Sunday, April 23, 2017

Calling All Skeletons: An Overanalysis of "Smile"

It's basically an early predecessor to the sonic screwdriver, yet the Doctor always looks at a smart phone with such contempt.
I made myself a rule last year that I was going to make the rest of my overanalyses in Peter Capaldi's tenure from that point on were going to be named after punk songs, in honor of the 12th Doctor's guitar playing and Peter Capaldi's actual punk band he had with Craig Ferguson.  (Except I already know what I'm going to call the overanalysis of this year's Christman special, and it's alternative, not punk, but I have to use it because it's so perfect.)  Hey, guess what?  Do you know how many punk songs have the word "smile" or "happy" in the title?  Very, very few.

But this episode was goddamn amazing, especially considering it comes from the writer of "In the Forest of the Night"!  This is good, old fashioned sci-fi.  Machines coming after humans, entirely because of a lack of understanding of human emotions.  This is like something pulled out of I, Robot, only with more action.  There's an old classic series serial called "The Happiness Patrol" about a society that policed happiness and punished sadness severely, and I was worried that this episode would turn out too much like that.  But, where "The Happiness Patrol" is about the political suppression of negative emotions, "Smile" was about robots making a mistake that lead to them suppress negative emotion, so it didn't actually feel anything at all like "The Happiness Patrol."

It also didn't have The Candy Man, which is simultaneously the most goofy and most fucked up villain the classic series ever created.

I missed a lot of hints and clues and build ups for the bigger story arc of the season last week and I'm kicking myself for it.  For one thing, I completely ignored all of the Doctor's talk about an oath he swore.  Why did I skip all that?  Because honestly, he said it with so much conviction I actually thought it was something I was supposed to already know about.  Me, the girl that writes a literal "overanalysis" blog, thought she missed a big oath the Doctor swore at some point.  Yeah, that sounds like me.  So, now, we do have an ongoing question of the season:  "Why did he make this oath, and what the fuck is in that vault?"

I loved that Nardole was barely in this episode.  Let's keep it that way.

I love in this episode where the colonists figure out that The Vardy killed their families, so they start grabbing guns.  You're inside an enormous building made out of them, what's a half dozen laser guns going to do?

How long until Think Geek starts selling Bill's rainbow top?

I loved the Doctor pointing out that there was an evacuation of Earth, and that he's run into a few of their ships over the years.  Besides running into one in "The Beast Below," there's also the classic series episode "The Arc in Space," and probably several others I can't think of right now.  But if he even points out that there were multiple ships, that he's been to a few before, why does he literally say that The Vardy are threatening to kill what's left of the human race?  You've already explained in episode why that's not true, Doctor.  Pay attention!

This week, I got a Facebook message from some of the members of my old podcast, The Mile High Who Podcast.  It's been on indefinite haitus for a while, and that will probably be a permanent haitus now that Shelley, the founder of our whole group and the originator of the podcast, moved back home to Kansas City.  But as soon as we finally got a new episode last week, Shelly wished we could still podcast.  So she messaged us all to talk about the new episode, and she pointed out to me something that I missed:

Okay, so my disagreement with Shelley over terminology here is that I, and I think a lot of other people too, use "Mondasian Cybermen" to differentiate from Russel T. Davies's idiotic invention, the "Cybus Cybermen," or "Pete's World Cybermen."  It's been implied that "Nightmare in Silver" was a return to (what I call) Mondasian Cybermen instead of Cybus Cybermen, primarily because the former are the only ones ever shown to have a weakness to gold.  But other people, like Shelley, and apparently all the press that's come out about this season, us "Mondasian Cybermen" to refer only to Cybermen from the era before Mondas was destroyed.  That encompasses only one serial of the classic series, The First Doctor's final serial, "The Tenth Planet," and one Big Finish Audio story called "Spare Parts."  My argument is that they're still Mondasian when they're homeless, and they're still Mondasian when they forcibly take over the planet Telos and make that their new home, in the same way that I'm Irish even though I don't live in Ireland.  So a lot of reports have come out lately about "The Mondasian Cybermen," but I'm going to refer to those, in this blog, "Tenth Planet Cybermen."

Yes, the reports have confirmed that the Tenth Planet Cybermen are coming back this season, and boy am I excited to see them.  And with the clue that Shelley showed me, it implies that they're going to be the main villain of the season.  The original, Tenth Planet Cybermen had a much campier design than the sleeker, modern Cybermen, and they were much easier to defeat, but there was something really retro cool about their look.  I also really loved their bizarre speech patterns, but if the voices coming from the puddle in "The Pilot" were any indication, they won't have those speech patterns.

But what are they up to?  The Mondasian Cybermen come from Mondas, which is a twin planet to Earth that drifted away from the sun and needed to augment their people to continue to survive.  But when that proved to not be enough anymore, they came to Earth for...some reason.  Invasion?  Spare parts?  I don't rewatch First Doctor serials very often.  But it resulted in Mondas being destroyed.  This is why I prefer Mondasian Cybermen, because they actually have a very sympathetic back story.  Everything they did, they did to try to survive.   They were just willing to kill innocents to do that, something the Doctor will never abide.  If they've jumped forward 11 Doctors to come for the Doctor's 12th incarnation, I'm guessing their goals are back to what they were in their first few appearances after "The Tenth Planet":  changing the timeline to bring back Mondas.  But why did they need a pilot who was made of water and not metal?  She's definitely coming back.

The ending, where the Doctor landed in the wrong place and time and that leads us into the next episode, is a very Classic Series style ending.  The first two Doctors didn't have the ability to steer the TARDIS, and once the third Doctor figured out how to do it, he and his successive regenerations were still not great at it, and the accidental landings often set up for the next episode.  Next week's episode is written by Sarah Dollard, who gave us the beautiful first part of last season's three-part finale, "Face the Raven," so I trust it will be pretty good.  Until next time!

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