Monday, December 28, 2015

New ☆ Tweet from @nybooks

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Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Do You Even VR, Bruh?

Nabbed a Google Cardboard when they were giving them away the other day and have been using it daily since. It's not perfect; frustratingly, my Nexus 6 doesn't actually fit in it. Still, works well enough for viewing panoramic shots and for watching some of the content on the 360 channel.

The kids dig it, too. They took the White House guided tour that came out recently and are eager to see more educational content, so am planning to see if their school would be interested in the Google Expeditions program after the holidays.

Speaking of which, blogging will continue to be light through the end of the year, so want to take a moment now to wish you all a happy holiday season wherever you are and whichever, if any, you may celebrate.

Looks like we won't see The Force Awakens until Saturday, so if you could all not talk about it for just a few more days ... just kidding, no spoiler-phobe, me. Saw on the twitter machine that my flick shaman liked it well enough, so heading in with high hopes of recapturing the nerdjoy of seeing the original three for the first time. (Well, the first two anyways.)

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Tuesday, December 15, 2015

New ☆ Tweet from @Wonkette

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Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Thursday, December 3, 2015

New ☆ Tweet from @igorvolsky

Our other senator, Burr, voted the same way for a lot less of an outlay on the NRA's part. Of course, the money was wasted on them; both those dirty [expletive rhyming with "bunts" deleted] almost certainly would've voted the same way for nothing.

(Still waiting for a cover of the ol' Captain Moonlight ditty geared towards North Carolina politicians ... )

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Wednesday, November 25, 2015

This Modern World about sums it up ...

In the Wake of Paris, Republicans Want You to Remember American Values | The Nation

From the self-aware and sharp to the oblivious and moronic: right wing xenophobes can't seem to admit they love the idea of political correctness, but only when the speech being encouraged is in line with their narrow beliefs. Where "lefty political correctness" is about asking people to treat one another with respect, "righty political correctness" is about enforcing conformance to a specific set of nationalist, Christian theocratic (might as well call it "fascist") values. So you end up with law enforcement openly calling for Christian Sharia:

In America, law enforcement simply can't do this. There's nothing funny about this. That man has to be removed from office.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

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The Savages - "There is much work to be done."

The Savages (Doctor Who) - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Season 3, Story 9 (Overall Series Story #26) | Previous - Next | Index

The city guards' haberdashery convinces the Doctor this is a truly advanced society.
Bearing in mind my last Hartnell was the execrable "The Celestial Toymaker," you'll understand why I was not eager to queue up a story that had a working title of "The White Savages." Mercifully, this story was only tedious and (probably) not racist (much, anyways).  It has a few slight charms and what is almost certainly a well-intentioned anti-colonialist theme. So, huzzah for that.

If only it were watchable. And, no, I don't think if the original tapes were found it would make a lick of difference.

Steven elects to stay behind and work to broker the peace between the Elders and the Savages. It's a much more dignified departure than Dodo will get in "The War Machines," one that, by the end of this story it hardly seems he deserves. Dodo's the one carrying the load of keeping the plot moving and getting to the bottom of things in the first couple of episodes; Steven, meanwhile, is basically a dick to her the entire time, doubting everything she says and implying she's just flighty bird not worth paying attention to. The show doesn't really hold Steven accountable for his douche-y behavior either. Dodo is basically treated with contempt by all everyone and it's unbecoming.

Hartnell's thunder is a stolen in this one as the actor playing the leader of the Council of Elders gets to imitate him, delightfully, for most of episodes three and four after vampiring the Doctor's juice. (Or, whatever.) That's one of the slight charms I alluded to earlier. The Doctor refusing to leave until he's done something to help the oppressed people is a bright spot. The other, more dubiously, is the for-the-dads, derriere-revealing animal skin worn by the savage Nanina.


  • First story to have a title and episode numbers. Up until this point, all the episodes had names and we've backfilled the names of the stories.
  • The only surprising development in E2 is that the Doctor is captured and the technique used on him rather than Dodo or Steven. Like everything else in this story, it takes for ever for the events to unfold. 
  • Speaking of Dodo being treated with contempt, there's a scene where Steven asks to her give the drained Doctor some of the restorative capsules they used on the savage Tor after he had been sapped of his life force. They are on the only capsules mentioned in the episode and Steven couldn't possibly be referring to anything else. Dodo, she's cluelessly forgotten all about them. That's a character being mocked. It's grating. This story's biggest problem is its pace and we're taking time to make Dodo look like an idiot? Stop it, you guys.
  • At various times during this one, I found myself wishing it more like Star Trek's "The Cloud Minders,"
  • Even the anti-colonialist theme is somewhat undermined in the telling of the story. The savages don't liberate themselves, they're liberated by liberal elitist do-gooders. The Doctor's influence results in the leader of the Elders developing a conscience and issuing a directive to stop exploiting the defenseless. The story of a top-down revolution almost inevitably patronizes the liberated.
  • The planet in this one seems to consist of a small city surrounded by a small band of savages who stay within walking distance of their oppressors because ... ? No effort to go the extra mile here in terms of world-building. 

Additional Resources:

Tardis Wikia Entry transcript

Sandifer post

Shabogan Graffiti

Wife in Space post
Sue: So, is this story racist or not?
Me: Well, assuming that it’s possible to black-up and not be racist, I’m still not 100 per cent sure.
Sue: But what is it trying to say? Is it that you can be an arsehole regardless of the colour of your skin? Or is he black because he’s the bad guy? Why are all the savages white? It’s got to be intentional.
AV Club review

TV Tropes page

Locations guide

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Face the Raven / Heaven Sent / Hell Bent - "You will not insult my memory. There will be no revenge."

Face the Raven - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Series 9, Episode 10 (Overall Series Story #263a) | Previous - Next | Index

Pop culture has this thing it does, it's been doing for ages, where the hero loses a wife/friend/dog (sometimes, famously, finding the cold corpse of their loved one in the refrigerator) and has an excuse to go berserk. The Revenge Fantasy. It's powerful, fueling the violent imaginings of audiences yearning to slip the ties of civilization and finally lord over everything and everyone that's ever hurt them. (We've all been hurt. We're all susceptible ... )

Powerful and awful -- it is the worst of us, distilled. We drink of it when the pain of remembering the consequences of our stupidity, laziness, selfishness, and our cowardice overwhelms us. It allows us to pretend we can shift accountability for our failings off ourselves and, once externalized, destroy them. We then come out the other side of the ordeal as a battered hero, purified by the fire. It's the ritual of blood sacrifice repackaged as ... Rambo, or whatever. Somebody's got to bleed to death so the hero can pay the devil for the power they need to master themself and their world. (The 80s were chockablock with this crap -- as they had to be in order, considering; but, that's a Noam Chomsky lecture for another day.)

What Doctor Who does in "Face the Raven" is gently, but firmly, show us there are better fantasies. There are other stories we can tell ourselves; stories that can help us learn and prepare to be brave when faced with, among other things, our inevitable mortality.

  • Retcon, that's Torchwood's go-to amnesiac.
  • The Trap Street is a refugee camp. Again we're circling around the dilemmas raised in the Zygon Invasion/Inversion -- in a world where the dispossessed hide to protect themselves, how do we broker the peace within community, and between communities?
  • Was there ever any thought to a Malcolm Tucker tear down for the Doctor's last words to Ashildr before being transported out. I don't imagine so, it would have been the wrong note that spoiled the symphony. But, because of the allure of the revenge fantasy,  we can imagine a dark mirror universe Doctor Who where the show is wholly amoral and it would have pushed all the wrong buttons for profit. In it, Capaldi plays the Doctor with a Van Dyke beard, a scar, and possibly and eye patch and that Doctor verbally eviscerates Ashildr. It would've been wicked. But, wrong. 
  • Last week, I was expecting a Part One. This week I wasn't. Kept hearing the final story was a two-parter, but this had a big ol' To Be Continued on the end of it, so I'm treating as Part One of the Series 9 Finale and have gone back and revised the page where I collect all these things to reflect it. This is, of course, totally arbitrary, but I am -- as nu-Spock might say -- emotionally comprised by tonight's episode and choosing to focus on a trivial matter in this particular moment.
  • This being the first part of a three part story, I was tempted to hold off publishing a post and take the night off to watch Jessica Jones, but if I did what I did with the last multi-parter and waited 'til the story was done, it'd be three weeks before I said anything about this one, and that would've felt like too long, I reckon. Will play it by ear next week, but may not update the rest of this post until after "Hell Bent". 
  • Nicola Bryant made some of us old timers smile with this one: 

Additional Resources:

Tardis Wikia Entry transcript

Sandifer post
As for the second chunk, what is there to say? Not for the first, but nearly for the last time Capaldi and Coleman are given astonishingly good material, and they do astonishing things with it. Notice the structural cleverness of it: the cliffhanger is identical to The Magician’s Apprentice: Clara’s dead and the Doctor’s trapped. Equally notably, the Doctor and Clara lose for the same reason: they tried to take care of someone, and made a reckless mistake. 
But unlike The Magician’s Apprentice, it is a scene written around Clara. And it is a scene that revolves around who Clara is: a deeply flawed bossy control freak capable of acting with indescribable grace. She lied and manipulated her way to death, like she inevitably would eventually, just as the Doctor inevitably does every couple of seasons. “Why can’t I be like you,” she asks, and there is no good answer. Indeed, she is. She gets a death scene, just like he always does, and it is very much hers, with numerous facets that would not appear in the Doctor’s, or in Rigsy’s, or in Ashildir’s, or in Amy’s. “Let me be brave” is easily the equal of “I don’t want to go” or “you were fantastic, and you know what, so I was I,” or “Hey.” Her conversation with the Doctor, and the things she chooses to say to him and not let him say to her, are astonishing.
Jack's Eruditorum/Shabogan Graffiti post

AV Club review
Clara comforts the Doctor not because her death is unimportant relative to his pain but because she wants her death to mean something, and she refuses to let him insult her memory by using her death as a motivator for vengeance. It’s the same reason she refuses to let Rigsy feel guilt over her death, and, in its way, why she stops talking to Ashildr the moment the mayor admits that there’s nothing she can do. Clara restricts her focus to what matters to her, and above all she wants to die right, just as Danny did. That’s a fine thing to aspire to, at least in the context of her available options, and she admits she would like the Doctor to find it in himself to be at least a little proud of her as she goes out to face the raven. 
“Face The Raven” isn’t quite perfect, but it’s damn close, and it’s hard to imagine a finer exit episode for a companion (notwithstanding the fact that I’m still a little dubious that this is Clara’s actual exit, but what the hey).
Vulture review
This recap could easily finish off with a full transcript of everything said between the two old friends. It’s drenched in heart wrenching emotion and rock-like strength. Make no mistake – it’s heavy and sad and moving and punches most of the right buttons, and if it’s all of those things, why does it feel so incomplete? Ultimately “Face the Raven” is a story that proposes so many questions it can’t help but feel unfinished at the close.
iO9 review
I’m pretty curious to see what happens next here—I guess it all revolves around what’s on the Doctor’s “Confession Dial,” plus the identity of whoever Ashildr made that deal with. (Again, guessing Missy and/or the Daleks.) And just who/what the Hybrid is. But most of all, I’m curious to see exactly how, or whether, the show can pay off this latest and darkest iteration of the motif of the Doctor’s hubris and obsession with his own mythos leading to suffering and death.
TV Tropes page

Locations guide

Heaven Sent - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Series 9, Episode 11 (Overall Series Story #263b) | Previous - Next | Index

Thought we'd gotten away from fairy tales? Not so much. The wise shepherd boy from the Brothers Grimm isn't the hero in this tale though; Moffat fractures the story-within-a-story about a the bird coming along to sharpen its beak on a mountain once every hundred years by making the Doctor the bird. When he says he'll never, ever stop ... well, he means it. In this story, the hero is clever, but it's his willingness to simply grind it out, to live through the pain every damned day in pursuit of his goal, that makes him capable of heroic feats.

The logic of the plot is fairy tale logic, which is to say, no real logic at all -- and that's a bit frustrating, it detracts from an otherwise amazing hour of television. (The confession dial is what? The diamond wall doesn't reset because why?) Like virtually every other Moffat-era episode, there's fuel here for the haters. And, like virtually every other Moffat-era episode, there's something here for those willing to go along from the ride.  If nothing else, there's Peter Capaldi carrying the hour -- with only a small assist from Jenna Coleman, whose Clara is not back, exactly, just around in the sense that the character will always be there -- in a way it's difficult to imagine any of the prior actors who've played the role being able to anchor it. (My opinion of Capaldi's formidable skill are no secret, but even the folks who didn't like the episode almost universally seem to be in agreement that Capaldi continues to nail it. There's nothing not to like about how he plays the role.)

So, the Hybrid thing ... apparently that's (not?) Moffat doubling down on the 1996 TV movie's controversial, lamentable decision to reveal that the Doctor is half human on his mother's side. I say "reveal," but I guess "retcon" works there, too. Let's see how it plays out before leaping to conclusions. ("Me," after all, isn't necessarily him.) Instead, let's play the "What Is This Episode A Hybrid Of?" game. My crack at it: "The Deadly Assassin" (the Doctor pursued through a surreal hellscape) crossed with the disposable, scienti-magically produced duplicates of The Prestige.

Odds and Ends:

Here's the relevant bit from the fairy tale excerpted:

How long before Randall Munroe works out how big the ocean that castle was in the middle of had to be to accommodate a billion plus years-worth of Doctor skulls?

With fascism on the rise here in the States, little digs like: "It's dictatorship for inadequates. Or, to put it another way, it's dictatorship," are more welcome than, ideally, they ought to be. Not that gardening ever seemed like a dictatorial pursuit to me. But now, I'll watch gardening enthusiasts more closely ...

Don't suppose we'll get Timothy Dalton back as Rassilon again next week?

Additional Resources:

Tardis Wikia Entry transcript
Sandifer post
As I’ve said many a time, what I want out of Doctor Who is something I’ve never seen before. And so I’m not going to argue with anybody who puts this among their masterpieces. If you want to claim it as the equal of Listen or Blink then be my guest. For me, it’s a solid 9/10, and won’t be ahead of The Zygon Inversion in my rankings... 
Vulture review
What’s most amazing about “Heaven Sent” is how little interest it has in bullshitting the viewer. Though the episode leaves a number of dangling questions (as the penultimate episode of the season should), the bulk of it once deciphered is pretty straightforward, and that’s no mean feat for an episode drenched in such an abundance of poetry.

Capaldi, as always, is marvelous, and due credit goes to director Rachel Talalay for making such streamlined visual sense out of all of this. But if I had to give an award here, it’d go to Moffat. It takes courage to follow through on a series of ideas like this, and even if the writer side of him said “Go for it,” it’s entirely possible the showrunner side could take issue with the concept. This was brave and beautiful Doctor Who, illustrating so many new and different sides of the Doctor, and in the process making him more human than ever before.
popmatters review
The quality of the script is shown off to best effect by some masterful direction by Rachel Talalay. The episode calls for extraordinary directorial resources, including some fairly intricate CGI, underwater scenes, and point-of-view footage. Talalay pulls off all three beautifully, using fisheye lenses to convey the point of the view of the hulking, shuffling, pain-inducing monster prowling in the Kafka-esque corridors of the castle, and skillfully portraying the Doctor’s emotional dependency on Clara during the imagined TARDIS scenes. The editing is mesmerising, particularly towards the end, when dizzying, ever-faster cutting lends the Doctor’s epoch-spanning suffering virtue and grace.
AV Club review
This season has been a remarkable achievement for the show, and, pending next week’s finale, it’s got a real chance to go down as the best season of the revival, topping even Matt Smith’s debut in season five. And hey, maybe “Hell Bent” will be the perfect capper to this season, or maybe it won’t. But the genius of the construction of this season’s endgame is that “Hell Bent” could be an unmitigated disaster and it still wouldn’t really undo the genius of “Heaven Sent” or “Face The Raven” before it. Those two do form part of a larger three-parter, but each has had its own particular story to tell. The first was all about the end of Clara. The second was the all about the survival of the Doctor. And the third? Why, nothing less than the return of Gallifrey. The Doctor wasn’t kidding when he said he came the long way round.
TV Tropes page
Ambiguous Syntax: The Doctor's last line is "The hybrid [...] is me." Or is it "The hybrid [...] is Me", meaning Ashildr? Although the Doctor usually calls her Ashildr, not Me, the way things left off between them in "Face The Raven" he may have accepted that Ashildr, for all intents and purposes, is no more. 
Locations guide

Hell Bent - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Series 9, Episode 12 (Overall Series Story #263c) | Previous - Next | Index

That's the face I pulled as well at the open ...
What I took from it and what it was may be entirely different things. It's often that way with me, so we'll just need to accept that this isn't analysis proper, nor even a review; it's just a reaction and a reflection. There are mirrors and, sometimes, there are also shards of a mirror. This post is a shard. A jagged one at that.

As a whole, I don't know. I don't know if it made more sense, than I think it did on first watch, or if it was as incoherent in places as it seemed to me. I'll read the reviews and kick myself later for the things I missed ... I always do. For now, sitting at the end of another season with an xmas special coming soon but another long spell without new episodes coming after that, I'm weighing the satisfaction derived against the anticipation, trying to decide if the answers to the questions were enough, and if the new questions raised are genuinely interesting. Who was the Hybrid? Me, certainly. The Doctor, too. The Doctor and Clara. (The DoctorDonna probably should've been in the mix. And what about Jenny? Or the Meta-crisis Doctor? We're chock-a-block with hybrids.) Did it matter? Or, were we just slapped about with a red herring all season?

Gallifrey's back, hiding out at the end of time, presumably not too far from where we saw the last of humanity taking off in search of Utopia, or Frontios even. So it's back, (a less bombastic, non-Timothy Dalton) Rassilon is back, and for all the drama we had around the 50th anniversary about the Doctor finding it again, the way the Time Lords came back boiled down to (paraphrasing): "Well, they figured it out somehow, they're clever like that."  Given the choice between a bunch of technobabble and a quick elision, I guess the elision is the better choice for pacing, but we got elision where it would have been nice to have had explanation, and got explanations where we might as well as had elision, because it's not clear the explanations made sense.

If all the above feels like complaining, it's really not, it's just getting the awkward out of the way because really I loved it, and what Moffat's put in play when all is said and done. Loved that we saw Maisie Williams playing Me again, and thought she was better here an in last week's episode. Ageless Clara and Me are going to go off and have adventures before she returns to the moment just before her death and, while I'm reminded of Jenny blasting off and never being seen again, turning those two loose in a TARDIS is to great an idea to quibble over it being shoe-horned in where it didn't look like there was shoe to horn in on.

The line that got in my head like the writing on the spaceship wall in "Under the Lake," was the Doctor telling Clara: "Every story ever told really happened." That's the key, I think, to what Moffat has been after all along. Words and stories are the Doctor's greatest tools/weapons. Stories being the was we learn/change our minds. Memories becoming stories, all stories being equally real as objects of the mind, our identities being constructed of stories. The Doctor is a story, Doctor Who is a story: neither are real -- but, because we watched them, and they made us want to be braver, or more clever, or a better friend, or just tell better stories, then it's as good as if they were. The things that change our minds have real impact.  

So, naturally, Gallifrey's capitol city sits on top of "a computer made of ghosts." The Time Lords are powered by stories.


Told to put down any weapons on his person, the Doctor lays down his spoon.

Me/Ashildr is there even closer to the end of spacetime where TARDISes, we've seen in the past, are generally reluctant to go, though the capsule the Doctor nicked this time didn't seem to mind at all.

Sandifer has a great way of framing the regeneration of the General: "[T]he regeneration of Ken Bones into T’nia Miller, [is] a glorious “fuck you, no, here is a race and genderbent regeneration that happens on fucking camera right in front of you it is canon now so shut up you racist and sexist assholes.”

This Doctor in a basic white and grey TARDIS console room, with a door that makes that old door opening noise, was like seeing the show's DNA under a microscope.

It just clicked, possibly because it's only a coincidence, that "Duty of Care" anagrams to DOC. If, next season, the Doctor starts saying he's Tired of Responsibility, we'll know Moffat's trolling us.

Wait ... so when the Doctor met up with River, Amy, and Rory at that diner in Nevada, were they in Clara and Ashildr's TARDIS?!

Additional Resources:

Sandifer at Eruditorum Press
If Heaven Sent felt like Moffat writing about the experience of writing the same thing over and over again, Hell Bent feels like him consciously reflecting on the question of whether it’s time to leave the program. He has, of course, also said that he wrote The Husbands of River Song thinking it might be his last script for the series, and given several “yes I am leaving soon” comments in interviews. Certainly this story can only be described as groundwork for his departure; a rehearsal for “the last Moffat story” in the same way that Kill the Moon, Death in Heaven, Face the Raven, and Last Christmas were rehearsals for Clara’s departure.

Vulture review
The reason this recap is titled “Duty of Care” is because when a focused Doctor painfully yet offhandedly uttered that line – “I had a duty of care” – to Clara, I lost it. And I lost it again and again as I repeatedly thought of it in the hours after first watching “Hell Bent.” I’m losing it as I type these words, days after that initial viewing. That line coupled with the tears welled up in Clara’s eyes was the moment I’d been waiting for since the end of “Face the Raven.”

A.V. Club review
The result, then, is that the audience is invited to think going in that “Hell Bent” will be an epic finale along the lines of, say, “The Big Bang” or “The Wedding Of River Song,” only for the show to swerve toward something closer to the sustained heartbreak (admittedly still mixed with plenty of narrative pyrotechnics) of “The Angels Take Manhattan.” The framing device of the Doctor telling Clara the story of their parting is the first clue that this episode is far more about their relationship than it ever was about Gallifrey, but it’s fair to say that “Hell Bent” delivers something rather different from what it and the episodes building up to it appear to promise. This definitely isn’t the first narrative swerve in new Doctor Who, and in the Moffat era in particular, and this is actually one of the better-executed examples, if only because what we get in the second half of the episode is so compelling ... As for the actual decision to even partially wipe the Doctor’s memory, well … this is the kind of fantastical occurrence that is difficult for an audience member to connect with emotionally, but it’s not too difficult to see how this could function as a kind of narrative shorthand for the Doctor gaining just enough distance from the memories of Clara to move on at last.

Charlie Jane Anders for io9
I had some mixed feelings about tonight’s episode of Doctor Who. The plot of the episode (and the season) felt severely half-baked, to say the least, and great moments intermingled freely with a certain amount of WTF. But that ending? Was the greatest. That ending retroactively made the whole thing great.

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Friday, November 20, 2015

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Thursday, November 19, 2015

Joe Hill executed 100 years ago today.

Remembering the Life and Music of Labor Agitator Joe Hill, Who Was Executed 100 Years Ago Today - Working In These Times

Image via In These Times

In 1914, Hill was arrested in Salt Lake City and charged with killing a storekeeper, allegedly in a botched robbery. Despite the flimsy nature of the evidence, Hill was convicted and sentenced to death, with the prosecutor urging conviction as much on the basis of Hill’s IWW membership as any putative evidence of his involvement in the crime. An international amnesty movement pressed for a new trial, but the Utah governor refused and Hill was executed by firing squad on November 19, 1915. In a final message to IWW General Secretary Bill Haywood, Hill urged, “Don’t waste any time in mourning—organize.”
Hill is one of those heroes our schoolbook histories let us down on. He died for our freedoms much more directly than any American soldier in Iraq ever did. That's not the soldier's fault, nor is it to dismiss the heroism of those who sign up to serve, but rather to point out their service is disrespected and exploited when their efforts and their lives are put into wars that make us, and the world, less safe and serve only the interests of capital.

Spaceport Fear - "Business never works with anyone, it has ever been thus."

170. Spaceport Fear - Doctor Who - Main Range - Big Finish

Big Finish #170 - February 2013 | Previous - Next | Index of Miscellany

Keep It Simple (But Not Too Simple)

Less challenging to keep track of than its immediate predecessor, only one Doctor and one Mel to keep track of here, it's also more cookie-cutter. There's a tried-and-true format that this one follows too slavishly: Doctor and companion arrive somewhere, get separated from TARDIS, solve local mystery while trying to get back to the TARDIS.

There are elements of the production that work well. The spaceport lends itself to airport satire anyone who's flown before will find themselves nodding along to. The communication channel the Doctor and Mel devise using ancient handheld computers from the duty-free shop is clever, though having to keep making the high score board would mean the games would have to get longer and longer, which doesn't really come across as a challenge they face, and so feels like a lazy gloss-over. Lazy gloss-overs are the sorts of detractors that sap the listeners engagement. If not counter-balanced by effort expended elsewhere, they can be fatal.

The atmosphere, voice talent, and just enough of a theme are there though to hold our interest and salvage this one. But it's a close call.

How Could It Have Been Better?

The story feels forced into a revisit of the well-trodden "The Savages" / "Face of Evil" mode of a divided and degenerated society. Had the Doctor and Mel arrive a couple months after the incident that kicked off the events leading the spaceport hunkering down due to an ongoing onslaught from without, instead of asking us to accept a 400-year-long barrage, where the kidnap victim the outside force is attempting to rescue is still a baby after all that time, it would have been easier for the listener to accept the resolution. Setting it at a point where the spaceport folks have gone early-stage Lord of the Flies, and Elder Bones was just settling in to his roles as faction leaders would have been enough. (Not to mention it would have been more plausible that the batteries in the handhelds still worked and the leaderboard was still out there to register their scores. Although, I suppose in the year 6000-some-odd, they must make'em with longer shelf lives.)

More focus on Elder Bones as a confidence man running a long game would have given that character more depth, and allowed for a more involved examination of the issues around trust and skepticism. What was there was solid as far as it went: Elder Bones extols and exploits mistrust, the Doctor counsels trust until you're given reason not. Nothing to complain about, except it's spelled out and Bob's your uncle.

Summing Up

How might a fan of the TV series best prioritize giving this story a listen?
[ ] Recommend visiting Big Finish to order yourself a copy
[x] See if a friend or your local library has a copy you could borrow
[ ] Skip and re-watch an episode of the show on the telly

How would this best be adapted, if at all?
[ ] A good candidate to remade as part of an animated series
[ ] Should be adapted for TV with current cast
[x] The audio is quite enough, best left as-is

Additional Resources

TARDIS Wikia Page
Doc Oho Review

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

The Celestial Toymaker - "I don't think this funny at all."

BBC - Doctor Who Classic Episode Guide - The Celestial Toymaker - Details

Season 3, Story 7 (Overall Series Story #24) | Previous - Next | Index

A sensible reaction to being shown this story.
Quotes pulled from other blogs pretty much suffice to cover this one, so I'll refer you to the Additional Resources below. I watched the reconstructed episodes and the final surviving one. All the way through. It was brutally tedious. The experience is rather like watching two children who don't know how to play chess, play at chess, making up rules as they go. And one of them cheats. Also, they're white supremacists.

If arm-twisted to find one positive note, it would be that in Episode 3 Dodo mentions the single imaginative element of this story: that children could think of their toys as having lives of their own when we're not looking. It's not original, but it could have been the seed of a perfectly lovely episode of Doctor Who geared more towards children than most. The story utterly fails to deliver anything even remotely interesting around that idea though.


Episodes 1-3 are reconstructed, the fourth survives. Would trade it for any other lost episode sight-unseen.

Additional Resources:

Tardis Wikia Entry

Wikipedia entry transcript

Sandifer post
The Ark and The Celestial Toymaker, though? Not canon. Plain and simple. I flatly refuse to let these two into the clubhouse. Doctor Who is not a show in which reactionary imperialist ideology wins the day. It's not a show where the Doctor fights racist caricatures, unless he's fighting someone for producing them. It's not a show about xenophobia and racism. It's just not. And stories that try to make it into one are far, far bigger violations of what the show is about than most of what constitutes a canon debate. The fact that there are far more fans outraged about the fact that the Doctor maybe was in love with Rose than there are about the fact that in 2010 [side-eye at Big Finish here] we're still using a racist caricature as a recurring villain is, frankly, disgusting. This is a real and major failing of Doctor Who fandom, and one of the few points over which I feel kind of dirty being associated with it.

*deep breath*

OK. So, really, with this blog, it's my sincere intention to remain positive about Doctor Who and try to find the best in stories. And it's been two in a row that I've just had to throw my hands up and admit are really, really upsettingly not good.

Wife in Space post
Me: ... Anyway, the other Bentham wrote this review where he said The Celestial Toymaker was bloody brilliant. And on paper, it does look pretty good – a weird godlike being who can bring toys to life (that’s very Doctor Who), who had a grudge against the Doctor, all within this surreal, dreamlike landscape. Well, it sounded fabulous, so it was easy to believe.

Sue’s gobsmacked. She can’t get her head around this.

Me: And then, in the 1990s, people finally got to see the surviving episode, and that’s when doubts began to creep in. The doubts subsequently turned to disappointment, and then the disappointment turned to loathing. I think the consensus now is that The Celestial Toymaker lies somewhere between paedophilia and genocide.
TV Tropes page

Monday, November 16, 2015

Yo La Tengo Is Here for the Long Haul | Mother Jones

Yo La Tengo Is Here for the Long Haul | Mother Jones:

Photo by Jacob Blickenstaff for Mother Jones
Active for more than 30 years, the band owes its staying power to its ability to absorb and integrate a vast range of influences and express them in a wholly personal way. Stuff Like That There singles out and connects some of those myriad points of reference—everything from The Cure, to pre-cosmic doo-wop from Sun Ra, deep cuts from The Lovin' Spoonful and 1980s alt-rock contemporaries Antietam and Great Plains—to reveal the band's emotional and philospohical [sic] musical center. 

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Sleep No More - "The one thing they couldn't get their filthy mitts on. And now they're colonizing that."

Sleep No More (Doctor Who) - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia 

Series 9, Episode 9 (Overall Series Story #262) | Previous - Next | Index


I thought this was a two-parter going in. Problem is, as it ended, I still thought it was going to be a two-parter, even after I started looking around online and realized I was mistaken. Clara's not sorted! She's got that Morpheus sleep dust in her eyes still, right? Or was the last shot of the sandmen as the TARDIS dematerialising being from inside the doors, but staying after the TARDIS was gone meant to signify it had been filtered out somehow? Maybe that's supposed to signal that Clara will be fine with no further action? (At least until she dies next week, presumably.)

The episode left me cold as a result of an accumulation of scenes that had me making the screwface. Deep-Ando, a throwaway character, being taunted by the door lock programming dragged on far too long. Clara celebrating knowing that Morpheus was the god of dreams? Emm. She's an English teacher, if she didn't, it'd be shameful. At the risk of coming across snooty, I don't think there's any reason anyone over 12-years-old shouldn't know that, if only by knowing something of Neil Gaiman. (And with all the mentions of sandmen and Morpheus, did it feel like Gatiss was throwing a little tribute his way?)

The twist that the story we were seeing was Rasmussen/the original sandman's plot to deliver the signal that converts people to sandmen wasn't that clever, it was never not clear that Rasmussen was the bad guy, obviously he was manipulating the situation through what he was doing. And we've already seen this season a precedent for minds being changed by a message; more than once actually, but this felt very close to the writing on the wall in the Fisher King's hearse.

Speaking of themes resurfacing, Rasmussen is a Danish name, and stands out in this episode due to the prevalence of Indian and Japanese names. There's our viking reference in. And, if the Japanese-Indian culture were enough of a hybridization, there's Rasmussen himself being the first human to be come sandman. But what's lacking is the sense that it's anything more than repetition. If only a motif, that's fine as far as it goes, but after last week's episode I want more brilliance, more meaning.

There's still time for it all to come together. We may see some carryover into next week that will clarify what the effect of the Morpheus pod on Clara is. Rasmussen won this week, right? I mean, he got his message out as planned. The Doctor and Clara failed to save anyone but Nagata. If we're just supposed to assume they're dropping her at Triton (is that a little shout out to Chip Delaney?) and destroying all the Morpeus pods and somehow curing Clara and everyone else and stopping the Rasmussen broadcast, then that's a massive cop out.


  • This 38th century cataclysm that put Japan and India together sounds ... pretty cataclysmic.
  • The found footage style worked for me, but I don't watch the Paranormal Activity movies. Are others finding it a bit stale at this point?
  • Just me or was it weird how the gun toting soldiers didn't shoot until ... I think it was when Nagata finally opened up on the original sandman and Rasmussen? Several times I thought 474, Chopra, Deep-Ando, and Nagata herself would have fired on the sandmen, but didn't. 474 charging the advancing sandmen to save Chopra holding her weapon like a club was odd. (Upon re-watch, some shots were fired the first time they saw the sandmen and fled. In all the noise and shaky-cam usage, I missed that. Still, it wasn't until the end until someone did again.)
  • And Clara scolding Nagata when she did fire her weapon felt forced, considering how much restraint they'd all shown up until that point. It was pretty clear Rasmussen wasn't going to die anyways, already having come back from the dead and making it clear he wasn't what he seemed moments earlier.
  • The scenes from the POV of Chopra's weapon felt like cheats. I thought after first watch that they messed up and used his POV when they weren't supposed to have, but went back to check and noticed the POV was more like from his wrist. They used color for those shots though where other dust mote shots were grayscale. Odd.
  • Bethany Black was the only member of this week's running-through-corridors-with-targets-on-their-backs crew that stood out, and if I'm honest I suspect I was somewhat inclined to cheer for her on account of her enthusiasm on twitter as a long time fan geeking out about being cast in DW. She at least got to do some action hero stuff and had a love interest. The others, even Reece Shearsmith as Rasmussen, about whom I've heard great things, underwhelmed. 
  • Best thing this week: the genuine horror of capitalism colonizing our sleep. And maybe that's the most frustrating thing about this week: an ace premise, a commitment to take risks (format, losing the titles, casting a trans actor to play cis), and coming off such a strong, moving episode, this one just killed the momentum.

Additional Resources:
Tardis Wikia Entry transcript
Sandifer post
Information is conveyed through the subtle shifts of the narrative rules, so that the found footage approach moves gradually and cleverly from being a gimmick to being the entire point of the episode. This is handled smartly on multiple levels, including Gatiss’s script, Justin Molotnikov’s direction, and Reece Shearsmith’s performance, which is a beautifully clever blend of familiar forms of Doctor Who acting that shifts cleverly with each twist. The final scene is particularly beautiful, with just the right amount of ecstatic thrill in his evil plan and clear relish in his transformation into dust. What a finish. 
On top of that, many of the ideas here are genuinely great. I imagine Jack and Jane will both be over the moon with aspects of this. The leisure time destroyed by unchecked capitalist growth rises up and consumes us, our dreams taking revenge on us for our failure to attend to them. The dust is watching us, and the story it tells about us will kill us. I mean, these are just the sorts of sentences you live to write as an anarcho-Marxist occultist television critic, you know?

Charlie Jane Anders for io9
AV Club review
TV Tropes page

The Wrong Doctors - "You’re the wrong Doctors in the wrong place at the wrong time." "Story of my lives."

169. The Wrong Doctors - Doctor Who - Main Range - Big Finish

Big Finish #169 - January 2013 | Previous - Next | Index of Miscellany

Getting Started With Big Finish

Here we go, into the world of Big Finish Productions. Because I was getting within striking distance of catching up to all the TV stories, so might as well give myself another constantly growing to-do list I'll never reach the bottom of.

There are hundreds and hundreds of Big Finish titles, and I'm just starting to realize how tangled their continuity is just within themselves, and then with how they interact with the Virgin New Adventures novels, never mind how they reconcile with the TV series, so there is basically no way I'm ever going to catch up on all the story arcs.

"The Wrong Doctors" was only the second Big Finish I've listened to when I began this post, so my scope in writing about these will be limited, especially here as I'm getting started, but I'll put links at the bottom to additional resources and reviews if you're looking for deeper knowledge of the Big Finish ranges. As with my write-ups of the TV series stories, I'm not looking to do plot synopses or get into detail about technical aspects of the production either. The link that leads the post will get you that, and the other reviews/resources I've linked will give you all the details you could need. So, if not the obvious things, one might reasonably wonder what is it I'm after with these?

What I hope to do is answer a few simple questions: Is the story under review worth the time of a fan of the TV series who isn't necessarily looking to be a completist with regard to the audios (as, indeed, I'm not even sure I'm so inclined) but is curious enough to consider giving a few a try? Does it have anything to say beyond: "This is more Doctor Who for those who haven't had enough yet"?  Is it interesting enough that it could it be the basis of an adaptation for the current cast, or, if the BBC decided to make or license an animated series that would be canonical, would it be a good fit?

Redeeming Six

A big part of why I'm doing this is that I really *want* to like Six, ol' Sixie, and the TV show simply doesn't leave much room for it. Colin Baker is a lovely man, by all accounts, but he had the misfortune of being cast as the Doctor when things had pretty much gone to shit. The series was, on virtually every level, a shoddy production. Poorly written, under-funded, and mismanaged it was, like Six's stroke-inducing technicolor patchwork costume, omnishambles.

Colin Baker got to make eleven stories as the Doctor, if we break up "Trial of Time Lord," and one could make a case that at least eight of those eleven are among the worst stories to air in history of the series. More than any other actor, he deserved a shot to redeem his Doctor. Based on what I've heard so far (which is "The Light At The End," this one, and  since I started this post in draft, "Spaceport Fear") I'm going to get what I'm looking for on that front. A fondness for Colin Baker being the impetus for finally deciding start down this path, it makes sense for me to start with a story that has double the Six.

Random Connections

Jumping around, not watching in order, has been part of my approach to the TV show, so what happens is I often find myself thinking about stories in tandem with another I've just watched, read, or now listened to, that may have no real connection. For instance, while I was listening to this, I was also reading and watching what I could of "Shada," so these two stories are now linked for me, by no devising of their creators, just by accident. But they do have one thematic element in common that I'll touch on, and let that be thing I base my recommendation of this story on -- my contribution beyond the excellent write-ups you be familiar with if you already follow Blogtor Who or Doc Oho.

In this story, the Doctor(s) and Mel(s) meets some alien business consultant/jargon-slingers facilitating, they think, an invasion of Earth, or at least setting up a mining concern for some fancy element or other. In "Shada," the action starts at Skagra's Think Tank ... a term that wasn't a neologism in 1979, one that had started gaining traction in the 1960s. The role and jargon of business consultants and the purpose and means of Think Tanks aren't so distant. Think Tanks represent they're Very Serious People Doing Serious Work while business consultants are a little closer to the front lines of capitalism's day-to-day operations. Where Skagra in "Shada" (say that five times fast) has a grandiose plan for universal totalitarianism; Petherbridge, the villain of this story, is really just using people to escape his existence in the Time Vortex. If Petherbridge succeeds, the Doctor would disappear along with the cauterized pocket of time Mel's home town has been sealed off in, which would have wider consequences, but it's still a smaller-scale story of villainy in keeping with being snarky about lower level capitalist operatives.

Think tanks would be expected to give sophisticated arguments that CEOs could use to justify the decision to use their corporation's assets to lobby for laws that make it easier for them through reduced legislation and tax breaks to pay for exploiting labor in countries without the means to defend their citizens from predatory concers. Meanwhile, the business consultant will find a less distressing word for slaves, such as non-voluntary micro-budgeted labor, as we hear in "The Wrong Doctors." Terminology that will help middle managers persuade their staff to ignore the pangs of conscience they might feel when displacing the locals to strip mine their grazing land. They'll puff themselves up by claiming to provide leadspiration, etc.

Mel Reconsidered, If Not Untangled From Continuity

This story begins with an older Six than we knew from TV, who had been traveling with a companion named Evelyn for some time, feeling lonely and considering it may be time to finally meet Mel, whom he knew he'd eventually travel with due the events of his trial. Now, here's the thing, I don't mind a fair amount wibbly-wobbly, but the trial made such a hash of things, introducing Mel as an in-flight companion during a look-ahead, then having her leave with the Doctor and witness his regeneration into Seven, then travel with Seven for a while. And, apparently, this story contradicts another story that offers a different account of her meeting Six. There's no satisfactory way to make sense of this. This is me refusing to expend the effort to discover or construct a narrative that makes Mel's timeline with the Doctor coherent.

Coming to this motivated to like Six, I didn't have any such desire to hear a Mel story at all, or see her character get a redemptive treatment. Yet, as much as Mel grated when Bonnie Langford played her, perhaps having nowhere to go but up, it turns out she's a much better character in this context than she ever was on TV.

Odds and Ends

This Evelyn character has quite a history with the Doctor outside of the TV series. Like Bernice Summerfield, though I gather not to the same extent, she's got her fans and all I can say about her now is I know I've got a lot to learn ...

The poultry puns fly. Twelve draws a line in the sand on puns, in "The Woman Who Lived," but if it’s wrong to enjoy them, I don’t want to be right.

It’s not difficult to imagine this as television production, an animated Doctor Who would do well to adapt this, wouldn’t it? So let's consider that for just a moment, because I think the delay between series of DW is cruel and unusual. DW should be on almost all the time, summers off or something, but this twelve or thirteen weeks a year is hard on us fans. A canonical animated series produced or licensed by the BBC, featuring Doctors and companions other than the current cast would be a great way to get more DW on TV without taxing the current flagship crew. There are so many novels, comics, audios, etc. out there, there should really be no shortage of source material. (Not to mention the possibility of entirely new stories.)  On lark I started imagining what a hypothetical Doctor Who network would show to fill a 24x365 schedule without running the classic and new series into the ground. One or more animated series would be an obvious choice to seed the network with fresh content. In one of these Big Finish posts I'll chase that idea little further ...

It's a crossing-the-times streams story, so of course the Blinovich Limitation Effect is referenced.

Characters in this story find themselves not thinking about the things that give them trouble when attempting to reconcile with what they know. Doctor Who fans have to sympathize and must surely recognize similar thought processes in themselves when thinking about canon and continuity. Real and fictional people both willing to gloss over a difficult reality in order to merely carry on.

Summing Up

How might a fan of the TV series best prioritize giving this story a listen?
[x] Recommend visiting Big Finish to order yourself a copy
[ ] See if a friend or your local library has a copy you could borrow
[ ] Skip and re-watch an episode of the show on the telly

How would this best be adapted, if at all?
[ ] Should be adapted for TV with current cast
[x] A good candidate to remade as part of a wished-for animated series
[ ] The audio is quite enough, best left as-is

Additional Resources

See the first, maybe ask the second?

The #AllLivesMatter crowd shrug and start counting the hours until it's safe to mock the French again.

Friday, November 13, 2015

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The Massacre - "Innocent? Heresy can have no innocents. France will breath of pure air after tomorrow. "

BBC - Doctor Who Classic Episode Guide - The Massacre - Details

Season 3, Story 5 (Overall Series Story #22) | Previous - Next | Index

Can you imagine an episode of Doctor Who being produced for broadcast in the 2010s where the Doctor and a companion land in 1579 Paris, get embroiled in the political intrigue leading up to a heinous massacre and there's no aliens involved, nothing is "wrong" with the timeline, and the massacre is going to happen? Not only is the Doctor not going to try and stop it, he's going to send his companion's friend back into it without knowing whether she'll be slaughtered or not. (He's not the same guy as Ten  and, if he didn't change his mind in the meantime, we'd never have ended up with Twelve wearing Caecilius's face.)

The Doctor Who that was being sent out in 1966 simply couldn't be made today. (Nor since 2005, nor since ... well, let's say it's possible to imagine another historical like this one after "The Highlanders" with Troughton, but it becomes increasingly less likely as we approach 1970, at which point it becomes all but inconceivable.) And look at what it's sandwiched between: a daft, dark Dalek caper epic, and, "The Ark," one that's barely more than a 50s drive-in sci-fi with an extra dose of "damned hippies" and overtly racist attitudes towards the darkies. That's bonkers show-running. But, it's brilliant, too. In it's way. The show is all over the place, taking broader strides than it dares even today. An acknowledgement we must couch in terms of those strides being across lines that oughtn't to have been crossed, even by our unenlightened, barbaric forefathers.

This is not to argue either than an episode along the lines of the "The Massacre" would be a good idea in the context of the sorts of episodes we're watching in 2015. Try this: set your mental thought experiment dials to 'Near Term Historical Atrocities', 'Current Cast', 'No Aliens', and 'No Timey-Wimey', and imagine what a hypothetical episode where the Doctor and Clara land in 1990s Rwanda just before a bunch of Tutsis were about to be macheted would look like. Don't know about you, but I threw up in my mouth a little.

And yet, and yet ...

There's something about "The Massacre" that draws you in and keeps you hooked. It's a bit educational -- the facts aren't very off what you'll read in Wikipedia -- and it's probably Steven's best story. He's a bit a buffoon, but he muddles through it here, and up until the very end, which I'll come back to in a bit, he's a coherent personality it's possible to relate to. Hartnell's double role, playing the Abbot of Amboise as a coincidental look-alike of the Doctor gives him a chance to stretch in way I bet he appreciated. It's hard to say without the video, but it sounds like he's doing a decent job. It may be a dead end historical, but it's one I'd love to see recovered.

Until watching the Loose Cannon reconstruction of this story, I had been pronouncing "Huguenots" (on those one or two occasions in my life had ever had reason to say the word aloud), and hearing it in my head, as if it were pronounced HEW-ga-NAHTS. I knew they were Protestants in Catholic France, but that would have been all I could have told you about them, not even knowing their time frame relative to the French Revolution, except I'd have guessed Before or Perhaps During. So, to my shame, next-to-nothing. It's certainly possible British schoolchildren watching the show in the mid-60s would have had some knowledge of the Huguenots and the politics of religion in France during the reign of Charles IX (contemporary of the series's favorite monarch, Queen ["Bess"] Elizabeth), but I'm going to go out on a limb and suppose nobody then, or now, who didn't specifically study that period of history would be expected to know very much of the Huguenots, never mind this massacre, or the massacre at Vassy some years earlier. So why in the world are we packaging this episode as "The Massacre" or "The Massacre of St. Bartholomew's Eve," and giving away the bloody ending?! It should have been called "The Huguenots," or "Where the Heck Did the Doctor Disappear to While Steven Got Mixed Up in Parisian Intrigue?!"

By that last, you'll have deduced there are problems with the mechanics of this story. Which is a shame, because despite some serious flaws, this is a heck of drama. Most glaring to my mind is the unexplained, days long disappearance of the Doctor, and the fact that he just pops back into the story when it's convenient. When we come to Steven and Dodo's frame of mind at the very end, in a scene that has the Doctor wonder aloud if he should just chuck it in and go home, "I can't," he laments, nobody is behaving or making decisions in a way that makes sense. The effect is to diminish what saw of the Doctor's troubles, as they get paved over by slapdash plotting. At the end we're going to have Steven and Dodo (for whatever reason) travelling with the Doctor, so just make it happen. There was only ever one candidate to fit the code name "The Sea Beggar," so it wasn't exactly a surprise when Admiral de Coligny turned out to be the Abbot's intended victim.

If there's a lesson to be learned from Catholic massacres of the Protestant Huguenots, I'd argue (based on my reading of a few wikipedia articles, this story, and a general disposition towards the upcoming sentiment) it's that government should always be secular. So, of course, this story is right up my alley. Pray to your God however you see fit, live your private life in accordance with the moral system you have chosen (or been indoctrinated into and chosen not question) as you see fit. As long as you're not hurting anybody else, more power to you. But this massacre, it turns out, is one of history's more pointed examples of religion being utterly incompatible with politics. History, and in this case televised drama, highlight the awful truth that the chief result of mixing politics and religion is the poisonous hatred of the Other -- bolstered by a received morality divorced from the practical concerns of human suffering -- expressed as public policy. When political judgment includes a religious assessment along the lines of "those so-and-sos are damned souls whose continued presence on Earth puts saved souls at risk, so not only is it OK to slaughter them, it's actually moral obligation to do so," well, you don't have to be Charles Pierce to recognize nothing good will follow.

But is that the message here? If not, why make this story at all? Why that particular moment in time? Especially when we've already been to Revolutionary France back in Season 1 for a similarly structured story in "The Reign of Terror"?

One guess: The Border Campaign was probably still fresh in the minds of the folks at the BBC, and their audience. A period of IRA guerrilla warfare against Northern Ireland which started with an attack on a BBC relay station in 1956 would have been recent history, so it seems likely Catholic-Protestant strife would be compelling to the English in 1966. One imagines the zeitgeist having an awareness that the era we'd come to know as The Troubles was on the horizon ...


One avenue of speculation about this story is how the viewer's were supposed to see the Abbot, is it possible we were supposed to think Steven could be right, that the Doctor may be pretending to be the Abbot for some reason? Another, more sexy-times bit of speculation is whether we might be reasonable to wonder if Steven and Anne Chaplet were more than just friends? That Dodo is named Chaplet would only be significant if Anne had a son out-of-wedlock, the son bore her surname, and passed it down, so Dodo could be Anne's descendant. Steven did seem quite fond of her; she also was fond of him ...

One aspect of the reconstruction that's unintentionally entertaining, is that Catherine, Charles's Queen mum, has the same, very distinctive, facial expression in the couple of photos that were available for use, so every time she's depicted on screen, being manipulative and evil, while pulling *that* face it's very ... to date this post with contemporary reference ... Trump.

Additional Resources:

Tardis Wikia entry

Wikipedia entry transcript

Sandifer post
One thing that's immediately clear is that, far from The Daleks’ Master Plan being the culmination of all of the plot threads we've seen since The Time Meddler, this story is where they actually come to a head. After a string of brutal failures, this is where the Doctor fails so dramatically and so drastically that even Steven abandons him. (Indeed, one way of looking at this extended plot arc is as Steven’s big test of faith in terms of the Doctor.) This is where the Doctor's string of failures finally resolves as a plotline, leaving him at the lowest we have ever seen him as a character, with a bit that is some of the best acting Hartnell ever gives in the series where he stands, alone in the TARDIS for the first time in his life, and he almost decides to give up and go home before realizing that even that choice is lost to him.

Wife in Space post

TV Tropes page

Locations guide

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

"It is a dark and dismal Saturday."

I Can't Stop Watching These Old Clips of Bernie Sanders' Cable-Access Show | Mother Jones

I picked one of Bernie's old cable access shows to watch at random from the MoJo article. Bernie reeled me in with his opening line.

We must elect Bernie as the next POTUS if only for the glory that would be his weekly radio addresses and his States of the Union. All should be recorded and edited by Nat Ayer [ | staff] with only a camcorder, some poster board, two sharpies, and a Vermonter's resilience in the face adversity.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

The Zygon Invasion / The Zygon Inversion - "Makes one wonder what the question is."

The Zygon Invasion - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Series 9, Episode 7 (Overall Series Story #261a) | Previous - Next | Index

you used to wear question marks
via Fansided
Reading advance reviews, we knew this would be an overtly political story, with direct parallels to the refugee crisis and the West's response to ISIL. One suspects were all either tremendously encouraged, or concerned it was going to be as banal as Ten pinning a poppy to his overcoat. (Of course, there's always the chance of there being middle ground, where it'd gets some things right even as it got others wrong ... but Love It! or Hate It! looked like the more likely reactions. I did, after all, love "Human Nature / The Family of Blood" despite reacting with a degree of disgust to the poppy.)

So, knowing the Zygons are among us, and some of their youth have become disaffected, radicalized, and a war is breaking out ... the following were the things I told myself to watch for get an idea whether Moffat had his politics on right, or if he was going the neo-liberal, bourgeois conscience-assuaging route.
  • Does the story assume level-playing field? That is, are the Zygons, despite being refugees on Earth, forced to hide among humans wearing false faces to fit in, assumed to be equal partners in the treaty with humanity? 
  • Are the radicalized Zygons shown to only just need to understand how great Western Capitalistic Pseudo-Representative Democracy/Inverted Totalitarianism really is in order to become productive members of society?
  • Are the humans presented as justified in using drones, extra-judicial killings, and tactics that result in collateral damage, against an existential threat posed by the Zygons?
  • Are the Zygons portrayed as being seduced by a nihilist ideology so that they hate "our freedoms," while the humans, apart from a few fearful, closed-minded zealots, are portrayed as blissfully free of any ideological baggage?
On the whole, the episode largely avoided the likely stumbles, but still left room the conclusion be based off an idea of refugees needing to assimilate -- a tacit acknowledgment of a poisonous idea: that the privileged are entitled to lord it over the dispossessed.

The hope is that all the mentions of hybrids laced through the early part of this season are there to lay the groundwork for a solution that resists all notions of racial purity, that instead openly embraces the hybridization of cultures and peoples. Osgood rejects the premise of the question about whether she's human or Zygon. She's the peace. Her identity isn't dependent on her appearance or biology. She stands for something that applies regardless.

The fear is that the story will make whether she's biologically human or Zygon matter, that we'll be shown her identity being undermined as a necessary element of some other idea of peace. It's hard to imagine a way that will sit well.

But the next episode is call "The Zygon Inversion," and things that are inverted are reversed, transposed, their positions changed relative to one another. Making guesses about the first half a story whose second half bills itself as an inversion is a risky proposition. The judicious course of action here is suggested by Sam Spade in the DA's office being questioned about who he thinks killed Thursby:

Of course, I've been dippy enough to make guesses before, and I will again, sometimes it just feels like it's been too long since I've alluded to hard-boiled crime fiction and I'm going play that card because it just feels good.


Lots of nice touches and nifty bits of dialogue this week.

  • The Doctor Disco and Doctor Funkenstein ones though did feel a little forced. 
  • "Everybody middle-aged always thinks the world's about to come to an end. It never does." --Zygon Bonnie as Clara. The problem here is I'm middle-aged and the science of climate change is persuasive. If not in my life time, or my childrens', it sure does look the world as we know it is coming to an end. Malthus missed the mark because he didn't foresee certain advances though, so maybe, just maybe we are destroying the world, but we're going to find a way to save it ... 
  • When Kate gets to Truth or Consequences, we probably all rolled our eyes and thought, "Nice, BBC. Tumbleweeds are how we shorthand 'This is the American Southwest.'" When we saw what was in the bins later though, those tumbleweeds suddenly didn't seem like convenient cliche.
  • The No Dogs/No British sign was brilliant. American xenophobia inverted for the Brits. 
  • Titillating (or titivating? or is the possibility of Twelve having said either but it being indeterminate the point?) the fronds? Four certainly enjoyed titillating them.
  • The scene shifting to generic Turmezistan where a drone is being armed is also brilliant for not bothering to be subtle. 
  • My ears pricked up and visions of Harry Sullivan danced in my head when we heard that Z67 had been developed by a Naval surgeon. 
  • My son pointed to the portrait of the First Doctor in the UNIT safe house before I did. I was so proud.
  • The bit about the question mark underpants was sheer joy. Look, the fact is, I'm a bloke who wears boxer briefs emblazoned with the Doctor Who logo every Saturday there's a new episode, how could I not crack a smile?!
  • The decision to start the episode with deliberately fairy-tale language took me by surprise. Hard to praise the episode for being in-your-face about having a moral though and then turn around and fault it for coming straight out and saying: "You know those little stories meant to teach you how to manage your fear? This is one of those."
  • The Osgood Box is straight from a fairy tale as well. Or is it from quantum science? (Is there a difference?) Is it a Schroedinger's Box? A Pandora's Box? The two Osgoods the indeterminate state of the peace. Will opening the box will reveal which is which. Or ... it will switch them all. Inversion, after all, in a reversal of the normal order ... 

Additional Resources:

Tardis Wikia entry transcript

Sandifer post

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The Zygon Inversion - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Series 9, Episode 8 (Overall Series Story #261b) | Previous - Next | Index

**Spoiler alert**

He breaks your heart. Doesn't he? That scene has it over all the bombast of Matt Smith's Stonehenge shouty bit and, frankly, any other moment of the Doctor being the Doctor For The Ages. We've never had a more talented actor in the role.

So, yeah, for all the politicking and big thematic posturing, it all came down the Doctor needing to talk a terrorist out of her rage. Which meant it all came down to to Peter Capaldi needing to convince us he could imbue the Doctor with the anguish and passion to help of a 2,000-year-old man who'd been there in the Moment, at the end of the Time War, and could convey the need to stop, take a breath, and think to someone with the desire and means to start a war. It was a huge ask.

This moment was heavily staged, engineered to put the opposing parties across the table from one another, each with a 50/50 chance to get what they wanted, or to lose the game. In the context of the conflict, it's an intriguing dilemma. Layered over that we have the Doctor's motivation. If the Osgood Box scenario is a little to staged on its own, it's bolstered by the layering, and by the strength of that other layer. It's not perfect. But it's strong, it's got warp and weft.

When I say it's not perfect, I'm still not sure we got satisfactory answers to all the questions, that Zygons place on Earth is every fully worked out, in premise or in resolution. Bonnie/Zygon Clara turns the corner fairly quickly to accepting a role in the Osgood duality. Was she ever really that angry if her best expression of it was: "We've been treated like cattle. We've been left to fend for ourselves." This is a moment of weakness in the writing. Bonnie is every bit the tantruming child and there's no clear balancing of human and Zygon motivations.

The Doctor seems to be arguing against revolution in theory, that revolutionaries can't live in a society they'd create. If that's his take, he's wrong. The forgiveness he is ready to dole out is the key. Swords can be beaten back into ploughshares. The argument he makes that if people would just negotiate in good faith, that's strong, compelling stuff, and whenever it's at the heart of a story, that story can never go too far wrong, but that Moffat & Co. couldn't quite make the Zygons coherent, gets after, I think, the point of why it's so hard for there ever to be productive accords between warring parties. We're all having a tremendously difficult time understanding the other side, starting from our common humanity, and understanding the grievances and desires of the other.

Well, that's never going to be easy is it? And crafting drama around it isn't going to be easy either. This though, this was a good effort.


  • We're back to two Osgoods watching over the Osgood boxes. Osgoods are valuable, it's a relief having a back-up. Even if they're both Zygon. 
  • Jenna is fantastic as both Clara and Bonnie. The writing of Bonnie gave her more than a little to overcome, but she continues to knock it out of the park every time. It's a shame this is her last season, she and Capaldi work so well together.
  • Love that the Osgood Box turned out to be Osgood Boxes, and that they were just props after all. They were simultaneously all things I, and others, were guessing they were, and none of them. Credit where it's due, Moffat is a master at crafting these sorts of puzzles.
  • The Doctor telling Osgood he's a fan is perhaps the most over-the-top moment of fan service we've ever had. And yet, I'm a sucker for it. That's Capaldi speaking directly to me, to us, telling us he loves the fans as much as we love him. When fans of a show get to grow up and star in it, and produce it, like Capaldi and Moffat are doing, like Tennant and RTD did before, there's a risk of it becoming to fetishized and self-congratulatory ... but I feel like we're all staying on the right side of the line of mutual admiration and insistence that the thing actually be about more than just how great it is to be making Doctor Who.

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