Doctor Who?

What have you been watching?

Re: Doctor Who?

Postby cmsellers » Sun Nov 12, 2017 10:07 am

KleinerKiller wrote:Huh. Well for what feels like the first time since I started reading this thread, I liked the episode way more than you seemed to, Marc. By no means was it free of the expected Moffat bullshit, but I quite enjoyed a lot of it.

See, I watched the antepenultimate episode a month or two after it aired and the last two episodes just tonight. because I found the season increasingly hard to get through. And I thought that the finale episodes were the worst of the lot.

The premise was an interesting one (a starship where time moves slower as you go further down), but then it all went downhill faster than a bowling ball in a black hole's gravity well from there. Even Marc didn't even address all of the questions I had, but I don't have the energy to articulate the remainder right now.

The finale arc felt like fan fiction written by a dyslexic four-year-old for her Make-a-Wish and then run multiple times through Google Translate. Pretty much the whole time I was alternating between "what the fuck?" "seriously!?" and "CyberBill sure looks like a cheap sex doll."

KleinerKiller wrote:But I can't remember the last time watching this show felt like a chore for me. Even in the worst Davies runs, even in Series 9 with all of its Ashildr tedium, there was some redeeming value and I eagerly awaited the next episode even if it looked pretty bad. This series... just drained my excitement. It was so tedious, so empty, so focused on proving the show's "woke-ness" to critics and spitting futilely at the Empire of Trump rather than on telling compelling or entertaining stories. "Thin Ice", one of the apparent critical and fan favorites of the series, was one of the lowest points of the run for me. Yet the fans can't get enough. And don't even get me started on how crappy a partner Bill was, because I like to think I've said enough on that already.

This just... didn't feel like Doctor Who. I've seen bad Doctor Who, but this was bad in a new and different way. It was bad television. It didn't feel like the show I used to know. I can recognize and rationalize episodes as far varying in their terribleness as "Fear Her," "The Rings of Akhaten," or "Hell Bent" because those at least still feel like subpar Who. I can't recognize or rationalize Series 10. I have no idea what most of this was.

Now that pretty well sums up my reaction to the finale arc. "Thin Ice" actually felt like Doctor Who to me, for all that I didn't much enjoy it.

Also, the joke about Trump in the finale was the single most facepalmy moment I've had in all of Moffat's time manhandling the show.
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Re: Doctor Who?

Postby Marcuse » Tue Dec 26, 2017 1:29 am

2017 Christmas Special - Twice Upon A Time

Spoiler: show
Oh hey, remember when Doctor Who started back in the 50s? No, me neither. Probably something to do with having been born about 37 years later than that. Opening with footage from an old original series Who doesn't fill me with any nostalgia, but at least they had the brains to make their scenes fit in with it properly. This also introduces something that seems to be shot through this: fourth-wall breaking. We're told that the old footage is 700-odd "episodes" ago, rather than any kind of sensible measurement. I'm sure this is a way to evade having to put a concrete figure on the timescale, but then it would work just as well to not have it.

We see the events of the end of the previous episode from the perspective of the First Doctor this time. He's also regenerating and also doesn't want to. Because parallelism is totally cool and not at all nonsense. He mistakes the Doctor's TARDIS for his own and makes some slightly funny comments about how the TARDIS looks different to cover for the new series redesigns. Then time stops, because reasons. Then a captain from World War One walks out of the snow (none of these people freezing to death in the South Pole or anything) and points a gun at them and asks for a doctor. Lol so random.

The man is obviously injured and so they take him into the TARDIS too. Cue the obvious and entirely superfluous dramatic music and shocked gasps as yet another person learns its bigger on the inside. Seriously. Enough with that. The First Doctor decides to actually try to help the guy they took into the TARDIS to help, while he spars with the Doctor about who he is. Apparently a time travelling race of people find the idea of meeting their own future selves so unthinkable that they can't imagine that the person literally saying they're the same person is in fact the same person.

The First Doctor's cure for what I can only assume is a gunshot wound is...brandy. And the Doctor has some brandy lying about for plot reasons. Sure whatever. The First Doctor makes mention of the guy being in shock, but that doesn't really explain why Mark Gatiss (gonna call him that because I don't recall him being named) is walking and holding his chest like he's been shot. Whatever, who needs continuity. Amongst this, they also start doing something very strange with the First Doctor; they begin having him express 1950s social attitudes at random and for laughs. I'm truly unsure why they would make such a strange decision, because while there's one funny comment in there (about the TARDIS being a restaurant for the French) it fundamentally doesn't make sense at all. Sure the Doctor in episodes in the 1950s would probably express views that we don't agree with now, but the idea that in a modern show having a returning character from a long time ago express the real world attitudes of the time in which the show was broadcast is muddling the terms of reference for the character to the point where I can't identify the thought process that determined that was a good idea. The character itself has nothing to do with 1950s Britain, but the cultural icon of the Doctor does, but that's in the real world, so the character in 2017 is referencing the social attitudes of real world 1950 because the last episodes the character was included in were broadcast in the real world in 1950 and probably reflected those views by default. What? It's like if someone wrote the Trek movies and still had Kirk slapping the female ensigns' asses. Oh wait, they actually literally joke about that here. Yay.

We also have a very strange moment where the Doctor carelessly refers to Gatiss' character as a "world war one captain", to which he acts very disturbed and then never brings it up again. Why bother having that in?

But speaking of WWI, we cut to a flyover shot of a nameless battlefield in 1914. Gatiss and an unidentified German soldier are lying in a crater pointing pistols at each other. Despite the clearly desperate circumstances, Gatiss' character is able to deliver a monologue about how he doesn't want to kill the other guy except in self defense, but there's a conundrum because the other guy will probably kill him in self defense too, so they're...going to kill each other apparently. Dunno how someone so scared their hands are shaking can coolly deliver such a monologue, but the German doesn't even speak English, nor he German. So it was all pointless. It's rendered extra pointless by time stopping and him being confusingly abducted, only to be dropped into the South Pole. Someone in VO starts complaining of a timeline distortion and a massive Vermicious Knid appears and grabs the TARDIS.

Oh hey plot. They get dragged into a room that calls itself death and they're made a weird offer. Give up Gatiss and get to speak to Bill again. But they send Bill in without receiving the price they demanded. The Doctor claims she's a copy, and we get emotional about how Bill died because he didn't know she was rescued by puddle girl. Whatever, nobody cares. Go away Billbot. She insists that she's real because she's constructed of the same memories and thoughts as Bill, so therefore she's real. The Doctor doesn't buy it. The spaceship is a designed to hoik people from their time of death and harvest their memories then let them die when they're supposed to again. Sounds a lot like the wheeze the Doctor used to get Clara back to me. Yay recycled plot devices. The central thingy is a person that's made of glass, spoopy. They do a little "oh isn't the Doctor amazing" montage but also call him the Doctor of War again, like he's actually John Hurt. They're setting up for tension between him and the First Doctor, presumably to create uncertainty whether the First Doctor will choose to regenerate or not. But we know he will so it's moot and not truly revisited.

But Gatiss got other ideas. He's decided he's done living, and he can just give himself up for Billbot and all will be well. But the Doctor ain't got time for that and sonic screwdrivers them all out. The manage to slide down chains without removing the surface of their palms and drop off the TARDIS and run to the First Doctor's TARDIS. I guess they already had the set built, so whatever. They bounce to a place where the Doctor can access the largest database of people in the universe so he can find out what the glass people are. But PLOT TWIST, it wants to kill him.

The planet itself is honestly pretty cool. It's all collapsing and shit, and while the animation is reused it's fun enough. There's not enough broken hellhole worlds in Who and this one is at least somewhat interesting. There's head crabs here too, and one of them gets Gatiss. It means nothing because nothing happens except for woo scawy, but it's pretty obvious that the head crabs are de-shelled Daleks. Because this is depowering them and making them more interesting, I'll give him credit for that.

It turns out that the source of this database is Rusty, the Dalek that hates Daleks and the only original character I ever liked from Moffat's run. Credit for bringing him back, and credit for the cack handed way the Doctor manages to get him to cooperate. I like the idea that Rusty now thinks the Doctor is a Dalek and wants to kill him but can be talked round when the Doctor points out that helping him is hurting all the other Daleks. Negotiating with an insane hate tank by manipulating the fact you made it it hate other people more than you is cool.

Meanwhile, Billbot turns out to be....a robot acting all sinister and shit. No way. Not foreseen at all. She scares the shit out of Gatiss for no reason, and then goes hunting for the First Doctor who has been abandoned in the wastes for no reason. She starts asking him why he left Gallifrey and why he stole the TARDIS in the first place. He gives an answer that's forgettable, but amounts to "I think evil is best so how can good keep the balance?" to which the answer is "because of people choosing to be good". This is about as unsatisfying as it gets. It's dumb to have the First Doctor convinced of the efficacy of evil but simultaneously scandalised by the reported exploits of the Doctor.

The Billbot grabs him like a villain, and we cut away to the Doctor realising that the glass people aren't evil, they're a time travelling archive that grabs people out of time and saves their thoughts for historical record without interrupting the timeline. They're not actually evil. I'm actually in favour of this, despite the out of place evil moves the Billbot makes. It's more interesting to have something weird be benign and in a Christmas ep it's totally acceptable.

So in the end they return Gatiss to the world war, and time resets itself. But then instead of dying they all go play football in No Man's Land like in the history books. Sure sure, so Christmas so mawkish. Forgivable shit. Then the Doctor gets all his Christmases in one go when he gets to speak to Billbot and Nardolebot to say goodbye to them, then gets a Clarabot to return all his memory of her in a heartbeat in a last-minute-will-not-affect-anything move.

The First Doctor fucks off to regenerate, turning back to old footage for that. Then we get the main event; the Doctor wanders about the TARDIS like a drunk, spouting truisms like "always be kind" and "hate is always stupid and love is always wise", tell that to Rusty you idiot. Then they do the explody regeneration again. That was a small disappointment because I thought the Matt Smith- Capaldi regeneration was striking for its suddenness and lack of overdrama.

I thought they missed a trick with changing to Jodie Whittaker in that she didn't see herself and say "still not ginger". Given they know how much controversy has been caused by the change in gender (regardless of how legitimate it is) it would have been a clever move to have her use something that harks back to even before Moffat was in charge to anchor the character together in a way that wouldn't have required anything of the new series to do anything. As it is, she presses a button and the TARDIS explodes. Okay. We see nearly nothing of Jodie in full, mainly being close-ups of her eyes for some reason. We can tell next to nothing from her depiction here and I don't think speculating is worth it. Watch this space for like...2019 I guess? I don't know when they're starting again.

Overall this one was about average for a Christmas special by Steven Moffat, which is to say it makes no sense and is filled with unnecessary TARDIS wank, unnecessary Doctor heroism wank, and ridiculous plot threads and items which are raised and dropped faster than your average piledriver. I'm not massively offended by it, it serves the job of being entertaining on a basic "something for your eyes to look at" way, and Rusty was fun.
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Re: Doctor Who?

Postby KleinerKiller » Tue Dec 26, 2017 8:15 pm

So this episode was mostly mediocre and I have little to say about it, but a prevailing theory gaining more popularity in the fandom is that

Spoiler: show
the Doctor was always trying to regenerate into a woman, but the First Doctor's overwhelming sexism somehow kept him from doing so, and that the combination of directly confronting him and being exposed to such an amazing woman as Bill allowed him to finally get it right -- that's the rationale for Whittaker's only line being "oh, brilliant".

Also quite a few of them are hoping that this is referred to down the line as "transgeneration" / "transgenderation".


Who diehards continue to perplex and irritate me.
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Re: Doctor Who?

Postby SandTea » Tue Dec 26, 2017 11:52 pm

Marcuse (and others more knowledgeable than I but he mentioned it)
Spoiler: show
They do mention the ww1 captains name at the end before time starts again when he asks the old dr to look after his family. He gives his name and it's played like we're supposed to recognize it. The younger dr even gives a little surprised wink and a nod sorta thing and assures him he will. I can't remember *---googling---* yeah found it.

Captain Archibald Hamish Lethbridge-Stewart.

Who is relation to The Brigadier they say? I'm not fluent in whovian but did remember being confused like I was supposed to know that name.


Kleiner, as far as I've seen, everyone espousing that has been a Poe. Well, at least on non Who-central comment sections (since I don't read any so mostly news articles and yt comments). I do hear a lot of "a time traveling alien is ok but one with boobs!? Nuh-UH" or at least thats my interpretation of them :D
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Re: Doctor Who?

Postby Marcuse » Wed Dec 27, 2017 9:49 am

SandTea wrote:Marcuse (and others more knowledgeable than I but he mentioned it)
Spoiler: show
They do mention the ww1 captains name at the end before time starts again when he asks the old dr to look after his family. He gives his name and it's played like we're supposed to recognize it. The younger dr even gives a little surprised wink and a nod sorta thing and assures him he will. I can't remember *---googling---* yeah found it.

Captain Archibald Hamish Lethbridge-Stewart.

Who is relation to The Brigadier they say? I'm not fluent in whovian but did remember being confused like I was supposed to know that name.


You're absolutely right about that, I just forgot it because I didn't get the reference and because it was so steeped in 1950s content I assumed it was some reference to an old companion or something. Also, Mark Gatiss is way easier to remember.
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Re: Doctor Who?

Postby cmsellers » Fri May 18, 2018 10:32 pm

Still haven't watched the Christmas special, should at some point so I can read Marc's review.

But any rate, do you guys remember the Fisher King? For some reason, I found him the scariest of all the Doctor Who villains I've encountered except the original weeping angels.

Any rate, it turns out that the Fisher King was a figure from Welsh mythology, though a very different one.
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Re: Doctor Who?

Postby Marcuse » Thu Jul 19, 2018 11:26 pm



So it begins again.

Honestly I have no impressions right now because there's so little actual content here. I'm all for trailers that don't spoil the plots, but this gives next to nothing away. Aside from the ultra-diverse ensemble no characters feature at all. I also have no idea who any of these people are so right now I can't care about them.

I'm reserving judgement, because there are elements of the aesthetic that I dig.
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Re: Doctor Who?

Postby Marcuse » Sun Oct 07, 2018 8:40 pm

This is a PSA for anyone who would like to watch but are unsure about the new Who. Without spoiling anything, it doesn't suck.
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Re: Doctor Who?

Postby Krashlia » Mon Oct 08, 2018 7:30 am

Marcuse wrote:This is a PSA for anyone who would like to watch but are unsure about the new Who. Without spoiling anything, it doesn't suck.


thats a relief.
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Re: Doctor Who?

Postby DoglovingJim » Mon Oct 08, 2018 9:40 am

Marcuse wrote:This is a PSA for anyone who would like to watch but are unsure about the new Who. Without spoiling anything, it doesn't suck.

But is it the bees knees?
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Re: Doctor Who?

Postby AboveGL » Mon Oct 08, 2018 11:51 am

Marcuse wrote:This is a PSA for anyone who would like to watch but are unsure about the new Who. Without spoiling anything, it doesn't suck.


Can confirm. It's still early days, but it's great to see that my restored faith in the show following Moffat's long overdue departure has not been dashed (yet).

And the new doctor's fucking great so far.
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Re: Doctor Who?

Postby Marcuse » Tue Oct 09, 2018 12:03 am

Oh yes, we're doing this people.

Episode 1: The Woman Who Fell To Earth

Spoiler: show
There's a lot of things I can say about this episode. What I'm not going to do is a scene by scene, because that's less important here where the things I want to mention are more general and thematic things. For once, there's stuff I liked and stuff I didn't.

I found the new companions a bit...well someone clearly intended to hit all the diversity targets with this one. I'm not necessarily opposed to female, POC or disabled characters, but when you have one disabled (yeah dyspraxia is a disability) black guy with an absent dad, a female South Asian police officer who's overlooked for decent jobs and a cancerous bus driver in an interracial relationship it starts to feel like they tried a bit too hard. Especially so when the lead is now female for reasons. It didn't help that none of them were particularly interesting in their own right. I think maybe the series will have more room later to develop their characters, but I felt that Yas in particular didn't get much space to be a character. None of this was as remotely egregious as Bill.

Though, I mentioned the Doctor so I should get right to it. She does it well. As much as some people have criticised the performance as too silly and not serious enough, the tone of the overall episode means that it works to balance out the series and make it fun to watch. I'm hoping in different circumstances they won't continue to write her quite so goofy, but it worked for me. I especially liked the idea of her as some kind of mad inventor making the stuff she needed. We've not seen that from a previous Doctor really, Tennant had some machines that go beep but nothing major and we never saw the Doctor making a sonic dildo screwdriver before.

Did I mention Sheffield? It's in Sheffield. Somewhere like Sheffield. Possibly a train in Sheffield. They mentioned Sheffield one too many times for me, then stopped. This was good because I actually said "okay now they've gone on about being in Sheffield too much". I'm from Yorkshire myself so a lot of the jokes were right on the money for me (eat my salad alien scum!), but still it started to get into what I'm calling "millions and billions" territory.

The alien was...mixed. They actually credited him as "Tim Shaw" after the episode, which was funny. The thing is he was basically Predator. Or the Hirogen from Star Trek. Or any other generic hunting alien from anything else. His spoopy tooth face was well made, but teeth are like the go-to crappypasta thing to do and it didn't work for me. I was way more scared by his implacability and willingness to straight up murder anyone for no reason. Didn't hurt that he came from a giant blue space gourd that kept up the mystery.

I also called the cable beast being a non-sentient construct as well. I liked that Tim was using it to cheat, because it (ironically) humanised him to the point where even if he wasn't sympathetic, I could understand his motivation and why someone would need to stop him. The being invited thing was a bit shaky to me, but they didn't dwell on it as a major point.

I felt like the strongest part of the show was how well stuff held together and made sense, something which had been sorely lacking in Moffat's run. For example, the characters generally acted consistently, like the guy on the train who saw an alien try to murder him and decided maybe he would like to just go thanks very much. Or when Ryan goes to try to ride his bike, motivated by the death of his grandmother, and still can't. He doesn't stop being disabled because he thinks hard about it. The pod that travelled through the vacuum of space from an ice world is really cold. There's already someone mad about the aliens and takes matters into his own hands before our heroes figure anything out. The Doctor doesn't already know everything about everything. The TARDIS is gone, and stays gone. The companions go with the Doctor because her goofy cobbled together teleport doesn't work right, not because they agreed to travel with her for no reason.

Overall, the plot is a bit derivative the characters a little thin, but it holds together and was generally an enjoyable thing to watch on a Sunday evening which held my attention and had no major "oh no" moments. Right now that's enough for me, and I'm interested to see where they go with the next episode.
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Re: Doctor Who?

Postby KleinerKiller » Tue Oct 16, 2018 11:45 pm

Alright, finally got the chance to sit down and watch the first two episodes.

Before I go into my thoughts, though: fuuuuuuuck BBC America. They just get worse and worse with this show, season by season. I was prepared for it because I saw a lot of people complaining, but they chopped the hell out of the premiere and stuffed it full of so many ad breaks that it stuck out as abnormal even in the commercial-flooded US. The climactic crane setpiece, which must have lasted like ten minutes max? Three ad breaks, and then two interrupting the funeral aftermath. And those "Stay Tuned" mini-previews they do in the middle of the commercial breaks to trick you into thinking the show's back on are still magnificently fucking irritating. The second ep was back to their previous baseline of annoyance, so I imagine they were just wringing as much as they could out of the "controversial" first episode, but it doesn't bode well.

Anywho. Premiere thoughts (plus combined thoughts about the new cast). I mostly agree with Marc, but I'll run through the notes I took anyway.

Spoiler: show
First off, minor note: as the son of a new cop who just got off his probation period, Yas's complaint that she's not being trusted to handle tough jobs when she's still on probation stuck out as particularly funny to me. Correct me if it works substantially differently in the UK, but if it's the same as the US, that's kind of just... how it works, Yas. I don't doubt that she might be passed up or treated differently for her gender and ethnicity, but the show (mercifully) doesn't make any hay about that, which then leaves her just seeming impatient and whiny. But anyway.

The Thirteenth Doctor. After so much bitchy whinging from sexists and so much screeching defensiveness from hard leftists, the end product is... entirely what I expected. She's just fine. I like Jodie Whitaker quite a lot, but in this episode at least, her performance struggled to make an impression on me. She definitely feels like The Doctor, but she doesn't really feel like her own Doctor yet -- partly an unfortunate side effect of regeneration episodes, where the new Doctor tends to just run around being manic and quirky before having some kind of character-defining moment. She's a bit warmer and less condescending than the others, I really liked her shift toward being a mad genius inventor, and the way she handled Tim Shaw by tricking him with his own DNA bombs is inventively ruthless; however, these traits haven't gotten enough focus yet to coalesce and I'm mainly appreciating them in hindsight. I definitely like her more than I liked Twelve at the outset, and Capaldi grew into one of my favorites once he was allowed to stretch his wings, so I have no doubt this will be better in the future.

Her new outfit is fucking awful, though. I'd hoped it would look better in motion than in the oversaturated photoshoots, but while I like the coat and the shirt is fine, the suspenders and navel-high hammer pants make me want to die.

Companions? I quite like Graham -- the weary, deadpan elder type is always a favorite of mine, and his attempts to connect with Ryan both here and in the next ep give him some vital nuance that has room to grow. The other two are not so lucky. I desperately want to like Yas, but though her actress is doing great when she's allowed to speak, her character gets little to nothing to do in either of these episodes. Ryan has the opposite problem: his character is shaded in quite well, and I find his disability and the way people judge him for it very well-done (and painfully relatable), but his actor feels like wet cardboard 90% of the time and I don't really buy the other, louder 10%. Again though, I'm confident that everyone will grow, and NONE OF THEM FEEL LIKE CLARA OR BILL, THANK CHRIST IN HEAVEN.

The villain, the Stenza / Tim Shaw, was not good. Bargain bin Predator is right on the money, but I also felt he could have easily been effortlessly replaced by an Ice Warrior: same clunky power armor (with a far more boring design), same grunting blandness, same ritual warrior practices. The only reason I can see for him not being an Ice Warrior is that Ice Warriors have some sense of honor, and Tim Shaw's only unique trait is that he's a pathetic cheater, which I quite liked. He's fine as a one-off starter villain, the tropey threat that's easy to get out of the way while we focus on the new Doctor and companions, but... well, see my thoughts on the second ep for bigger problems down the road.

I didn't have any huge attachment to Grace, but her death managed to not only be predictable, but also pointless, contrived, and mind-numbingly dumb. It was so sudden and out-of-place that I legitimately thought they were parodying the overdramatic Doctor Who episodic death at first, and that Thirteen was going to save her at the last minute. I guess they needed some reason for Ryan and Graham to stick around, but it's just... feh.

I'm glad the "the TARDIS is missing" plot turns out not to extend past the next episode, because that cliffhanger could not have excited me less.

All in all, I found the episode in general to be pretty forgettable. I certainly didn't mind it as an introduction to Thirteen and the New Who Crew, but as an episode of the show, I was bored. I want something more from Doctor Who than vaguely pleasant evening viewing. I can see where Chibnall's influence is, because it felt more like a high-budget episode of Torchwood with a much lighter tone than what I currently know to be Who, and while I'm all for a shift in tone and presentation, this just barely worked for me. But oh well, it's a NuWho regeneration episode, and with the narrow exception of "The Eleventh Hour", those always fall a bit short.


Now then, moving on to "The Ghost Monument." Second episodes are usually much better than premieres for Doctor Who, but... well. I mainly noted things down when they either impressed or annoyed me, so some of this might be a tad nitpicky, but it's tough to be a sci-fi fan and not be a tad nitpicky sometimes.

Spoiler: show
Why wasn't this new opening played alongside the premiere? I don't know whether y'all in the UK got it, but nobody in the US did until now, probably to make space for more ads. Regardless, I've seen some split opinions on it, but I like it. It's a nice-looking callback to the show's original opening credits, and the simpler theme eschewing the rousing final notes is a nice change of pace. Even if I think it's a bit visually busy and I miss seeing the TARDIS up in front, it's faaaaaaaaaaar better than Twelve's dumbshit storm of clocks.

Not a lot in the introductory segment stuck out to me, except the Prometheus-style "let's run directly away from the crashing ship instead of just going left or right" scene, which I laughed at for all of the wrong reasons. At least in Prometheus, the ship was massive and hard to judge, and the terrain unstable; these clowns are in a glorified ditch, running away from a relatively small spacecraft. Yeesh.

After some buffoonery, we get to the premise of the episode: two conveniently human-identical aliens have to compete in a race across a toxic planet to win a respective prize (the lady gets salvation for her family, the guy gets... freedom and money? I genuinely don't remember), at the behest of a holographic guy in a tent. This is a unique premise that I was actually interested in seeing play out, but unfortunately, the episode proceeds to do basically nothing with it. It's background noise that's only relevant for a few sparse scenes, and the two racers are more plot devices to showcase the Doctor than characters in their own right.

And this is where my nitpickiness comes in. With the core plot a wash, I'm left to focus on the details, and everything about this episode feels... lazy. Aliens who are nigh-identical to humans are just a sci-fi trope, but the racers being absolutely identical to bland humans with not even the most minor physical or mannerism differences -- and hailing from two entirely different species, to boot -- is lazy. The hologram villain in his teleporting tent, whose motives I very much struggle to define (a problem for the other major threat of the episode) and who is dissuaded from his scheming by one baseless threat of being tracked down and killed, is lazy. The planet being full of talked-about dangers which are then barely shown off is lazy. The slow-speed race, in which neither of the competing racers genuinely tried to undermine each other (beyond Dude's half-hearted threats) and everyone just gets to where they need to go without much issue, is lazy. It all feels like a product made with almost no passion, and for an episode that's supposed to get us into the new feel of the show and display some creativity, that's a bad sign.

Am I being too hard on it? Maybe. Probably. I don't know. Moving on.

The guard robot setpiece that occupies the mid-point of the episode is another thing that feels like it was just slotted in to fill time; the robots don't look any more interesting than Tim Shaw's armor, they never feel like a genuine threat, and nothing of interest happens with them. It just seems like an excuse to give Ryan a weird Call of Duty joke and an attempt at fighting back (which is an amusing character beat, but a predictable one), and then to reestablish the Doctor's absolute pacifism and "brains over bullets" message with some really on-the-nose dialogue. It's a wash.

But things don't get much better when we're introduced to the actual threat of the episode for what feels like five minutes. It's... evil blankets. Yeah. Weird-ass living weapons built by the society either at the behest of or to fight off... well, we'll get there. But they cleansed the world instead and now they lie in wait around the environment, waiting for the right time to spring. I can appreciate what they're visually going for, but I'm sorry, they look ridiciulous and they never feel believable or threatening. And the decision to suddenly start having them cackling and taunting in a stereotypical bassy evil voice during the final showdown, as well as reveal that they can sense fear and read into peoples' history or something, is so stunning in its incompetence that I would've laughed had I not been so bored.

Despite Chibnall's promise to the contrary, we're then introduced to the big vague mystery of the season: the "Timeless Child," teased by the blanket swarm who know about it for some reason. It's totally, definitely, completely going to be Susan, probably, maybe.

The Doctor then kills all of the evil blankets by lighting up some acetylene fumes with Dude's cigar. Hey, remember ten minutes ago, when she was chiding Ryan for trying to solve the problem with violence instead of thinking up a clever solution? Forgive me if I don't see the meaningful difference between shooting some lifeless robots and blowing up some ambiguously lifeless blanket things.

But that's not the worst thing about the blankets. The worst thing is that their creation is tied to the Stenza, aka the Tim Shaw aliens from the first episode, who are apparently going to be a recurring seasonal threat rather than a one-off. Really??? Really, Chibnall? Doctor Who is a show where you can do virtually anything, so long as it's within the given budget. It's a place to flex your wild genre ideas and come up with things that aren't everywhere else in sci-fi. And you chose to have your first huge original threat be Discount Predators / Ice Warriors / really angry Klingons / whatever. I was more excited for the fucking VR monks from last season.

But... whatever. Once all is said and done, Dude tries to betray Lady at the finish line, only to immediately acquiesce with no trouble at all when the Doctor proposes a solution that benefits them both. Dude and Lady then present themselves as mutual winners so they can both get their reward, and when Hologram Man tries to deny it, Dude threatens to track him down and kill him if he doesn't give it to them both (again... solving the problem with violence, or at least the threat of it). The tent is teleported away, leaving the Who Crew to find the TARDIS.

And there we have a character beat that I can't decide whether I liked or not: Thirteen freaks out realizing that the TARDIS isn't where it was set to be, briefly despairing that they're all doomed before it suddenly reappears. On the one hand, showing that this Doctor isn't as good at pretending to be an indomitable badass in front of her companions is a neat bit of shading, and Whitaker acts the living hell out of it in the first sequence that's left me genuinely impressed with her Doctor. But it also feels fundamentally wrong -- and again, lazy -- for the Doctor to abruptly give into fatalism at the first sign of a problem she's faced countless times before, and comes off as just one last attempt to juice the script with some danger before pulling it back again.

So what of the new TARDIS, the last thing we leave the episode on? I'm of mixed feelings about it. I'm a big fan of the crystalline motif, the honeycomb-esque circles lining it look pretty neat even if my first thought was of the RTD era TARDIS, and the fact that the Doctor now has a little treat dispenser is quite fun. But it also feels small(!), dark, and cramped together, with bad lines of sight for filming, no sense of verticality (I'm almost positive there was only one level), and a console it seems like the group has to hunch over even if that's not the case. I'll have to give it more time in future episodes to get a real feel for it, but my impressions now are that it's visually cool, but badly designed.

Hey, the next episode is about Rosa Parks. I'm sure this will be A) neither way too on-the-nose nor insensitively handled and B) a truly compelling and exciting hour of television that makes up for the half-baked episodes before it.


In conclusion: I'm excited for the rest of Whitaker's tenure, and a little worried about the rest of Chibnall's.
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Re: Doctor Who?

Postby Marcuse » Thu Oct 18, 2018 3:10 pm

Episode 2 - The Ghost Monument

Spoiler: show
Well, here we go. The second episode is usually where the new Doctor settles in and we get to see a bit more of their personality away from the "I don't know who I am, but I'm probably a great person with a ton of mad skills" regeneration pilot. I was excited to see where Jodie Whitaker takes the Doctor after the Woman Who Fell to Earth.

The episode opens with the weird set-piece that the gang are all floating in the vacuum of space. Oh man, when I criticised the Last Jedi for this I used the Doctor Who segment where Capaldi explains it as a source. But they neatly avert it by having them immediately picked up by spaceships that chuck them in medical pods. I actually liked how the cliffhanger from the last episode, which I overlooked because I wanted to give the first ep the benefit of the doubt, was cleared up neatly and in a way that made enough SF (non)sense that I could be okay with it.

I even liked how the two ships were characterised, with the more collected Angstrom running a decent ship, while the Doctor is having a stand-up row with Epzo about how his ship is falling apart and belongs in a museum. They set up the abrasive Epzo and caring Angstrom well enough, and for a tv show about space and time that's fair enough. I'm not expecting massively deep characters for a 40 minute tv show. I'm really warming to Bradley Walsh as the grumpy old bus driver who doesn't really give a shit that he's in space.

They land on the planet called desolation and, sadly, this is where things start to fall apart. See, it becomes apparent pretty soon that despite the location there's a bit of a problem in how the rest of the plot is bolted together. It feels thin and rushed in places, and elements of it don't make much sense. For example, the aforementioned "sniper bots" scene where Ryan runs out with one of their guns (which he inexplicably knows how to use) and shoots them, only for them to get straight up unharmed and he runs away like a looney tunes character. But if the robots' guns are so underpowered, how does one injure Epzo? How does that fit with the "world killing weapons o'death" theme they're going for? They just wanted robots with laser guns and hoods, right? The associated dialogue is too on-the-nose to be enjoyable and really doesn't tell us anything we didn't already know about the Doctor anyway.

Desolation itself isn't a compelling place. They repeatedly refer to things like the air being poisonous, but they never once actually show anyone struggling to breathe or finding it hard in what is essentially an endless desert. The water is hyped up as a threat, only for it to never once affect anyone or anything. The river they travel on is far too large for them to think about swimming anyway, so it'd be reasonable to need a boat anyway. For a desert, it never seems hot or cold (deserts at night are cold yo) and they never seem to have trouble getting where they're going. Even just a hint of this (not expecting full survivalism or anything) would have made the world seem more alien and interesting. The cloth creatures felt derivative, as did the fact they came out at night. It feels like Chibnall is trying to mash up SF tropes (the night time in the desert is dangerous thing being from Pitch Black and the cloth creatures reminding me of the video game Journey which is also set in a desert) and hoping nobody will notice or care.

There was a clear moment in the underground tunnels where Jodie turned to what was clearly a plain wall and pretended it was a door. This happened twice. I laughed.

The intergalactic race in concept is an interesting one, but in execution it's a bit bland. The fact that Art Malik (who I will refer to by real name because his character is never named in the episode) specifies that they can't sabotage, injure or kill each other makes the whole thing kind of boring. I get that they didn't want people to say "why didn't Epzo just shoot Angstrom if he had a gun the whole time" but just having it be against the rules is a bit...odd to me. The fact they reach the end and just decide the rules don't apply to them, and the hologram of the guy gives in to physical threats of violence within seconds makes the whole thing feel rushed and ill-considered. I liked that they didn't make the bad one lose and the good one win because of righteousness, but I disliked that they didn't show them doing anything to get that. The Doctor didn't seem to do anything particularly important to help them either, so it seemed very external to the main plot. I kind of liked that they got zipped away and the Tardis crew were left behind because they weren't supposed to be there.

I didn't like the cloth creatures knowing who the Doctor was, nor that they suddenly started taunting her. It honestly felt like a completely different idea was bolted onto the cloth creatures for the purpose of expositing a series arc when it made no sense. It would have made more sense to me to have Art Malik deliver that, being an enigmatic person with resources. I was not a fan of the Doctor's hot take pessimism, nor the abrupt about face of the companions having no hope for the whole episode then them being the ones to jivvy up the Doctor and make her hope again. It seemed artificial and a way to indicate that she needs them when really they'd been a hinderance more than anything at this point. I liked the new TARDIS interior, more or less, but that isn't really as important to me as actual things like story.

Now we get to the Stenza. Oh boy the Stenza are our series arc threat. While to an extent I like that it's not a massive mystery, I have to be way more critical of them than I was. There is no reason why they shouldn't be Ice Warriors, and it seems odd to have another race of extreme cold adapted warriors. I'm also confused about their motivations. Angstrom says her planet has been "cleansed" and that people are in hiding, but that's not what's happening on Earth. They took over desolation and ruined it making weapons, but they don't seem to use many of them. The biomechanical thingy from last week counts I guess, but I'm confused as to how they'd actually use evil blankets as warfare tools. I'm struggling to understand the motivation and purpose of the Stenza as a species, and honestly I don't take them too seriously as a villain. It's ironic that before I watched ep 2 I thought it was a bit of nifty writing that they gave Tim Shaw such a mundane sounding name because it makes him less intimidating and humanises him in a way that makes what was a rather scary villain more goofy, and the Doctor did it with nothing but words. But then we're now apparently supposed to take them seriously as a villain.

Overall this episode felt rushed and incomplete. It was as though Chibnall had a good idea to start with, and it fell apart nearing the end.
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Re: Doctor Who?

Postby Marcuse » Sun Oct 21, 2018 9:31 pm

Episode 3 - Rosa

Spoiler: show
I was in two minds about what to expect with this episode. I didn't get too far into the trailers so I basically knew in advance it was about Rosa Parks and that was it. Obviously when a generally pretty casual show takes on a very real and serious subject like racism in the US in the fifties it's going to go one of two ways; they're either going to underplay it and devalue the real world issues it hopes to represent, or they overdo it and manage to obliterate the story in telling an accurate portrayal of the issues.

This story falls into the latter, which is undercut somewhat by how little actual story there is. What I will applaud it for is taking the racism storyline head on and not pulling punches. Aside from having the white characters use the N word, they really couldn't have made the racism more obvious, visceral and feel genuinely oppressive to the characters it affects. As a portrayal of racism in the US in the fifties this is a good depiction and I was surprised they would go down such an authentic route for it. As example, in the opening scene when the gang reach Alabama they're walking down a street and a lady drops a glove. Ryan picks it up and offers it to her and the husband literally slaps him in the face. Then he threatens to have him hanged. Rosa herself steps in to talk the guy down, but it's hard to watch. Most of the rest of the episode is taken up with equally harsh examples of the same, they're thrown out of a diner, have to smuggle themselves into a motel and hide Ryan and Yas, the Doctor and Graham have to bite their tongues and not snap at people literally calling them mongrels and negroes. Yas and Ryan have a bit of a fourth wall breaking discussion while hiding from a cop by a bin, where it seems like the writer of the piece is trying to speak to the viewer about real world racism now rather than what's happening to the characters in the world. That's okay though, the issue is important and current so I suppose if that's what they wanted to do that's fine.

All that's so well and so worthy. But what's the plotline? In the first twenty minutes only two things of plot import happen. 1: the TARDIS is resisting taking them back to Sheffield, they've tried about 12 times and it's not working. 2. A dude shows up with a laser and tries to get into the TARDIS but can't. The meat of the plot is this; this dude wants to stop Rosa Parks' crucial refusal to give up a seat for a white person on a bus. He's a prisoner from the Stormcage (the same prison River Song was thrown in when she "murdered" the Doctor) and...he's a white supremacist. No I'm not shitting you. He comes from the far future, far enough to have a vortex manipulator, a gun that displaces you in time and some other data storage kit in a box he has a perception filter on, and knows what a TARDIS is, but is racist against black people. I know, you're thinking "but he comes from space and has lived with all sorts of aliens, how could he possibly see a meaningful difference between humans who're otherwise identical?" but the story doesn't think you need to know this. He's an evil space racist here to stop Rosa Parks by any means that his invasive brain implant will allow. See, he has one of those convenient brain implants that stop you being able to kill anything, making the third episode where a plot character has a thing implanted in them that drives the plot somehow.

So the plot boils down to Rosa needs to get arrested for not giving up her seat, the bad guy can't kill or harm her, and the Doctor and her cohort want to make sure this happens. Thus begins a rather embarrassing and cringeworthy group of scenes where the good guys talk around why they want someone to do something while not saying they're a time traveler, to the point where the scenes lurch into the absurd and even the in universe characters don't believe them, but go along with it anyway because plot. The bad guy mocks up a bunch of disguises and pretends to be several bus company staff members with nobody noticing because plot in order to try to interfere with it.

However, this leads me to my two major criticisms of the story given the context. Firstly, in an episode given over almost wholesale to a depiction of racism which is discussed by the two POC characters in terms that use the phrase "change" in relation to an Obama reference and that things will get better, they allow the Doctor's revelatory personal growth moment to be the phrase "We're not going to change anything". Yes, in this case the Doctor is using it in reference to keeping the timeline of black civil rights in the US on track, but it rings badly wrong given the association of the word change and how her temporal conservatism jars with the obviously progressive politics of the entire rest of the episode.

The second problem I have is how they eventually deal with the villain. The Doctor outsmarts him by smashing his vortex manipulator and getting him to bork his gun by shooting his own tech into the future. Despite this he keeps trying to stop them, and Ryan who has inexplicably been asked to tell all the (white, racist) bus travellers to wait for the bus comes across him in an alley where the bad guy has parked his car to block the bus. When bad guy refuses to move Ryan shoots him with the guy's own time displacement gun. Problem solved? More like problematic. I mean maybe I'm reading too much into this, but in an episode dedicated to celebrating the struggle to eradicate racism against black people it seems really backwards to have the eventual solution to the villain be the young black male shoots him and he's dead. As much as the displacer doesn't kill strictly (though the Doctor does describe it as "deadly") Ryan states in the episode he's set it for "as far back as it could go". He's sent the dude to prehistory where he will either die immediately or die of old age. Either way he's killed him. That just feels really wrong for an episode like this, and wrong for Doctor Who. In the last episode Ryan tried shooting guns and it didn't work and he got chastised for it, this time nobody even questions him. Like, why are there no consequences for him literally murdering this guy, even if it's just the Doctor being mad at him? She yelled at the guy for kicking Tim Shaw off a crane, but straight up murder is fine as long as he was a bad enough dude?

I don't know. I'm loathe to criticise this heavier than that, but in an episode where the plot is wafer thin to add in a large amount of political message it seems unforgivable to have the major story beats fail to respect that message. The next one has spiders and is called Arachnids in the UK. I'm sure someone will just shoot them all dead and problem solved.


Kleiner (and anyone else too) I'd love to read your review if you have the time to write one. I'd really like to know if I'm just off base with this one or not.
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