sexuality among the Romans is a nice way for younger viewers to be introduced to the idea that such perspectives have a very long history. And I'm not sure why the Doctor's argument about his greater lifespan is invalidated because the humans got brave. But it's still a pretty sweet idea, Romans and Picts united forever and a ghostly music forever being heard from the hill.
setsuled: (Doctor Chess)


Ahead of to-morrow's new Doctor Who, I decided to revisit Survival, the 1989 serial written by Rona Munro, who also wrote to-morrow's new episode, making her the only writer from the classic series to be hired to write for the relaunched series. Survival also happens to be the final story of the classic series, not a terribly good way to go, I always thought, though watching it again this past week I do find it's better than I remembered. This was only the second time I'd watched it through--although the Seventh Doctor's third season is rightly gaining a reputation as being one of the finest seasons of the series, I'd say it's mainly for the two middle serials, Ghost Light and Curse of Fenric. As much as I like King Arthur and Jean Marsh, I struggled to get through Battlefield the couple times I've tried rewatching it. And Survival, well. Survival has this:



I know what you're thinking. "He hates Furries!" Now, I fully believe that people who call themselves Furries should be recognised as having the same rights and privileges as any average citizen. But I'm never going to be able to take seriously the cereal box, generic brand Loony Tunes aesthetic. Sometimes people just have bad taste.

Anyway, though Rona Munro did not invoke the term "Furry", possibly being unaware of the subculture at the time, Wikipedia quotes her from a 2007 interview as also being unhappy with the creature design of the cheetah people:

[They] should have just had cheetah eyes and a very faint pigmentation round of cheetah spots, and big canine teeth. And in fact, I think the actors that were cast, from what I was told, were doing all this wonderful expressive facial work, and then these 'Puss In Boots' things were dropped on them – and so then you can't see what they're doing under there. Particularly Karra and Ace, there were whole amazing scenes between them and for me, that was supposed to be my lesbian subtext – and you can't see it!



I certainly didn't pick up on any lesbian subtext, though considering that's Lisa Bowerman, later to play Bernice Summerfield in the audio plays, I'd certainly like to've seen it. I wonder if there was much thought into actually making Ace a lesbian behind the scenes--and I was already thinking that Bill was in part modelled on Ace.



Oof, I don't think there was ever a period in Earth's history when that lapel wouldn't have been laughed it. I guess they were going for Puritan but, no, it's not working.

I also didn't like to rewatch Survival because it was a story featuring the Master, a character I always thought was the show's weakest point. Until Missy came along, that is--I love Missy. Call me a sexist, if you will. Call me a Furry hating misandrist. Whatever, I can take it. Well, I also thought Derek Jacobi brought something interesting to the role.

I liked aspects of Master episodes, particularly the ones with Robert Delgado. I think the little doll in Terror of the Autons is effectively creepy in spite of, or maybe even because of, the old effects. And I like the sword fight in The Sea Devils. But mostly I always thought the Master was two dimensional and boring and when the writing got really bad in the Fifth Doctor era the Master got the brunt of it. I always thought it would have been interesting if they used the opportunity of the Master inhabiting the body of Nyssa's father to create some dramatic situations for her but it seems it wasn't until the audio plays that anyone thought of this, after Anthony Ainley could no longer reprise the role.



I do like the demonic puppet cats in Survival. Even though they're not supposed to look like puppets, I guess--they do look fucked up as hell. I also enjoy watching Sylvester McCoy trying to trap one.



My favourite part of Survival, though, is Perivale, particularly in the first episode of the serial. It all feels oddly authentic. I love Ace running into her friend with the cup on the street, I love the Doctor in the shop buying cat food and the two guys working there.



It's like the Doctor meeting Dante and Randal from Clerks. I love how real that shop feels. The third episode also has some good locations--I really love how you can see the poverty in the public housing Ace and the Doctor visit.



It's kind of a quietly radical moment. It emphasises the story's central themes, too, the idea of the "survival of the fittest." The Doctor demonstrates how it's not always smart strategically to show off strength when the Cheetah people seem not to want to attack someone who isn't moving. But we also see how cruel the philosophy is when applied to economics. One could draw a line between this and Ace falling for the Soviet soldier in Curse of Fenric and see a real bold lean to the left on the show, subtler and better developed than the previous season's Happiness Patrol.

Anyway, I find myself looking forward to seeing what Rona Munro's come up with for to-morrow.
setsuled: (Default)


Well, that wasn't so bad. I was all set to hate "Empress of Mars", the new episode of Doctor Who, written by Mark Gatiss, whose scripts are usually thoroughly lousy. Maybe he worked hard after his episode last season, "Sleep No More", was a new low even for him. Maybe "Lie of the Land" was so bad that even a Mark Gatiss episode looks good by comparison. Or maybe Mark Gatiss was just born to write Ice Warrior stories as it was "Cold War", the other Mark Gatiss episode I didn't hate, which last featured an Ice Warrior. Mind you, there's still plenty about "Empress of Mars" that doesn't make sense.

Spoilers after the screenshot



If there was any doubt that the writing staff this season were focusing on issues of race and colonial hubris it's certainly gone now. I like the fact that it wasn't a matter of simply making all the British colonisers bad and the Ice Warriors good or vice versa. Though Catchlove (Ferdinand Kingsley) was a pretty lame villain, his motivations generally seemed to be just to do the wrong thing regardless of whether or not it made sense even for a villain. What possible reason was there to keep the Doctor (Peter Capaldi) from examining the sarcophagus? The psychic paper really let the Doctor down this time.



The movie references in the episode were funny. I enjoyed the reference to The Vikings--that is a good movie, by the way--and it was kind of funny seeing it turned about on Bill (Pearl Mackie) when she didn't recognise a reference to Robinson Crusoe. Sadly, I didn't think that was far-fetched. Having just recently read Michel Tournier's Friday for a class, a post-modern revisionist take on Daniel Defoe's original 1719 novel Robinson Crusoe, I can say a fair number of college aged students have never heard of the story.



The absurdity of turning an Ice Warrior into a domestic servant--is it a story point that doesn't make sense or is it a credibly senseless act of arrogant colonialism? Well, I guess the episode won me over because I want to say the latter. Still, I couldn't help thinking, "It's the old Ice Warrior in a china shop, isn't it?"

I loved the appearance of Alpha Centauri at the end. I think the idea must have been to bridge the cultural differences of the Ice Warriors in the Second Doctor stories with the more reasonable ones we met in the Third Doctor era. The tense political situation in the episode was even a bit reminiscent of the Peladon stories.



By far my favourite part of the episode, though, was the stuff with Missy (Michelle Gomez) at the end. I so, so want to see these two make out.
setsuled: (Doctor Chess)


As I'm writing this, reports are coming through about incidents in London. I hope it's not as bad as it sounds and I hope everyone comes through the day safely.

To-day's new Doctor Who, "The Lie of the Land", was the first truly bad episode of the season. Written by Toby Whithouse, it comes off as a disjointed version of 1984 modified for current events but without the insight and intellectual process to make such an endeavour worthwhile. Mostly, like so many one off episodes of the new series, it feels like too much crammed into too short a space, but the problem hurt this episode even more then most. Still, it did have some nice elements.

Spoilers after the screenshot.



For one thing, Peter Capaldi looked really good in this episode. I don't like to tell people to smile if they don't want to, I think people should be respected for having feelings other than happiness all the time and they shouldn't be forced to present a lie. But it is true, an honest smile does somehow make people more attractive, and that goes for Capaldi, it seems. I've always liked Capaldi, before he was the Doctor and in his whole tenure as the Doctor, but this is the first time I thought, "What a handsome fellow." I really like that frosted or frayed edge coat.



This scene, where Bill (Pearl Mackie) confronts the Doctor on the propaganda he's been contributing to for the Monks, is one of the main problems in the episode. The Doctor quite convincingly explains to Bill why working with the Monks is a good idea--with a rise of fascist figures like Trump who pursue paths of destruction, having the Monks in charge doesn't sound like it's all bad. Though it doesn't seem like Trump is rounding up and locking up dissenters like the woman at the beginning of the episode--though he has certainly talked about doing it. But after the Doctor made the argument pretty well that the Monks might be a benefit to humankind, it would have been nice for him to provide the counterargument once he'd revealed it as a ruse.



Referring to the psychic manipulations of the Monks as "fake news" also ties the story to current events. Are we to interpret the works of the Monks as one side of fake news or the other? Is it Putin influencing the election or the hysteria promoted by the likes of Huffington Post? Considering the Monks are set up as taking over the world from the fascists through mental manipulation seems to suggest it's meant to be like rigid left-wing ideology, pursuing crusades of identity politics at the cost of finding common ground. Maybe it's a nice thing that the Monks can be interpreted as either one. Mostly I just would have liked something more coherent.



I'm not as sure as I used to be that the Monks are related to the Cybermen somehow. But if they're not, then what is their story? Why do they look like rotting corpses? Did Missy (Michelle Gomez) really encounter them before and, if so, where? And did she learn anything about their origins or motives?



The scenes with Missy certainly were a highlight. Michelle Gomez continues to be a revelation.



It's true, making a people love you is more effective than making them fear you. Look what it did for Bill's mother. It would've been nice if the show had developed the Monks as seductive beings, had made you understand why people might be attracted to order and safety at the cost of free will. Maybe we'll have to wait for Bill's essay.

Twitter Sonnet #999

In lonely human snows the quarry turns.
Robotic barons blast the sort for sport.
Ephemeral revenge Tetsuro learns.
He leaves to find immortal metal's port.
A ticket came in long and tapered hand.
Her yellow willow hair's adrift in black.
In boots and coat he saw then Maetel stand.
Her spinning jewel unwinds the only track.
To Mars where love dissolved before the train.
To ice where irresolution sleeps.
To libraries where conmen stalk the lane.
To empty space where shattered crystal keeps.
And endless planets show an endless need.
All aliens have more than mouths to feed.
setsuled: (Doctor Chess)


To-day's new Doctor Who is called "The Pyramid at the End of the World" and I guess that's meant in the sense of The Restaurant at the End of the Universe--I wonder if the title was intended as a reference to former Doctor Who script editor Douglas Adams. It was a good episode in any case, written by Peter Harness and Steven Moffat, it put the protagonists through some moral dilemmas on a global scale featuring a very clever, effective villain.

Spoilers after the screenshot



I really, really love how the monks are offering aid only for complete consent. Though they do seem to be pretty picky and they may be their own worst enemies in this regard--but it's almost like a reply to the idea that Negan on Walking Dead can rule entirely through fear. The monks know, as the Doctor (Peter Capaldi) points out, fear is nowhere near as effective as love. But it's weirdly funny how totally inept the monks are at inspiring love. It's, forgive the phrase, blind luck that things work out their way.



I guess the Doctor just learned a lesson in how it can backfire when you don't tell your loved ones about your troubles. Though, to be fair, it would be hard to see this scenario coming and I'm still not sure how Bill's (Pearl Mackie) consent ends up handing over the whole world. But who knows how the monk's magic works.



I loved how the simulation turns out to be a bunch of threads, like these monks, who I still think are related to the Cybermen in some way, are the Furies. The idea of them only being able to take over by consent resonates with globalist politics, or the relationships the Orange President mentioned by Bill has with foreign powers. I assumed these episodes were filmed before the election but I guess not. Which means the simulation had the wrong U.S. president? Seems like a pretty big mistake for something that's supposed to be so eerily accurate.



"Pyramid at the End of the World" features the first major Chinese character, Xiaolian (Daphne Cheung), on Doctor Who since The Talons of Wang Chiang in 1977*. I'm not sure but I think Togo Igawa as the U.N. Secretary General may be the second Japanese character ever, after the Torchwood character Toshiko Sato's brief appearance in "Aliens of London" from 2005. My happiness at the appearance of such characters isn't so much a desire for political correctness but from the fact that I've always wanted Doctor Who to explore Earth as widely as the Doctor's supposed to have. This was part of the original concept of the show, after all, though I suppose it is cost prohibitive. I guess to-day's audiences aren't likely to accept the cardboard sets seen in the First Doctor's "Aztecs" serial. But since there's a mandate for diversity anyway in casting it would be nice if the show took it as an opportunity. This is an area where the audio plays have definitely outperformed the television series.

*Correction courtesy simon-on-the-river3 on Kinja: There was a Chinese character played by Burt Kwouk in 1982's Four to Doomsday and a Chinese actress, Ling Tai, in 1989's Battlefield. Hong Kong actor Yee Jee Tso was in the 1996 TV movie. That’s still not a whole lot.

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