Thursday, December 31, 2015

The Whore of The Doctor



STORY 265: THE HUSBANDS
OF RIVER SONG

Is Doctor Who now made for stupid people?  That might explain why Kyle Anderson from The Nerdist, whom I've infuriated to the point of him blocking me on the Twitter for taking light jabs at his attempts at wit, praised it as another brilliant episode in a series of brilliant episodes.

As a side note, is it just mere coincidence that the only negative review he gave Series/Season 9 of Doctor Who came AFTER I pointed out he rarely if ever criticized the show and he made special mention of the "Twitter person" who called him out as a sycophant?  I'm sure it was mere coincidence, nothing more.  Yet I digress.

The Husbands of River Song for me was a bad affair.  It showed that writer/showrunner Steven Moffat is bereft of ideas.  It shows that this loathsome character does not merit the Doctor's time, let alone be seen as The Great Love of His Life.  It shows the lack of intelligence among both production crew and audiences who eat this stuff up.  Apart from the last scene pretty much everything about The Husbands of River Song tells me one thing and one thing only:

I really should stop watching this, and I think I will.

It's Christmas on the human colony Medorax Dellora, 5343 (and unsurprisingly, despite being on a whole different planet somehow snow still manages to fall on said planet at Christmas), but the Doctor (Peter Capaldi) is having none of it.  He is determined to enjoy a quiet Christmas, so much so that he puts a sign on the TARDIS' door: Carol Singers Will Be Criticised (sic).  Nevertheless, one brave soul dares knock on the door.  Nardole (Matt Lucas) comes calling desperate for a surgeon, and Nardole mistakes the Doctor for 'the surgeon' (close enough) and brings him to his mistress.  It's none other than the Legendary Legend of Legendness, DOCTOR RIVER SONG (Alex Kingston).  She is appropriately dressed (red coat with white trimmings, looking like the Merry Stripper that she is) and while the Doctor immediately recognizes her, she has no idea who he is.

Song orders 'the surgeon' to operate on her husband (one of many, along with wives too): King Hydroflax (Greg Davies).  Ostensibly to save his life, Song is really only interested in the Halassi Androvar, a valuable diamond lodged inside His Majesty's head.  She suggests the surgeon (whom she doesn't recognize at The Doctor) cut the King's head off (which can work temporarily without the body) so that she can take the diamond and return it to its rightful owner (right, like she'd have a moral bone in her body). 

Well, Hydroflax learns of this and decides to kill the bitch himself, but the Doctor joins in to save River (and himself) by threatening to chuck the King's head down the garbage.  At this point the three of them are teleported by Ramon (Phillip Rhys), River's current/newest husband.  Ramon has found the TARDIS, but no sign of "Damsel", River's codename for The Doctor (as in "Damsel in Distress", since she is always rescuing him).  River still does not recognize The Doctor because his is not one of the twelve faces she knows (including the "War" Doctor, an abomination if ever there was one). 

No worries, as River will steal the TARDIS right from under whichever Doctor's nose is there (something she points out to the 'surgeon' she's done many times).  A getaway is impossible, as the TARDIS detects a person is both inside and outside the TARDIS (the King's head and body not together).  By this time, the body is attacking, having taken the heads of both Nardole and Ramon to get info on the former Queen of the Gutters.  Fortunately, now having both head and body allows them to escape and arrive on the Harmony & Redemption, a spaceship in the shape of a sailing ship.

The name of the ship is a massive misnomer, for the scum of the universe are there, which explains River's presence.  She is there to sell the diamond for millions of credits, and has arranged to meet the seller whom she contacted with an advert. 

As a side note, what kind of ad was placed?  "Have rare diamond.  Please contact Professor Song at 1-900-Mix-A-Lot"?

Well, her contact, Scratch (Robert Curtis) has paid for the diamond, but one small hitch. He and his group worship King Hydroflax and have purchased the diamond as tribute, so the head thing won't go over well.  Fortunately for all, the body comes out, thanks to Flemming (Rowan Polonski), the maître d', who to save his own head promises a greater one: the Doctor, with whom River is intimately involved with.  River denies the Doctor is there, insisting that she may love him, but he, like the sun, cannot love back.  It's at this point that she finally realizes it's The Doctor in front of her, when he smiles and says, "Hello Sweetie". 

Her knowledge of archaeology allows her to know of a meteor storm that wrecks the ship, and the Doctor and his bitch flee in the TARDIS.  River's knocked out, and the Doctor sees they are in Derillium, the site of their last night together.  He arranges for a restaurant to be built there and makes reservations for him and Song, where they at last see the Singing Towers first mentioned in Forest of the Dead Parts 1 & 2 (Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead).  The Doctor won't tell her anything, teasing her with "Spoilers", and as she mourns the fact that her time is almost up, he tells her that the nights on Derillium last...twenty-four years.

Somehow, Twelve Years a Slave seems almost a blessing when compared to Twenty-Four Years With Song...


Admittedly, the final scene of Song and The Doctor was quite moving.  It is a scene of loss, of two people who know they will never see each other again.  Part of the effectiveness of this scene is that River, for once, allows vulnerability to show.  She isn't her usual self: smug, arrogant, and intolerably condescending.  She is almost frightened, aware that she will die very soon.  It also helps that things are quiet, simple.  Even Murray Gold's score here is soft and gentle, giving the scene a greater sorrow. 

That was the good part.  Everything else is standard Moffat crap, which explains why Anderson loved it so.  Getting a positive Doctor Who review from Kyle Anderson is like getting a dog to bark at a kennel.      

The first really bad step is the tone.  For almost the whole hour, everything is played as a wild, exaggerated farce.  Douglas Mackinnon directed everyone apparently to be as broad as possible, which I found a pretty disastrous choice.  This is especially true for Kingston, whose Song was so obviously fake in her 'affection' for Hydroflax one wondered why she was directed to so ham it up.  The excessively attentive behavior only drew attention to her total insincerity, and no one would be THAT besotted with someone to not see through their subterfuge.

That leads us to the second awful step: River Song herself.  Someone will have to gently hold my hand and guide me into understanding why the Doctor would see this woman as 'the great love of his life'.  Here, the Doctor gets to observe River Song as she truly is, away from the excessively flirtatious banter and penchant for striking poses, removed from her "Hello Sweetie" and "Spoilers".  It would make a fascinating vantage point for someone to be able to see what 'the love of their life' is like when the object of their affection can see them away from them.

As written River Song is particularly revolting (and that's saying a lot given how I loathed her from the first time I saw her, not in Forest of the Dead Parts 1 & 2, but in The Time of Angels Parts 1 & 2).  When she discusses her plans to remove the King's head and in essence kill the king, he tells her, "You're talking about murdering someone."  "No I'm not," she retorts.  "I'm actually murdering someone".  So, River Song, the great love of the Doctor's life, is an admitted murderess.

She then tells him that he reminds her of "my second wife".  OK, so now she's bisexual at the very least.  Nothing wrong with that, except this as far as I know is the first time this element is presented.  Also, as performed by Kingston, River is less a true bisexual and more an Omni/pansexual, a female Captain Jack (who, incidentally, was also created by Steven Moffat.  Talk about repeating yourself).  Near the end of The (Many) Husbands (and Wives) of River Song, the Doctor appears to reprimand Song for marrying Hydroflax (though she insists she married the diamond).  She responds by bringing up Queen Elizabeth I, then he brings up Ramon, she brings up Marilyn Monroe, he brings up Stephen Fry (which is probably what made him gay...I know I'd give up women if I married River Song), and she brings up Cleopatra (who apparently married her too...oy vey). 

I counted six 'spouses' of River Song: Hydroflax, Ramon (both simultaneously, making her a bigamist), the Doctor (mercifully only in an alternate timeline which was erased the minute time restarted), Stephen Fry, Cleopatra, and an unknown second 'wife' (though whether this second Mrs. Song came pre-or-post Cleo AND/OR if there were other Sapphic spouses we do not know).  That makes River Song thoroughly untrue to The Doctor.   

I'm sure many NuWhovians found all this hilarious, but I found it creepy.  To me, it showed that The Doctor wasn't 'the great love of River Song's life', as she appears to have no problem going from man to woman to robot to anything so long as it satisfies her sexual appetite or her monetary goals.  In short, despite protests to the contrary, this River Song is incapable of love, at least in giving it.



So now River Song is a murderess and a heartless slut.

Then we get to hear how she has stolen the TARDIS from the Doctor on more than one occasion, but no worries: she'll return it a second from his point of view so he'll be none the wiser.  Again, I'm a man of average intelligence, but this indicates that the Doctor has been betrayed by River many times, that she thinks of him as a moron with whom she can do as she pleases.  She's also betrayed his trust because the TARDIS is essentially his home, and she uses it as a convenience to commit crimes ranging from theft to murder without any hint of remorse for any of it.  She shows she cannot be trusted.

River Song has no moral compass whatsoever.  She's selfish, manipulative, and with no ability to love (and those are her attributes); yet despite all this (and how by calling him 'Damsel', she has utter contempt for his abilities to solve problems on his own...but should be solving her problems left right and center), this utter pile of shit is "THE GREAT LOVE OF THE DOCTOR'S LIFE"?

No, No, and HELL NO!

Everything about Song as presented in The (Many) Husbands (and Wives) of River Song would or should have sent the Doctor fleeing for his lives away from this horrid, horrid creature, not making him fall in love with her with an unending passion sexual or intellectual.

Again, someone will have to explain why River Song is a.) so popular, and b.) seen as The Doctor's equal, let alone c.) this Great Love whom he would marry.  The idea that, given what we've seen of River Song, anyone would genuinely fall in love with her, is my first big beef.

I'd say perhaps my second big beef with The (Many) Husbands (and Wives) of River Song is the comedy.  Not only is it too broad, but it isn't funny.  Maybe Lucas is seen as some sort of comedic genius I figure, but I found him horribly grating (of course, I find the same in another 'comedic genius': Aziz Ansari, but then my idea of comedic genius is Jack Benny, so what do I know).  All the deliberate bits (such as Flemming saying, "Don't worry.  I'll just stick my head round the door", when Ramon lures him to open the baggage hold) are so overt you can almost see the cast mugging for the camera (and at this particular bit, I think they did).


Third issue: the repetitiveness of it all.  You have a restaurant scene that plays like it could have been edited from Deep Breath (right down to having the leads crash into the floor below and an alien that opens up).  You have a spaceship in the form of a sailing ship like in Voyage of the Damned.  The body and head being able to operate independently seems to have been inspired from Re-Animator (which did a much better job at being funny and entertaining than this dribble).  You even have the head in a bag bit, which also appears to come from Re-Animator.  The only thing left was for Hydroflax's head to give head to River Song (which for some reason, I imagine is a 'been there, done that' for our favorite intergalactic tramp). 

And yes, I know it's a Christmas special (which to them, means including visual cues to let the moronic audience in on that), but seriously, does EVERY Christmas special require there be snow on whatever planet they're on?  There's no snow in one half of OUR planet on Christmas, so why does the Doctor keep running into places with fields of snow on Christmas Eve/Day?  Really, if he so hated Christmas as to keep carolers out, why didn't he just leave?

For that matter, why didn't Nardole and the real 'surgeon' just have a rendezvous point?  In the episode, Nardole was sent to find the surgeon, but we see the surgeon was looking for him.  Wouldn't Nardole have a description of 'the universe's greatest surgeon' (whom I figure probably would go along with this whole 'leave the head, take the diamond' scheme)?  What happened to those people watching the surgery live on television?  Wouldn't they notice that the King just upped and left surgery?  Wouldn't they ask whatever happened to the monarch?

Oh, silly me...asking questions of logic on a show that gets a pass on being logical to the point of a thorough lack of logic being seen as one of its great virtues.

Oh yes, let me mention Gold's score.  Typically loud and deliberate in its cues about how funny this is all suppose to be.

Apart from the final scene, The (Many) Husbands (and Wives) of River Song should be the last we see of this hideous creature.  Canon establishes that the last night they spent together before she meets her end in Forest of Dead Parts 1 & 2 was where we end this episode: the Singing Towers of Derillium.  That's it.  Show's over. This should close out the Merry Adventures of River Song.  To my mind, the entire River Song timeline is in hopeless shambles, but now, with this, there should be no more to tell.  Whether that ACTUALLY happens...

I hated her from the first moment I saw her, and if this truly is the last we see of her, then I might give this episode another point.  Then again, this is Steven Moffat, a man who can't leave well enough alone, who overcomplicates things to where if you think logically on them, it makes no sense on any level. 

However, I'm being far too harsh.  Since when has a NuWho fan ever thought about logic?  So long as it made them cry, so long as they squealed over the Doctor saying "Hello Sweetie" and "Spoilers", the episode will be seen by them as a 'stone-cold classic'. 

Damn the River.  Damn the River to the bowels of Hell...



1/10

Next Episode: ?

Friday, December 11, 2015

The Immortal Beloved of The Doctor



STORY 264.2: HEAVEN & HELL
PART 2:
HELL BENT

Well, we've come at last to the Series Nine finale of Doctor WhoHell Bent sees a lot thrown in to our hour-plus program.  We find that a lot of things have not changed, and whatever big twist that would alter the series we were promised is not there.

The vague suggestion of perhaps the second worst spin-off is though (nothing really tops the idea of a spin-off for the same-sex bestiality of Madame Vastra & Jenny).   Hell Bent does at least one thing it set out to do: so wreck Doctor Who that it is, like Gallifrey was at the end of the now-forgotten (and formerly time-locked) Time War: a total shambles.

The Doctor (Peter Capaldi) finds himself in Nevada, USA, stopping at a 1950s-style diner.  To his surprise, he finds the waitress looks an awful lot like his late Companion, Clara Oswald (Jenna Coleman).  He then attempts to recount the tale of his last visit with his Boss (which oddly, wasn't Face the Raven).

Having found himself on Gallifrey, which is at the very edge of the universe, the Doctor's return isn't welcomed by the High Council or Rassilon (Donald Sumpter) still the Lord President of Gallifrey.  Out in the boonies where that damn barn of the Doctor's childhood is still there, Rassilon demands he surrender.  However, in a 'shocking twist', the Doctor tells Rassilon, founder of the Time Lord race, "Get off my planet".

It's hard not to laugh at a line like that, but there you go.

To the astonishment of everyone, Rassilon meekly goes off to leave the Doctor in charge.  OK, so now he manages to bring Clara just a heartbeat away from death to save her from dying; the Doctor claims he needs her for something, but this is all part of a trick.  The Doctor shoots The General (Ken Bones), who promptly regenerates from a white man to a black woman (T'nia Miller), thus forever forcing Moffat's own warped and nonsensical views on regeneration into Canon (Time Lords are hermaphrodites).  Together, Clara and her Companion go into the Matrix, where the memories of all dead Time Lords are stored. 

Well, in the confusion the Doctor and Clara steal another TARDIS which looks like the very first one he had and they travel to the end of time itself, where waits Ashildr/Me (Maisie Williams), the last of the Immortals.  "How are you sustaining it (the reality bubble) by the way?" the Doctor asks her.  "Brilliantly," is her only explanation.


Well, the Doctor confronts Me about being the Hybrid, but Me has a surprise for him.  The Hybrid is really the Doctor and Clara!  They are too much alike, and the joining of two warrior races (Humans and Time Lords) is what will breed the long-feared Hybrid.  Clara in the TARDIS overhears all this, and reverses the polarity through the sonic sunglasses to stop the Doctor from wiping out her memories.  She insists she wants to die with her memories intact.  As we are not sure whether her reversing the polarity worked or not, it's a guess as to whose memory will be wiped. 

When they use the device to erase memory together, we find it's the Doctor's memory of Clara that is mostly wiped.  "Clara Who?" he asks, and we go back to Mel's Diner where the Doctor says he can't remember what Clara looks like.  As he is left in the diner, Clara sneaks off to the back, where we find she and Ashildr are now travelling time and space, outrunning the Time Lords who are not pleased to find that Clara is essentially outrunning death.  Unfortunately, despite reading the manual Ashildr a.) can't get their TARDIS to change shape from a 1950s diner, and b.) have the whooshing sound (indicating via Moffat that they too "left the parking brake on").  Well, Clara and Ashildr left a gift: the original TARDIS for the Doctor to go back to, and with a renewed joie de vivre, he goes back to time and space, looking for a new lead character to play second banana to.

I thought I really had very little to say but find that I do have a lot to say, none of it good. Hell Bent is typical Moffat: inconsistent, illogical, and so nonsensical. Just the opening and closing of the episode show just how little thought he puts into things (despite protests to the contrary from his passionate defenders like the Igor to Moffat's Victor Frankenstein, the Dis-Functional Nerd himself, Kyle Anderson).  In the opening, as he plays 'Clara's Theme' on his guitar (and enough with that damn guitar already), the Doctor appears taken aback that the waitress asks the Doctor, "Tell me about her", when he talks about Clara. 

At the end of the episode, however, he tells this waitress that he doesn't remember what Clara looks like. 

If that is the case, why then did he appear shocked that the waitress (who looks a lot like Clara) should ask about Clara?  He would naturally be shocked IF he knew that the waitress was either Clara or was her doppelganger.  However, given that, if we use Moffat's own writing, he didn't remember what Clara looked like, then why would the Doctor react as though she SHOULD know who Clara was.  If again, we go by Moffat's own writing, the Doctor himself shouldn't know what Clara looked like, so his reaction at the opening of Hell Bent literally makes no sense.

He shouldn't have reacted at all given that if we use Moffat's own writing, the Doctor would have by now have had no idea that the waitress and Clara looked alike, let alone were one and the same.  It only makes sense if you think of the episode happening literally chronologically, meaning that what was meant to be flashback wasn't.

That, of course, is how the majority of NuWhovians would think of it, so to them this really, really weird inconsistency would totally make sense.  I can't think of it that way, so it doesn't make sense.

Also, the idea that Moffat has come up with another outlandish way to essentially not kill off a character and bring her back from the dead is now pathological.  Why is Face the Raven even relevant now, given that Moffat has come up with another 'Get Out of Death' card?  Death has no emotional impact anymore.  In Face the Raven, Clara "dies", but I think all but those weeping over a fictional character knew she'd be back.

However, as galling as Moffat has been in the past, even I wouldn't have thought he'd bring her back as essentially a Time Lord-like being, piloting her own TARDIS, which itself got stuck, not in the shape of a police box, but in the shape of a diner.  This isn't like Leela staying on Gallifrey because she found love (which was bungled in The Invasion of Time), where at least some time was given to the idea of having her on Gallifrey.  This is essentially making this insipid schoolteacher into a time traveler for no other reason than he can.

From the unreleased documentary
Moffat On Moffat

That goes hand-in-hand with Moffat's stubborn determination to remake regenerations in his own image.  He never showed a regeneration with his Caitlyn Jennering of The Master, so some could have said Missy wasn't really a regeneration of The Master (perhaps The Master stole a body like he did in The Keeper of Trakken).  Now, with the general regenerating from man to woman, Moffat has gotten his eternal wish to make Time Lords change genders. 

Looking back at Classic Who, from An Unearthly Child to Survival, when we do see other Time Lords regenerate, they stay the same gender.  Romana stayed as a female, as did Borusa and Rassilon.  There was never a thought to go through transgendered Time Lords because it really would have served no purpose storywise.  The whole idea that The Doctor could regenerate into a woman was meant as a joke, one that I believe Fourth Doctor Tom Baker started and which its last original producer John Nathan-Turner toyed with every so often.

Moffat apparently didn't get the joke, as he has made regeneration less a moment of awe and more a joke.  He gave River Song, conceived by the Power of the Holy TARDIS, the ability to 'regenerate' (despite being human).  He now has decided to make Time Lords a thoroughly transgendered community (despite his own dismissal of such thoughts with his "I'd like the Queen to be played by a man" crack).

What really shows how Moffat simply doesn't get regeneration is that we saw with the transgendered General what Classic Whovians, those who fiercely oppose the idea of an intersex Doctor, have feared would happen: nothing good.  The General changed from man to woman, but was exactly the same person.  There was no regenerational confusion, no period of adjustment, and worst of all, no change in personality.  She was exactly as He had been before. 

Given that The General was no different, what difference did it ultimately make that He was played by a woman?  None.  There was nothing important, interesting, or relevant about the sex-change, save for Moffat showing he could do such a thing because he damn well could and no one could stop him. 


What, does equality scare you?
Let's say that Moffat gets his wish and gives the part of The Doctor to a woman.  Those who clamor for 'equality' will cheer and say 'it's about time'.  Well, what next?  Milton Berle, no stranger to drag, made an interesting observation.  He said that you get a good laugh out of appearing in a funny costume.  OK, he then added, what next?  You have to carry on with the scene in that costume.  What justification can you give the audience to keep the gag going apart from the initial laugh?  A funny costume can work for a long scene (I Love Lucy being a master at this) or for a whole movie (Some Like It Hot, writer/director Billy Wilder observed, was basically a five-minute burlesque sketch stretched to two hours, but the joke being that EVERYONE was taken in by something so patently obvious).  

What will you do once you make the Doctor into a female (the possibility now having become all but inevitable)?

Apart from 'equality', no one has come up with a valid rational for making The Doctor a woman.  Once you take that step, once you change the Doctor's gender, you have to keep coming up with stories that either address it or don't address it.  The dynamic between Doctor and Companion will most definitely change (no GREAT ROMANCE like The Doctor and Rose, unless you're willing to go down very particular roads your audience may not want to go down). Will you have male Companions?  Oh, sure, you can say "The Doctor's gender is and should be a non-issue", but if that were the case, why the desperate need, the demand to make The Doctor into a woman?  If "the Doctor's gender is and should be a non-issue", why not keep him a man?  Why this mad push to make The Doctor into a woman if the Doctor's gender is unimportant?

Circular arguments to justify making a major change to appease a sense of 'equality' is no reason to make that kind of radical change. 

One last point.  Hell Bent shows Moffat can't even keep continuity within his own writing.  We see in the Matrix (which was admittedly well-filmed, with the Wraiths floating by) a Dalek trapped there.  "Exterminate...me", he says.  Well, remembering from Davros' Revenge Part 2 (The Witch's Familiar), a Dalek can't plead to have someone/thing kill it.  When it appears to say, "Exterminate...me" as a plea to end its suffering, we know (or should know) it really is attempting to reload.

Right?

Hell Bent is more than awful (which it is).  It's sad, just sad.  It's sad that there are people like Kyle Anderson who look past all its illogic to sing praises to "The Moff".  It's sad that so many fans turn off their thinking to support a collection of events that cannot be tied together.  Most of all, it's sad to see a show that I was passionate about, that I truly loved, now just be something I simply don't care about anymore.

The Thirteenth Doctor
  
0/10

Overall: 0/10

Next Episode: The Husbands of River Song

Thursday, December 10, 2015

The Veiled Threat of The Doctor



STORY 264.1 HEAVEN & HELL
PART 1:
HEAVEN SENT

There is a reason Doctor Who has a Companion.  In the past, it was to have someone The Doctor can talk to, to serve as the audience and ask the questions we as the audience need answered.  In this incarnation of Doctor Who, the Companion has long been the main character.  Over time, this has proved to be a disastrous decision (one of many Steven Moffat has made), as it turns each Companion into this 'extraordinary being', one whom the show wraps itself around.  Instead of being a simple science-fiction show about an alien time traveler and his Associate(s), it's turned into The Rose Show, Martha: The Series, The Donna Follies, The Amy & Rory Comedy Hour, The Adventures of Super-Slut River Song, and The Clara Chronicles.

Heaven Sent is the first Companion-free Doctor Who since the Fourth Doctor story The Deadly Assassin in 1976.  As such, it is essentially a one-man show.  I've thought Peter Capaldi has the potential to be a great Doctor.  However, it's always the scripts that let him down, and let him down hard.  Now, I know many, including my bete noire Kyle Anderson, hold Heaven Sent to be a 'stone-cold classic', one of the thousands of Citizen Kanes of Doctor Who

I however, remain unconvinced, though Heaven Sent certainly has a few things to recommend it.  The idea that Heaven Sent is beyond brilliant is one I find laughable. 

The Doctor (Capaldi) has been teleported to a strange and spooky castle, where he is being pursued by a strange creature which is called The Veil.  As he tries to solve this mystery of where he is and what The Veil is, he finds himself seeing and being guided in his inquiry by visions of his late Companion, Clara Oswald (whom we see at the very end, most of the time only her back is shown).  The Doctor realizes The Veil stops from attacking only when he gives a Confession, such as when he says "I didn't leave Gallifrey because I was bored.  That's a lie.  It's always been a lie".  He left because he was scared.

Well, as time goes on...and on...and on...he makes the best of his situation, though the results are always the same: he manages to evade The Veil for some time, finds a wall 20" thick made out of diamond, and starts punching away at it until The Veil zaps him.  However, this doesn't kill him outright, but gives him about two days (conveniently) to crawl to the chamber and get himself returned, where we start All Over Again.

Eventually, after well over two billion years, he finally punches his way out of this place, which we discover is his Confessional Dial.  Once he leaves it, he finds himself in a familiar place: Gallifrey itself.

At first, I was going to be much more negative towards Heaven Sent than I eventually became.  I was talked into seeing the more positive aspects of this story.  I already had at least one high positive with regards Heaven Sent, and that was its cinematography.  This is certainly one of the most beautiful-looking episodes of the season, and Rachel Talalay deserves high praise for how well she filmed Heaven Sent

I also give credit to Capaldi.  Given how he essentially has to act with himself alone, he managed to make one not take too much notice that there was basically no one around.  Yes, he did have The Veil (a rip-off of The Ghost of Christmas Future in my view) and two brief moments when Jenna Coleman's Clara makes an appearance and when a young boy is told by the Doctor in Gallifrey to run to the Capital and tell them he's back, coming 'the long way round', but for all intents and purposes he has to hold the audience's attention.  Capaldi does that, making the Doctor's monologues seem mostly rational and not the babbling of a loon.

Mostly, for whenever he sees writing on the chalkboard, it does make him look bonkers and is derivative of Listen (another 'Citizen Kane of Doctor Who') when there was writing he wasn't aware of.

What I find amazing regarding all the high praise Heaven Sent has gotten is that Moffat is essentially retreading what we've seen before.  "My work is finding Room 12", the Doctor says.  Let's go back to the Eleventh Doctor's 'instant classic' The God Complex.  There, he finds his greatest fear is in Room 11. 

Moffat must think NuWho fans really are majorly stupid (and I suspect the majority of them are, non-thinking entities who swallow every twist no matter how irrational or contradictory, who never question the logic of anything Doctor Who-related, who go so far as to criticize someone for complaining about the lack of logic on the premise that Doctor Who ISN'T suppose to make sense, that it gets a pass from things like continuity or basic logic).  I'm not sure why Doctor Who writers enjoy writing down to people (apart from the fact that they can).  In The God Complex, he's The Eleventh Doctor (but the Thirteenth Form, in self-proclaimed analytical critic Kyle Anderson's own terms), therefore, his greatest fear has to be in Room 11 (how clever Toby Whithouse is).  In Heaven Sent, he's The Twelfth Doctor (but in Fourteethn Form, if we follow Andersonian logic).  This is why his search has to be for "Room 12" (how clever Steven Moffat is).

I for one am not impressed at how simplistic this "room" business is.   I do find it indicative of how poor Doctor Who is now.



I also find a lot of other things to be bad about Heaven Sent.  Over two billion years in one place.  It sounds an awful lot like The Time of The Doctor, where he was stuck on Christmas for hundreds and hundreds of years.  Oh, why not...we've got nothing but time.  I know the Doctor felt bad about Clara's death (even if was a result of her own stupidity and arrogance), but for Heaven's sake, I've never seen him whine so incessantly about any Companion as much as he has about her.  He's seen many Companions go, sometimes quite tragically (Katarina and Sara Kingdom in The Daleks' Master Plan, Adric in Earthshock), but while he mourned, he wasn't going to tear Heaven and Gallifrey apart just to save them.  In fact, he made it clear in Adric's case that his death is a fixed point in time that cannot be altered. 

Granted, this version of Doctor Who doesn't give a damn about 'fixed points' (that whole Time War thing was a fixed point in time, wasn't it?), adding or dropping it at a plot's convenience, but why do we have to go on and on about Clara?

We have this idea that The Confessional Dial is opened only at the day of a Time Lord's death (something 'ancient' introduced this season) and that the Hybrid is an ancient legend (something introduced this season).  Well, now that the Doctor's emerged from the Confessional Dial, does this mean he'll finally die?  So he's the Hybrid.  OK, I don't care.

It is nice that Moffat has become so power-mad that he now blew up with one 'confession' what had been Canon since the Second Doctor in The War Games (for those BIG-TIME Doctor Who fans who can't be bothered to see anything pre-Rose, that was when he said he left Gallifrey because he was bored). Oh well, again I don't care.

Heaven Sent is beautifully filmed and solidly acted.  Everything else is rubbish.  I know many of my fellow critics (and Anderson, who is to critics what smoking is to lung health) think it among the Greatest Moments in Television History, a turning point for the medium.  I see it as another in a long line of bad Doctor Who episodes, one that won't be watched and beloved in the future.  Admired perhaps, held as something extraordinary perhaps, but just another really poor example of how one man's ego (fanned by sycophants like Our Andy) destroyed everything we loved.

4/10

Next Episode: Hell Bent    

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

The Ruffled Feathers of The Doctor



STORY 263: FACE THE RAVEN

As a longtime Doctor Who viewer, I think that Clara Oswald is perhaps one of the worst Companions, fitting given how awful Doctor Who has become.  When once I eagerly looked forward to Saturday nights, now I simply could not care whether or not this particular Companion (who finds herself near the top of my Ten Worst Companions List), actually died.  I'm suspicious about whether the character has actually died, given how Steven Moffat won't ever kill someone off permanently.  How often has someone come back to life after apparently dying (just this season alone we've had Clara and the monstrosity called Missy 'die' and come back, and then there was Ashtrid/Me following suit).  Face the Raven is billed as the Doctor Who episode that actually kills off a Companion (the first Companion death since I think Adric back in the Peter Davison era).  Yes, we've seen Companions die on NuWho, but they haven't stayed dead.  This time though, Companion Clara is not just merely dead, but most sincerely dead.

At least allegedly.

Face the Raven actually was a bit moving regarding her death.  It could however have been better if they had a.) found a better way to get there and b.) not tried so desperately hard to make me care.

Clara (Jenna Coleman) and her Companion (Peter Capaldi) receive an urgent call from Rigsy (Joivan Wade).  He is highly upset because he has a tattoo...which he doesn't remember getting and worse, which is counting down.  Supernatural in nature, the Doctor tells Rigsy it's a countdown to his death.  Rigsy is horrified (which he is a lot throughout the episode) and now it's time to try and save him.

For this, the Doctor and his boss go looking for a Trap Street, in this case not proof of 'copyright infringement' but a hidden world of aliens within London.  Eventually they do find Diagon Alley...I mean, the Trap Street, where Rigsy's appearance is not welcome.  It seems he committed murder.

That's pretty much his expression
throughout the episode.

In charge of this 'alien refugee camp' (would the Syrians go there, I wonder) is Mayor Me (Maisie Williams).  She tells them that because Rigsy was standing over a body that was lying apparently dead, he so obviously killed Anna, this beloved alien who is a Janus (someone with faces on both sides of her head, being able to see the past and future).  Obviously, the fact that a man who was essentially unwittingly lured to a place at 6 in the morning, who had his memory and phone wiped of all information, and who had never been seen before by any of these creatures is obviously guilty and given a death sentence.

That makes oh so perfect sense.

Well, it's a mystery, and Clara & Company want to save Rigsy, but the Doctor doesn't trust Me.  Mayor McCheese gives her word that Clara will be under her personal protection and no harm will come to her.  With that, we try to solve the Mystery of Anna.

Rigsy's tattoo is a quantum shade, where at the end of its countdown an avenging angel of death will kill the wearer.  In this case, the angel of death is in the shape of a raven.  We've seen what it can do when it kills an old man who is really a Cyberman who had stolen medicine for his equally old wife.

At this point, I'm calling bull on this whole scenario.  Caring Cybermen?  Caring Cybermen with WIVES?!  Caring Cybermen with wives whom they'd sacrifice themselves for?  What kind of nutty Cybermen defect is THIS?


Why'd they drag me into this? 
Why'd they drag Me into this?
Well, as it stands the Doctor in his own words tells us to 'forget about finding the real killer", we need to do something.  Clara turns into Blair from The Facts of Life and gets one of those 'brilliant ideas'.  She gets Rigsy to pass the time tattoo on her with the idea that it will save him and do her no harm as she is under Mayor McCheese's personal protection.   Bad move: we discover after interrogating Anna's daughter (who is disguised as a boy) that Anna may in fact not be dead. 

No matter: because Clara willingly took the tattoo there is nothing Me can do and thus Clara must die.  All this was a very elaborate trap for Clara's minion, who at the end is teleported to some world at the behest of mysterious forces whom Me is working for.  Clara meets her end when she faces the Raven.

Say what you will about Adric, at least his death was a noble one, sacrificing himself to save others.  This cannot be said for Clara.  She died not because she was willing to sacrifice herself, but because her ego was large she thought she had outwitted Death itself.  I liked the fact that we were given proper warning (The Raven cannot be completely cheated), so Clara's elaborate plan to save Rigsy did as my friends say, "backfire on me".

My main problem is in the set-up.  All this seems rather convoluted in order to lure the Doctor into Diagon Alley (and anyone who claims this hidden world isn't a rip-off of Harry Potter is just an idiot).  Me could have found a faster and less elaborate way to get the Doctor into this trap.  It also makes me wonder what Rigsy had to do with anything.  Apart from being the catalyst to get things rolling he played no part in the story.  It could have been anyone really: we could even have gotten Adrian from The Caretaker back for all the emotional impact or relevance to the plot Rigsy played.

I'm surprised that no one ever said, "Well, since there was no murder, you can't condemn someone to death for NOT killing someone".  Oh well. 



I think that whatever emotional impact Clara's Death may have is lost due to Murray Gold's penchant to overscore everything.  This is in keeping with Doctor Who's idea that the emotion cannot come straight from the performances or the story.  We need musical cues to tell us how to feel.  Still, I can see why Clara's Death made so many Whovians cry.  It was much better than I thought it would be, pulling those emotional strings that make many an idiot sob, so kudos for working in emotion into this.  I just wish Clara' weren't such a know-it-all, or that the Doctor appears to turn to HER for information;  was all that jazz about 'the trap street' meant to show she was smarter than the lead?

It also would have been nice to see Clara sacrifice herself because she cared, not to show off.  If she had taken Rigsy's tattoo because she wanted him to live to see his newborn daughter grow up, THEN that would have been a great farewell.  As it stood, it was, well, not as moving.

As a side note, what is IT with all these NuWhovians crying their eyes out at all this?  Are they all this emotionally weak they can't handle a Companion moving on?  Bad enough when they cried at Smith's regeneration, but this?  Dear Sweet Mother of Mercy...no wonder ISIS is winning.

Speaking of Smith, I thought that the Doctor's inability to realize that Rigsy "made this little human" (meaning his daughter) was something Smith's idiot Doctor would say, not perhaps Capaldi's grumpy one. It's curious that Jon Pertwee's Third Doctor was perfectly capable of understanding humans, but post-Tennant they seem unaware of how things work.

It was pretty well-acted and pushed me to feel so much for them, though I couldn't.  The more I think on things, the more I am reminded of Edgar Allen Poe. If asked if I will watch Series 10 of Doctor Who, to quoth The Raven, "Nevermore".    

3/10

Next Episode: Heaven Sent

WHAT?! KYLE ANDERSON REALLY THINKS ALL THIS IS BRILLIANT?!

WHAT DO YOU MEAN THEY WON'T CANCEL DOCTOR WHO?

Saturday, December 5, 2015

The Sleep Crust of The Doctor


STORY 262: SLEEP NO MORE

Welcome to a Doctor Who episode so horrible even The Whorist's Kyle Anderson, a man who blocked me on Twitter for making fun of his eternal cheerleading masquerading as objective reviews, found repellent.  Of course, a negative Kyle Anderson review of a Doctor Who episode should be taken with a boatload of salt.  His negative review could have come about because I in particular had openly criticized him for rarely if ever criticizing anything Doctor Who, especially anything Moffat-related.   Therefore, his negative review may have been a way to show that he could, on occasion, be 'highly critical when warranted'. 

His negative review could also have come from the fact that Anderson has an unofficial rule of 'one negative review per season' to keep his cred up. 

It also could be that Sleep No More was just so flat-out bad even he couldn't sugarcoat it. I suspect that if he went with his usual "this is the GREATEST DOCTOR WHO EPISODE OF ALL TIME, better than last week's, which was the last GREATEST DOCTOR WHO EPISODE OF ALL TIME until next week, when that one will be the GREATEST DOCTOR WHO EPISODE OF ALL TIME" shtick, even those followers of his who think he's brilliant would think he was insane (or what he is: a lackey). 

Sleep No More is not horrible in a Death in Heaven or In the Forest of the Night or Love & Monsters bad.  Sleep No More IS horrible, but in a shockingly inept, clumsy, stupid, pandering manner, a story that is simultaneously cringe and laugh-inducing.  Sleep No More shows just how bad Doctor Who has become, an episode that tries to be 'hip' by using a dying genre to be 'current' but only ends up being insulting to longtime fans and new converts.

In a 'found footage' style, Gagen Rasmussen (Reece Shearsmith) tells us from the get-go "You must not watch this", but watch we do.

Incidentally, when Rasmussen tells us that, it is really writer and self-professed genius Mark Gatiss warning us he was going to give us an hour's worth of crap.

Anyway, Rasmussen tells us he's cobbled together footage from various sources to show us what happened aboard the Le Verrier Space Station.  There are four soldiers who've arrived aboard the Le Verrier to investigate the sudden disappearance of the crew.  They are Commander Nagata (Elaine Tan), Officer Chopra (Neet Mohan), jokester Deep-Ando (Paul Courtenay Hyu) and the humanoid 474 (Bethany Black), a grunt grown with low intelligence and brute force.  Into the space station stumble Clara Oswald (Jenna Coleman) and her Companion, Some Old Guy (Peter Capaldi).  At first, Nagata is distrustful of these two figures, wondering of they are Space Pirates.

As a side note, anytime someone name drops one of the worst Classic Doctor Who stories, again we're in deep trouble.

Anyway, Some Old Guy is horrified to see that Rasmussen, the only original crew member still around, has created the Morpheus Device, a machine that compresses regular sleep in a few minutes.  This horrifies The Old Guy, especially since the machine takes the star for a while and for reasons that must have appeared hilarious to our old friend Marky Mark, plays Mr. Sandman (which given the story is set in the 38th Century, would be a song close to 2000 years old). 

Anyway, we discover there are monsters on the station, and The Old Guy makes the deduction that they are formed from the sleep dust collected from our eyes, the Morpheus process giving them life into carnivorous lifeforms.  They essentially consumed the crew, but why not Rasmussen?  Now the crew has to stop the "Sandmen" as they are dubbed by the main character (Clara) from eating them as well.  Some of them do meet a rather gruesome end, but The Old Guy manages to defeat them and the survivors flee the station.

As for Rasmussen, he tells us that we shouldn't have watched, but since we did, we now will show this to our family and friends, and as he dissolves into the Sandman he always was, he tells us there is something there, in the corner of our eye.

I think the most amazing thing about Sleep No More is the fact that anyone, from showrunner Steven Moffat to star Peter Capaldi to the guy who gets everyone coffee or tea didn't just flat-out tell writer Mark Gatiss, "Look, we know this is Doctor Who, and we're not particular about the kind of crap we put out because NuWhovians and The Nerdist's Kyle Anderson will declare it brilliant, but even by the low standards of our show, this is beyond crap".  Any episode that bills itself as 'terrifying' is already setting itself up for major failure, and Sleep No More shows us what can happen when an out-of-control production team, pumped up on hubris and fawning press, thinks it can do anything and not expect others to call them on their rubbish.

I confess to a few things regarding Sleep No More.  First, despite my years of film reviewing I'm not very familiar with the 'found footage' genre.  I never saw The Blair Witch Project (which I'm told is the best of the lot).  I never saw Chronicle, or any Paranormal Activity films, or Project X/Almanac, or any of those projects.  I've seen Cloverfield (which I didn't like) and Cannibal Holocaust (which I didn't think was as horrifying as I had been told, save for 'the turtle thing').  The genre simply doesn't interest me, primarily because it's always struck me as both lazy and a gimmick.  Something like The Blair Witch Project probably works better because it was meant to look like it was pieced together from various sources, but all these other 'found footage' films look like they are shaped just to 'frighten' us rather than be plausible (let alone believable).  Therefore, the point of reference with regards to Sleep No More is pretty much lost on me. 

Second, Gatiss' script has real howlers of dialogue.  From the opening "You must not watch this" to Clara's "Do you ever get the feeling like you're being watched?" (a line I last heard spoken by Bugs Bunny) to "May the gods look favorably upon us all " (having me reply "And may the odds be ever in your favor") to "The dust has been watching us" and perhaps the most succinct line spoken in all Revived Doctor Who ("Doesn't make sense.  None of this makes any sense"), the script from the man genuinely convinced he's on a higher intellectual level than Sartre or Serling pushes us to ridicule it again and again.

Sleep crust?  Seriously, sleep crust?  I don't get sleep crust save when I get allergies (in fact, the last time I had allergies, the heavy amount of sleep crust I had was the tipoff that something was wrong), so the idea that sleep crust could form after the body had less than 40 winks is, well, illogical.  Yes, I know Doctor Who has no interest in logic, but sometimes, the sheer stupidity of a concept is beyond even their inept hands.

Playing Mr. Sandman?  Seriously?  Is Gatiss obsessed with the romanticism of the 1940s and 1950s?  If he'd been as bright as he thinks he is, he would have chosen a classical piece (say, Brahms), and not a pop song from the 1950s to drive home his point. 

Gatiss has an extraordinarily high opinion of himself as a person and especially a writer, and it comes through at Rasmussen's final speech.  When "Rasmussen" is congratulating himself for coming up with a story with lots of twists and a big epic conclusion, one that would terrify its audiences, what is really going on is that Gatiss is through the character telling us, "Oh, aren't I such a brilliant writer.  See how clever and brilliant and dark I can get".  Marky, I can see right through your overinflated ego.  When you were typing that out, you were talking about your own (sense of) greatness.  Shameless egocentric lunatic. 

In fairness, it's not all Mark Gatiss' fault.  People like Kyle Anderson have so convinced Gatiss that he IS this unimpeachable genius (note in Anderson's review how apologetic he is in having to take Gatiss down, just like he did when he mildly criticized Gatiss' Cold War).  Gatiss is so transparent with regards to how he sees himself that Rasmussen's final speech should be studied by future screenwriters to demonstrate how a writer's ego can so blind him to his own ineptness.

Visually, the thing's as big a mess as the story.  474 is played by Bethany Black, a transsexual who was born a man but is now a woman.  When 474 puts his hands up to Chopra's face and says, "Chopra pretty", I thought 474 was gay (which I thought odd for a product of engineering to express sexual desire, but am I overthinking things).  Since the footage was so dark I couldn't tell who or what was what, I thought 474 was male. 


The performances are so uninspired.  Capaldi at one points looks genuinely pained, as if he realized he wasn't going to get scripts like Blink on a regular basis.  Everyone looks trapped, and Shearsmith's Rasmussen was both the villain but a non-entity.  Hyu's character was described as a jokester, but we saw no evidence of any of that.  You think he'd appreciate being made to sing Mr. Sandman to get away from the Sandmen (who remember, are made up of sleep dust), but this wasn't part of the story.  Part of the problem is that because the episode is so compressed, it's forced to give just a quick hint of a character's trait.  Therefore, when they get swallowed up by overgrown sleep crust, it does make things less emotionally impacting.

As if the term 'being swallowed up by overgrown sleep crust' could ever make anything menacing.  Shearsmith's narration made him look like a nutty narrator, and whether this was the intention or not I cannot say.  It was the end result, but perhaps not the intention.

There was nothing clever about Sleep No More.  There was nothing 'terrifying' about Sleep No More.  There was nothing interesting about Sleep No More.  Even some of the worse Doctor Who episodes (of which there are many) had perhaps some redeeming value (perhaps the visuals like with In the Forest of the Night, or perhaps a tolerable performance), but Sleep No More had absolutely nothing good about it.  It is worse than a disaster (which even the sycophantic apologist Kyle Anderson would tell us, despite it being extremely hard for him to do so).

Sleep No More is just...nothing, except perhaps insulting to even the most brain-dead Whovian.  SLEEP DUST?  SLEEP DUST!       

In short, Sleep No More is perhaps the worst episode of Doctor Who ever made...but don't worry.  I'm sure Kyle Anderson will find almost all future episodes of Doctor Who to be among the Greatest Moments in Television History, just like the last time, and the time before that, and the time before that, and the time before that...



-10/10

Next Episode: Face the Raven

Sunday, November 29, 2015

The Boxing Day of The Doctor


STORY 261.2: THE ZYGONIC STATE
PART 2:
THE ZYGON INVERSION

Well, now that I've seen the second part of The Zygonic State (The Zygon Inversion), I can say at least one thing from the get-go.

The much-praised anti-war speech by The Doctor was a.) not very good, and b.) not well delivered.

Apart from Kyle Anderson (who'd praise Steven Moffat's farts as smelling like Chanel Number 5), I can't think who would think this was some brilliant masterwork.  Oh, there was fan-service, a plea for peace, and some pretty odd moments where one thinks, oh well, the show's about to go down in flames like that airplane Bonnie shot down, so why not?

Bonnie (Jenna Coleman in a dual role) has shot down the plane carrying the star of the show, Osgood (Ingrid Oliver) and her very special guest star The Doctor (Peter Capaldi).  Or so she thinks.  Trapped within her pod which looks like a dream, the regular star of the show, Clara Oswald (Coleman) is able, despite her dream-like state, to control Bonnie's actions, so Bonnie is not aware of what she's doing.  Their link however, is still strong enough for Bonnie to threaten Clara with her life unless she tells Bonnie about the Osgood Box.  Clara is able to tell enough without revealing all, and Bonnie is aware that Clara is not lying, so it's off to the Black Archives to retrieve the box.

The Osgood Box can end the cease-fire.  The Osgood Box can start a war.  The Osgood Box can wipe out all humankind.  The Osgood Box: it slices, it dices.

This box has the power to reveal all the Zygons living in anonymity in the world, all 20 million of them.  Bonnie wants to unmask all the Zygons to bring about mass chaos and a total war with the 7 billion humans, and she wants that box.

Back on Earth, we find the Doctor and Osgood are still alive, with the Doctor having apparently borrowed a parachute from James Bond (a Union Jack parachute because...well, camouflage according to The Doctor).  Osgood stubbornly refuses to answer whether she is the human or Zygon Osgood, merely that she's 'Osgood'.


Bonnie arrives at the Black Archives, Clara in her pod in tow. Bonnie is enraged to discover why it's called the Osgood Box: there are two of them, one red, one blue (does the U.K. have equivalent colors like the U.S. has red for Republican, blue for Democrat).  She needs to know which one to use, and for that she needs the Doctor (Clara truthfully not knowing which one is which).

Fortunately, in comes The Doctor, Osgood, and Kate "My Daddy's Better Than Your Daddy" Stewart (Jemma Redgrave).  At first, we think Kate "Don't Bring Up My Father the Brigadier Because Only I Can Do That" Stewart is a Zygon, but we find she isn't.  Back in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, she killed her Zygon attacker with "five rounds rapid".

I guess I'm suppose to squee at things like that.

Just as Bonnie is ready to use the blue box to unmask all the Zygons, we find the box has two buttons: Truth or Consequences.  One will unmask the Zygons, the other will keep them as humans forever.  Kate "You Know Who My Father Is" Stewart is ready to push her own buttons, one of which will release the Z67 chemical weapon, known as "Sullivan's Gas" after its creator, former Doctor Who Companion Harry Sullivan.  The other will detonate the nuclear warheads under the Tower of London, killing everyone.

Talk about Hobson's Choice...

Anyway, the Doctor gives a major address about war.  "We'll forgive.  We'll forget.  And the cease-fire will stand".  He urges negotiations so as to prevent total annihilation by both sides, and both back away from the boxes.  Bonnie has decided to adopt peace and tells her Zygonic State supporters to stand down, the cease-fire has returned.

As the Doctor and Clara leave, the former invites Osgood to be his Companion.  She shockingly declines, since she's got Earth to protect.  She also has a new sister: BONNIE, who now has become Osgood's double.  We still don't know if the original Osgood is human or Zygon, but there you are.


For all this talk about how 'powerful', how 'moving', the Doctor's big speech about the evils of war, I was not moved by it (Murray Gold always putting in music when silence would have made it more powerful, indicating to me that NuWhovians in particular have to have their thinking done for them.  They cannot be trusted to be moved by the words alone, they need sad music to remind them of the emotion in the scene).  On second listen, I think it was better than I remember, thanks to Capaldi giving it his all (in this case, knowing it is suppose to be a major address). 

However, I am not convinced that Zygella (as the Doctor nicknames Bonnie) would be moved by merely appealing to the 'better angels of her nature'.  If The Zygonic State Parts 1 & 2 is suppose to be an allegory about ISIS' war with the rest of civilization, then we can see both by the two-parter itself and the reaction to it that Europe might as well surrender to the Caliph and start beheading the few Christians left in Europe (and finding a tall enough building to toss its gays off of.  Might I suggest the Eiffel Tower?).  ISIS, for those not in the know (like perhaps cowriters Peter Harness and Steven Moffat), is a death cult, one that in its own words "loves death the way (the infidels) love life".  They WANT to die, they WANT to kill and subjugate all those different from them, even other Muslims who are not as 'orthodox' as they are (Heaven knows what would happen to the contemplative Sufis under ISIS). 

You cannot negotiate with ISIS.  You could not negotiate with their spiritual forefathers, the National Socialists of the Third Reich.  They both have a very clear-cut ideology: total destruction of 'the other' and either subjugation or extermination of anyone or anything that opposes them in any fashion.  The Doctor, whom I cannot imagine thinking he or the Time Lords could negotiate peace terms with the totalitarian Daleks (which were inspired by the Nazis), should above all else know this.  Yes, he is a pacifist who opposes violence (even when that violence saves his life, like when The Brigadier's Daughter used it for him and Osgood).  That is within keeping to his character, as is his determination to stop a menace with intellect rather than brute force.

However, for all the bizarre complaining Bonnie's Brigade does about how they don't want to live as humans (reminding me, for some reason, of the X-Men character Mystique, who made a more rational rationale for why she joined the war against the humans), to suggest that all she (and by extension, ISIS) needed was a big hug to see the error of her ways is more than absurd. 

It's insulting to the viewer's intelligence.  Then again, given how Doctor Who's audience has shrunk this season, that might be an accurate perception of the fanbase.

Leaving aside the lack of logic in how the Doctor just talked everyone into surrender, let's go over some other things I had a problem with.  In The Zygon Inversion, Clara in her pod is able to control Bonnie just enough to work with the Doctor.  In short, she is able to have some control over her. 

And the reason Kate "One Guess Whom I'm Related To" Stewart couldn't do the same in The Day of The Doctor is...

I simply cannot fathom why Doctor Who now has a fear of being truthful.  Look, if you want the Doctor and Osgood to escape via parachute, fine.  Why, however, do they insist on putting in little comedy bits like the Union Jack parachute.  This Zygon terrorism is a very serious matter (more serious given this episode aired a week after Metrojet Flight 9268 was blown up by the real version of the Zygonic State.

Timing is everything, isn't it? 

Having this bit of comedy doesn't lighten the mood; it just makes things look more ridiculous.


As a side note, if most Zygons don't want war, why don't we see more Zygons working with UNIT rather than do nothing? 

I disliked the "Five Round Rapid" line.  It was there only to make a note of the Brigadier's iconic line from The Daemons (which many NuWhovians wouldn't know anyway, so its inclusion is a bit puzzling).  Redgrave's forced delivery of it didn't help matters, as if she were told to emphasize it specifically because it's a well-known line associated with her character's father.

Also, if one need only shoot a Zygon with a pistol, why was UNIT so terrified of them to begin with?

Oh, continuity...something Doctor Who isn't all that interested in.

Another thing I disliked intensely is again, "Sullivan's Gas". Why drag poor Ian Marter's corpse into this?  Again, was turning nice chap Dr. Harry Sullivan, Royal Navy into some sort of mad scientist meant as a tribute?  Can't wait to see Tegan Jovanka turned into an Australian heroin-addicted HIV-positive hooker as her homage.

Finally, I thought it was Susan Foreman, the Doctor's granddaughter, who made up the name TARDIS out of its initials.  Now, the Doctor claims to have come up with the acronym himself.  Fine way to screw over your own granddaughter, Doc.

Still, there are good things here.  Coleman balanced (mostly) the evil Bonnie and the weepy Clara well enough to make them both distinct individuals.  Capaldi's major address I think was better than I first remembered it.

Apart from that I think The Zygonic State Parts 1 & 2 are not good.  The Doctor, as far as I'm concerned, has boxed me into a corner.  The Truth?  I am 90% sure I will stop watching after Hell Bent.  The Consequences?  I hope a cancelled show.             

3/10

Overall Score: 0/10

Next Episode: Sleep No More

Saturday, November 28, 2015

The Political Allegory of The Doctor



STORY 261.1
THE ZYGONIC STATE PART 1:
THE ZYGON INVASION

Doctor Who & The Silurians is a brilliant story because it works on two levels.  It can be seen as straight science-fiction about an alien invasion from a race that lives below us, or as an allegory about the Cold War, particularly the fear and paranoia on both sides.  The same brilliance can be applied to another Third Doctor story: Inferno.  One could see it as a brilliant story about parallel universes or as an environmental message story about the dangers of overuse of the Earth's resources.  At its best, science-fiction can deliver messages about the world while telling stories about other worlds, and Doctor Who has a long history of such brilliant allegories.

The Zygon Invasion, the first of a two-part Doctor Who story, is not among them. 

It has the return of a dead character (I'M SHOCKED!), one whom is beloved by people more stupid than the character herself (explaining why they identify with her) and a trashing of another character from the Classic Era (the actor being most conveniently dead and unable to object as to what was done to him).  The Zygon Invasion thinks itself highly intellectual and sophisticated in tackling a 'ripped-from-the-headlines' story, but it's a dangerous thing to try to be clever when being so patently overt with what you're handling, particularly when it involves something like ISIS.  Coming prior to the Paris attacks, what writer Peter Harness I imagine he thought he was doing was showing us how Western civilization shouldn't throw out the baby with the bathwater regarding Muslim-British relations.  Sadly, in retrospect he, and the whole Doctor Who team, now may come across as being naïve at best, useful idiots at worse.

Osgood is BACK!  Despite being killed by Missy in The Wrath of Missy Part 2 (Death in Heaven) (which I should point out was the only moment that caused me to cheer while watching said episode), we learn that there are TWO Osgoods (both played by Ingrid Oliver). Harking back to The Day of The Doctor, we learn that the Zygons have 'integrated' to Earth through Operation Double (I guess it makes the Israeli-Ethiopian Operation Solomon pale in comparison), where 20 million Zygons settled in Britain.  When Missy killed an Osgood, the other Osgood mourned at her grave, marked simply as "My Sister".

Let me stop at this juncture to openly wonder if Doctor Who is now targeted at people with extremely limited intelligences to go along with a black gravestone marked as "My Sister", just "My Sister".

Well, in any case we learn from the Osgoods that "The Zygons are a peaceful race.  Their shape-shifting abilities should not be considered a weapon,  It's a survival mechanism".  At this point, when we're barely less than ten minutes into this episode, my reaction was flat-out laughter.  Yet I digress.

We also learn of The Osgood Box, which is the treaty between humans and Zygons which might be coming apart with one of the Osgoods no more.  The Nightmare Scenario has broken out, with a minority of a minority, a tiny little group attempting to establish The Zygonic State.  They've kidnapped the surviving Osgood and now we need Clara (Jenna Coleman) to save the day.

Oh, and yes, the Doctor (Peter Capaldi) can help out the star of the show too, once he gets off his electric guitar and calling himself "Doctor Disco", among other inanities.  After all, if you're a thousand-plus-year-old Time Lord who has battled with the Zygons before, you're going to need guidance from an elementary school teacher in her twenties.

As UNIT is involved, we need to get help from Kate "I'm Not My Father's Daughter But My Father WAS The Brigadier and Don't Forget That" Stewart (Jemma Redgrave).  She is for tracking down and exterminating every radical Islamic extremist...I mean, every renegade Zygon, but the Doctor insists we should negotiate with the Zygons, who are all peaceful save for this tiny, TINY splinter group.

The Zygonic State has as its motto "Truth or Consequences", which baffles everyone except our super-smart Companion, who instantly recognizes that this is the town in New Mexico, USA.  Kate goes  to the Land of Enchantment to investigate, while Clara stays in London to look after things, with her minion the Doctor going to Turmezistan where Osgood is being held prisoner by the Zygonic State.

In T or C (as those from the region call it), Kate discovers a virtually abandoned town, one where signs reading "No British, No Dogs" are all around.  Her encounter with the local sheriff (Gretchen Egolf), and things are not as they seem.  In Turmezistan, UNIT proves painfully inept at taking out the Zygonic State, taken in by duplicates of their families which they should know are really Zygons in disguise.  The Doctor does manage to get Osgood, who will not answer if she is the human or the Zygon version (but does ask why the Doctor doesn't do her cosplay anymore, in a manner of speaking).

We then get a shocking twist: all this time Clara has been really a Zygon!  The real Clara is held in statis, while "Bonnie", her duplicate, slaughters the UNIT troops sent by "Clara".  As the Doctor and Osgood are flying back to the U.K., he gets a final message from Bonnie, who fires a rocket at the President of the World's Plane (Super-Air Force One?): Truth or Consequences.



Again, given how so heavy-handed the Zygon/Muslim parallels were, one wonders why they didn't they just go whole-hog with the analogy (sorry, pork is not halal).  It isn't that one couldn't make a strong allegorical story about the failures of integration.  It is just that The Zygon Invasion goes about it in a thick-headed and obvious way that it runs the risk of being almost an apologia for ISIS rather than the intelligent story it fancies itself to be. 

The actions of the Zygonic State, we are told, are done by the young Zygons who want to return to some pure version of Zygonism and no longer walk around as humans.  If this is what the Doctor Who production staff really thinks is an accurate or even plausible reflection of the Islamic State, they are frankly delusional.  You look at the self-proclaimed Caliph of the Universe, who is 44 years old (hardly a 'young man').  This also isn't counting such Millennials as Ayman Al-Zawahiri (64) or Osama bin Laden (44 at the time of the September 11th attacks).  IF The Zygon Invasion had made it that the younger Zygons were being manipulated by the older members, THEN we could have had something.

It just struck me, as a casual viewer, to take the easy way out in a very complex situation.  This quote from the opening is so overt it would be almost laughable.  "The Zygons (Muslims) are a peaceful race.  Their shape-shifting abilities (their religion) should not be considered a weapon.  It's a survival mechanism".  In regards to Muslims, I agree: they are a generally peaceful people, particularly in Britain which has a larger percentage of the population than in the U.S., and their religion is not a sign they will behead us.

HOWEVER, when it comes to the Zygons themselves, that is flat-out nonsense.  They are NOT a peaceful race.  They certainly weren't in The Day of The Doctor, or Terror of the Zygons (a rather curious title in retrospect).  This whole 'shape-shifting abilities is not a weapon' is similarly nonsensical.  Here, again, we have a Doctor Who story that flat-out doesn't care about continuity.

If memory serves correct, the Zygons, in order to blend into human society, would need a 'host' to copy (they do this for example, with Clara/Bonnie, and as a side note, Bonnie isn't exactly a threatening name, is it?).  If there are 20 million of them, all located in one area of Britain (before a group headed out to New Mexico), where are the host beings for them to copy?  We learn from Osgood that such things are no longer necessary.  If that's the case, why did they need to take Clara (in a manner I think was cheating the audience)?  Why not go for Kate Stewart (even if the Black Archives do manage to erase the memories of all who enter).

Ah, why bother thinking about things.  It IS Doctor Who, after all.

      
Let me concentrate on things that I did think were good.  Jenna Coleman, whom I have never warmed up to in her tenure as a Companion (particularly as this 'unimpeachably brilliant' Companion that my bete noire Kyle Anderson holds her as, though I've always suspected his admiration for her is more based on what moves his head more than his mind) was excellent in the dual role.  I was surprised that she could manage such range as the typical Clara (know-it-all) but shift so coldly to Bonnie, ISIS...I mean, ZySis commander.  It's as if Coleman were unleashed, tapping into a fury, a coldness, an evil that now has an outlet. 

In terms of performances, The Zygon Invasion is Jenna Coleman's best on Doctor Who.

It's a pity that just about everything else about The Zygon Invasion is cringe-worthy.  Let's go over the things I hated about The Zygon Invasion.

I hated what New Doctor Who did to the character of Harry Sullivan, played by the late Ian Marter.  I imagine most if not all NuWho fans have no idea who Harry Sullivan was (and can't be bothered to watch any Fourth Doctor story with him to care).  I did see a few, and from all indications Harry was a nice chap, the embodiment of a proper English gentleman and serving Naval officer of Her Majesty's Navy.  He was well-liked, very honest, kind, if a bit bumbling.

Now, he's turned into #ChemicalHarry, mad scientist.  Doctor Who's second 'tribute' to a Companion from the Classic Era turned one who was an amiable chap into the Joseph Mengele of his generation, the creator of the Z-67 nerve gas that could unmask all the Zygons...and kill them in the process.  How a medical officer managed to turn into some chemical weapons expert is left unsaid, but no matter, NuWhovians will now see him, not as the decent, honorable guy he was on the show, but as the creator of this chemical weapon to kill the poor Zygons. 

Why Doctor Who opted to drag poor Harry Sullivan through the gutter is a mystery, and we won't go into how this idea of Doctor Sullivan contradicts The Sarah Jane Adventures claim that he saved millions with his vaccines.  However, it does help that Ian Marter is dead and has been for nearly thirty years, so who is going to object?

At this point, one wonders why they don't make Barbara Wright into a hooker.

I hated how New Mexico was imagined.  Granted, being from Texas I harbor no great love for our neighbor to the west, but it would be nice to see something beyond the stereotypical 'Wild West' that the British apparently think anything west of Austin is.  I've been to T or C (well, driven past it really), and it is, at least if memory serves correct, nowhere near the comically Old West idea this episode makes it out to be.  Also, the uniform of the Sheriff/Police (it isn't the same thing) is all wrong.  It looks like she's wearing the Mexican flag rather than the New Mexican flag.  Yes, I know I'm probably the only one focusing on that, but still...

I simply hated what The Zygon Invasion has done to the Doctor.  When once he was the highly intelligent and moral figure, he now is an electric guitar-playing nitwit who has to have Clara hold his hand because he can't figure things out himself and refers to himself by such nonsensical names as "Doctor Disco" and "Doctor Funkenstein". 

What would Hartnell, Troughton, or Pertwee think? 

I hate the focus on Osgood.  I simply detest this character, whom I've always seen more as a parody of a Doctor Who fan than an homage to them (because I think I pretty much am done with this show).   All her wardrobe is done to just focus on her fixation with the Doctor, and here's a newsflash to those who love her to death(s): the question marks were stupid then, and they're still stupid now.

And seriously: they're on his underwear?  Isn't Capaldi appalled he has to deliver such dribble?

Who here was shocked, SHOCKED that the Sheriff would be a Zygon? 
Who here was shocked, SHOCKED that the Zygons would eliminate UNIT troops in Turmezistan (which didn't look Middle or Islamic at all, but a nice Eastern European village)?
Who here was shocked, SHOCKED that Clara would be SO IMPORTANT and that both the Doctor and UNIT would turn to HER as their savior?

I remember writing "Rubbish, Rubbish, Rubbish" while watching The Zygon Invasion.  Its efforts to come across as topical ended up as heavy-handed and as subtle as a sledgehammer, the bastardization of a beloved Doctor Who character is obscene to its core, and the diminishing of The Doctor both in terms of character and focus is insane.  Granted, how we got Osbad back has at least a certain logic (even if people had speculated about the Zygon Osgood since we saw her in The Day of The Doctor, so it is a bit of a cheat) and Coleman gave a real performance (which she hadn't done since...since...), but those two things aren't going to lift it in my mind.

I really hated The Zygon Invasion.  I hated it so much I have delayed watching The Zygon Inversion, having no desire to see what happens next.  Thanks, Steven Moffat.  You've made me root for having the Doctor blown out of the sky.



     HARRY SULLIVAN, ROYAL NAVY
CRAZED MURDEROUS PSYCHOPATH


-3/10

Next Episode: The Zygon Inversion