Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Hungry Earth / Cold Blood - "Do you have to call them vermin? They're actually very nice!"

The Hungry Earth - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Series 5, Story 8 (Overall Series Story #213a) | Previous - Next | Index

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My re-watch of this story took place on a kindle tablet while I flying back home from vacation more than a week ago, as I write this. Exhausted, uncomfortable, and wishing for a little more time away, these were less than ideal conditions under which to revisit a less than favorite story. Not that there aren't parts of it I enjoyed, and I think make it worth watching and talking about, but Mr. Graham, among others, has correctly assigned this story to the category of neo-liberal apologies/excuses for exploitation and oppression and it's awful hard to separate the misguided worldview Doctor Who trades in here with its better nature. He writes:
The funny thing is that, wheras the intentional Palestine allegory worked up in these episodes doesn't fit the real facts, patronises the oppressed, excuses the oppressors, etc, the accidental allegory works.  Indeed, it chimes surprisingly well witth the Silurians generally.  Every time the Silurians come back they are still squeezed out, displaced, outnumbered... and every time they are condemned when they dare to get angry about it, and exhorted by the liberal hero to stay indefinitely patient, warned that if they don't then they'll have lost the moral high ground, effectively informed that its up to them to be forebearing to the people who've stolen their world. And they never get anywhere near getting redress or restitution.
On top of the hash of a political allegory, this is one where an overprotective mother causes all sorts of trouble for her family, and the world, despite the best efforts of her partner, the Moffat-y father -- not hard to imagine a less timey-wimey Rory becoming this sort of dad in alternate future. Oh well, at least there's a C.S. Lewis-y x-mas story ahead which will apologize to motherhood for this slight ...

For all that, this is still the new series telling a Pertwee-era story with all the trappings (a drilling operation staffed with scientists and engineers, in the Welsh countryside, with Silurians, no less) in a way that gives the sun-drenched, sore-footed fan crammed into a Southwest Airlines seat at the back of the plane (where a Diet Coke and pittance of peanuts are a long ways off) something to bounce off the fond recollections of those earlier iterations of the Silurians. And, Three's attempt to broker a peace between the would-be co-habitants at the top of Earth's hierarchy.

Rory mistaken for a police detective, hustled off to investigate a corpse missing from an undisturbed grave, shrugging, and going along with it is so Rory it makes his cruel end (another end, another end to be undone) all the more cruel. He's doesn't get a heck of a lot else to do between dropping off Amy's engagement ring and getting erased by the crack in spacetime at the end of part two, but he's there being Rory, even if most backgrounded in a way that's sort of comforting.

If a trifle slow, the two part structure at work, the cliffhanger, with Amy about to be vivisected is solid enough ...

Cold Blood (Doctor Who) - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Series 5, Story 9 (Overall Series Story #213b) | Previous - Next | Index

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Amy (and Mo, though after he's had his turn) escapes the Mengelian scalpel and we're off on a suspenseless ride to find out how the Silurians are going to get screwed out of their fair share of the planet ... again, without anyone feeling too bad about the whole thing. Really, although we get to find out more about Silurian politics, see some negotiations get started -- and I do rather like that Moffat seems to be a fan of negotiated settlements, and the process of ironing out differences through conversation, think the glee of the Doctors in "The Day of the Doctor" when the Zygons and humans enter into negotiations -- all the fireworks are at the end and belong to the Series 5 arc, not to this story, as such.

Rory's erasure by the crack, and the moment in which Amy forgets him, is well-staged. As the Doctor holds Rory in Amy's mind, Rory's face dissolves into focus on his half of the screen, only to disappear in a blink when an explosion rattles the TARDIS and Amy's concentration is broken. Just like that, he's gone like he was never there. So, yeah, even though we just watched Rory die in "Amy's Choice," his death here more poignant than you might expect.

The bigger reveal is what the Doctor fished out of the crack. He unwraps a charred fragment of the TARDIS door, matches it to its current-day pristine state and we've got our first intimation of how big "The Big Bang" to come is going to be.

Connect-the-dots UNIT-era tribute, the chance to see pre-Madam Vastra Neve McIntosh in Silurian costuming, some big happenings to lead up to the Series 5 finale event (sigh), that's what we've got to hang our hats on here.

That its fatally undercut by neo-liberal assumptions about world order drags down what we might otherwise have called an solid outing. One that cleverly borrowed from the Classic Series structure and mythology in a way that could've both performed fan service, and caught up a Nu Series-only watcher to the gist of the Pertwee era without erasing the same from the headspace of the Classic Series watcher. Although, I guess it's a fair cop that squeezing out the Silurians wasn't a Nu Series invention, but actually a toned-down version of how UNIT solved the Silurian problem in their time. Forty years of perspective should have resulted in DW making better progress than this. Only what felt like a tacked-on voice over from the future did anything to address that. Too little.

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