Sunday, April 5, 2015

Aragon vs. Anderson: The Doctor's Wife

Now that I have a few minutes free, I thought I'd go back to one of my great passions...bashing The Whorist (or as it's generally known, The Nerdist), in particular their Doctor Who reviews by one Kyle Anderson.

Mr. Anderson (now doesn't that sound sinister) in my view, has rarely if ever met a Doctor Who post-Rose story that he hasn't loved.  I don't mean liked.  I mean L-O-V-E-D, to where that particular episode is the Best Doctor Who Episode of All Time...until the next episode when THAT becomes the Best Doctor Who Episode of All Time.  It's gotten to be almost a point of parody to see how Anderson rarely finds fault with a Doctor Who episode.  I don't mean just to nitpick on a few things.  I mean give a bona-fide negative review.  Even I, someone who has been vociferous in my condemnation for many NuWho episodes, do admit when I see a good one (like Flatline or Mummy on the Orient Express).  Anderson, however, will almost always find something to wax rhapsodic about, even on something as atrocious as In the Forest of the Night

I was intrigued by this, so a little research was required.  I went as far back as I could regarding Anderson's Doctor Who reviews, and the earliest one I could find was the Series/Season Six opener, The Impossible Astronaut.  What I've done is taken Kyle Anderson's review verbatim, and offered my own 'translation' to the text to see what Anderson is, in my view, really saying.  I also throw in my own thoughts as to what is being said.

I hope this will be a fun and informative journey into the strange mind of the Functioning Nerd.

I present Part 4 of The Nerdist as Whore: The Doctor's Wife.  My 'translations' are in red.

And the early frontrunner for favorite Doctor Who Series 6 episode goes to…
At least until the next episode, which I'm almost contractually obligated to love...
When I watched “The Doctor’s Wife” the first time, I wondered if I was actually enjoying it as much as I thought I was.

I don't usually apply thinking while watching Doctor Who, which is why I wondered about my enjoyment.

I’ve been wanting to see this episode ever since I first heard about the possibility of it 18 months ago or so, and then the anticipation ratcheted up to a new level when it was announced that it would actually be episode four of this season. Had I built up the excitement so much for an episode of my favorite television show written by Neil Gaiman, who is one of my favorite writers, that no matter what was put forth on screen, I’d just be grinning like a happy idiot when it ended?

If it was written by Steven Moffat, I'd be grinning like a happy idiot.  If it was written by Mark Gatiss, I'd be grinning like a happy idiot.  If it was written by Toby Whithouse, or heck, even by Ed Wood's resurrected ghost, I'd be grinning like a happy idiot.

As I grinned like a happy idiot when it ended, it occurred to me that perhaps I had let my geeky fervor overrun my analytical critic’s mind.

Kyle Anderson's...analytical critic's mind...

Wait, wait a minute.  Let me read that again.  Kyle Anderson's analytical critic's mind...

Oh, my eyes...I can't breathe...Kyle Anderson's....analytical critic's mind...

I'm sorry...I'm so sorry...I need a few minutes...analytical...

Like all episodes of this season, I knew I was going to have to watch it again.

I sort of have to, which is odd given how I was "underwhelmed" by The Curse of the Black Spot.  Gee, do I really have to watch THAT again!?  Was I like, they guy who turned Anne Frank in to the Nazis in another life to be punished that badly (or 'hardly', as my analytical mind says)?  Unlike other critics, who watch once, take notes, then form their reviews, I have to watch all episodes again.

And so I did. After a sleep and a cup of Chamomile (in my “Mind the Gap” mug), I was prepared for another viewing, somewhat wary that I may feel differently than I had.
Kyle Anderson at home using his
'analytical critic's mind'
while watching Doctor Who...
I didn't want to hate it like I did Curse of the Black Spot because I thought it was really, really good. I did hate waking up though.  I was having an awesome dream about Karen Gillan and me with her in her little pirate outfit that morphed into her Kiss-O-Gram outfit with her whispering, "Too many rags, Raggedy Man..."
Luckily, I didn’t feel any differently. If anything, I enjoyed it MORE because I felt confident that it was, indeed, as good an episode as I thought it was. From top to tail, this is an episode that exemplifies what I love most about Doctor Who. It’s scary, it’s touching, it’s inventive, and most importantly, it’s about characters we love. It might be, in fact, the perfect Doctor Who episode.
As opposed to such crap as The Aztecs, Tomb of the Cybermen, Inferno, Genesis of the Daleks, or Caves of Androzani.  Boy did pre-Moffat Doctor Who fans suffer...
SHOCKED that Kyle Anderson liked a
Doctor Who episode...
One thing that I think helped me was that I avoided as many spoilers (or “teasers” depending on semantics) as possible. With the exception of the Next Time trailer last week and the two little clips that were released, I stayed away from anything that might give away anything about the episode. As such, I was surprised by the realization that the Doctor’s wife is the TARDIS herself.
I was hoping they'd be talking about River Song (who is DEFINITELY not connected to Time Lords, absolutely), because I'm into cougars. 
It made the most sense of anything ever, though. The Doctor and the TARDIS have been together for over 700 years, if anyone was to be his wife, it’d be her.
Silly Whovians...thinking the TARDIS was something like a machine...
It’s long been bandied about that the TARDIS was alive, and the Doctor certainly treats her as if she is. Getting to see the Doctor actually get to converse with her was a stroke of genius.
OK, on this point, I'm not going to argue. I wouldn't go so far as to say 'genius', but it was inventive.

Suranne Jones, who played Idris, the recipient of the TARDIS’ consciousness, did a masterful job trying to physically and emotionally embody an intangible entity. She added a great deal of believability to something that, by rights, should be too ridiculous a concept to play.
I believe this broken clock has hit the right time.
Through her, we get to learn so much about the series we’ve been watching all these years, and it all makes sense. The TARDIS wasn’t stolen, she allowed the Doctor to take her.
Well, that does somewhat contradict almost fifty year's worth of Canon, like in The Five Doctors, but what does Canon have to do with this?
She doesn’t always take him where he wants to go, but always takes him where he NEEDS to go.
Well, I kind of thought in the beginning of the original series, it was a bit random because of a malfunction of the TARDIS, but we'll let that slide.
Why does the Doctor always seem to show up when something’s going wrong? Because the TARDIS is just as heroic as he is and she knows where he’ll do the most good. I love that.
Besides, if it took him where it was nice, like the Eye of Orion, there'd be nothing to do really.
If the entire episode had just been the Doctor speaking to the TARDIS, I’d have been one happy nerd, but there needed to be a plot and a good one too.

Suddenly, I want plot all of a sudden.  Aren't WE picky...
Gaiman delivers a supremely original story, just dripping with series history.
Broken Clock...
The idea of a planet-wide entity outside of the universe that kills Time Lords and eats TARDISes is immensely dark, especially when it’s revealed that it lures them there by sending distress signals from other Time Lords. How could the Doctor not follow that? Once there, he finds that House mends his playthings by using Time Lord body parts, something that’d be horrible even if they weren’t his friends.
Broken Clock...
The House asteroid/planet itself is one of the best pieces of production design the show’s ever had. It’s a junkyard in space, but all the junk is so interesting looking and full of character that it’s no surprise this episode was one of the more expensive of the year.
Broken Clock...Boy is this a long minute...

I loved how tiny the cast was. We didn’t need dozens of extras or a number of supporting players when it was just, really, the story of two best friends finally getting to meet.
It's not like they've done this before *cough* Inside the Spaceship aka The Edge of Destruction *cough*
The themes and implications of the episode were much greater than the need for lots and lots of characters. We hear stories about another Time Lord called the Corsair, who regenerated into both male and female, possibly opening the door for a female Doctor in the future. (Calm down, just a thought)
A FEMALE Doctor?  Why, that's as absurd as a female Master!  I'm so glad we got Gaiman to introduce something in basically a throwaway line that will upend nearly a half-century of Canon.  We've never met the Corsair, we've never heard the Doctor mention the Corsair before, but what they hey...let's introduce transgender into Time Lord biology just because eventually we'll need 'equality' when it comes to the Doctor.
We also get a glimpse of the Doctor still being remorseful about what had to be done to his people. He still wants to be forgiven.
If ONLY there were a way to reboot that whole "the Doctor blew Gallifrey up business..."
Amy and Rory get trapped aboard the ship-portion of the TARDIS with House controlling it. He forces them to run through the never-ending corridors of the ship, toying with their minds. But it’s only ever Amy’s mind, isn’t it? Wouldn’t you know it, her greatest fear is leaving Rory to die, which she sees. That must be why he dies or seemingly dies in every episode; it’s Amy’s greatest fear realized.

Oh, PLEASE.  Rory dies often to force some sort of emotional drama.  I think this time your "analytical mind" is going overboard with the analysis.  It has nothing to do with Amy's fears, otherwise she wouldn't have tried to rape the Doctor in The Time of Angels Part II (Flesh & Bone).  Didn't stop her then from forgetting Rory. 

Rory doesn’t get his mind messed with. Something to think about.

He has no mind to be messed with?

This sequence plays like a proper haunted house story with really nothing to scare us except the “House” itself.

This is where the real genius of the episode comes in: Gaiman breaks down the TARDIS to its component parts. On the one hand, you have the living, breathing, wonderful bit that nurtures and protects, and on the other you have the unfathomably large, powerfully foreboding THING that in the wrong hands can be the most dangerous and frightening tool in (or outside of) the Universe.
The minute on this broken clock is ticking down...
While we see the Doctor getting to connect and interact with the “person,” we see Rory and Amy being tormented and threatened by the “monster.” It’s all the TARDIS, though. The TARDIS is itself a House and a Home. Houses are scary, but Homes are wonderful.
On that we agree.
Houses are scary...

You know when you move out of a place you’ve lived in for a long time, and all your stuff is gone and you’re just doing the cleaning up or whatever, and you recognize it, but it doesn’t really feel like yours anymore? There are memories, but that’s all. That’s what happens when House takes over the TARDIS. It’s recognizable, but it’s not ours.
“The Doctor’s Wife” is about fighting for your Home and the family you’ve made within it. The Doctor’s best friend is the TARDIS and her best friend is him. They are each other’s Homes.
I thought it was an adventure story, one that was well-told, well-written, and actually well-acted.  I can live with this 'fighting for hearth and home' though.
Here I am, still grinning like a happy idiot.

Time's up.
Next week we get part one of the Matthew Graham double-header, “The Rebel Flesh.” Looks right creepy.


Next Time: Aragon vs. Anderson: The Rebel Flesh

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