Tuesday, October 30, 2018

The Woman Who Has A Spider's Touch: Arachnids in the UK Review

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There is no going back.

Doctor Who is dead to me.

Arachnids in the UK is something that many NuWhovians will love. They would also love seeing toast dry if Doctor Who made a whole episode about it, probably adding something about how seeing the toast dry made them cry. Arachnids in the UK is heavy-handed and worse, boring, with a lead who has decided to do an impersonation rather than a performance.

It's more cringe-inducing than the actual spiders.

The Doctor (Jodie Whittaker) has managed to get the TARDIS back to present-day Sheffield, where to all concerned, She and her 'Friends' Graham (Bradley Walsh), his step-grandson Ryan (Tosin Cole) and random bystander Yasmin Khan (Mandip Gill) have been gone for a mere half-hour. The Doctor signals She is rather lonely, so when Yaz invites Her over to tea, She eagerly jumps at the chance.

Good thing too, as Yaz's family faces unknown dangers. Things are already bad for "Yaz's Mom", also known as Najia (Shobna Gulati). She has just been fired from her first day on the job managing a swanky new hotel run by billionaire Jack Robertson (Chris Noth). Robertson is alarmed about 'something' in the hotel, and this 'something' is unbeknownst to everyone, affecting the Khans too.

Yaz's father believes there is some kind of conspiracy involving the Sheffield rubbish, and this leads them eventually to Robertson. Everyone but She recognizes him, with Her asking, "Is he Ed Sheeran?"

Related imageRobertson is EVIL with all caps. How do we know he's EVIL with all caps? Well, he's white, he's male, he's a capitalist, he's American, he let his poor assistant Kevin (William Meredith) get taken by the spiders and he likes to shoot guns. He may also be homophobic, for in the opening scene, he does not realize who Frankie (Jaleh Alp) is.

"I'm your niece's wife," she remarks, before getting bumped off. Yet I digress.

Anyway, She has tracked down the connection between the EVIL Robertson and the spiders. One of his myriad of companies is supposed to dispose of dead spiders which have been experiment on, but always cutting corners the company just dumps them in a rubbish heap, which happens to be right over the luxury hotel he's built.

I leave it to you to answer why there's a luxury hotel in Sheffield, but there it is.

The Doctress will not allow "Ed Sheeran" to kill the spiders. She also isn't keen on the idea that the EVIL Robertson fires "Yaz's Mum". "You can't fire Yaz's Mum and be President,", She declares. It takes a while for Her to realize "Yaz's Mum" has a name.

So She won't let the EVIL Robertson shoot the spiders. So how to solve the problem? Why, by leading the spider's to the EVIL Robertson's panic room and apparently letting them starve to death there.  It's a more humane way of doing it.

There is one last problem: the giant mother spider in the ballroom. She would rather gas it unconscious I think, but the EVIL Robertson has a simpler solution: just shoot it. She is angry, but in the end, the three 'Friends' go off with Her.


Image result for arachnids in the ukI gave Her and Doctor Who a chance. I sat through some simply frightful episodes like Sleep No More and Closing Time. I have endured the unendurable. I have suffered the insufferable.

I just cannot and will not do it anymore.

Arachnids in the UK is getting the typical glowing reviews and the squees from its group of sycophants, but for the life of me I do not understand how anyone could say this was actually good.

Whittaker has had four episodes to make The Doctor her own. Four episodes to put her own stamp on the character, controversially changed from male to female "because it's time we had a Female Doctor". At this point, we've pretty much gone from beyond whether it was right or wrong to do so. Instead, we have moved to 'what kind of Doctor is she?'

What Whittaker's Doctor is, is a pale impersonation of David Tennant and Matt Smith's version, a mere copycat to what we've seen before.

The "Is he Ed Sheeran?" bit. The referring to Najia as "Yaz's Mum". That is something the Smith Doctor would do.  Actually, that's something the Smith Doctor has done: in Dinosaurs on a Spaceship, the Doctor would consistently refer to Rory's dad Brian as "Mr. Pond", even after Mr. Williams shouted "I AM NOT A POND!" at him. Oblivious and clueless, Eleven blithely carried on.

Here, we have exactly the same 'wacky' Doctor we've seen before. Her inability to 'have small talk', her unsure if She and Yaz "are seeing each other" (which I hope they don't do only because it would be more "Companion in love with Doctor" nonsense), Her at times needy, at times irrational manner, it all smacks of someone doing very bad Smith or Tennant cosplay.

Whittaker has had enough time to make the Doctor her own, and it seems now so deranged to think that after they went through all that trouble to give 'little girls a heroine of their own', they end up keeping the character exactly as he was. She is a nonentity, no unique personality. It's just sad to see them waste so much potential for nothing.

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Whittaker makes The Doctor look thoroughly stupid, and not just in the deliberately "wacky" moments. Her big plan was to stick the spiders in a small room and what: let them starve to death or have them eat each other? What about the spiders in Graham's house and near the Khans' flat?

Chris Chibnall's script manages to make the worst of Mark Gatiss or Steven Moffat look like Caves of Androzani by comparison. The story is so daft it borders on comical. 

Perhaps this is why Noth decided to play his "I'm not Donald Trump but I really am Donald Trump" Jack Robertson with such a wild, over-the-top manner. His performance made look like he thought he was in a comedy, a spoof of science fiction/fantasy.

Even that I could forgive, if not for the blatant politicking done here. Robertson is supposed to be plotting to run for President against Trump in 2020, as Robertson hates the 45th President. Yet he essentially is Trump, a wild caricature. From his "You're fired" line to running up to the giant spider waving his gun shouting, "I'm the future President of the United States. How's THIS for fire and fury?" this golden piece of dialogue, "What is wrong with you people?! What is wrong with this country?! Why don't you do what normal people do: get a gun, shoot things like a civilized person?!", Robertson is so blatant a caricature that even those of us who oppose Trump would say, "Dude, a bit much".

As a side note, that "What is WRONG with you people?" bit is Chibnall's take on how "Americans" are so much more inferior to the British because Americans all have guns.  There's a condescending, arrogant air to it all, and I say this as one who dislikes guns. Add to that, why would anyone vote for Robertson?

Image result for arachnids in the ukMaybe Chibnall does not understand American politics, but Robertson is in no position to challenge Trump. He can't run as a Republican because he is too much like Trump. He can't run as a Democrat because he is too much like Trump. No independent has ever come close to winning, so how is Robertson going to do it?

Gill's Yaz came across as surprisingly wimpy for someone who is supposed to be a police officer, and Tosin to be fair was better but not by much. Ryan's 'shadow puppet' bit was amusing, but his bringing in 'grime' music to lead the spiders?

Out of all the cast, only Bradley Walsh had anything good. He is given something to do: explore Graham's grief over his late wife, and apart from seeing Grace's ghost it is the most rational moment in the whole sorry episode.

I thought out of all the 'Team TARDIS', Graham had the most logical reason for leaving. I wish it were he and The Doctor who would be a team.

There just was nothing in Arachnids in the UK that I thought was good. The plot drops things at convenience: what happened to the spiders in Graham's house and near the Khans' flat? what happened to semi-mad scientist Jade (Tanya Fear) or Robertson himself? The Doctor is unoriginal, a Smith clone one episode, a Tennant clone the next.

The spiders were good.


Next Episode: The Tsuranga Conundrum

Monday, October 22, 2018

The (Other) Woman Who Ended Segregation: Rosa Review

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Rosa Parks was an icon. She deserves better than Rosa, a story that while mercifully does not trivialize Mrs. Parks' defining moment of courage, does make her almost a side character.

As if the others weren't already bad enough.

13 (Jodie Whittaker) is attempting to take Her 'friends' Graham (Bradley Walsh), his step-grandson Ryan (Tosin Cole) and random person Yasmin Khan or Yaz (Mandip Gill) back to their time and place in Sheffield, but the TARDIS has a mind of its own. It insists on materializing in 1955 Alabama; here She detects traces of artron energy, the type of energy that the TARDIS or any time-travelling device emits.

Why here, why now, and why does it center around a middle-aged black seamstress named Rosa Parks (Vinette Robinson)? Obviously, almost all of them know who Rosa Parks is, though Ryan is a bit confused.

"First black female bus driver?", he suggests.

Alabama is no place for Ryan or Yaz. Ryan is instantly slapped for touching a white woman when offering to return her glove, and Yaz is constantly called a 'Mexican'. This sparks them having to receive as much overt racism as they do in Sheffield, where later in Rosa they reflect that he gets stopped repeatedly by police more than his white mates and she is called a 'Paki' and a terrorist when she goes to mosque.

As a side note, I am of Mexican descent, and Yaz would not convince me she was Mexican. Just saying...

Image result for rosa doctor whoAnyway, Graham and Her use their own 'white privilege' to make sure Mrs. Parks' moment in history is assured. That won't be easy because of Krasko (Josh Bowman), a time-traveler from the future who looks like a Grease cosplayer.

Costco is determined to stop Rosa Parks from getting on that bus, which in turn would stop her from refusing to give up her seat and thus, stop the American Civil Rights Movement.

Crisco cannot kill her outright, as She learns that after being released from Stormcage Prison he had a neural restrictor that prevents him from doing harm.

Why this alien from the 51st Century would be fixated on stopping Rosa Parks is unclear. Krispy Kreme does tell Ryan later on something about stopping "your kind" from getting above themselves, but Costco's overt racism is left unexplained. We don't know anything about his motivations but we need moral lessons, logic be damned.

13 gives them tasks to do in order to make sure Mrs. Parks completes her moment in history. It involves stopping Krispy Kreme (which Ryan does by using Crisco's own device against him), Yaz sticking by Mrs. Parks and poor Graham ultimately doing what I expected him to do: be that 'white passenger' for whom Mrs. Parks refused to stand for.

Everyone essentially congratulates themselves on making sure history stayed the course and She takes them, after giving them a rundown on Mrs. Parks' life post-bus, to Asteroid 284996, also known as 'Rosaparks'.

Image result for rosa doctor whoAfter finishing Rosa, I genuinely could see cowriters Chris Chibnall and Malorie Blackman congratulating themselves for their episode. I know many people reported crying at it, though to be fair most NuWhovians cry after every episode, so that's not a big thing.

These same NuWhovians also reported on how 'brave' and 'important' Rosa was. They are free to think that. 

My own take on it was that Doctor Who was doing a very weird take on Back to the Future or Quantum Leap, because this is not Doctor Who. It isn't even a good Quantum Leap.

For those not old enough to remember, Quantum Leap was a show about a scientist who could travel in time within his own lifetime, almost always to help someone and/or keep a moment in history from altering. Along the way, he meets people who would become famous later in life. Dr. Sam Beckett, the main character on Quantum Leap, accidentally saved Dr. Heimlich by using the procedure he himself created and offered financial tips to a young Donald Trump.

Rosa has that same feel, only it was both unoriginal and predictable, two things Quantum Leap was not.  I know Chibnall, who is also Doctor Who's current showrunner, wants the show to be more 'educational', and many online tout Rosa as being something to be shown in history classes.

If it were shown to mine, I imagine most of us would be bored.

The primary issue with why Rosa is not good is that we know Mrs. Parks will end up on that bus. As such, there really is no suspense. Whatever roadblocks Crisco sets up are quickly dispensed, as is he. To its credit, Rosa at least did not have Her or the others 'inspire' Mrs. Parks, but as I predicted it did thrust them into being the cause with Graham.

There is just so much wrong with Rosa. Whittaker has struggled with the part of The First Female Doctor, primarily because she cannot find herself able to get away from doing a David Tennant/Matt Smith impersonation.

At one point She draws on the wall. Graham tells Her She can't do that. "You're not Bansky," he says. With a comical look She says, "Or am I?". This is something Tennant's Doctor would say, delivered in the same way Tennant would. Whittaker's Doctor is fast becoming annoying and grating. She's had three episodes to give us her own take on The Doctor, but she keeps slipping into 'forced wackiness'.

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Cole's Ryan is so dim and colorless, where even his 'enthusiasm' at meeting Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. or zapping Krispy Kreme into who-knows-when comes across as emotionalless.  At least here Gill's Yaz had something to do and didn't seem just like the third wheel.

Bowman's Krasko was so undefined he will rank as one of the worst villains on Doctor Who--revived or original series. Robinson's Parks was slightly better but she had the worst Southern accent I've heard on Doctor Who since The Gunfighters. Her Rosa Parks was almost incidental to Rosa, and I found her flat and uninteresting too.

Granted, I was not alive at the time, but there felt something almost cartoonish about how everyone in Montgomery was so overtly racist. It had the subtlety of a sledgehammer, suggesting all white people were racists slapping random black men and stalking 'foreigners' left-right-and-center.

The only good performance was Walsh, which is a surprise given that he is known mostly as a game show host (his show, The Chase, curiously airs opposite Doctor Who, making him the rare person to have two shows compete against each other). When interacting with the locals or dealing with 'Doc' to his sadness at being the 'white man who forced Mrs. Parks into history', Walsh manages to create moments of humor and pathos.

Rosa also has a terrible disservice when it comes to the score. In the past, Segun Akinola's music was subtle and effective. Here, it looks like he was ordered to do his version of a Murray Gold score. Whenever we saw Rosa Parks, we heard "noble" music, all lofty trumpets. Whenever we saw Krasko, we heard "evil" music, a two-note number created by cellos or bass.

Even worse, we were treated to Rise Up from Andra Day as Mrs. Parks made her fateful decision. I don't think it's a bad song, but it does lay on the 'inspirational' bit far too thick. I also thin something more contemporary would have worked better, such as Move On Up A Little Higher by Mahalia Jackson.

Rosa is a disservice to Mrs. Parks. That everyone involved thought it was a tribute to her seems worse. Uninteresting villain, no tension or suspense, a bad cosplayer as The Doctor, flat Companions save the old guy, a bit heavy-handed and ultimately dull.

Noble intentions do not make a good episode.


Next Episode: Arachnids in the UK

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

The Woman Who Found A TARDIS: The Ghost Monument Review

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First, I have decided to try and put "The Woman Who..." in the title for every 13th Doctor story. Before you or anyone else start going on about 'sexism', I note that I did something similar with the 12th Doctor. 

Back then, after getting an alleged trilogy with (Blank) of The Doctor (Name/Day/Time of The Doctor), I decided to spoof them by titling every Capaldi story as (Blank) of the Doctor. Robot of Sherwood became The Medieval Times of The Doctor, Kill the Moon became The Scrambled Eggs of The Doctor, The Return of Doctor Mysterio became The Cinematic Universe of The Doctor and so forth.

Given how She has been built up, I decided I could have some fun with Her too and thus, The Woman Who Found a TARDIS or The Ghost Monument.

Now, as for the episode itself, I see we still have one problem: the Doctor Herself. It is not that She is a Woman. Rather, it's that She isn't very original. For all the hue & cry about The First Female Doctor, I simply cannot imagine why they want her to be a Tennant/Smith clone.  The Ghost Monument, for all its virtues (and it does have them) is still struggling to find itself.

Oh, and the new TARDIS is damn ugly!

The Doctor (Jodie Whittaker) and Her 'friends' Graham (Bradley Walsh), his step-grandson Ryan (Tosin Cole) and random person Yasmin Khan (Mandip Gill) survive being caught in deep space by two convenient spaceships that happen to be competing in the "Last-Ever Rally of the Twelve Galaxies".

No, this isn't a variation on the Fifth Doctor story Enlightenment, thank you very much.

Image result for the ghost monumentThey are separated, with Her and Yaz ending up with Epzo (Shaun Dooley), a Russell Crowe-type with a bad attitude and a rickety spaceship. "This thing should be on Antiques Roadshow", She at one point hollers.  Graham and Ryan are on another ship captained by Angstrom (Susan Lynch), who thinks they are 'bonuses' in this race none of the others are aware of.

They all finally land on the planet Desolation, where eventually they reunite. Epzo and Angstrom receive their final instructions from Ilin (Art Malik), the game-master who is not reminiscent of The Celestial Toymaker.

Despite Epzo and Angstrom really wanting to work against each other to win the ultimate prize: bountiful wealth and security on a safe planet, She gets them to work together. They come upon an abandoned city and She is puzzled not just as to why Her TARDIS was not in the same place Her calculations placed it at. She also wants to know why this formerly lush world is now dead.

She also wants to get to 'the ghost monument', which is really the TARDIS. Her "Friends" go along, as they really don't have an option, but if they reach the TARDIS, that should get them all home.

In this desolated city, they face many dangers: killer robots and killer floating cloths. She also discovers why Desolation is as it is: their scientists were forced to work to engineer new methods of death. "We gave them our minds and they made us Creators of Death", She reads, forced to by the Stenza, one of whom we met last time.

As a side note, am I the only one who thinks 'Creators of Death' would make for a great title?

She manages to show that indeed 'brains beat bullets', but the floating killer cloths also tell Her about 'The Timeless Child', something apparently connected with Her that even She does not know.

As they reach the finish, Epzo and Angstrom seem on the cusp of fighting it out to win, until She comes up with a compromise.

Before Ilin, they declare themselves joint winners. Ilin is aghast at such an idea, but they bully him into declaring for the first time ever dual champions. He then promptly spirits them away, leaving the others stranded. She feels like a failure, until the TARDIS materializes. "Come to Daddy...I mean Mommy...I mean..." She says, and soon She enters Her newly-redecorated TARDIS, and it's off for another adventure.

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Perhaps my dislike of The Ghost Monument has to do with the TARDIS itself. I thought it was the ugliest thing I have seen, well, apart from both the Sixth and Thirteenth Doctor's costumes. It's all dark and remarkably empty, with little light.

Of greater concern is Whittaker.  Here, let me see if I can explain this well. 

It is not that she is a woman that causes me concern. Contrary to popular belief, I have never objected to a Female Doctor if it could be shown it was done for story purposes. That, however, was not the primary reason we were given a Female Doctor. The primary reason was that 'it was about time we had a Female Doctor...for representation, equality, little girls to have heroines of their own'. I never thought this was a good reason to have a Female Doctor, and to be honest those who supported this reasoning have been overtly hostile to any objections.

Be that as it may I wish Whittaker or writer/showrunner Chris Chibnall would stop her from playing The Doctor as 'quirky'. She needs to make The Doctor Her own, not do a variation of David Tennant or Matt Smith's version. Whittaker's Doctor seems terribly frenetic, spouting lines in a rapid-fire manner and worse, saying the dumbest things.

Take this exchange between Her and Graham after She offers to lend him some shades. "I can't remember whether I borrowed them from Audrey Hepburn or Pythagoras". Graham, sensibly, says that Pythagoras didn't have shades, to which She replies more to Herself than to him, "Obviously never saw Pythagoras with a hangover".

That line, apart from being too jokey for things, is something I could hear Smith's Doctor saying. Part of me understands wanting to move away from the crotchety old man Capaldi was going into, but at least he was markedly different than the childlike Smith or swoon-worthy Tennant.

Image result for the ghost monumentI think Whittaker can be a great Doctor. There, I've said it. I think she has the capacity to not only make the role her own but convince me that she IS The Doctor. She, however, isn't going to do it by merely imitating the popular Doctors from days gone by.

There is nothing wrong with being a bit 'quirky'. There is something wrong when all you give is 'quirky'.

Whittaker has moments of this, such as when she berates Ryan for trying to use weapons to win or when coming to conclusions about what happened on Desolation.  There is potential for her to own the part and be The Doctor. She just needs to get away from doing impersonations, otherwise the gender change would have been for nothing.

Malik was underused and Dooley was doing some kind of Russell Crowe gravelly, angry man. Chibnall's script gave us a touch of backstory with a tale of what would be child abuse, which was good in terms of acting and story. Lynch's Angstrom was better to where you wanted her to win, but only because she seemed to have a more fleshed out character.

Of the Companions, I'm liking Walsh's Graham, who seems the most sensible of the lot. He does what good Companions do: he asks questions and actually questions The Doctor, not willing to defer so quickly. Gill's Yaz might just as well been taken hostage for all she did. She was wildly underused to where she was superfluous to The Ghost Monument, though that should be expected when you have three Companions. Cole's Ryan is somewhere in the middle: coming across as somewhat dumb but at least willing to take action.

As I reflect on The Ghost Monument, I think I like it more than I first thought. The story went by fast and Segun Akinola's score is quite good: subtle and effective. There is some good word-play in it. When asked if anyone's confused, Yaz says "Pretty confused", Ryan says "Proper confused" and Graham says "Way beyond confused". 

There are issues that concern me. The 'Timeless Child' and Stenza bits suggest a story arc despite the insistence that there would be none and that each would be a stand-alone story. The lack of screentime for both Gill and Malik. Whittaker's take on the Doctor as more an impersonation of Smith and Tennant than her own creation.

It is still early and there is room for improvement, but I hope they do up the game, otherwise we're going to get the same thing we've seen before.


Next Episode: Rosa

Monday, October 8, 2018

The Woman Who Fell to Earth: A Review

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After all the Sturm und Drang about having The First Female Doctor, the controversy and division and name-calling, we finally have the first story with Her in the lead. The Woman Who Fell to Earth, despite the 'innovation' of The First Female Doctor, is remarkably rote and routine.

Ryan Sinclair (Tosin Cole) is a young man with dyspraxia, a neurological disorder affecting coordination. This makes it hard for him to ride a bicycle, but his grandmother Grace (Sharon D. Clarke) and her husband Graham (Bradley Walsh) do their best to encourage him. In his anger he tosses the bike off a cliff, leading Grace to shout, "RYAN SINCLAIR, DON'T YOU DARE!"

A little poetry never hurt anyone.

As she and Graham leave on a train, Ryan goes to retrieve his bike, and there comes upon a strange set of floating figures. Touching one brings an object not unlike a genie's bottle which is cold to the touch. He calls the police and the rather disinterested Sheffield PD sends probationary police constable Yasmin Khan (Mandip Gill). Ryan and Yaz know each other from when they were in school, and both are concerned about this object.

Nevertheless, there are more important things. Graham and Grace's train finds itself attacked by something, leaving them and another passenger, Karl Wright (Johnny Dixon), under threat by something. Fortunately, this is when a crazed female crashes onto the train with not a scratch. She does not remember who she is, but she knows she was less than half an hour ago a white-haired Scotsman.

Image result for the woman who fell to earthShe quickly takes charge of things while still in the fits of something physically. The object has something to do with things, but by now that object has been spirited away by Rahul (Amit Shah), who blames whatever is inside for his sister's disappearance.  A thing from another world emerges and kills Rahul.

The others find this Predator/Power Ranger-type being and also discover what attacked the train. They also find, thanks to the frantic woman with them, that the creature, Tzin-Sha (Samuel Oatley) is a Stenza Warrior.  He has been sent to Earth to perform a hunt with no weapons or help to prove himself worthy of leadership.

However, "Tim Shaw" as The Woman Who Fell to Earth keeps calling him, is essentially cheating. She also isn't about to let Karl be killed. It's a race to track Karl and save him and the human race from "Tim Shaw", a quest that will finally awake who She is. She is The Doctor (Jodie Whittaker), who does not want to commit violence but will use force if needed.

The fight to save Karl and force "Tim Shaw" to return to his home-world costs many lives, including Grace.

Ryan ends his summation of his beloved Nan on his YouTube blog, and there is a crack in his dislike of his step-grandfather, who genuinely mourns his wife. His mourning is amplified by the fact that he and Grace fell in love three years earlier when she was a nurse and he was fighting against the cancer that is in remission.

The Doctor, having created a sonic screwdriver, now manages to create a device that will allow Her to search for Her spacecraft, the TARDIS, which was lost when She fell to Earth. She bids her 'Friends' goodbye, but ends up in space with them, floating to all their surprise.

Image result for the woman who fell to earthThe Woman Who Fell to Earth could easily have been The Man Who Fell to Earth (apologies to the late and much-missed David Bowie). This role could easily have been played by a man without it being anything out-of-the-ordinary.

Perhaps that is what Doctor Who showrunner/The Woman Who Fell to Earth writer Chris Chibnall wanted, to demonstrate that a Woman could play the part of The Doctor.

This whole idea about a Female Doctor is as tangled as the coils Tzim-Sha used. I don't want to get into a long speech about all this. I will say that I have never objected to a Female Doctor or ever opposed a Female Doctor. What I opposed was the reasoning behind a Female Doctor: for 'representation', for 'equality', so 'little girls can have a heroine', and worse, 'because it's TIME we had a Female Doctor'.     

If we had this change just to have a Female Doctor, if we had this change for some sense of justice, it is a weak reason.

The rationale behind a Female Doctor weakens when you look at Whittaker's performance. She did not play a Female Doctor. She didn't even play The Doctor. She played someone playing a David Tennant/Matt Smith version of The Doctor. Whittaker's debut was similar to how the Ninth Doctor played his debut story in Rose, the Tenth Doctor played his debut story in The Christmas Invasion and the Eleventh Doctor played his debut story in The Eleventh Hour.

In short, I did not see Whittaker's Doctor. I only saw a variation of a theme I've seen before.

I did not accept Whittaker as 'The Doctor', but neither did I reject her outright. I do not see Her as 'The Doctor', at least not yet, not while She is all hyperactive and goofy. She did have some good moments, particularly when at the crane facing off against "Tim Shaw". It went alright but again, nothing that really stood out.

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Part of it is not Whittaker's fault. The Woman Who Fell to Earth has so much wrong with it. There's the repeat of past debut stories: Doctor comes into present-day Britain just as Earth is facing an alien invasion with the new Companions finding themselves wrapped up in it. Curiously, only Deep Breath changed the formula somewhat by changing the time to the Victorian era, but that was to integrate the so-called Paternoster Gang into the proceedings.

There are leaps of logic. How did She survive such a massive fall onto a train with nary a scratch. "Long story," She says, then it is never mentioned again. How Rahul not only found the transport but managed to bring it is left to our imagination. The tooth-stealing looked like a rip-off from Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom.

The villain was shockingly weak and boring, again, nothing we have not seen before on Doctor Who. From the pompous pronouncements to Her dismissive "Tim Shaw" (at least I think it was meant to be dismissive), he was probably the weakest part of the story.

There are elements of other stories. Ryan's video log might be on the same channel as Elton's vlog from Love & Monsters. Yaz is the second 'policewoman' The Doctor has encountered after Amy Pond in The Eleventh Hour. Grace is not the first relative of a 'Friend' to die.

There's the 'Friends', who are not all that interesting. The scene between Gill and Tosin when they see each other for the first time in years is particularly painful. Walsh, surprisingly, was better as this retired bus driver. He seemed to have a better handle on both Graham's crankiness (constantly asking about the DNA bombs within them, a good idea left unexplored) and his genuine grief for Grace.

I think we could have done with Graham as Her only Companion, or at least him and Ryan, for Yasmin at the moment seems superfluous.

The Woman Who Fell to Earth had some positives. Segun Akinola's score was pretty consistent in making things eerie and suspenseful. More importantly, it did not overwhelm the story though perhaps having a little lightness, especially when She has a 'funny line' might have helped the mood.

Ultimately though, despite the wild praise She is getting and the applause for having The First Female Doctor, The Woman Who Fell to Earth was essentially same-old, same-old.

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It's STILL an ugly costume!


Next Episode: The Ghost Monument

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Thoughts on Why I Oppose The Thirteenth Doctor

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In approximately 24 hours, Jodie Whittaker will make Her official debut as the Thirteenth Doctor on Doctor Who, becoming the first Woman to play the part.

It might surprise people that I do not oppose a Female Doctor per se.

I oppose the reasons we've been given, and therein lies the issue.

If we had a Female Doctor for genuine story purposes then I do not see an issue. However, let's be honest with each other: 'plot' was not the given reason we had this change.

The reason we got this change was simple: a group of fans of the revived series (herein referred to as 'NuWho'), along with a very activist press, decided that having a male play this role for over 50 years on television, film and audio was a sign of overt sexism. As such, they declared that "it is time" to have a Female Doctor for the sake of equality.

Little girls needed a Female Doctor so they could see Females on television. They, in the minds of these fans and activists, could never enjoy the show with males in the title role, despite having done so for well over half a century (ten years if you count NuWho only).

This change was not done because the series needed to have a Female lead. It was done as a response to those Social Justice Warriors who believe that there was something intrinsically wrong with men playing this particular role.

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I genuinely do not know when having a male play a part that was written as male became such a crisis that it required a revamping to where Women needed to take that part. It seems curious to me that females have been dressing as the many incarnations of The Doctor with little to no issue until now. If these same cosplayers now say that they needed a Female Doctor so they could dress up as Her at a convention, I would say that their priorities seem a little askew.

Oh, I've heard all the comments: that somehow I'm afraid of women, that I'm opposed to equality, that I cannot accept a Female being in charge, that Doctor Who has long-established gender swaps, that no one objected when said gender-swaps were done before.

Sorry, but those arguments fall dead thanks to the production team itself.

When Whittaker was announced, she declared that she was excited to take on the role "as a feminist, as a woman, as an actor, as a human...". Note that her first thought was 'as a feminist'. Why begin with such a statement, unless the actor in question sees her casting as a political statement?

Whittaker, in the beginning, did offer an olive branch to those who saw her casting as a politically-motivated decision or at least one to keep with the British Broadcasting Corporation's 'Gender Equity Policy'. "I want to tell fans not to be scared by my gender".

I could argue that 'scared' is a curious word to use, just as 'feminist' is a curious word to use if your casting had no ulterior motives, but at least she acknowledged that her casting would not be universally praised.

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Sadly, since her initial statements Whittaker now has taken a more antagonistic tone, slightly pompous and as dismissive as when woke male feminist Chris Hardwick from The Nerdist ridiculed those who opposed the gender swaps as essentially pathetic losers "who've never screwed anything".

As a side note, Hardwick is the type to say "Believe All Women" when it comes to accusations of sexual assault/harassment, until he becomes the one accused, then his fans who nod like bobbleheads at every pronouncement he makes can call that particular woman everything from a 'bitter ex' to a total 'psycho bitch'.  Go figure.

Whittaker for example has said that "it's a mistake to think that the only heroes are white men", so therefore we needed her to be cast in the role of The Doctor so 'little girls and boys could see that heroes can be male and female'. 

I'm not that much older than Whittaker, but I grew up watching or went on later to watch such shows as The Bionic Woman, Wonder Woman, Xena: Warrior Princess, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Alias, Dark Angel, La Femme Nikita, The X-Files, The Sarah Jane Adventures and Star Trek: Voyager.

Each, from what I remember, had female leads, all of them strong and more than able to stand on her own. One can make the argument that Agent Scully from The X-Files was a costar and not the actual lead, but she was just as important a part of the series as Agent Fox Mulder.

I also know that the same fans whom Hardwick ridicules as ignorant for not agreeing with him also think highly of such females as Sarah Connor from the Terminator franchise, Ripley from the Alien series, The Bride from Kill Bill, Katniss from The Hunger Games and both Black Widow and Agent Carter from the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Add to that Supergirl, Lara Croft, Jyn Erso and Rey from the recent Star Wars films and despite what Whittaker genuinely believes, the world was not starved for positive female action/science-fiction leads.

Again and again I point out that these same 'sexist' fans who are lectured to about how they cannot accept a female lead on Doctor Who due to misogyny or sexism consistently rank the Doctor's former Companion of Romana as among the Best of All Time.

If Doctor Who was really interested in having a positive female lead/role model, the solution was simplicity itself: bring back the character of Romana for a guest appearance/story arc on Doctor Who, then spin her off for her own adventures. You would have the best of both worlds: a female-led show that kept to Canon AND had a show with a ready-made fan base.

A theoretical Romana: The New Adventures would have had many male fans watching with it having nothing to do with 'eye-candy'. It instead would be due to the respect and admiration many Classic Who fans have for the character, one based on her intelligence, elegance and heart.

However, Romana was never going to be brought back for the main reason that incoming Doctor Who showrunner Chris Chibnall wanted a Female Doctor from the word 'go'.

It is highly amusing to see all those who tell me 'the best actor was cast and it just happened to be a woman' now scramble to make sense of this line of thought when Chibnall has openly said he always wanted a Female Doctor and that it was a condition of him taking the showrunner position. Essentially, the fix was always in, giving more credence to the idea that the casting of a Female Doctor was motivated by purely sociopolitical reasons.

As a side note, there could never be a Romana: The New Adventures for the sole reason that NuWhovians, the main target audience of the show now, have never heard of the character. As such, they would have no point of reference.

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Then there's the whole 'gender-swapping regenerations are long-established on Doctor Who'. "Long-established" is a curious term, given that the concept was first introduced in 2011 with The Doctor's Wife. Since then, we've seen two gender-swapping Time Lords: The Master into The Mistress or 'Missy' and The General from an old white man to a not-so-old black woman.

As a side note, it's curious that when The General in Hell Bent regenerated into a woman, she made surprisingly misandry remarks, talking about how 'unnatural' it was when she was a man and complaining about coping with so much ego. 

It is curious that all these gender-swapping regenerations have been, as of this writing, in one direction: male-to-female. We have yet to have a female Time Lord regenerate into a man. Until such a time as we see that, I won't accept that this 'long-established' routine was not the opening steps to have this ultimate move to a Female Doctor.

I have not seen every Doctor Who story, but in the Classic series, I cannot recall a time when gender-swapping was common or even possible, let alone mentioned as de rigueur among Time Lords. In fact, the opposite was believed. A general theory about Time Lord regenerations held that Female Time Lords were better able to control or even manipulate their regenerations because they were exclusively Female.

Romana's transformations in Destiny of the Daleks, along with a comment by the Female Time Lord villain The Rani about how she 'at least could choose her appearance' in Time & The Rani if memory serves correct lent credence to that theory.

Then again, that was Classic Doctor Who, which for many NuWho fans, is irrelevant to the show they watch and sob over. 

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Circling back to the main point of this essay, everything about the casting of Jodie Whittaker as The Doctor points to this being motivated by the desire to curry favor with SJWs and to promote an agenda versus actually serving the series.

There's the trailer where The Doctor literally breaks a glass ceiling. There's her first line of dialogue upon seeing Herself for the first time, "Ah, Brilliant", which I misheard as "Oh, Berlin".

That last one is a puzzle: after being a male for thousands of years and eleven regenerations, The Doctor's first reaction to seeing himself as a Woman for the first time ever is "Ah, Brilliant". It isn't genuine shock? It isn't surprise? Instead, it's to remark how 'brilliant' it is?

Again, I'm not buying that.

I've had my say. I am not opposed to a Female Doctor, and I will give Jodie Whittaker and the new production team a chance. This is important given that Chris Chibnall now gets his chance to recreate the show in his image.

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I figure few NuWho fans know that when Doctor Who was first on the air, none other than Chris Chibnall appeared on the show Open Air in 1986, where and when at age sixteen years old he questioned then-Doctor Who showrunner John Nathan-Turner and writers Pip & Jane Baker on the abysmal nature of that season/series.

I can imagine Chibnall at that age saying to himself, 'I can do much better than they can'. Now, thirty-plus years later, he has his chance. He can remake Doctor Who in his own image, and I think he is damn well going to try.

He has declared there will be no returning monsters/characters from the series, Classic or NuWho. He has a reworked musical theme. He also gets the historic note of having the First Female Doctor, something never done before and which Chibnall insisted be a condition of him accepting the showrunner position.

He essentially is doing a second soft reboot to the series (the first soft reboot a mere two series/seasons ago with the intentionally-named The Pilot). The show has been struggling creatively and ratings-wise. The YA spin-off Class flopped big-time. Despite the much-vaunted Memorandum of Understanding with the Chinese Shanghai Media Group Pictures company, Doctor Who is not guaranteed to be produced for five more seasons/series.

It is barely hanging on, with diminished interest among the general public. The decision to cast a Female Doctor has divided the fanbase, some swearing off the show forever and Chibnall, Whittaker and various media outlets showing contempt for these fans.

Chibnall, Whittaker, these media outlets and those who cheer them on insist that those who left either in disgust or boredom with the show will be replaced with those who think it is all wonderful. Some of the more optimistic insist that ratings will increase.

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I do not believe any bump that Series/Season 12 gets from the First Female Doctor will hold. I do not believe that those who celebrate The First Female Doctor will stay longer than three episodes at most. For them, it was never about the show itself. It was about making a statement, and now that that statement has been made, they will move on.

Once the novelty wears off, will Doctor Who Series/Season 12 get more viewers and hold the ones that stayed, let alone win over those who left? Chibnall, Whittaker and Hardwick don't want those who left to return. They've made that clear.

The question now is, 'will the ratings increase?' I believe initially they will, but I hold that the ratings for Episode 6 will be the measure of whether Doctor Who survives beyond an unlucky Series 13. By then, the show will be more than half done, the Female Doctor no longer a newsworthy event. If they remain flat or worse, go down, the show will not survive to let Whittaker regenerate into...a Black Doctor? An Indian Doctor? An Indian Woman Doctor?

If they manage to survive to a 14th Doctor, they cannot go back to a white male lest they be accused of re-instituting the bigotry Whittaker's Doctor was meant to abolish. They then open themselves to accusations that having a black male or a woman of color Doctor is a stunt, something that those who opposed a Female Doctor in the first place said it was.

I expect reviews for The Woman Who Fell to Earth, Whittaker's debut story, to be rhapsodic no matter how good or bad the episode is. Who knows: maybe I will end up liking it. Reviews for this episode will be irrelevant. Ratings will tell the real story, and even then, it is the ratings for Episode 6 which I believe will reveal the state of Doctor Who.

Ultimately, while I wish the show well, I cannot muster much enthusiasm for the way Chris Chibnall wants to live out his teenage fantasies about how he knows better when it comes to Doctor Who.