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Supervoc7
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Let's cut straight to the most important question: Does this mean yet another new design for the sonic?
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@David Claughton: I'm still mulling this over but here's what it starts to look like to me. It seems as though 26th June actually has FOUR (potential?) pasts now: 1. The pre-Pandorica past in which there are cracks in time from an exploding TARDIS. The Angels fall into a giant crack, and the Saturnyne jump through one. This is the history we saw in season 5. 2. The cliffhanger past in which Richard Dawkins has a "star cult" and there are tropical penguins and such. Time and space are collapsing so history is mangled. The Silurians may have existed, but the Angels and Saturnyne didn't. 3. The pre-wedding past in which the Doctor is on the other side of a crack and "rewinding." Maybe 1970s Earth was invaded every week by aliens and the Master, maybe not, but we know Earth survived because of this idea that we'll catch up to the same present, with or without the Doctor. 4. The post-dancing past in which the Doctor DID exist more or less as we saw him and Rory never died or became an Auton. I'm fine with the idea that he remembers these things, that they all do...but did they happen? The events of (say) "The Hungry Earth / Cold Blood" were mostly unaffected by the cracks, but the Angels were swallowed by one and the Saturnyne came through another. In THIS past, how did those events unfold? That's what I'm trying to figure out. Maybe the Doctor thought of something else in this version of history? @The Science Pundit: I'm sure you're right -- I'll have to watch it again. I remembered getting the impression that he was no one really special to the Doctor, that the Time Lord envoy knew more about the Master than the Doctor did, and that's why the later lines about the Master's character seemed so odd to me -- but maybe I wasn't listening closely enough. @mattbartley: As I said above I have no problem with Amy, Rory, and the Doctor remembering these events...it's a little magical, I guess, but clearly they do remember them. I'm wondering more about whether and how they happened!
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I sadly suspect that we're being asked not to think too hard about the briefly Doctor-free universe. It's a little different, because in "Turn Left" you have 10 Doctors and then he dies, leaving a vacuum, whereas here he never existed at all. We might speculate that in his absence something or someone filled the gap. Another renegade Time Lord? Or perhaps someone or something else entirely? Did humans maybe rise to the challenge and defend themselves? Or were aliens drawn to Earth partly because the Doctor was around? It might be reasonable to suspect that the Master might have come to Earth partly to mess with the Doctor (though in "Terror of the Autons" the two of them appear to have little prior acquaintance, something which has probably been retconned since). Other questions abound, of course, such as whether life on Earth would have started if not for the Doctor and Romana bringing Duggan back in time to slug Scaroth in the primeval mud, or whether the dinosaurs would have survived if Adric hadn't been on board the freighter in "Earthshock." This is why, in my own review, I bring up the question of just how much of the Doctor's history has been erased or changed as a result of the universal reboot. Presumably "The Vampires of Venice" couldn't have happened in a crack-free universe, for example -- but if it didn't, then what was the point of him saving the day in the first place? I kind of hope we see some of these questions come into play next season. I doubt they will, but it would be pretty interesting.
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@Caboodle: I'm curious to know what crimes against canon you feel this season committed, and in particular how they could be worse than those committed by, say, "The End of Time" alone. @Paul Kirkley: I feel the need to say that while I don't always feel the enthusiasm you do for specific episodes, I really enjoy reading your reviews and this was no exception. I think people "enjoy" shows in different ways; I would never waste time criticizing a show I didn't enjoy. :) @Matthew: "Victory of the Daleks" had the unfortunate task of following two rather good, imaginative, and at times spectacular stories that were setting the tone for a new Doctor and new showrunner and not being anywhere near up to it. I'm down for "fun little episodes" any day but it didn't even work on that level for me. That said, I can't say it generated any "rage" for me. As for what this season added to the mythos: I'm crossing my fingers that we'll find out next season that the universal "reboot" changed a few things along the way.
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To clarify: personally I bought the predestination paradoxes in "The Big Bang" and really enjoyed them, but I don't think the reason they worked for me was because "Doctor Who is fantasy." Time travel is a given of the show, and it was satisfying on a pure entertainment level (if not quite on a dramatic level -- that's the "cheating" feeling some of us got) to see it used so extensively and energetically. I think a similar trick in Harry Potter would have seemed incongruous (to say the least), since time travel and the sort of "science" that produces laser rifles aren't part of the Harry Potter universe in the same way. It would have seemed even more like "cheating" dramatically too, I would argue if I wanted to REALLY bore you. So I agree with you that time travel paradoxes are perfectly fine in the Doctor Who universe; after all, without them we wouldn't have "City of Death," "Earthshock," or "Terminus," just to name three big examples. I'm just disagreeing with your apparently strict definition of "science fiction." For example, I think ideas like "if people are remembered, they can come back" are at best pushing the limits of what belongs in a series like Doctor Who, just as "if enough people pray the Doctor's name simultaneously, he can change from a house-elf into a magic floating messiah" pushed the limits. THOSE things for me are what nudge the series into "fantasy" territory, and I found them both implausible and unsatisfying. "The universe can be extrapolated deterministically from a few atoms" wasn't a lot better, but at least it pretended to be based on something more than "you gotta believe!" I can't even tell you how relieved I was when the Doctor's "you're a miracle" speech to Rory turned out to be a mistake.
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Doctor Who's science fiction in my book. But there's hard SF and there's stuff like Star Wars and Doctor Who. There's some element of what you're calling "fantasy" in a lot of ostensible SF. However, even if we say "Doctor Who is pure fantasy" (which may be truer of some seasons than others) there are still rules, even if they're largely concerned with what's dramatically satisfying and plausible (rather than what's "possible"). As an example, imagine the climax of the last Harry Potter book having been this: "As Voldemort pointed his wand at Harry and grinned evilly, suddenly a thirty-year-old man with glasses and a lightning bolt scar beneath a mop of black hair appeared out of nowhere and tossed Harry a whopping great gleaming laser rifle. Harry flipped off the safety and disintegrated Voldemort with a single bolt. Everyone cheered and the future Harry gave his younger self a big thumbs up as he vanished back into the timestream." Plausible -- given the rules and conventions of the Harry Potter fantasy -- or not? And more importantly, dramatically satisfying or not?
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So. In general I'm like "yeah...yeah...that was a good one all right...that one too." You listed a few head-scratchers, though. "Echoes. Fossils in time. Footprints of the never were." You never got this stuff with Robert Sloman, did you? Well, no, with Sloman you got verbs. For example: "I had to face my fear, Sarah. That was more important than just going on living." and "Not all spiders sit on the back." Maybe not as poetic, but certainly more useful in daily life. I take your general point, though. The Doctor in The Pandorica: so weak, so broken, so utterly defeated. Have we ever seen him this vulnerable before? Sure: he was Dobby in a cage a few years back, and he wasn't about to save the entire universe. At least here he's winning, even if it's at the cost of his life. But again, I take your point; it's a lovely scene. If you didn’t cry or laugh out loud or punch the air at this point, you might want to ask yourself if you actually genuinely like Doctor Who. I actually genuinely do, and once again...I take your point. It was a nice moment. What I actually genuinely hate is when people say "if you didn't love this as much as I did, you are not a *real* *fan*." To give the counterpoint: the problem with that moment for me is that there was never the slightest doubt that it was coming. I got more of a jolt from the moment she sees the bow tie and suspenders on her wedding guests; then the moment is dragged out quite a bit. The time when this kind of triumphant return REALLY would have meant something for me was at the beginning of the episode, when I had every reason to doubt the Doctor was going to come out of the Pandorica unscathed and that there might be serious consequences to deal with. Instead we got the fez and the mop, so no triumph there. Again, don't get me wrong. Nice moment, very clever with the wedding saying and all. I'm happy it moved you so much. I'm just...not a big air-puncher, I guess.
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I must keep missing the explanation for where the Pandorica comes from in the first place, but I'm still not clear on who built it. Obviously it's pretty amazing (especially if you have a time machine you don't mind destroying), so I figure the idea was that they collaborated on its design and construction. Then again, the Doctor knows it as a fairy tale, so it must have predated the alliance. Somehow. So maybe the purpose was to overwhelm the Doctor with numbers. In "The Pandorica Opens" we see him frantically (if facetiously) concocting plans to play off the alien fleets against one another, but he seems to despair once he realizes how many there are. They must just figure they need everyone to match his cleverness. Or maybe some of them are providing the catering. Or: their planets have already fallen into the cracks, so they're all huddled around Earth (the eye of the storm) for safety. I suspect that the alliance is like many other elements of the finale in that it mostly serves a dramatic purpose: it's just about giving a sense of occasion, regardless of how much sense it makes under scrutiny. You accept it in the first half because you figure "oh, Moffat will explain it in the second half," and then while you're talking to the person seated next to you he's cleared the plates and the alliance is conveniently gone for the second half. Of course, the other dramatic purpose it serves is to keep you from assuming that the enemy forcing him into the Pandorica is the one Secretly Behind All This. If they're all there, you're less likely to assume the butler did it.
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I thought it was Prisoner Zero too (even insisted as much here and on Twitter) but I listened to both again recently, as I should have in the first place, and they're very different. My money's on the Dream Lord now too, but it could be someone else entirely. Love the idea that the Time Lords may be coming back.
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Neil, I'm with you on just about everything except the speech. Those moments are really not working for me. I want more clever and less bluster from my Doctor. Why does Amy remember Rory? Simplest answer might be the ring ("people leave traces" and all that), but hopefully there's more to it. Surprised no one has mentioned the Greek letters below "HELLO SWEETIE" yet...or perhaps I'm the only one nerdy enough to freeze-frame and note them. For the record, they are: THETA SIGMA (space) PHI (space) GAMMA UPSILON DELTA" and then what looks like either a lightning bolt or a heavy-metal S. Given the first two letters, are we looking at Moffat's idea of the Doctor's name?
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Oh, don't get me wrong, I'm VERY iffy on magic in an ostensible sci-fi series like Doctor Who. Granted, this is not hard SF by a long shot -- even Battlestar Galactica seems "harder" to me and there was plenty of "magic" in there I had to grit my teeth through. But there's a line we draw, I think, even if we all draw it in a different place. For me, opening the TARDIS doors with a snap of the Doctor's fingers is on the "acceptable" side of the line, perhaps because I can easily come up with my own technobabble explanation (e.g. it's basically The Clapper crossed with some form of bio-scan or facial recognition) and it doesn't materially change the story. Resurrecting the Master as shown in "The End of Time" is on the "bad" side of the line, because it's beyond mere technobabble (even though I think RTD tried; I'm blocking out the memory) AND because the story obviously depends on whether this could actually work in the Who universe. Fine in Harry Potter, where magic is a given; not fine in Doctor Who, where magic is usually a psychotic alien computer. So yes: deus ex machina, absolutely. Then again, in this Who universe, time is cracked, and dreams can feel real ("Amy's Choice," obviously), and technology can respond not just to mental states but deep-rooted ongoing desires ("The Lodger"), and thematically it fits young Amy pretty well. So maybe it's not going to be magic as such, but it might be in that gray area between the Snapper and Skeletor Master. I'm not approving, just speculating and predicting. :)
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How was the Pandorica opening? Three ideas off the top of my head: 1. One of the aliens has a keychain remote that opens the Pandorica just like you'd open a locked car. 2. The Doctor's proximity started an automatic unlocking process (which presumably only works if it's empty and ready to accept its prisoner). It reminds me a bit of the eggs in Alien that hatch when a huggable face is in the vicinity. 3. The Pandorica is made from Amy's mind and thus is ~*~MAGICAL~*~ and has no rules whatsoever. On that third point: while I kind of hate that idea, signs do seem to point to the first part being true, don't they? If so, what does it say about Amy that she's imagined a box designed to hold the Doctor and keep him from ever escaping or running away in the TARDIS, ever again? And that in fact she may have helped to blow up the TARDIS for the same reason? And if the trap here is based on Amy being unwilling to let go of the Doctor (a stretch, since she's already had this dilemma in "Amy's Choice" and apparently conquered it, but maybe her 7-year-old self wasn't quite so mature), are we going to get a "Lodger"-style resolution where she has to trust that the Doctor won't abandon her, and Learning a Lesson is what beats the bad guys? I guess Learning a Lesson is how we are taught by Disney to think that fairy tales end, but didn't they end just as often with pushing a witch into an oven or chopping up the wolf?
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"Silence will fall": sounds like Prisoner Zero to me. Check out the end of "The Eleventh Hour" when it's in snake form and speaks. Annoying New Cybermen: ah shit, it's not the fucking parallel universe again is it? Because what if that's the one that's exploding? Taking Rose and Blue Jacket Ten with it? @Dave Moran: you gave me chills, bringing up the Lament Configuration. Nice. Time paradox ending: I actually don't mind these very much. If you spend too much time thinking about them and applying them to every situation the Doctor gets himself into, they do have the potential to crater pretty much every story. But "he doesn't do it often because it feels like cheating" is almost a good enough answer for me. What I love the most about it is that this is, after all, a series about a time machine, and yet much of the time it might as well just be a spaceship. Time didn't come into play nearly as often as it could have, pre-Moffat. And nothing will ever be worse than the Jesus Fairy Doctor ending. God, I hope nothing will ever be worse than that.
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Another vote for "bang on the money." The language might be difficult for people who are averse to literary criticism but the observations he's making are difficult to miss if you were paying attention. So Gareth Roberts is gay, eh? Nice to know I wasn't overthinking those homoerotic moments.
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Borusa is going to feel really stupid for spending all that time dicking around with the Time Scoop when he could just have found a convenient Crack instead. Maybe there's an anti-immortality campaign for young Time Lords to teach them not to do Crack. Okay, I'll stop.
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For me, the logical problems of Genesis are no worse than a great many other Doctor Who stories. If I can fix it by mentally revising the exaggerated numbers ("thousands" -> "maybe fifty tops," something I also have to do with Sontarans vs. Rutans), I'm satisfied. The clam is just part of a long tradition that includes the giant rat from Weng-Chiang and the magma monster from Androzani (and the lighting director from Warriors of the Deep). But I've blasted New Who episodes for less; we all set our own limits of tolerance. I think what Genesis really has going for it, aside from being a generally superior production, is that it's Doctor Who finally (or at least most obviously) addressing the Would You Go Back In Time and Kill Hitler? question. So it's a significant episode, even if the scenario is forced. Was "The Lodger" more fun than "Genesis of the Daleks"? Oh, certainly, but then that's by design in both cases, and it's hard to think of too many episodes that aren't. Maybe "Terminus"? By the way, next week looks a little "meh" to me too. Seems to me we've done "interdimensional rift opens and Daleks pour out," haven't we? But then the only new Who season finale I eagerly anticipated so far (not coincidentally, the only one without Daleks) was the one with the Master, and we all know how THAT turned out. So I'm cautiously optimistic.
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It's nice to agree with most of your review this time around, Paul! Love the bit about the past Doctors; the idea of erasing "Time and the Rani" from history is so nice to start a Monday with. I'm not sure I agree with your endnote either, but it's fun to think about. I've never loved "Carnival of Monsters," I must admit, and I'm a little appalled to learn that there are people who actually admired "The Christmas Invasion." Was that one a joke?
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Well, this is quite a bit more positive than I'd expected. So basically these are the problems: 1. The incidental music sucks. 2. The Doctor fiddles around and people die. 3. The ending is utter nonsensical crap. With the possible exception of #2 you have described at least 75% of New Who and a decent chunk of the old show too. I'm not saying you're wrong, just that these are not new flaws at all. So hurray!
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Matthew, I didn't read the ending as a "return to exalting sitting on the sofa in front of the telly every night." Instead it's exalting taking your home (your best friend, your companion, your lover) with you on adventures in time and space. Craig pretty explicitly says this at the end of the episode. If they don't lose their nerve, they'll be taking care of orangutans before the year is out.
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Neil, I expect pretty much every Doctor Who critic I respect to hate this episode as well, even if I don't expect them all to rip off the Pitchfork non-review of Partie Traumatic. So even though I agree entirely with the favorite season 5 episodes you listed in the comments, and even though I hated "Vincent and the Doctor" almost as much as you did, I'm embarrassed to say I really enjoyed "The Lodger." It probably helps that I'm American and don't know James Corden from Adam, so I could just dig on how he has more chemistry (yes, that kind) with the Doctor than Amy does.
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I don't see Kubrick that way at all, but that's a much larger debate. :) What I disliked about the music was not that it was "manipulative" but that it was intrusive: it ripped me out of the story to remind me that I was watching not only a television show but one produced in a particular place and time. At least this was more tasteful than "The End of the World" and the Season 3 finale (and don't get me wrong, I like Soft Cell and Scissor Sisters). It was a considerable distraction from the script, direction, and acting. Those three things ought to have been enough to convey emotion, and the song was there because someone decided that they didn't do the trick on their own. Maybe for you the music enhanced the moment, and that's fine; for me it drowned the moment out.
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Matthew: good point (and I totally agree about Malokeh...ugh). To my mind the distinction is that murdering an evil killer should make us feel at least a little pity and remorse, whereas murdering a poor, frightened wretch should make us feel a LOT of pity and remorse. I guess we must have been spared the scene where they removed the thing from the church (can you imagine going to a ruined confessional only to trip over a giant invisible space turkey?) and felt bad about it, because it was all sunshine and flowers after that as far as I could see. Being led to feel sorry for the beast by Curtis and then having its killers skip away into the sunshine really took the wind out of the ending's sails for me.
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Regarding Nighy's speech: perhaps no one had done it before (debatable), but I think you could make a pretty strong case that Frida Kahlo had done it again, just to offer one name. I've known plenty of people with depression and very little in this episode resembled that condition as I've known it. Including most particularly the "crying on the bed" scene. The Doctor's reaction was all that redeemed it for me; THAT part rang true. So I guess I'm with you up through your first extraordinary scene, and no farther, and as a result I can't say I loved it. It wasn't the lamest of the season ("Victory of the Daleks" may be unbeatable for that honor), I didn't hate it as much as Neil Perryman did (though I agreed with almost everything he said about it), but it definitely didn't work for me, and I don't think I have an "emotionally retarded, uptight English post-punk fear of sentiment" you can blame. Or do I? In my experience people often use the word "sentiment" to refer to that which points at emotion rather than evokes emotion, and if that's what it is I think we're all right to be afraid of it.
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Jun 8, 2010