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.

Profile

setsuled: (Default)
setsuled

July 2017

S M T W T F S
       1
2 3 4 5 6 7 8
9 10 11 12 13 14 15
16 17 18 19 20 21 22
23242526272829
3031     

Syndicate

RSS Atom

Most Popular Tags

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags
Page generated Jul. 23rd, 2017 10:30 pm
Powered by Dreamwidth Studios