Saturday, May 27, 2017

For Your Lungs Only: An Overanalysis of "Oxygen"

Kill the fat one in the middle!

Okay, I have a few apologies to make.  First of all, I promised myself I wouldn't use two song titles from the same band in the same season, because I think of it like a playlist.  But Alkaline Trio's "For Your Lungs Only" is too perfect of a title for this episode.  The second apology is that I'm monumentally late with this blog.  Another episode has already aired since this episode aired, and another one airs today.  I was moving into a new apartment and my life became chaotic for a few weeks there and I didn't have time to blog.  Believe me, it was not out of disinterest in the episode, "Oxygen," because honestly, "Oxygen" may be my new favorite episode of the Capaldi era.

We haven't had an episode as dark as "Oxygen" since at least "Dark Water," if not longer.  Actually, the only episode I can think of that's as grizzly, dark, and horrific as "Oxygen" isn't even a new series episode.  We have to go all the way back to the 6th Doctor serial, "Vengence on Varos."  "Vengence on Varos," a disturbing dystopian nightmare about a reality where people are tortured on live television and politicians put their proposals up to a reality show style vote and if they lose the vote, they could be killed.  "Vengence on Varos" was so violent that it became the first time fans of the show started to agree with parents' groups that called the show inappropriate for children.  The show survived a few years after "Varos," but I believe that the slow death it suffered began with viewer outrage over "Vengence on Varos."  Now, Jamie Mathieson, Steven Moffat's only true peer on the Doctor Who writing staff right now, gives us an episode that leaves the viewer deeply disturbed, and with a haunting political message to go with it.

Can you imagine if an American television show had an episode where a character said "And that was it for Capitalism"?  Yes, Star Trek basically lives in a socialist utopia and does talk about how unfair conditions for the poor put an end to Capitalism, but they go out of their way to avoid using words like "Capitalism" and "Socialism" and somehow people fail to notice that that's what happened in the Star Trek universe.  Jamie Mathieson's script said the word "Capitalism" multiple times.  And before you go thinking that it's absolute absurdity for a company to sell us the air we breathe, is it really any different than charging for food, water, shelter, and clothing?  This is why I work in the non-profit sector.

And how about "Oxygen"'s cold open? Have we ever cut to the opening credits on a darker, more violent note?  A woman trying to tell her husband she wants to have a baby is attacked and murdered and turned into a zombie that, along with other zombies, tries to kill her husband.  Jesus Christ, you couldn't just make her eight months pregnant to really make it horrifying.  I like when I get scared by an episode's setup because I know it's just going to make me even happier when the Doctor stops the bad guys.  This time, the real bad guys were a big corporation off screen, but those are the bad guys in real life so it was still satisfying.

The fluid link hasn't been mentioned on the show since the Second Doctor era, but in every mention of in in canon, it has always been essential to the function of the TARDIS.  The 1st Doctor met the daleks when he lied to his companions that fluid link K7 (as opposed to fluid link K57 that Nardole steals, because the naming conventions on these things are completely random) had run out of mercury and needed to be refilled as a ruse to get them to go out and explore the planet of Skaro.  It's hard to believe, because of the history of fluid links, that they aren't all essential to the function of the TARDIS.  It's more likely that, when the Doctor says that he lied about the link being essential to the TARDIS taking off, I'd guess that what he really means is that he lied about the thing Nardole took out being a fluid link.

Speaking of Nardole, I still hate him, but thankfully so do the writers and the Doctor himself.  Nardole's entire function in the show seems to be to be a stick in the mud and to try to stop the plot of the show from happening.  "Oxygen" has more of Nardole than any episode so far in the regular season, and I still love it in spite of that.  When Nardole isn't trying to ruin everything, he's giving explanations that the Doctor could have easily given if he wasn't in the episode, or making really weird jokes about an ex-girlfriend that don't really pay off.

The only thing I didn't like about this episode was the hyperbolic, overacted, soap-opera-style overdramatic way that the Doctor announces he's still blind at the end of the episode.  I don't know who directed the great Peter Capaldi into that terrible performance, but they need to be fined for that stupidity.  I'm sure the blindness is a setup for something big in the overall plot, but I can't for the life of me guess what it's going to be.  It's interesting that it happened because of how long the Doctor was exposed to the void of space, because a Fifth Doctor episode that I can't remember the name of right now established that the Doctor can survive in the void of space longer than humans can.  But perhaps that's why that other character said that he should have died; it's almost as if he isn't human.

But the blindness will be discussed in the next overdue blog.  So until then...

Friday, May 12, 2017

Safe European Home: An Overanalysis of "Knock Knock"

"Now that we have a black person, we're officially a Benetton ad!"
Once upon a time, in the Russel T. Davies era, Season 4, there was a plan for a Cops-style episode, where the Doctor goes on a reality show like Cops and solves a mystery while Donna watches the episode from home.  Davies, however, scrapped the episode because he felt like it was too similar in tone to "The Unicorn and the Wasp," even though the two episodes would have taken place approximately 82 years apart.  Instead, he quickly wrote "Midnight," his best episode, and put that in its place.  I tell you this story because I don't understand how Davies could see the similar tones in what sound like very dissimilar stories, and Steven Moffat (admittedly, one of my heroes) couldn't see that within three weeks he had two episodes with similar monsters with the exact same way of killing people.  In "Knock Knock," the monsters are tiny creatures that make up the very structure but can come loose to form a swarm that eats people.  Where have I heard of that before?

The two robots represent the old man

This was a pretty mediocre episode, with a lot of plot holes.  Why does he need to let the bugs eat people in order for them to keep his mother alive?  Those seem like pretty unrelated things.  As Shelley pointed out, why does the mother only restore this particular group of young people and not the hundreds of others that he's done this to?  Why do the bugs kill everyone else but for the mother they keep her alive?  Why did everyone accept the Doctor as Bill's grandfather without asking the inevitable racist question, which is easily answered by anyone with half a brain, but still would inevitably be asked in that situation?

This was an interesting to see, though, in the week before I move in with some new roommates.  Oh, and it was the week before Mother's Day.  Ew.

Is it my imagination or, when Bill claims to be the Doctor's granddaughter, it's on a day where her clothes and hair look rather Susan-ish?  They've been trying to remind us a lot of Susan this year.  Could they finally be hinting at some sort of return?

After this episode, I'm more certain than ever that the Master is in that vault, and it's probably Missy.  I mean, could that have been a more obvious hint?  It's someone whose company the Doctor enjoys who delights in the suffering of others.  That's Missy.  I know that John Simm is coming back to play the Saxon Master at some point this season, but I can't imagine Simm's Master playfully communicating with the Doctor through piano music.  I'm thinking that Simm is just back to film a flashback scene where we see his Master regenerate into Missy.  I don't want to see him steal Missy's spotlight.  He was a great Master, but his Master was very much designed to play against David Tennant's Doctor, and Missy was just made for Peter Capaldi's 12th Doctor.

That's going to have to be it for now.  I've got packing to do for my move this weekend.  Next week we have an episode from Jamie Mathieson, so that looks promising.  Until next time:

Saturday, May 6, 2017

The Unseen Tears of the Albacore: An Overanalysis of Thin Ice

"Trust me, nice clothes cover up racism"
Sorry I'm late this week.  I'm packing to move next Saturday (13th) and I was a little behind on my reviews over at Punknews. (Go check out my reviews of Conor Oberst, Kendrick Lamar, and Cayetana from this week, because I'm weirdly eclectic.)  Also, there's this show on Netflix called Girlboss that I'm already on my fourth time through watching, so I've had things to do.  So I'll probably get this out after the new episode airs in England, but before it airs in the US.  So here we go!

I liked this episode a lot, even though others thought it was was a knock off of "The Beast Below."  I admit that there are similarities.  Most notably that you could just as easily call this episode "The Beast Below" is the name wasn't already taken.  Of course, the beast in "The Beast Below" didn't eat the children.  But the biggest similarity between "Thin Ice" and "The Beast Below" is that the monster is almost a B-story to the more important story of the Doctor bonding with his new companion.  Bill had to deal head on with the darker realities of traveling with the Doctor.  It's something everyone eventually realizes about the Doctor.  But as Bill is likely to be a one-season-and-done companion, she needs to learn it faster than  the others.

I'm glad they addressed the fact of Bill's race.  They did it a little bit with  Martha's first trip into the past with "The Shakespeare Code," but the 10th Doctor seemed oblivious to her concerns.  The notoriously oblivious 12th Doctor understood it a lot better.  I know some people who found it too preachy, but I loved the moment when Bill pointed out there were more black people there than in the  history books, and the Doctor said "History, it's a whitewash."  My hope is that when they finally hire the first black Doctor they address these sorts of things.  I'm really hoping that happens next season and that despite the rumors it's not this guy:

I'm bringing fugly back.
But this guy:

Have you tried turning the Dalek off and on again?
Last week, I had a theory after I published the blog that what was in the vault was Gallifrey, since the creatures trying to destroy it in "Time of the Doctor" presumably don't know it's back yet and that confrontation is yet to happen.  But "Thin Ice" seemed to imply from the interaction with Nardole (who was thankfully in this episode very little, and only to be the big fuddy-duddy) and whatever's in the vault, that there's a single creature in that vault.  My new theory is that one of the versions of the Master we're promised to see this year, was sentenced to death by the Time Lords and the Doctor negotiated with them to put him/her under his custody.

Next week's episode (which isn't really next week because it's airing in the UK as I type this) is by a brand new writer, so who knows what it'll be like.  So until next time: