Monday, April 24, 2017

Smile - "Well, it would be a worry, so best not to dwell on it."

Smile (Doctor Who) - Wikipedia 

Series 10, Story 02 (Overall Series Story #267) | Previous - Next | Index

Image via the official Doctor Who tumblr

My first thought was the lazy, "Make the reaction post all emojis," one. In my defense, this episode was unremarkable enough that I didn't feel like putting much thought into trying tease any meaning out of it, put it down, or boost it up. Or anything really. I wasn't bothered by it. I watched it twice without being irritated. I was just never engaged.



  • When the Doctor mentions he's encountered some of these Earth evacuation ships before, I took him to mean the events described in "The Ark," and "The Beast Below." "The Ark in Space" also felt relevant here. (Now there's a story I'm ready to watch again.) But, that trying to figure out what this one might have to do with anyof the others I'll leave as an exercise for a future date. (These posts are stubs I mean to come back to and flesh out later, rememember.)
  • The colony ship is named for a Samuel Butler novel that I haven't read. And (you may be sensing a theme here) I wasn't intrigued enough by the selection, or what I found out about it by scanning the wikipedia entry, to read it and search for deeper connections.
  • Nitpicky, but I was underwhelmed by the robots' emoji face designs. The death skull one looked amateur. For walking UIs of a new AI life form, they weren't very expressive.
  • Read some comparisons to Black Mirror when checking the reviews for this story. The setting did feel Black Mirror, but even by BM's kind of low bar, this didn't feel as Twilight Zone-y as a BM usually does.
  • Bill continues to work well as a companion, and I didn't mind Nardole getting the brush off. Her (ignored) curiosity about why the Earth had to be evacuated after seeing the history e-book felt like it might be significant, like we might find out more. (Or, maybe we already have and I'm forgetting it ...)
  • Only in reading the AV Club review linked below did it become clear that this episode revisits the theme of the "baddie" who's just different. Hunger looks like evil when you're on the wrong end of the cutlery, the Doctor observed last week. This week he points out the Vardie (sp?) were an emergent new life form without the proper context to interpret their coding.

Additional Resources:
Tardis Wikia Entry transcript
Sandifer post
The “damn with faint praise” aspect, however, comes from the fact that you can’t actually put the bar much higher than “oh, hey, Cottrell-Boyce avoided fucking up this time.” The script still never soars. Worse, as with In the Forest of the Night, the moments where it tries to soar are generally its weak points. The script has an awkward habit of leering in and insisting that you find it clever, and these bits don’t often correspond to when it’s being clever. The repetition of the “skeleton crew” joke twice in rapid succession and the thickly laid on “can’t you call the police” line are the two most obvious examples. But equally frustrating are the things it doesn’t unpack - the declaration that the Vardies are a form of sentient life isn’t set up nearly well enough, and more broadly the resolution is full of ideas that are actually worth exploring, but that the script has left no time to explore because it wanted to be an ostentatious two-hander for a while.
AV Club review - Grades it B+ (seems high)
As a story in its own right, well… this is the early-season, far-future episode for a new TARDIS team. In that regard, it follows “The End Of The World,” “New Earth,” “Gridlock,” “Planet Of The Ood,” “The Beast Below,” and “Into The Dalek.” There are some good episodes in that bunch—“Planet Of The Ood” is legitimately great—and a few underrated efforts, but there’s a general pattern there of undercooked narratives that favor characterization over airtight plotting. That’s not such a bad thing for a story whose function is to establish the new iteration of the show’s central characters, but it can only excuse so much the flimsiness of this episode’s premise. The trouble is that, like the magic haddock the Doctor keeps mentioning, the Vardi aren’t meant to be good or evil, just different in their thinking from the humans.
TV Tropes page
Simon's Incoherent Blog
... Smile was a fairly average, even derivative episode salvaged somewhat by some excellent direction, some nice dialogue and the usual excellent performances. I’m heartened that, unlike last time, Frank Cottrell Boyce has given us a script that feels like it belongs in Doctor Who; next time though, he might want to try relying rather less on its past.
 Locations Guide
I read somewhere this was shot in Valencia, expect the location guide will be updated to reflect that when the entry for this story is created.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

The Pilot - "Look, I know you know lots of stuff about, well, basically everything, but do you know any sci-fi?"

The Pilot - Wikipedia

Series 10, Story 01 (Overall Series Story #266) | Previous - Next | Index

Trippy Bill, image via GIPHY
In "Hell Bent," the Doctor explains the Matrix to Clara as "a big computer made of ghosts, in a crypt, guarded by more ghosts." He might as well have been a critic analyzing the show itself. This episode hammers the point home: Doctor Who is a show made of ghosts. Ghosts, echoes, reflections ... positively every scene is haunted by an element of its past.

And, that's OK. Everything old becomes new again, after all.

But, I don't want to start there. Rather, let's consider how Doctor Who exists in a TV universe alongside a show like The Expanse -- a series which I also enjoy very much, despite it's stark differences from DW. This is a tangent that probably has no place in a reaction post to this episode, but hear me out. The Expanse is classic, almost Heinlein-ian hard sci-fi. No time travel, no FTL travel, not even transporters or replicators; it's a show that, at first, we could be excused for thinking could never have anything to do with the magic-y, ghost-laden sci-fi/fantasy of the DW universe. Yet the Roci and her crew are exactly the sort of ship the TARDIS has materialized aboard any number of times. This Doctor and Bill could totally drop in to any of The Expanse's settings and the show would instantly be Doctor Who in a way Doctor Who could never be The Expanse.

Consider "The Waters of Mars," for instance. It's one of the haunts in "The Pilot," you couldn't help but recall it when Heather got all watery. That crew and that base are an example of exactly the kind of milieu the Doctor drops into all the time; but, imagine if the TARDIS never materialized near that particular base. The story of the Mars colony in "Waters" could have been a show of it's own. A show that might have been very, very like The Expanse. (The protomolecule not so unlike the life found on Mars ... ) This isn't to say DW is better than The Expanse, or that they *should* crossover, only how easy it is to imagine they could once you concede that DW, while not hard sci-fi, encompasses that genre, without being of it. DW is large, it contains multitudes. It is, after a fashion, bigger on the inside.

(This isn't to argue that Doctor Who is better than The Expanse, as a series or episode vs. episode. I dig The Expanse and don't intend to slog it, only to use it as a means to consider one facet of what's magical about DW.)

Reviewers that get to watch the episodes and write about them well before I do have already done an ace job ticking off all the boxes I might've here -- things like noticing the piece of the Mary Celeste down in the basement of the university where the Doctor's got a vault he's protecting -- so I'll link them, per usual, below and recommend giving 'em a read through.


  • Pearl Mackie deserves every nice thing that's been said about her as Bill. If some asshole has disparaged her performance in print, on the web, or out and about ... well, fuck that asshole because he's an idiot.
  • Look, it's very meta. But it stays this side of being entertaining because and in spite of how meta it is. It's not a new pilot, but it toys with the idea it could be.
  • I'm OK with Nardole, for now. I wasn't sure about him coming back for the last special, am less sure I want him sticking around as companion for a full season ... but maybe there's a point to him, and he's got good chemistry with the Doctor anyways. Worried though that I'll be sick of him soon.
  • Susan is going to be back, in some way, shape, or form, yeah? I mean, OK, I was sure she was going to be back a while ago, too, but this time it looks like a mortal lock.
  • Starting to read rumors today, not sure how credible, that David Bradley is going to return to play the First Doctor like we nearly have been asking for him to do since An Adventure in Space and Time. That would certainly make the return of Susan more likely. 
  • It should probably go without saying, but how great is it that Bill is gay and it's not A Very Special Episode of Doctor Who forced big deal? Extra great.
  • The way this episode shows moments in time as fixed images during the Doctor's lecture on the subject was quite well-executed, I thought. More of this kind of visual storytelling, please. Will the show take little risks like that under Chibnall? I worry that it won't. As much as we all have Moffat-fatigue to some degree or other, we may miss him more than even his biggest fans might think possible when he's no longer involved.
  • I cringed at the "I fatted her" joke even though it wasn't body shaming, the opposite, in fact. So I shouldn't have cringed, but I still wished Moffat hadn't even gone there. Is that some vestigial liberal guilt thing holding me back from appreciating a moment where a TV show, perhaps bravely, says "yeah, that girl is big, but she's sexy, deal with it"? 
  • The badge on Bill's jacket, that's the ghost of Ace. (Whose badges, it must be said, were much cooler.)

Additional Resources:
Tardis Wikia Entry transcript
Sandifer post 
This results in an episode that’s not so much uneven as threadbare. He [Moffat] clears so much room for selling the mundaneness of Bill that the episode plot is an afterthought. The puddle - that’s clearly what this monster needs to be called - is, charitably, a minimalist creation. Its explanation does not make anything vaguely resembling sense, and more to the point doesn’t actually try to. The best bits end up being what they often are with Moffat, which is the ritual performance of set pieces. His last big “bigger on the inside” is his most baroque yet, a glorious shaggy dog working its way towards the straightforward classic resolution. Objecting to the TARDIS being named in English is a solid choice of “let’s have Bill say something different.” The Australia gag’s actually great. As are a plethora of details: the Doctor’s “how can I help,” Bill’s “I don’t think they’re mine,” and of course Susan, River, and the TARDIS yelling at the Doctor to take her as a companion. But the whole is less than the sum of its parts. It still adds up to a lot, but that’s still an entirely true statement about “The Pilot.”
AV Club review - gives it a B grade.
A Steven Moffat episode is always good for at least one brilliant, off-kilter observation on the nature of the world. The Doctor’s explanation of how hungry looks a lot like evil from the wrong end of the cutlery is this episode’s entry in that particular canon.
TV Tropes page
When Bill and Heather first meet, "Love Will Tear Us Apart" is playing in the background.
Forgot to mention how much I loved that.

Radio Times

Locations guide

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Last Survivor of the 19th Century Has Passed

Blogged with IFTTT

With all the TV networks we have, and for the number of reality TV shows in production, it continues to amaze me that we don't have one that focuses on the oldest living humans.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Disgusting AF

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Wednesday, April 5, 2017

All 26 seasons of classic Doctor Who finally have a U.S. streaming home

All 26 seasons of classic Doctor Who finally have a U.S. streaming home | SyfyWire

This is legit exciting for me, at least, because I haven't been able to get a hold of Pertwee's final story, "Planet of the Spiders," and haven't seen it in probably 35 years.

~whispers~ BritBox won't want to hear this, but I'm planning to take advantage of the free trial to binge the heck out of stories I haven't seen in ages and don't own on DVD.

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