Friday, November 23, 2063


You might not want to read on unless you:
A)  Have seen the most recent episode of Doctor Who (as of its UK airdate!)
B) Want to know about rumors and theories of what's coming up in future episodes


While this blog is not meant to be overtly lewd or pornographic, it is aimed towards adults and may occasionally be inappropriate for children (despite being a blog about what is, ostensibly, a children's show).


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Monday, December 26, 2016

Fairytale of New York: An Overanalysis of "The Return of Doctor Mysterio"

The Ghost apparently has a severe hatred for glass.

2016 has been a terrible year all around for everyone.  Donald Trump was elected president of the United States.  That alone would be enough to relegate 2016 to the worst year of all time, but instead, we also got Brexit and the death of countless beloved celebrities, the latest of which, George Michael, died on Christmas day.  In my personal life I went through the worst breakup of my life, and got forced out of my apartment because my landlord was a greedy asshole and wanted to make it a condo.  I also came out as transgender to most people in my life (you can call me Julie now) which is mostly a positive, but has also come with a whole host of new terrifying experiences and constant fears about the future.  So why has 2016 been such a shit year?  Well, to paraphrase Mels, because the Doctor wasn't there to stop it.

Within the context of the show, the Doctor's been gone 24 years spending his final years with his wife, River Song.  In the real world, the Doctor's been gone for one year so the production team could focus on a spin-off that, while excellent, has been poorly advertised in the UK and was given little international distribution to start off with.  We did see a commercial for Class during the BBC America broadcast of this special, so thankfully it will finally be coming here.  Since I've already seen it through "creative" means, I've got a post about Class that I'll but putting up soon.  Regardless, it's been far too long since we've seen the Doctor, and it felt great to finally see him again, even if the episode was good, not great.

Rather than introducing the new companion, Bill, who everyone is excited to meet, instead we're treated to a second dose of the annoying Nardole, played by unfunny racist Matt Lucas, pictured here in the role that somehow failed to end his career:

How often do you think Matt Lucas says the n-word in private

Nardole is a big, puss-filled blemish on the episode that needs to be popped.  He does nothing but bumble around and add his obnoxiously dopey voice where you don't need it.  Nardole returns because the Doctor put him back together form inside Hydroflax, which Nardole thinks was because the Doctor couldn't handle being alone without River.  I'd like to think that the Doctor put together the other guy who was trapped in Hydroflax, otherwise that would just be a dick move on his part.  The preview for the coming season at the end of the episode (the first we've gotten at the end of a Christmas special since "A Christmas Carol") we saw that Nardole is going to be in the coming season as a second companion alongside Bill.  Here's hoping his neck gets snapped by a Weeping Angel.

We start off with the Doctor setting up a machine to fix time distortions in New York that he says are his fault.  I presume he's referring to the ones created in "The Angels Take Manhattan," but that episode suggested that the time distortions only existed in the specific year they were created.  The beginning of this episode, presumably, takes place sometime in the 1990's, so I don't know why they're still there.  Oh, and the Doctor is absolutely to blame for turning Grant into The Ghost.  I'm pretty sure anyone would assume they were being handed a pill to take.

You can take the red pill or the blue pi--Oh my god, you actually took it?  That was a metaphor!  Cough it up!

The episode works because it acts as a direct sequel to "The Husbands of River Song," and tackles the Doctor''s grief for River Song head-on, rather than ignoring it.  The unspoken subtext is that he lost River right after losing Clara (it may have been 24 years, but what's 24 years when you're literally billions of years old) and so he's trying to strike out on his own for the first time in a while, battling through some severe loneliness and loss.

The love story between Grant and Lucy was cute, if a tad predictable.  I liked the foreshadowing at the beginning of the episode where the Doctor points out the obvious secret identity of Superman in the comic book, and comments that Lois Lane somehow can't figure it out despite being a reporter.  Then Lucy finds herself unable to determine the equally obvious secret identity of The Ghost.  I also liked that Grant resists the x-ray vision in puberty instead of rapeily embracing it.

"Oh my God, I can't see boobs!" - Every straight teenage boy after trying X-Ray specs
I was disappointed at how un-Christmassy this Christmas special was.  In the UK, most shows get a Christmas special, as they don't air from fall to spring like American network shows.  Most UK shows work the way that American cable and streaming shows work:  a new season is produced whenever they can get everyone together, so there's a good chance their season won't run through Christmastime.  So most shows are given a Christmas special, but not all of them are actually about Christmas.  I've never understood that.  You'll notice if you watch, say, Downton Abbey, that some of the Christmas specials take place on Christmas, while others just depict a special day for the characters.  Why on Earth would you make a Christmas special that doesn't take place on Christmas?  I've seen Steven Moffat, in interviews, share my view on this, and insist that Christmas specials should be Christmassy, which is why I was surprised that, with the exception of one brief Christmas reference at the beginning of the episode, I wasn't even sure that the rest of the episode was actually supposed to take place at Christmastime.

You'll notice that the villains in this episode are the same as the ones as the Hydroflax worshipers from "The Husbands of River Song" and that Harmony Shoal vowed revenge at the end of the episode.  While the Invasion of the Body Snatchers style plot of this episode isn't that original, I got the feeling that this is just the beginning and that Moffat is setting up this species to come back for his final season as head writer.

While the preview for the coming season did feature Captain Blackface, it also looked like an exciting season and I'm looking forward to it.  I'm not looking forward to saying goodbye to Steven Moffat, but after Season 9 was the best he's ever given us, I'm excited to see what he does with Season 10.  So Merry Belated Christmas everybody!  Here's to a better year than the one we're leaving behind.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Merry Christmas (I Don't Want to Fight Tonight): An Overanalysis of The Husbands of River Song

It could be argued that, since taking over as head writer, Steven Moffat has actually only been writing one very, very long story:  the story of Gallifrey's return.  The first episode Moffat wrote as head writer, "The Eleventh Hour," featured the ominous warning from Prisoner Zero: "The universe is cracked. The Pandorica will open. Silence will fall."  This set off an entire plotline that would span the entirety of the Eleventh Doctor's tenure, as we eventually discover that "Silence will fall" is a religious slogan from a church that is dedicated to ensuring that Gallifrey does not return.  The Twelfth Doctor's tenure, so far, has largely been about the negative consequences of Gallifrey's return to the Universe.  Steven Moffat has stated openly that the reason River Song appeared in this Christmas special was because, when he wrote it, he thought it might be the last episode of Doctor Who he ever wrote and, if so, he wanted to put River in it.  We now know that Moffat will still be heading series 10, largely because he is having difficulty picking a successor, but "The Husbands of River Song" stands as a would-be finale to the Moffat era.  Where "Hell Bent" ties up the Gallifrey plotline in a nice little bow for the next showrunner to follow up on, "The Husbands of River Song" ties up another thread in the Gallifrey return story.  While River may predate Moffat's tenure as head writer, she quickly became inextricably linked to the larger Gallifrey plotline, the deadly product of a cult dedicated to preventing Gallifrey's return by absolutely any means necessary.  A softer, gentler side of the plot, it's a perfect way to put the finishing touches to the story on Christmas day.  While there's certainly some darkness to it, "The Husbands of River Song" is one of the most beautiful, romantic, dynamic episodes the series has ever done.  It might even be my new favorite.

This is pretty clearly the final episode for River Song.  I mean, are there ways they could potentially bring her back?  Sure.  They've brought so many people back from the dead it's pretty hard to believe that death is a real problem in the Doctor Who Universe.  But more than likely, River is being retired with this episode.  It puts a pretty tidy little bow on the whole story that's a bit difficult to unwrap.  Now, if we string all of River Song's episodes together in order, does it all line up perfectly?  No, not at all.  There are plenty of problems with it.  Why is River surprised that she's going to die at the end of "Forest of the Dead" when the Doctor pretty much confirmed to her that she's heading to her death at the end of this episode?  Why is she surprised to find that the Tenth Doctor is the youngest version of the Doctor she's ever met when she apparently has a rolodex full of pictures of all of his first 12 regenerations in order?  Why does she tell the Doctor in "The Time of Angels" "It's so strange when you go all baby face" when we now know that that's the only regeneration of the Doctor she had met at that point?  How does the new Big Finish audio series The Diary of River Song, in which River meets the Eighth Doctor, even work?  (It's already out, but I haven't listened to it yet.)  But of course you can kind of wave all of this away with River's admission at the end of "The Wedding of River Song" that she often lies and pretends to not know things that she does to avoid spoiling anything for the Doctor.  If anyone ever tries to resurrect River again in the future, "River lies" will surely be used as the explanation.

I have been slowly showing my new girlfriend the Steven Moffat era over the past few months, but we skipped over series 4 because I wanted to jump her straight to my favorite Doctor and, also, because fuck Donna Noble.

Pictured above:  Donna Noble

So a few weeks ago, in preparation for this episode, I doubled back and showed her "Silence in the Library"/"Forest of the Dead," and boy am I glad I did, because this episode does not make sense without that particular context.  I had no idea that we'd be going down that road in this episode, particularly because the Series 5 DVD set has a mini-episode that implied that the Eleventh Doctor was the one that took River to the Singing Towers of Darillium, but then that was explained away in this episode by acknowledging that the Doctor keeps making plans to take her to Darillium but keeps cancelling for very obvious reasons.

As soon as I got to my second viewing of this episode, I realized that the episode is telegraphing the twist from very early on.  Most notably, I can't believe that I missed the Doctor saying early on in the episode that he had a new suit and a haircut, just as River had said in "Forest of the Dead."  I have to admit, I always took her comment about a "haircut" to be a euphemism for "new regeneration," and I think, in the end, it both was and wasn't.  But, like I said about the last episode, Moffat likes to make sure that, if he's killing off a character, he finds a way to kind of save them, but not really.  River was already granted a stay of execution in "Forest of the Dead" by being saved to The Library's computer, and she's given another one in this episode when we find out that her last night with the Doctor on Darillium will last 24 years. I loved her speech about how "Happy ever after doesn't mean forever. It just means time. A little time."  I'm 31.  Personally, I feel like 24 years is a pretty nice, long chunk of time to have with the person you love.  Finally, the Doctor and River get to live together, like a real married couple, not running around the Universe and jumping from adventure to adventure, but living for 24 years with the Doctor on this beautiful planet.  And for all of those 24 years, it's Christmas night.  That sounds like a wonderful life.

"Every time a cloister bell rings, a dead companion gets its wings!"
It's a distinctly Moffat-y ending, because Moffat is pretty much the only writer of the television series who figured out that if you have an immortal character in a time travel show, you're actually completely free to do an episode that lasts as many as 4.5 billion years, let alone a mere 24 years.

The only negative things I can say about "The Husbands of River Song" was that Matt Lucas was in it, playing River's idiotic man servant Nardole.  Matt Lucas co-created, co-wrote, and co-starred in a short-lived sitcom called Come Fly with Me with David Williams, who previously appeared as the Tivolian in "The God Complex." I think you can still find Come Fly with Me on Hulu.  An ex-girlfriend recommended it to me, and she didn't even have a glowing recommendation of it, but pretty much just said "It's not good, it's just sort of generally pleasant to have on in the background while you're doing stuff."  So I watched the pilot and what I witnessed was about 30 minutes of the most boring piece of blatant racism that I had seen since The Blind Side.

I don't know about England, but in America, we call that "blackface."
Come Fly with Me is such a horrendous piece of shit that I have a prejudice against anything that Matt Lucas and David William do now, especially Matt Lucas, as he's the more annoying one.  But thankfully the rest of this episode was so good, it cancelled out Matt Lucas's terrible presence.

I think this episode has so many amazing tender moments.  The set design for the restaurant on Darillium was transcendent.  The realization on River's face as she realizes the man next to her is the Doctor is truly a wonderful piece of acting from Alex Kingston.  The episode breaks a lot of the rules, as it has virtually no connection to present day Earth, it's carried entirely by two actors over the age of 50, and it largely only make sense in the context of an episode that aired seven years ago.  It's not in keeping with what Steven Moffat said when he first started as head writer that every episode should be a jumping on point for new viewers, but then Moffat has never taken his own advice on that point anyway.  It's a terrible episode to initiate a casual viewer with.  It is a lovely Christmas present for the dedicated fans.

Also, I created a Spotify playlist out of all the songs that I named my blogs after this year, so you can listen to the whole season as a playlist (okay, technically the Christmas special counts as part of the next season, but who cares).  Click the link above to check it out!

Hybrid Moments: An Overanalysis of "Hell Bent"

If you want to scream, scream with me!
At this point, I'm starting my damn blog post so late that, by the time it's finished and published, we'll be welcoming Rupert Grint as the 16th Doctor (that sounds like a Mark Gatiss casting choice if I've ever heard one), but I guess better late than never, so here we go...

Star Trek:  Deep Space Nine had an amazing episode in the fourth season in which a freak accident causes Captain Sisko to wander lost through time, never able to decide where or how long he will appear, and his son, Jake, spends his entire life trying to figure out how to save him. Executive producer Ira Steven Behr said about the episode: "A love stronger than death. Usually that's romantic love, but for this show, this series, we chose the love between a father and son. And it worked like gangbusters. Everyone could relate to it."  It's true that when people think of great love stories, they think of romantic love.  But for most of us, our significant other isn't the only person we love so much that we're willing to go to any lengths to save them.  For many of us, that's also a parent, a sibling, a child, or even a friend.  "Hell Bent" is the great story of one man's love for a friend.  Not a romantic love--well, there was a little flirting towards the beginning of their relationship--but the slightly paternal, always challenging, strong friendship between two people, and a non-romantic love between them so strong that one was willing to literally break the Universe in half to save the other.  And that makes for a beautiful story.

I watched this episode at a viewing party at a bar with my friends from Mile High Who, with a bunch of new members there to join us, so I was trying my hardest not to start bawling openly during this episode, but at the moment when the Twelfth General told Clara that the Doctor spent 4.5 billion years trapped in the confession dial, I lost it and couldn't stop myself from crying.

Mostly the Doctor was just trying to one-up Rory.

A lot of people, since this episode have aired, have claimed that this revelation now means that the Doctor is even older, clocking in at a whopping 4,500,002,000 years old.  However we need to remember that, while "Heaven Sent" takes place over the course of 4.5 billion years, it only occurred to the Doctor as 3 days.  He may have experienced it over and over again, but he was essentially reborn each time and never retained the memories of his previous times through the confession dial, so from his perspective only added 3 days to his lifetime.  I think we can still say that the Doctor is about 2,000 years old.  He didn't really live and feel the 4.5 billion years, so I don't think that can count as his age.

I predicted that the Doctor's statement at the end of "Heaven Sent" meant that he was the Hybrid because he's half human and half Time Lord according to an often ignored line from the 1996 movie where the Eighth Doctor says that he is "half human on [his] mother's side." My Mile High Who cohost Shelley said that she thought his statement meant that Ashildr was the Hybrid.  As Shelley and I were both in the same room together as we watched this episode, we both shouted "No!" at the screen when Ashildr asked if the Doctor truly was half human.  We were both quite pleased at where Moffat went with that bit of the script, managing to quite deftly avoid a huge civil war within the fandom, or a straight up Han-Shot-First style revolt, by refusing to either confirm or deny the "half human" line.  The Doctor's simple response of "Does it matter?" doesn't force Moffat to do any major rewrites of cannon, but also makes it quite clear that we are not going to explore the possibility, even if it is true, and I'm fine with leaving it there.

The episode never specifically names who exactly the Hybrid is, but I actually like Ashildr's suggestion that the Hybrid doesn't actually refer to a single person, but the combination of two people, who together become the most dangerous creature in the Universe.  I was originally skeptical of the part about the Doctor and Clara playing Russian roulette with a mind eraser, but in hindsight, it makes perfect sense.  It wasn't just because the Doctor wanted to keep Clara safe, but to destroy the Hybrid, one of them had to stop remembering the other, or else the Universe would be at risk of fracturing as the Doctor tried to save Clara.  Many people at the event I went to called this the "Donna Noble thing," but I had to correct them and remind them that, in fact, in the series as a whole, Donna was the third companion to have her memory of the Doctor erased upon departing the TARDIS.  It happened to Jamie and Zoe before her (although, admittedly, that was retconned in a weird combination of fan theories and external Universe material called "Season 6b" that the BBC has inexplicably declared to be cannon).  Still, I feel very bad for the Doctor in losing his best friend.  He'll probably need some cheering up (from River, of course!).

Fear the hybrid!

I had this inkling in the back of my head that I never quite expressed out loud that Steven Moffat might just put some sort of twist on Clara's death.  I find that Moffat, whenever he kills off a character, likes to find a way to allow them to sort of keep living but not really.  River got saved in The Library.  Amy and Rory got to live out the rest of their lives, just not in their own time period.  It only makes sense that he would have found a way to kind of save Clara while still killing her off.  As some of the people around me at the viewing party suggested, a spin-off about Clara and Ashildr traveling through time together in a TARDIS disguised as a 50's themed diner would be pretty amazing.

And I loved Clara's take on her death, because it really put a weirdly positive spin on it.  Her insistence on not having her memory erased spoke so much about who Clara is now and who she has become.  She never asked the Doctor for safety, that's true.  She wanted to live the life she could with the Doctor, regardless of the consequences.  There were episodes this season that hinted that Clara was getting to be too much of a daredevil, a thrill seeker, an adrenaline junkie, that she was starting to act like she was immortal.  Quite the contrary, she simply didn't care because the risk of death was always worth it to experience life with the Doctor in the TARDIS.  It's a different take on being a companion than I've ever seen before, and certainly gave her a dignity in death that the only other dead companion, Adric, never achieved.  The little trick of this episode bringing her back only temporarily, trapped in a moment in time, also gives her the chance to say everything that's important for her to say to the Doctor before she leaves him.  He needed more than just her warning at the end of "Face the Raven" to keep him from turning cruel and hateful from the death of his companion.  He needed a partial memory wipe combined with a big cathartic sense of closure with Clara, followed by a reminder that what made him special to her in the first place was that he was never cruel nor cowardly.  I'm not saying it will erase the pain of losing Clara completely, but it's probably just what he needed to keep him from spinning completely out of control in Clara's absence.

I have to say, from watching "The Day of the Doctor," I somewhat wondered if Moffat had forgotten about the events of "The End of Time."  I know many people are going to respond to that by saying that "I wish I could forget that episode, too," and they're not wrong.  It's not a very good episode, but it has excellent parts to it.  To be more precise, I really think there's a very good 42 minute episode in there that got excruciatingly dragged out into 2 1/2 hours.  The revelation of why the Doctor had to destroy the Time Lords was mind-blowing and perfectly dark, and I really wanted to see that followed up on, yet "The Day of the Doctor" seems to go out of its way to avoid talking about the evils that the Time Lords have committed, namely wanting to destroy the Universe.  Yet Moffat didn't forget about these atrocities, but was perhaps just keeping them out of "The Day of the Doctor" to avoid turning such a celebratory anniversary episode into a humungous bummer.  But "Hell Bent" makes it quite clear that Moffat has forgotten nothing about what happened in "The End of Time," and the Doctor's showdown with Rassilon makes that quite clear.  Rassilon has now regenerated into Donald Sumpter, as Timothy Dalton was busy, but it gave them an opportunity to make him probably the only actor to ever appear alongside both the 3rd and 12th Doctors in an episode.  That the Doctor begins by banishing Rassilon and the High Council from Gallifrey works perfectly and lines up very neatly with cannon, allowing us now to reestablish Gallifrey in the Doctor Who Universe without the complications brought into it from "The End of Time."  Gallifrey will be a rebuilding planet, certainly, and the Doctor is, again, the Lord President for the umpteen millionth time in his life, but I'm pretty sure he handed that duty off to someone else shortly after the events of this episode, most likely The General.

I do have to comment on the brand new Sonic Screwdriver.  I know a lot of crybabies complained about the temporary retirement of the screwdriver at the beginning of this season, but I liked it, as it forced the writers to find some other ways to get around things.  Plus, the Sonic Sunglasses look really good on Peter Capaldi.  Since I'm writing this after "The Husbands of River Song"aired, I know that the Sonic Sunglasses have not been retired now that the Sonic Screwdriver is back, and I'm fine with that.  The Screwdriver got a much deserved short rest.  But I do have to say that the new one, while a nice pretty blue color, is the most phallic design they've ever done for a Sonic.

It looks like a Transformer's robot penis.

One thing I'm not entirely sure about, and this is something that many of the Mile High Whovians also brought up, is where Gallifrey stands now.  Is it back in the Universe?  Or is it still hiding in a corner somewhere, terrified to reestablish its presence.  I guess that's for us to see next season.  But first, it's time to revisit our old friend, River Song, for Christmas!

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Room Without a Window: An Overanalysis of "Heaven Sent"

The Simpsons used to have a rule that every season had to have one episode that pushed the boundaries of what a Simpsons episode should be.  Personally, I think every show should have a rule like this.  Not every episode should be an experiment, but once a season I think every show should push themselves and see if they can go somewhere very different creatively.  "Listen" was probably Steven Moffat's most obvious attempt at an experimental episode, as it really was, in every way, a complete deconstruction of a Doctor Who episode.  It took the most basic concept of a stereotypical Doctor Who plotline, broke it down to its basic components, and reassembled it in a very different way that challenged the very premise of what this show is and what it's about.  Perhaps it was Steven Moffat's confidence after three seasons as showrunner that gave him the confidence to push the boundaries of the show's structure.  I would argue that there are a number of moments when Moffat deconstructed traditional narratives that were not necessarily looked at as "experimental" episodes, such as "A Christmas Carol" and "The Day of the Doctor," but "Listen" is where he really stretched himself.  "Heaven Sent" is the work of a writer at the top of his game, confident in the abilities of his lead actor, sure of the BBC's confidence in him and his show, and confident in his audience's ability to grasp the complexity of the episode.  Sure, a work of genius like this will not silence Moffat's haters, but nothing ever does.  They will talk about how much they love the 11th Doctor, Amy Pond, Rory, River Song, Danny Pink, the 12th Doctor, "Listen," and now, certainly, "Heaven Sent," but will still insist that Moffat is ruining the show.  But while I'm still not entirely sure why Moffat chose to call the episode "Heaven Sent," I do know that it is a work of pure, unadulterated brilliance that will forever be remembered as one of the most important episodes in the show's history.

The show has been dangling out a few mysteries this season hinting at the plot of the finale, and I haven't entirely understood them all, or even cared to understand them all.  I've been more interested in figuring out who the Minister of War is or what Missy's "clever plan" was, but it now seems like those are setting up for farther down the road so let's focus on the mysteries that seem to be setting up for this finale.  The first was The Hybrid.  It's interesting, but incredibly vague, and leaves me with very little to chew on.  But, more importantly, it completely destroys the premise of the show.  We've always known the reason for the Doctor's departure from Gallifrey, and the story of The Hybrid throws that reason out entirely.  To be honest, the original explanation we've had all these years, that the Doctor was simply bored, makes complete sense to me.  It speaks to the true spirit of the character.  Regardless of which generation we're talking about, the Doctor is always insatiably curious.  So why throw out his original motivation when it fits so perfectly with the character?  Unlike Davros, I never once doubted that the Doctor was just bored.

But the revelation at the end of this episode that the Doctor is The Hybrid does give us an explanation that is more in keeping with the Doctor's character.  The Doctor running from a prophecy is silly.  The Doctor doesn't run from enemies, no matter how deadly they are, at least not for very long.  But running from responsibility?  Yeah, the Doctor has done that many times, and that is quite in keeping with his character.  The Doctor has been offered the position of Lord High President of Gallifrey on multiple occasions and turned it down because...well, because damn the man.  The Doctor doesn't want that kind of power over his own people.  But if he needs to set them straight about a few things, which would be necessary even if Clara hadn't been killed in the trap that they set for him, then he's willing to show up and accept his responsibility as the one destined to fix Gallifrey.

Remember that "Day of the Doctor," taken on its own, is a very happy episode, but when you remember the events of "The End of Time," "Day of the Doctor" seems to be glossing over a few things.  Great, the Doctor has saved his own planet, and the Time Lords have been restored to the Universe.  Except that he destroyed them because they were about to destroy the Universe and rise to a higher level of consciousness.  So when the Doctor did finally find Gallifrey, we knew one thing for sure:  The Doctor was going to need to lay a serious smack down on some people.  I'm guessing Timothy Dalton was not available for "Hell Bent," but there are still some people who are going to need to be dealt with.

But how is the Doctor a hybrid?  I was really, really hoping we weren't going to go here, but I think I know what Moffat is referencing, and I'm not the first Doctor Who fan to have noticed it.

There are a lot of things that are wrong with the 1996 movie.  Somehow it manages to be too simplistic and too complex at the same time.  The line about him being half-human on his mother's side was so despised by fans that it has pretty much been rejected.  Expanded universe materials have retconned the line and explained it as an elaborate ruse to fool the Master.  Russel T. Davies pretty much ignored the line when he wrote "The End of Time," and fully admitted that the mysterious Woman was supposed to be The Doctor's mother, but also insists that that shouldn't be considered canon as he never got around to actually putting it into dialogue.  You wouldn't think that Moffat would even want to touch such a controversial line, but I have a bad feeling that that's what it means. 

If this is where Moffat is going with the whole Hybrid plotline, then there are far reaching implications for it.  The Doctor may have been established as half-human almost 20 years ago, but the show has refused to acknowledge it as real, and fans refuse to accept the line.  A half-human Doctor means something very different.  It means the Doctor's tie to this world is not just a fondness for it, but a birth connection.  I always liked the idea that it isn't his planet, but his adopted second home.  I don't know if I like the idea of it being just where his mother was from.

 My co-host from Mile High Who Podcast, Shelley, pointed out the other possibility that he's not saying "Me" as in he himself is the Hybrid, but rather referring to Ashildr by the name that she insists on calling herself, "Me." It's not a terrible theory, but I don't understand why Ashildr would show up on Gallifrey, unless she now feels really bad about what she did to Clara.  I don't think that the Doctor is going to literally "stand in the ruins" of Gallifrey.  To do that to the planet would be to really spit on Clara's legacy.  She saved the Time Lords from him and, even if they're partially responsible for her death, he would never take that legacy away from his good friend.  I think "stand in the ruins" refers to the fact that he's going to completely dismantle their government and institute a new leader, and maybe he's going to decide that Ashildr is just who should do it.  Or maybe one of the Osgoods, another Hybrid the Doctor created.  But he won't do it himself.  The Doctor is the most fit to govern Gallifrey precisely because he doesn't want to do it.

I'm just going to leave this riiiiight here.
I was also surprised about the Confession Dial.  The Doctor kept referring to it as being similar to a human concept of a "Last Will and Testament," but that wasn't true at all.  It was an interrogation chamber to get him to admit his final secret.  There's one thing though:  even if he is the Hybrid, the Doctor went through a lot of trouble to keep from telling the Time Lords something that he knew about the prophecy of the Hybrid, which means that there's still something we don't know yet.  So I'm really excited to see what it is now.  Regardless, I'm really excited for "Hell Bent," but I'm also a little skeptical.  "Heaven Sent" only really stands up if "Hell Bent" answers a lot more of the questions that it brought up.  So here's hoping it does!

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Dead Friend: An Overanalysis of "Face the Raven"

Companions rarely die.  The Doctor talks about them like they do all the time, but they rarely ever do.  They wind up in parallel dimensions or get their memories of him erased (this has actually happened more than once) or they end up stuck in a specific time period that the Doctor can't get to. These things are like death to the Doctor because he can never get back to them again, but they aren't really deaths.  The companions go on to continue their lives without him.  More often than not in the classic series, they just went home, or met someone and fell in love (never, before the Moffat era, was a companion allowed to stay on the TARDIS after falling in love).  Only one other full time companion has ever died while traveling with the Doctor on the TV series without bring brought back from the dead later.  One off companions have died many times, and expanded universe sources have given us a few more companion deaths, but still not that many.  Really, Adric remains as the only regular companion to have really formed a connection with the Doctor before being tragically killed at a young age without being brought back later.  That is until "Face the Raven."

"I saw a whole planet rushing towards me.  I tried to surrender to it, but it did me no good.  That usually works!"

Much like Adric's death, Clara's isn't heroic, but more of a failed attempt at a heroic act.  Adric died trying to stop a Cybership from crashing into Earth, failing to understand that the ship he was on wasn't going to destroy humanity, but was rather the "asteroid" that crashed into Earth killing the dinosaurs, thus allowing humanity to spread and thrive.  Clara's death was something this whole season has been building up to, as we've seen the Doctor grow more and more concerned about her recklessness and thrill-seeking behavior.  In the end, it wasn't a heroic act that killed her, as Rigsy would have survived if Clara had never come up with her brilliant idea.  It was solely her recklessness that killed her.  In a weird way, it's a very disgraceful death, which is probably going to make the Doctor even angrier about it.

A few people have brought up the possibility that Clara's death isn't going to stick, and it wouldn't be unprecedented for Doctor Who to bring back a character we assumed was dead.  Moffat has insisted that Clara would not return once she left the show, but we all remember Rule 1.  One of the main reasons people are suspicious is the fact that Steven Moffat did not write the episode.  It is shockingly out of character for Moffat, who has yet to let another writer write even one word of dialogue for River Song (Big Finish's recent announcement not withstanding), to allow another writer to kill off a companion that he created.  If he were to hand that task over to another writer, you would think he'd give it to one of his close friends like his Sherlock co-writers Mark Gatiss and Stephen Thompson, not a first time Doctor Who writer like Sarah Dollard, an Australian writer whose writing credits are actually relatively sparse.  She has a lot of credits as a script editor for major BBC shows like Merlin and Primevil, but the number of episodes she's written by herself for TV shows is significantly smaller than what you'd find on most Doctor Who writers' resumes.  However, one of her writing credits is a 2013 episode she wrote of Being Human, a show that was created and run by Doctor Who writer Toby Whithouse, so perhaps Moffat had a good recommendation for her.  Also, the show has been notably lacking in female writers since the revival, and perhaps Moffat felt it would be appropriate for a female writer to kill off Clara.

Another reason that the fandom has been a little skeptical about the permanence of Clara's death is that it came at a very odd point in the season.  We've never gone into a season finale without the companion before.  In fact, only once before in the entire series, modern or classic, has there been an episode with no companion, not even a one-off companion to fill in for the episode.  That was the 4th Doctor serial with the title that is now quite appropriately mocked for its redundancy, "The Deadly Assassin," and supposedly the reason for that was that Tom Baker was trying to convince the production staff that he could carry the show on his own without a co-star.  He failed in that, and a new companion was brought in for the very next serial.

"My oversized teeth can be my companion!"
I would like to take a moment, while discussing this episode, to talk about Clara's brief reference to her "love" of Jane Austen, which she followed up with "Take that how you like."  This was a pretty obvious callback to a line from "The Magician's Apprentice" where Clara commented on Jane Austen being an excellent kisser.  When asked about this at a recent con and if this meant that Clara is bisexual, Jenna Coleman responded by simply saying that Clara's sexuality is open to interpretation.  I think it's beyond interpretation at this point.  Doctor Who is a proudly LGBTQ friendly television show, and I think this is just the latest iteration of that.  Kudos as always to the writers of Doctor Who for always insisting that LGBTQ content is appropriate in a children's television show.

I still kept holding out a thought in the back of my mind that Danny was going to come back, that "Listen" was really going to turn out to be prophetic, and that somehow Clara and Danny would live happily ever after.  Moffat went on record as saying that there were plenty of other possible explanations for how everything went down in "Listen," and that Orson Pink could be a descendent of Danny's brother, who always heard the family story of the great Danny Pink and Clara Oswald and what they went through to save the world.  Still, I assumed that was just Moffat being Moffat and bullshitting us as usual.  I guess that, unless he intends to undo two deaths very abruptly (which probably wouldn't go over well with the fandom) this is how the Clara and Danny story ends.  If there is an afterlife, that's the only happy ending they get together.

I keep thinking of all the times that the Doctor saved Clara.  This is not to claim that she's been a damsel in distress, as she has saved the Doctor herself many times.  But I think of the Doctor's promise not to let her die again after letting two other Clara's die in other time periods.  I think of the Doctor jumping into his own timestream to rescue Clara after she saved him from the Great Intelligence.  I think of all those moments, and how futile they seem now that she died anyway.  It's a dark direction for the show to go, and I'm frankly surprised that they went there.  A shadow has now been cast over so much of Clara's era, and I can't watch any of her old episodes the same way again, knowing that all of this was just leading to her tragic death.

The Doctor's fury at Ashildr was certainly founded at this moment, but Clara's insistence that he promise not to take revenge was a very important moment.  Remember Donna's warning that the Doctor needs someone to stop him sometimes.  Clara knows this better than anyone.  She's the one who stopped him from destroying his own planet and his own people.  She's seen the worst of what he can be.  Clara knows that, without her, he's likely to go rogue, and that a promise to a dying friend might be enough to keep him from turning into the War Doctor all over again.  As I'm late writing this blog (sorry) we now know exactly who set this trap for the Doctor, and we know he's not entirely keeping his promise, but the promise is what's going to keep him from completely going off the deep end.

But it was a trap, quite maliciously set for the Doctor, and one of his companions got caught in it.  There will absolutely be hell to pay, and the Doctor is going to be, as the title of the final episode of the season suggests, hell bent on shutting down whoever and whatever is responsible for this trap, even if Clara's death was an unintended consequence.  This is time for the angriest, rashest, and unfriendliest regeneration of the Doctor that we've seen in a long time to set things right in the Universe and, before its all over, things are going to get ugly.  The only way I see this lightening up is if somehow Moffat is going to pull a rug out from under us and find some way to save Clara, or at least semi-save her (think River in "Silence in the Library"/"Forest of the Dead").  Perhaps something to do with the stupid machine from "Sleep No More"?  But more than likely, this is the end for Clara, and there will be hell to pay.

But for now, in honor of Jenna-Louise Coleman (RESPECT THE HYPHEN!) and her amazing performance as Clara Oswald, a companion named in honor of Elizabeth Clara Sladen, the actress who played Sarah Jane Smith, and a companion who died with more grace and dignity than anyone in the history of the show.  If you are gone for good, which I really think you are, we're going to miss you Clara Oswald, our dead friend:

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Brain Stew: An Overanalysis of "Sleep No More"

Capaldi and Coleman's faces after reading the script for "Sleep No More"
Steven Moffat is very good friends with Mark Gatiss and, at least publicly, has nothing but positive things to say about his good friend and his writing.  I wonder if that is always the case in private?  I wonder if Moffat ever calls in Gatiss for a talk in his office and says anything like this:

"Are you kidding me with this?  I ask you for something really scary for episode nine, and this is what you bring me?  Eye booger monsters?  I defended you after the, quite frankly, ridiculous ending to 'Robot of Sherwood' with the bow and arrow.  But this is the best you can give me?  You took an already weak story idea from an old episode of Angel and fused it with the dumbest elements of Cloverfield, Paranormal Activity, and The Ring?  It's too late to pull it now.  Trust me, I tried to see if Chris could shit out something better than this over the weekend, but he's too busy with Broadchurch.  This isn't Russel's house anymore.  No more farting aliens.  Toby gave me this crackerjack two parter in an underwater base.  Harness managed to squeeze some life out of the Zygons again.  And I'm pretty proud of the two parter I wrote.  Oh, and remember Catherine from Torchwood?  She and Jamie wrote this amazing two-parter about a little girl who becomes immortal.  We're thinking of getting Maisie Williams for it.  You remember her, I presume?  And in the middle of it all, I have your episode stinking up the joint.  You better step it up the next time I give you an episode to write.  It's too late to pull this stinker, but I'm not making anybody put their name on it.  We'll do some sort of stylized opening credits so we don't insult Peter and Jenna by giving them any sort of billing on this pile of shit."

In reality, that probably never happened.  They're writers and friends, and I know what it's like to work with poor writers who are friends or who are part of your "team" in one way or another.  You find reasons to like their writing.  You find reasons to believe that the person that you generally like is a better writer than you thought they were before you got to know them.  (And no, I'm not naming names for this.)  But yes, this was probably Gatiss's weakest and weirdest episode to date, probably even worse than "The Crimson Horror," which I previously called the worst episode of the new series, so I guess, by the transitive property or something, I now rank "Sleep No More" as the worst episode of the new series.

Still, there has been worse prior to the modern era...

There are a few funny lines here and there, of course, because Gatiss is bad at plot, not dialogue.  I think the funniest part of the episode is that the Doctor's final line of the episode is him running away screaming "None of this makes any sense!" I literally shouted back at the screen "No, it doesn't!"

The episode's gimmick of the "found footage" concept ties the whole episode together so loosely, it tends to fall apart at places.  It barely even manages to follow its own bizarre logic. For example, at one point, the Doctor says "There's nothing here from Chopra's point of view because he refuses to use Morpheus. But everybody else is here."  Literally the next scene is from Chopra's point of view!  I don't understand how first time (and, I'm guessing, last time) Doctor Who director Justin Molotnikov missed that, but I guess I shouldn't expect much from the director who approved a design for the monsters in this episode that makes them look like walking piles of shit with vaginas in the middle of them.

When I tried to Google Image Search for "Walking Pile of Shit With a Vagina," this is all that came up.
I don't entirely understand the ending of the episode, but that's okay because I don't think that Gatiss understands it either.  It was some sort of weird Ringu style hook at the end where everyone who watched it is now in theory going to turn into a Sandman I guess?  It was kind of vague and confusing and, frankly, I didn't much care at that point.  I got the idea at the end that the entire thing was designed to be exciting to entice the viewer to watch this video, which was some sort of a trap.  But the episode wasn't exciting to watch in the least, so that much failed.

Thankfully, this was the first episode of the season to not be served up as a two-parter, but I heard rumors that there were early plans to turn this one into a two-parter as well.  Thankfully we were spared that.  And I really do think that the opening credits were less a stylistic choice, more of a refusal of certain people to put their name on this piece of shit.  But next up we have the return of Rigsy and Ashildr, followed by a very highly anticipated experimental episode to kick off a two-part finale.  So I'm ready to toss off "Sleep No More" as the one horrible episode in a otherwise brilliant season, and just hope that nothing that is to come hinges on the events of this terrible, terrible episode.

And now, this!

Hate and War: An Overanalysis of "The Zygon Inversion"

Lo and behold, once again, I am late writing my blog.  As I begin typing this, the new episode, "Sleep No More," is already airing in the UK, and I will be watching it later (#anyonebutgatiss).  I've been a little bit of a slacker this season, often putting these blogs off until the last minute, or even writing them later than the original deadline I made for myself, of always getting each blog out before the next episode airs.  But because I am so late in writing this blog, I end up writing, at least the beginning of it, the day after the savage terror attacks in Paris, and two days after the bombings in Beirut, and today "The Zygon Inversion" seems far more relevant than it did when it aired last week.  I was shocked at where they went for part two of this story, not following the route I assumed they would, where we found out that the Zygons had a legitimate grievance against the humans.  I assumed I would get to the end of this two-parter having had a good time, but never having really felt challenged by anything fresh or intelligent.  Instead, we got a pleasant surprise from Peter Harness as the Doctor went into a much longer than normal speech about the nature of war.  Today, the Doctor's words seem especially poignant, as radicals not entirely unlike Bonnie have taken up arms across the world to murder in the name of their firmly held beliefs, and I feel like I know exactly what the Doctor would have to say to them:

There was only one moment of the episode that bothered me.  As someone who is very far to the left of the mainstream political spectrum, one who is a very big supporter of social justice movements and activism, when Bonnie tried to tell the Doctor of the unfairness of the Zygons' situation, I was surprised and a little disappointed at the Doctor's dismissal of her grievances and refusal to hear her out.  Really, at the end of this two-parter, we don't really know what birthed Bonnie's radicalism, and I think the script wants us to stay in that place, lest we gain too much sympathy for her cause, thus ruining the simplicity of what Harness has set up here.  I use the word "simplicity" rather loosely here, because there's a great deal of complexity to what Harness is doing, but the morality of this episode is supposed to be somewhat unambiguous.  The Doctor has a problem with the humans' response to the Zygon terrorists as much as he has a problem with the terrorists themselves, but the Doctor is supposed to be the smartest and most compassionate man in all of time and space, and I would expect him to be able to hold a person's complaint about their situation as legitimate and their violent tendencies as condemnable at the same time.  "We've been treated like cattle" is a complaint that I don't expect the Doctor to shrug off with a "So what?" and not at the very least asking her to unpack that and explain what it means.  I think that the larger point that Harness is making about violence and war can be made without discounting that freedom fighters, even the misguided ones that should be condemned for their violent actions, often have legitimate grievances.  But I did like that, in the end, the Doctor was equally concerned with protecting both species, and would not think of the Zygons' actions as reason to condemn them to death, either.  His amazing moment of his speech when he told Bonnie that he forgave her almost had me tearing up.

I did have to wonder about the Doctor telling Kate Stewart that she had said the same thing about not being able to forget that the boxes were empty "the last 15 times."  At first I assumed he meant that they had all gone through this entire stand-off between the humans and the Zygons 15 times before.  That seems to stretch the imagination because, if true, it seems hard to believe that the rest of U.N.I.T. doesn't figure out that this keeps happening.  As for the Doctor and Clara, if it's been 16 times now that they've been through all this, then that has to make this pretty boring because, now, this is just what they do on the weekends.  After rewatching it, though, I decided that the Doctor doesn't necessarily have to be referring to this entire situation having happened 15 times before, just that there have been 15 times so far when she somehow found out the truth about the Osgood box and the Doctor had to erase her memory each time.

I do have to wonder about Steven Moffat giving himself a writing credit for this episode.  Moffat was not credited as a co-writer for the first part of this two-parter, but he was for the second part.  There's been something happening lately that I pointed out last season, and one that of my co-hosts from the Mile High Who Podcast, Shelley, brought up independent of me at a Mile High Who event the other day:  Moffat seems to be adding his name onto episodes as a co-writer if it involves something relating to the larger arc of the season.  Last season he seemed to throw his name onto anything that had Danny Pink in it, as Danny was an integral part of the Series 8 plot arc.  So what about this episode is going to turn out to be relevant to the larger plot of the season?  My best guess is that the re-establishment of the two Osgoods, with the ongoing ambiguity as to which, if either of them, is human.  How that's going to relate to the coming finale is beyond me, but then, there's very little that I've been able to decipher about the coming finale.

I think we might be seeing more of the Zygons going forward, as Harness did a very good job here making them interesting again.  In the end, I think this is going to go down as a favorite episode for talking about war, hate, and violence, as quotes and videos from this episode have been flying around the Internet in response to a lot of what's surrounding the recent terrorist attacks throughout the world.  I wish there were more people like the Doctor in the world.

And now, the only band that matters:

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Suspect Device: An Overanalysis of "The Zygon Invasion"

You're all wondering about the sexual implications of what Osgood
did with her own twin in private as much as I am, aren't you?

The 50th Anniversary special was marvelous, but it did change the nature of the show significantly.  Anyone who heard the Mile High Who podcast's April Fools' Day episode where we discussed Star Trek III:  The Search for Spock knows that I firmly believe that a show can bring a character--or, in this case, an entire planet--back from the dead, but it has to be difficult.  There have to be significant obstacles, and there have to be consequences.  Buffy the Vampire Slayer was a perfect example of this, as their resurrection of a main character in the beginning of their 6th season triggered a series of consequences that the characters would be dealing with for the remainder of the series.  "The Day of the Doctor" rewrote canon in a very serious way, and there have to be serious consequences for that.  Besides the fact that it was so insanely difficult for the Doctor to pull off that he doesn't even know if he's actually successfully saved Gallifrey, it triggered some major repercussions.  First was the war on Trenzalore that he fought for hundreds and hundreds of years, eventually costing him a regeneration.  Second was the return of his most diabolical enemy, The Master (now Missy), who wrought chaos and destruction on the Doctor's favorite adopted planet.  Now the third terrible consequence of the events of "The Day of the Doctor" comes around:  The Zygon peace, which The Moment used to demonstrate to the Doctor the importance of finding a peaceful solution in desperate situations, is broken and threatening the human race.  I think, by this point, the show has done more than enough to earn the resurrection of Gallifrey.

This was the very first episode of Doctor Who to air on Halloween since 1964's "Planet of the Giants" (spoiler alert:  the planet is Earth, the giants are humans, the TARDIS just shrank).  Sadly, my understanding is that, while they celebrate Halloween in England, it isn't as big of a holiday as it is over here in America.  It's a shame because I think that a Doctor Who Halloween Special might just be the most amazing thing we could ever hope for.  But still, we got what we could have hoped for this Halloween:  a big, campy, fun episode with a few cheap thrills and chills.  There was little about this episode that was very surprising or innovative, but it was a good, enjoyable romp.

Again, I can't stress this enough, a Doctor Who Halloween Special would be amazing!
The first and most obvious prediction I'm going to make about the second part of this episode, "The Zygon Inversion," is that it's going to reveal that the Zygons have a perfectly legitimate grievance against the human race.  More than likely, the humans broke the cease fire first.  I say this because anything else would be downright un-Whovian.  It's just a classic Doctor Who plot; the humans have always done something to provoke the enemy in situations like this.  There's no possible way that the Zygons just picked the name "Truth or Consequences" because it was the name of a town in New Mexico.  (Which it totally is, by the way, and Zygon-Clara was absolutely telling the truth.  The city was named after the game show of the same name because the host promised to do an episode of the show in the first town that legally changed its name to Truth or Consequences.  The town formerly known as Hot Springs, New Mexico won the contest and has never changed its name back to this day.)

The name also inspired this movie, which I now have to watch sometime when very drunk.
The slogan, "Truth or Consequences" is going to have a much deeper meaning.  I have no idea what the humans will be guilty of, but either they or the Zygon leadership--or, more likely, both working together--will be guilty of hiding the "truth" about something, which will be why this rebel cell chose to start fighting back.  This is probably going to cause a shift in the Doctor's approach to the situation, at which point I don't know what is going to happen, but I'm very excited to find out.

I also loved the very slight nods towards human xenophobia.  While I still think that we're going to find out that the humans are guilty of some pretty messed up shit, there was the very interesting, but very brief mention that the Zygons got the idea that they wouldn't be welcome on Earth after watching our media and seeing how poorly we treat other human beings who simply have different colored skin.  I think the Zygons, upon seeing that, have good reason to think that we'd be dicks to a whole new alien race that we found on our planet.

"They even think that the phrase 'Black Lives Matter' is controversial.  Zygon lives are just fucked."
The return of Osgood teaches us that, once again, Moffat lies, as we were promised over and over again that the return of Osgood would not be explained away by simply saying that Missy killed the Zygon version of her.  Okay, that wasn't entirely a lie, but only if you're going by the strictest interpretation of all the words in the previous sentence.  Moffat perhaps can be accused of cheating a little bit by having another writer bring back a character that he killed off largely for emotional effect, but the frustrating thing is that it actually works quite well.  I can buy that the two Osgoods were so dedicated to this peace that they stopped differentiating between the two versions of themselves and just started to think of themselves as both being Osgood.  (They also both seem to have adopted an obsession with the Doctor as, much like his real life fans, both of the Osgoods seem to enjoy Doctor cosplay, now adding some 7th Doctor accoutrements to the Osgood outfit.)  I'm pretty satisfied with the explanation as it stands now for why Osgood is back, so hopefully the writers can just let it stand like it is and not try to dig too much farther, where they might risk ruining the delicate balance and a vaguely plausible explanation for bringing back a populare dead character.  However, as the writer of this episode, Peter Harness, found himself unable to foresee that his last episode would become viewed as an anti-abortion metaphor, I wonder about his ability to judge what will and will not upset fans and what they will and will not accept.

However I will give Harness some credit.  The episode was largely a predictable, by-the-numbers action movie plot with silly-looking rubber suits, but Harness did throw in some really fun ideas in this episode.  Most notably he understands that the most important thing about making an old monster scary again in Doctor Who is to give them new abilities.  Now that the Zygons have the ability to take on the appearance of their enemy's loved ones, we now have a much more formidable mindfuck of an enemy to take on.  Additionally, they now require far less technology to maintain their shape shifting (although "The Day of the Doctor" was really inconsistent about the rules governing their technology anyway), which makes them more agile, making them a greater threat.  In "The Day of the Doctor," they were really a side plot, so "The Zygon Invasion" is really only the second time in the history of the show that we've seen the Zygons at center stage of their own story.  As much fun as the 4th Doctor story "Terror of the Zygons" was, I think the reason they were not brought back again for so long was because they were seen as a pretty one-note villain.  "The Zygon Invasion" does find a few more notes to play, even if it's not exactly enough to conduct a full symphony.

Funnily enough, that even looks vaguely like a Zygon.
I seriously doubt that whatever the larger arc is that we're getting into in this series--the Minister of War, The Hybrid, and whatever kind of circle-jerk that Missy is currently having with the Daleks--is going to have anything to do with this two-parter.  Despite how intimately linked this episode is with the 50th Anniversary Special, I don't think it's going to be linked very closely with any of the episodes that come after it.  Still, I look forward to part two.  It feels like classic series style campiness on a new series budget.  In fact, as this is now the fourth consecutive two-parter in this series, we're getting a bunch of stories that run about as long as the classic series stories, but with much more depth of character, much darker plots, and much, much better special effects.

And of course:

Diamonds and Guns: An Overanalysis of "The Woman Who Lived"

She looks like Zorro, if Zorro was a little girl.  Then again, so did Antonio Banderas.

Sorry about the lateness again.  I started a new job last week, and it requires a lot more mental energy than my last one.  On top of that, my new "companion" and I had the best Halloween weekend of our lives, so I was quite busy having fun.  But I'm here, and it's time to play catch up.  So, on with the show:

I've seen every episode of the classic series, and I love the classic series, but it never dove into the heart of the Doctor's character  the way that the new series does.  In fact, I would argue that the classic series's one and only real attempt to do a strong emotional character arc failed so spectacularly that it ultimately killed the show.  Well, okay, it wasn't the only reason the show was cancelled in 1989, but it was a big part of it.  (I could literally write an entire paper about the very complex confluence of factors that came together to cause the show's original cancellation, but its failed attempt at a Sixth Doctor character arc is certainly one of those factors.)  Some call it a sign that the classic series wasn't very good or that the writers didn't know how to write, but actually using very shallow characters to examine a fascinating scientific concept, thus putting the focus on the concept first and foremost, is kind of what science fiction has traditionally been all about.  Isaac Asimov is still considered one of the greatest science fiction authors of all times, and with very good reason (the Robot series notwithstanding), and his books featured virtually no depth of character whatsoever.  Getting deep into character like this is more of a characteristic of post-Star Trek science-fiction, a fusion of science-fiction with drama and melodrama.  Thankfully, Doctor Who's current writing staff are very good at what they do (yes, even Mark Gatiss, as mixed as my feelings are about him) and know how to blend that character depth and conceptual science fiction without sacrificing either side of it.  No, Doctor Who isn't hard science, as little real theory ever appears in the scripts, but it proposes some truly classic science fiction concepts, from 2-dimensional universes to the bootstrap paradox to the very concept of immortality.

"The Woman Who Lived" isn't the first time that the new series has shown us an immortal character.  As if conceding that, the episode even goes so far as to point it out in dialogue.  That Torchwood writer Catherine Tregenna penned this episode feels like another tip of the hat.  It's almost as if the show is specifically asking permission from its audience to do this again, which I appreciated.  However, the fact that they had done this before made me wonder about Ashildr's moments of forgetfulness.  The explanation given was that Ashildr has the Doctor's lifespan, but a human brain, making it difficult to retain all of her memories.  Yet, Captain Jack never had a similar problem.  Yes, it's true that Jack is about 1/8 the age of Ashildr at this point, but he can remember every detail in startling clarity, from his childhood on another planet through the entire 20th century until the present.  But Ashildr also has a child's mind, which might be a part of it.

Speaking of which, wasn't Ashildr a child when she was made immortal?  This made for a few terrifying implications when you think about it.  She lost three children to the Plague, but the stork didn't bring those babies to her.  Someone clearly had sex with her at some point, and most likely those weren't triplets, so it happened at least three times.  Furthermore, everyone seems to be flirting with her current incarnation, Lady Me, in a way that seems very inappropriate considering that she's trapped in the body of a child.  I did some research, and it looks like Maisie Williams was 17 when these episodes were shot, and yes, as anyone who had to read any Victorian literature in school knows, in past centuries dirty old men married teenage girls and it was treated like it was completely normal.

"You're almost 14 years old, it's high time I sold you into a marriage to one of my 50 year old business partners!"
But Maisie Williams was chosen for this role because of the fact that she looks a lot younger than she really is.  I don't think the character she plays on Game of Thrones is supposed to be anywhere near adulthood.  And Ashildr was referred to as a young girl in "The Girl Who Died." Hell, look at the title of that episode!  "The Girl Who Died"!  The follow up episode became "The Woman Who Lived" because, after 800 years, she certainly is a woman mentally, but physically she still looks like a child.  So...ew.

Ashildr is an interesting character to throw into the Doctor's path, because she understands him on a level that no other companion ever really has, other than possibly Romana.  Some of my friends thought it was a tortured logic that the Doctor uses to explain why the Doctor can't take Ashildr with him as a companion.  To me, it made perfect sense, he was just phrasing it more delicately than he phrased it in his head.  Perhaps this was another one of Clara's cards about how to be polite.  What the Doctor really meant to say was "I don't want to bring you with me because, if you're as immortal as I am, you'll never be that impressed with me, so I have no use for you."  Again, the only companions that even approached the Doctor's longevity were Romana, who was forced upon him, and Jack Harkness and River Song, both of whom he has refused to ever take on as full time companions (although, in a moment of weakness, he did ask River).  He has little use for an equal in his TARDIS.  He needs someone very different from himself.

The Doctor prefers companions that are weak and can die.  Preferably ones that can die often.
Speaking of companions, this was a weirdly companion-lite episode, to the joy of millions of Clara haters around the world.  It's obvious that Clara is gearing up for a really sad exit from the show, as a lot of the discussion about Clara is mirroring the discussions about Amy and Rory from their final handful of episodes in Series 7.  The Doctor is worrying about how close he's getting to Clara, and how hard it will be to lose her.  Moffat has hinted in interviews that her departure is going to be very big, very heartbreaking, and very final.  Will she become the first full-time companion since Adric (not counting expanded Universe) to actually die while travelling with the Doctor?  Because, if so, that's going to send shockwaves through his character, and take us to a darker place than we've ever gone before with the Doctor.

"Sam Swift the Quick," also known as "Sam the Redundant Who Always Repeats Himself" is saved in much the same way that Ashildr is, but the Doctor implies in dialogue that Sam may or may not have the same immortality as Ashildr.  This leaves a lot of potentiality open, or perhaps this was just Tregenna trying to explain away why Sam Swift will never be coming back.  But there's one thing I'm sure of that I said in the last write-up:  this is not the last we will see of Ashildr.  No way.  I don't think that she's The Hybrid that we keep getting hints about, but as soon as we saw her become immortal at the end of "The Girl Who Died," I was sure we were going to see her again after "The Woman Who Lived," and her brief appearance in the 21st century at the end of this episode confirmed that for me.  In fact, much of this episode felt like the enemy and the crisis in it was perfunctory, just thrown into the background while we spend most of our time chatting with Ashildr to set up her presence and her immortality so that we can bring it back around and use it again later.  Mark my words, Ashildr will be back.

And now, this!: