Spike: I’ve been so conditioned by science-fiction that when the villains of ‘A Good Man Goes To War’ started talking about fighting for God I immediately assumed they were referring to some artificial intelligence matrix hidden in an old cave, or an Alien probe that had somehow smashed into an earth satellite, or some sort of amorphous smoke monster who really needs a star ship. In fact the God that Madame Kovarian and Colonel Manton discuss is actually God, albeit some future permutation of God, but still God.
Thinking about this made me think about what I view as the nadir of Moffat’s run as a Doctor Who writer, the point in which he mythologised an already pretty messianic Doctor into a genuinely god-like figure in ‘Silence in the Library’. When River described her Doctor, a man who could turn back armies with the merest mention of his name and who could open the TARDIS with a click of his fingers I genuinely wondered if perhaps the show was becoming a little too fawning about the Doctor. Moffat seemed to course correct a little when he took over as show-runner, a combination of his writing and Matt Smith’s performance making the Eleventh Doctor far more flawed than his predecessor.
That change in tone reached its peak tonight when River’s initial words were given new meaning, the armies who fled at the very mention of the Doctor’s name, doing monstrous things to stop him. In ‘A Good Man Goes To War’ the Doctor was forced to confront the impact his legend had on the people and the Universe and how this fear of the Doctor gave way to truly terrible acts and had perverted the name ‘Doctor’. A man who had taken the words used to describe a healer and had bastardised the term into that of a warrior.
If nothing else, I loved that this episode recast the Doctor’s fame and used his own legend against him.
There’s a lot to talk about, so I’ll throw it out to the team. What did y’all think?
Casey: Well damn, where to start? The “Whoa” moments of both Rory’s question and the Doctor’s statement or the end reveal that many of us had suspected, but they still sold the hell out of?
It was great to see some of Rory as the Centurion and get a great idea of how he was those 2,000 years. Especially great to see him stare down an army of Cybermen demanding to know where his wife is.
I love the organic feel of the Doctor collecting on old debts and how those he came for knew they had to come along no matter what might happen. By the way, I will add my vote to awesome cross species lesbians fighting crime in Victorian England for a new spin off show.
And who else would be scared of the Doctor as destroyer of worlds than the Army of God. In many ways he is an anti-Christ figure to them. He destroys whole civilizations because they offend him or don’t do as he says.
The ending with River was Smith as usual at his best. He went from old man to young child, from bastard Doctor to Doctor in awe all in small shifts. My favorite bit was his child like smooch mouth to River and then looking to Amy and Rory and knowing he was going to be in trouble.
On the whole it was a pretty great adventure romp for the Doctor, which like a lot of Moffat’s episodes is opening up all new adventures. It seems pretty clear Moffat wants to tell very much new stories with the Doctor, but sometimes in an old way.
I am still absorbing in a lot of it and thinking it over. It is going to be a very long wait for the second half of the series.
Spike: I think Moffat did amazingly well to quickly introduce an entire cadre of allies for the Doctor who were all memorable and fun in their own little way. Madame Vastra (the Silurian) and Jenny (her maid/lover) were probably my favourite, largely down to the really great visual design of Vastra and her hilarious introduction. I also loved the great joke between her and Jenny, where she’s pondering why Jenny puts up with her just before she used her elongated tongue to knock out one of the soldiers. The subsequent look from Jenny nearly had me choking.
I’m massive mark for Cybermen, they’re my favourite old-school monster, despite the fact that even in Old-Who they were only rarely used well. That little sequence at the beginning, along with their five minutes in ‘The Pandorica Opens’, felt more like the Classic Cybermen than any of the stories where they were the headline villain. The shot of Rory essentially delivering an ultimatum, as countless Cyber Ships explode behind him, was a really great way to segue into the titles.
Casey: By the way, and this was pointed out elsewhere, bit of a Thunderbirds reference when Madam Vastra was introduced getting out of her cab.
I love the fact that out of his close allies in the Battle of Demon’s Run, we have only actually met one before and even we didn’t know he had met the Doctor before. Yet they completely sold it as though these had been characters in the Doctor Who Universe for decades.
Even the new enemy of the Headless Monks was sold as just something that had always been there.
Spike: I think the Headless Monks got name-checked in Season Five. The name seemed familiar at least.
Casey: Name checked is one thing, but we have never seen them, yet they felt so organic to everything. It was one of those episodes to get you very excited about the adventures of the Doctor, which makes this upcoming wait even worse.
Ian: This is the first episode in weeks I’ve wanted to watch again. Since Gaiman’s, in fact. I didn’t realize I missed that feeling so much. On the first viewing, I was pretty swept up with how grand it all felt, despite the lack of obvious grandstanding. There were no seas of digital foot-soldiers rolling back as far as the eye can see and that sort of thing. There were, however, flashes of real magic from Moffat, something I’ve found lacking in the show over the last few weeks. Everything from the pulpy production design of the Silurian chick and the guy who looked like a cross between Max Rebo and Boss Nass to the inventive structure and great throwaway lines felt like a return to form. Granted, there was some dodgy acting (take a bow, Colonel Manton of Her Majesty’s Colonial Marines and the Thin Gay One.) But the sheer heart of that climax should win over all but the pickiest of Whovians. Come on, did any of you not want to see Matt Smith go all Eli Roth on Hitler right after the credits started rolling?
Count me in as one of the bunch utterly convinced by the fake old friend relationships, by the way. I half expected to come in here and be regaled with how this or that line was a callback to the episodes they originally appeared in, so it’s testament to how well handled that was that a newb bought it.
Spike: Aw, I liked Colonel Manton. I feel like Moffat wanted to include a shot of someone going “NOOOOOOOOO” in his trailer and wrote an entire part around it.
Kristina: While there were individual scenes and performances that I enjoyed, as a whole, I was underwhelmed. There was so much hype surrounding the reveal of River’s identity that nothing short of “I am Omega, hear me roar” was going to knock my socks off. Having said that, the second that I saw the child’s name, I immediately knew what was going to happen, so that final scene was not a shock in the slightest. It felt like a let-down, because there were so many tantalizing theories floating around out there, and this doesn’t quite measure up. Matt was great, Darvill impresses more and more in each episode, and I’m interested in where they go from here in regards to River’s relationship with the TARDIS Trio, but the reveal itself was a meh for me.
Ben: First off, I did enjoy the episode. Everyone was on top of their game (Smith and Darvill especially), the allies were engaging and enjoyable (brilliant though Silurian adventuress was, my vote goes to the Sontaran nurse), the Headless monks were a splendidly flavourful new villain, the plot twist was well handled and I really liked the way it gave us a sense of the wider setting and universe, which is something the new series has often been weak on.
That said, I do think it had a problem with being a little anticlimactic.
A mid-season climax and split, was, I think, a poorly conceived idea in the first place, and something that would always have been difficult to resolve well – given that limitation, Moffat did a pretty good job – but the problem is still that we got some grand, epic, built up episode that didn’t actually really go anywhere or resolve anything.
I think the real mistake was in that build up- lines like “the battle of Demon’s Run”, “the Doctor will rise higher than ever before” and the title of the episode up were all setting the stage for some grand confrontation that was probably never within the reach of the show’s budget. The problem was that after promises of some huge trap and dreadful confrontation what we actually got was a couple of quick ambushes and one tiny skirmish. How is that the Doctor’s finest hour, or his worst?
They were very enjoyable, well-made ambushes and skirmish, don’t get me wrong, but I think the episode overreached itself a little.
On another note, agreed on making the doctor’s legend his own enemy. It feels like Moffat is actually building up to a deconstruction of and move away from the grand tone of the RTD/Tennant era, which would be no bad thing.
Adam: I disagree that it was being built up as something it couldn’t achieve. I thought they did a great job making this episode feel epic without being able to show huge armies clashing. And that’s exactly what did make it his finest hour–the idea that he just defeated an entire army without spilling a drop of blood. And I guess the lowest point would be the fact that he saw what he had become–or was in danger of becoming–and, if even for a moment, gave up. It’s not so much a universe-shaking confrontation so much as it is a personal and thematic high and low for the Doctor.
I also disagree that ‘Silence in the Library’ was where the writing staff grew too fawning over the Doctor–I thought that line had been crossed way, way earlier. It was practically the defining element of the Russel T. Davies run (remember Last of the Time Lords?), and honestly, it was always something that rankled me as a new viewer. It was the kind of thing you sometimes see in superhero comics–it’s nice when the writer has an enthusiasm for the character, but there’s a danger of turning everything into a big circle jerk, and the RTD version of Who did that on multiple occasions. And I’m the Canadian kid who’s only seen a few episodes of the old show, sitting here thinking,what exactly is so great about this guy? Because it seems like his only real ability is his ability to sell himself. In that sense, I think Moffat was just going along with what Davies had already established. Which is what made the climax here so interesting–it’s like the show was becoming self-aware in a way it hadn’t been, even in Moffat’s first season. It’s also an interesting wrinkle on the theme that’s been bubbling away in the background, that the Doctor is increasingly in danger of giving way to his dark side. I still think we’re a ways from getting the “Doctor goes bad” storyline that was suggested at the end of ‘Waters of Mars’, (and which was hinted at in ‘Amy’s Choice’ and, if I’m not mistaken, some of the later seasons of the original series, with the Valeyard), but the groundwork is definitely there.
Spike: RTD was all about the Jesus-Doctor, but ‘Silence in the Library’ is one of the few times Moffat really went to that particular well.
Ben: Just to clarify: I’ve got no problems with the idea of the Doctor’s high point being defeating an entire army without bloodshed, or his low point facing down the implications of his own life, but instead with the way both were handled- the defeating the entire army was rushed (and done mostly by calling in a bunch of favours, without any more complex plan than “teleport in and surround them surprisingly”), and the ramifications of the man’s life haven’t yet been fully explored properly, or followed through. There’s potential there, but we haven’t seen it yet.
Plus, the Doctor being a negative force was kind of covered in ‘Journey’s End’, even if not particularly well. Couple in the Dream Lord, the Valeyard, and the Colin Baker story where the Doctor went evil after being hit on the head (no, really), and you get the problem that he isn’t actually that unused to staring down his own dark side.
Also, does realising he scares people really top making his own race extinct, as far as low points go?
Spike: I think for the Doctor it does. He predicates his existence on being the better man, a person who inspires and heals. Seeing the fear he strikes into people, and knowing that countless races view the word Doctor as a synomyn for ‘Great Warrior’ is the antithesis of what he wants.
I also think his plan was actually quite well handled, sowing discord between the two factions and essentially using his forces to target them during the confusion. I think the structuring of the episode, with the main ‘battle’ occuring halfway through, helped a lot with that. It genuinely seemed surprising to have the Doctor show up halfway through and start his plan. I also liked Colonel Manton’s speech to his troops, it had a hint of Eli Sunday to it but it gave you an insight into the warped view of the Doctor the clerics had.
Kristina: You know, I have to say that the moment of The Doctor realizing that he scares people did not ring true for me at all. The guy already knows that he frightens people! What did he call that rooftop chat with the Atraxi in ‘The Eleventh Hour’, or the speech to the invading fleet of his enemies in ‘The Pandorica Opens’? Hell, how about every single Doctor Who episode ever? He’s made an art form of scaring the crap out of people with his reputation alone. For Pete’s sake, does he not remember that pretty much every single baddie in the universe banded together to stick him in the Pandorica simply because they were afraid of him?! If he really thinks that someone would not want a weapon to use against him, then he’s the dumbest genius that I’ve ever seen. I know that it was meant to be a big moment for The Doctor, and Smith, bless him, certainly played it as such, but come on, Doctor. This is not brand new information.
Spike: The thing is that these weren’t Daleks or Cybermen or omnicidal beings made out of hard light. These were men and women, normal men and women, who had been driven to this action out of sheer terror. Albeit normal men and women driven to action because of sheer terror who conspire with Ring Wraiths, but still normal men and women.
Adam: It needs to be pointed out that at least the Time Lords had apparently gone very bad and…well, “needed to be wiped out” seems just a TAD harsh, but you can see where the Doctor was coming from, morally. Being told that huge swathes of the universe now see him as a villain, and not in a “yes but they’re bad guys” way but in a way that seems somewhat justified, is a moral blow to the Doctor. Having to destroy your own people is going to be immeasurably painful, but at least you can live with it if you know you’re doing the right thing. If you suddenly realize you may not be doing the right thing anymore…that calls into question everything you’ve done so far. The effect is cumulative.
That said, there’s no denying that Moffat likes to go for the big flourish over something that might make more sense. Something I didn’t get into much last week, but which I kind of wish I had, was the way the Doctor, having spent the last 90 minutes trying to convince everyone that the Flesh was sentient and deserved to be treated respectfully, then dramatically dissolved Flesh-Amy just for the sake of a shocking image. Not only did that contradict everything we’d been told, it didn’t even make sense from perspective of rescuing Amy–wouldn’t you want to keep Flesh-Amy around so that you could, say, trace the signal back to its origin point? Add to that the outcry about the Doctor supposedly committing genocide against the Silence (which I DON’T agree is what happened, for the record) and then the Doctor apparently blowing up Cybermen en masse for no reason and then revealing himself under the hood for the sake of a dramatic entrance, and you get a guy who seems more intent on looking cool–like a bow tie–than on being the supposedly super-smart, ultra-moral guy he is. Like I say, this episode dealt with that somewhat satisfactorily by raising the issue of how the Doctor may be drifting from the path, but I’d like to see them go a lot further.
I think SF these days has a tendency to go for the “geek-out” rather than the intelligent, thoughtful, innovative and complex. Moffat’s Who has taken some satisfying steps towards the latter, which is why I wish he’d get over his need to turn the Doctor into a badass action hero who kills with a quip.
Ian: Adam, you’ve just shown me that the most obvious analogy for my feelings on the guy has been under my nose the whole time: Steven Moffat is the Eddie Van Halen of Doctor Who writers. He can shred like nobody’s business, but he sometimes lets his chops go to his head, to the detriment of the work. He needs to jam with the Kim Deal of his peers… whoever that may be.
Spike: I think with the ‘ganger-Amy they had to ‘deal’ with her to set up the finale. But I think they made it quite clear that Amy’s ‘ganger was different from the cloned-flesh, in that it was literally an avatar rather than having any actual form of sentience itself. It’s a little muddy when you consider how the Doctor reacted to the vat of flesh, but I think the episode went to great pains to establish the Amy in the TARDIS as a vehicle of sorts for Amy’s consciousness, rather than being its own thing.
Adam: No, they made it clear that the Flesh was sentient and feeling even when it was controlled by other people. That was a huge part of what the episode was about. I don’t want to derail, but that was a bit of sloppy writing that bothered me, and it was in the service of one of those “dum dum DUM” moments that I’m talking about.
Ben: Yeah, that was a bit of a flaw. The only way I can see to justify it is that the Doctor soniced the flesh back to its unprocessed state rather than, say, burning it to death in an acid vat.
Spike: Yeah, I took that more as the Doctor turning off the link between Amy and her ‘ganger, so that they could rescue her without Kovarian and her goons knowing what she was up to.
Adam: I’ll accept that he didn’t actually KILL the flesh, so it’s sort of, kind of, justifiable, but when they make a big deal earlier about a pile of abandoned flesh and how heartless the humans are for treating it this way, I think they really ought to show the Doctor scooping it up and putting it in a jar or something, at least. I’ll just assume that happened off-screen.
Ben: We haven’t actually covered the big reveal yet, much, have we?
In one way, it seemed oddly unsurprising for Moffat- I’d half-guessed a while ago that River might be Pond Jr just because it would neatly tie up both loose ends.
Either way, it creates one hell of a confusing timeline: Melody Pond gets conceived in the time vortex, born under the supervision of the futuristic militant church on a secret asteroid base, handed over to the Silence and raised in 1960s America inside some bizarre mechanical spacesuit in a creepy orphanage, escapes and regenerates after encountering her own pregnant mother, and at some point travels back to the 51st century to get a doctorate in archeology and become a roving adventuress.
I’d bet at least a few viewers are going to be confused by the running plot, right now, which brings me back to a slight criticism I’ve been making all this series: while I’m enjoying Moffat’s complex storytelling (which is definitely new for the series), I’m not sure all viewers will be. Doctor Who isn’t some geek-audience-specific genre show, it’s a mainstream family program (at least here in the UK), and its continued survival kind of relies on that.
Ian: I think it’s fair to say I’m one of the viewers who’s felt the narrative multi-tasking is irksome occasionally, Ben (I didn’t get myself “expelled” from the gang in Spike’s excerpt last time for nothing!) It’s not irritating to me at times because I’m flummoxed about what’s happening though; I’m irritated because it feels like Moffat and co are biting off more than their collective mouth can chew. That’s not the nicest possible way I could have said that, but it is the shortest and I thought I’d give Spike a hand in the editing this week by opting for brevity. Maybe I can get my gang membership reinstated?
Adam: What do you mean by biting off more than they can chew? I thought this episode was a lot more straightforward than the ‘Day of the Moon’ two-parter, and actually sorts out some of the confusing elements of that episode.
Ian: I agree with you about this episode 100%. It certainly did provide a satisfying mid-season climax and a sense of finality on certain matters. What I mean about biting off more than they can chew is how I’ve got the feeling on more than a few occasions this season that there are a lot of balls being juggled all at once. That is to say, I’m aware as a viewer that I’m watching balls being juggled. I’m aware that all this work is being carried out in the same way a viewer is aware of on the nose dialogue or a transparent theme. I admire how the idea has been to keep all these plates spinning even if it’s one of those “week off from the day job” standalone episodes, but I’m not entirely convinced they pulled it off the way some people seem to think because all that work planting obvious foreshadowing cues and so on didn’t excite me terribly in the moment. Instead, it sort of sucked me out of whatever was taking place at the time. The “GO FASTER, MAX! REACH OVER THE TOP!” pace I’ve criticized before has a big part to play in this, too. The easy fix would be a few episodes where Moffat and his writing staff really let their hair down and stop trying to impress everybody all the time; we know they can do the whiz bang stuff. In spades. I’d like to see them know when to take a breath, smell a flower, consider the joy of life. I’m deliberately making a playful Ed Wood homage there, but hopefully I’m making sense.
Casey: One of the thing’s I thought was interesting is in a way this gives Moffat and the other writers a way to bring in River Song to more adventures and get around the problem of an aging actor by having her show up in other regenerations. We don’t even know how many regenerations the Doctor and River Song have had adventures together (she has said she keeps pictures of all his face).
While I think many of us had figured out who River Song was, I did really enjoy the reveal. And the question of is she his wife or not is still hanging out there as well. Part of me though really wish we didn’t know how it will end for her. I can’t quite put a word on it yet the feeling I have knowing how it ends for the character.
Spike: I just think it makes River’s rather unassuming death kind of weirdly tragic. With each episode we see she’s become this bigger and more vivacious character, but we know that she’s essentially going to get electrocuted and then be subjected to some weird nightmare scenario where her brain is uploaded onto a library database for untold millennia.
Adam: But she’ll be happy!
I actually thought that was one of the cool things about ‘Silence in the Library’, the fact that they were setting her up as this major figure from the Doctor’s life, but he and the audience had no idea who she was. When it became clear that she’d be coming back (they could easily have copped out and never showed her again), I started to feel the weight of upcoming tragedy. It’s a really interesting technique, to kill off a character and then make us feel for them retroactively–the movie Memento did some similar storytelling. Also, the fact that River is the Impossible Astronaut actually cleans things up a bit–instead of two characters with a confusing and convoluted timeline to follow, there’s really just one.
To which I have to add, I really hope the show doesn’t feel the need to dumb down what Moffat’s been doing to reach a mass audience. I’m of the belief that audiences aren’t as idiotic as both TV executives and certain branches of geekdom believe them to be. But even if they were, I think Doctor Who has been well established as an idiosyncratic, geeky show, and anyone watching has to know what they’re getting into. Idiosyncratic geeks need something to watch, too!
Ben: Again, just to clarify: in this country, the show’s always been a children’s/family show first and foremost, not an adult drama like Lost and its ilk. (The geeky image really picked up in the 90s when it wasn’t airing, as the fans were the only ones talking about it.) At present, it’s mainstream in the UK in a way similar to Star Wars in the US. Just relying on and playing to the fans rather than attracting new viewers was part of what killed the program off in the 80s.
I’m all in favour of intelligent drama, don’t get me wrong, but my own family have been finding this year’s plotting confusing, and they’re more used to this kind of thing than a lot of the target audience.
Adam: Didn’t Douglas Adams say of the show, back when he was writing it, that “we try to make it simple enough for the adults and clever enough for the children”? I can easily accept people (kids or adults) are having trouble following the plot–I certainly had trouble following everything that happened in ‘Day of the Moon’ –but that doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Being borne along by a confusing story that only gradually starts to make sense can be a hook for a series, as Lost showed us recently, or Twin Peaks did back in the day. It’s not that I can’t see people being turned off by this stuff, but I’m getting sick of entertainment being cowardly in this regard–TV should be challenging the audience, even the mainstream audience. If I’m an executive, sure, I want to make piles of money, but I’m not an executive. I’m a TV watcher. Why am I going to argue “well, the show had to dumb itself down to get ratings”? I don’t care about ratings. I care about getting a good show. And the two things aren’t mutually exclusive.
Ben: Neither Lost or Twin Peaks included children in their target audience, though, and that does make a difference- children can accept complex and intelligent ideas like no-one’s business, but they tend to have a real problem with convoluted plotting. I suppose I just think that the show can be smart without being quite this complex- again, I enjoy it, but I’m worried others don’t.
Adam: I think kids are more likely to be drawn to complexity, even if they don’t understand it. There’s a reason “geeky” things often overlap with kid’s entertainment–kids have the time to devote to obsessing over shows, and they’re still actively trying to make sense of the world, whereas adults might be too busy paying the mortgage or curing cancer to devote that much effort to untangling a TV show. As for ratings and popularity…doesn’t BBC operate on a whole other level in regards to that stuff? And despite the earlier outcry over the supposedly lower ratings for the premiere, didn’t that turn out to be more of a function of people’s increasing ability to download shows later?
Gah, whatever. All I know is, I can only argue for what I want the show to be. I feel like there are few enough TV shows that cater to my interests…everything else is starting to feel kind of samey, and it’s usually for the sake of winning over a bigger audience. I certainly like the show better now than when it was trying to be Time-Travelling Twilight in the Tennant era. If Moffat’s Doctor Who is willing to move away from that, I’m personally going to applaud it, regardless of what the mass audience thinks.
Anyway, enough of my blathering! Do we think that there might be some stuff coming up that relates to the Doctor’s pre-existing family–either his granddaughter or his “daughter”?
Ben: We’ve already had a reference to the Doctor’s existing family in the RTD era, and I’m inclined to think this was just that- Susan (his granddaughter) hasn’t been seen on the show since 1983, and would be a bit off an odd choice to bring back.
Moffat’s made it clear enough in interviews that he was never a fan of the Time Lords as anything other than a mystery off-screen presence (as they were in the 60s era), and bringing the Doctor’s relations back wouldn’t really fit with that.
I’d be more than happy to be proved wrong, though- the “last of his kind” thing has got a bit overplayed by now (even if nicely subverted this week, with the false lead into Rory), and I’d like to see Time Lord society back properly, in all its pompous, stuffy dullness, as an antidote to the angst of the RTD bits.
Spike: I think the Time Lords work better as vague antagonists more than anything else, as such the idea of bringing them back hinges on how you would deal with them as villains. The old series had them as essentially a society of bureaucrats, with treachery and backstabbing galore occurring behind the scenes. The New-Who Time Lords are essentially furious gods.
Ben: I found the idea of an alien race who were pretty much the most advanced in the universe (Osirins were dead, Daemons were dead, Eternals were trapped, and Kronos and the Guardians were singular beings) being bureaucrats more interesting, and more unique to the show, than being gods, I have to admit.
Spike: The Time Lords needed to be bureaucrats because the Doctor, at the time, was something of an anti-authoritarian. Essentially they contrasted Baker’s humanism and general wildness against the rigid establishment.
I’m not sure how you could set up the Time Lords now, other than having them all be representative of the Doctor’s fury or be a bunch of weird hippies with no anger issues whatsoever. Whatever the case The Doctor has to be an outsider to his people, the death of all of them was just a natural extension of that.
Adam: I agree the Time Lords are more interesting dead, or off-screen, or whatever, but there’s still room for specific Time Lords to be out there, as was hinted in ‘The Doctor’s Wife’. Isn’t there a character called The Meddling Monk, who’s a Time Lord?
Spike: Ah, the Meddling Monk. He was always kind of a proto-Master, although less suave and more mercenary. A character like The Monk would be a great antagonist for modern-Who actually, a nice counterpart to the Doctor and Companions as time-tourists.
Adam: And if we’re talking about the Doctor’s family specifically, that’s a whole different ball of wax. (Though I had no idea Susan ever showed up on the show past the 60s! Did they explain the Doctor’s family better then?) After all, if River IS the Doctor’s wife, then she could easily be Susan’s grandmother as well. The fact that they’ve been calling back to the Hartnell era here and there could be setting this up…maybe I’m overthinking this, but I do know the Doctor has a granddaughter, and it seems like the kind of thing that ought to come up now and then.
Spike: The continuity of Doctor Who is akin to a comic book, in that different writers have layered stuff onto it with each successive season. Even core conceptual stuff like Regeneration wasn’t really formalised until Baker’s era. I think RTD and Moffat have done a great job of streamlining the bulk of the show’s mythology and picking out what worked and what didn’t work.
Casey: I have no desire to see the return of the Time Lord race (although having the Daleks somehow out and about kind of takes away, but at the same time make his end to the Time War tragic). That said, it would still be interesting to see how this version of the Doctor deals with someone from his own race who isn’t insane like The Master. I really do look forward to what Moffat and the other writers come up with for explaining more of River Song.
I keep going back to his whole exchange with River Song and I really love what the two of them brought there. It is such a fun and interesting play between the two characters and actors, bringing in a lot of the traits the two actors have added to these characters from the Doctor’s Old/Young dynamic to River’s seemingly flighty and flirtiness.
So, does the Doctor tell Amy and Rory how it ends for River? And really, how do Amy and Rory stick around after all of this once they get the baby back (which I am not sure they will given what River says about the Doctor “raising her”).
Kristina: I don’t see them sticking around after the season. Even if they get the baby back, losing her is the wake-up call that they needed to get them out of the TARDIS. It’s one thing to run around and risk your own neck with The Doctor, but to see your child suffer as a result is just too much. Their relationship with The Doctor is never going to be the same after this. Even before the River reveal, there was a moment where The Doctor moves to comfort Amy after her baby has turned into yogurt, and she recoils from him. Even when Amy has been at her most distressed, The Doctor has always been able to provide some sort of comfort, and Amy has never passed on a hug from him.. He’s always been her best friend, one of her “boys”. He’s always been tactile with hugs and forehead kisses. He’s all over her with hugs earlier in this episode. But in that moment, she can’t even bear to have him touch her. He’s let her down when she needed him most, and it shows on both of their faces. Even though Amy says “I know” when told that it’s not The Doctor’s fault, you have to know that she doesn’t truly believe that. The child was taken from her because of him. I am interested in seeing how Amy and Rory behave toward River from here on out, knowing who she is. If we don’t get a scene of Rory going all protective poppa on The Doctor, I’ll be pretty bummed. No way is Rory going to approve of that relationship. And The Doctor would be smart to keep the circumstances of River’s death to himself, because I doubt that Amy and Rory would ever be able to forgive him.
Adam: Sad to say, it does sort of look like we’ll be losing Amy and Rory at the end of this season…I don’t think they’re going to die, mind you, but they may end up trapped somewhere without their baby.
Casey: Yeah, I see this as the beginning of the end for these companions. Maybe the next is young River Song, learning to live as a Time Lord. Or we get someone new next season. But, I don’t see the Ponds wanting to continue doing this after losing their child.
Adam: Well, we know they’re not going to “lose” her, since she lives…but the Doctor raising River, that’s kind of icky given where they end up. I’d be OK with it if he only has brief encounters with her in her childhood form, but if the Doctor’s her adoptive dad…ick. (I just looked over the scenes with River, and I don’t see her saying that the Doctor raised her, though. Am I missing something?)
Casey: River says, “and he will care for her whatever it takes.” Not sure if that means he raises her or if he has someone else raise her, but for some reason to me it sounds like the Ponds don’t. I could be reading too much into that, but that was the vibe I got: that River is raised by someone other than Amy and Rory.
Spike: Well to our knowledge Melody was raised in that creepy Orphanage before being melded into the astronaut suit. I’m assuming that we’re not going to see Melody’s childhood until after the events of Day of the Moon.
Kristina: Assuming that River has some interaction with The Doctor as a young girl, she is absolutely her mother’s daughter. She hangs out with him as a kid and grows up to snog him senseless? Sounds like a Pond woman to me.
Adam: As for River not being able to join them–that was because she couldn’t be in the same place and time as the baby version of her, right? I remember there being some talk of that being a rule, except it seems like the show has broken that rule a lot…
Spike: Kazran was all about the feeling up of his past-selves in the Christmas Special, so I don’t think Doctor Who ascribes to the Timecop laws of temporal fusion. I think that Demon’s Run is a fixed point of time for River and that she knows that it needs to happen.
Ian: I wish you could all hear how much I just laughed at that Timecop reference.
Ben: Actually, aside from the Christmas Special, Doctor Who has stuck pretty closely to that rule- see Rose and her baby self in father’s day, or the two screwdrivers in last year’s finale (or, of course, Mawdryn Undead, the 80s story that came up with the idea in the show in the first place).
And yes, I’m sure the Ponds are going, partly because companions never almost never last more than a couple of years.
Adam: Arthur Darvill. Awesome, yes? This seems to be the season of Taking Rory Seriously.
Spike: Seriously. My poor Emasculation Matrix exploded after these two episodes.
Casey: Darvill has so much cool and swagger in seems in person, so it is nice to see more of that coming out in Rory. Seriously, I love his entrance in this. I almost wonder if he told the Doctor what to do.
I would have liked though to have seen the idea of The Last Centurion to have also scared the Clerics since it is a very obscure Christian myth.
I also liked that we see all sides of Rory in this, from badass Centurion to goofy loving husband to the Nurse trying to help someone.
Ian: I feel like it’s early 2005, Rory is The Arctic Monkeys, and I’m the one telling everyone “you don’t understand, this is great stuff!” I couldn’t be happier for Darvill to be getting the recognition I always thought he deserved, even when some people still thought he was just a simpering wuss running after Amy in ‘The Eleventh Hour’. And what better way to see him complete his transformation into the alternative fan’s favourite than the best pre-credit sequence of the season. Even though it had shades of Moffat’s “go for the jugular” approach Adam mentioned earlier, it gets a pass on sheer brass alone; I think it’s safe to say that’s one of those “if you didn’t like this, you’re watching the wrong show” moments.
Casey: Every time I see Darvill in some behind the scenes interview or press piece all I can think is: when is he going to get his own badass show to do. And really it has to be coming. Others out there have got to be seeing what we see. Which is one more reason I see the Ponds going off.
Ian: Just a quick question to offset all this heavier thematic discussion: was anyone else bothered by Madame’s eye-patch? Back when she was still being streamed FMV style from 1991, she had an excuse to look cheap, but even when she was actually there, “in the flesh”, it still looked like she was wearing tinfoil like a cucumber over her eye… in one of the most expensive episodes of the series so far! I only jest because I love, but seriously it’s distracting when stuff like that gets by in an otherwise slick looking episode (the Cybermen stuff at the start was delicious.)
Spike: Why did she even have an eyepatch, and why would they superglue it to her? Even if they can’t replace eyes in the 41st Century surely they have string? Unless she’s like some Space Jehovah Witness. God, could you imagine being a Jehovah’s Witness in the 41st Century? Two Millennia of waiting for God to rapture the shit out of everything.
Casey: The sets don’t look like they are made of balsa wood, so I am good. But yeah, that Cyberman opening scene looked great.
Adam: A Doctor Who episode? Looking cheap?!? The hell you say!
I’m surprised to learn this episode was particularly expensive, given the falling budget this show has received. Honestly, though, I think that might be something the show needs. Like I say above, I like my SF to be more cerebral, and when you can blow up the universe on a regular basis you might not be as inclined to be as tight and clever with your writing. The old show kept viewers enthralled for years and developed a passionate fan-base with a budget of a few dollars and the contents of a broom closet, seemingly. Some of the best episodes of the new show, like ‘Blink’, ‘Midnight’, and ‘The Lodger’ were all derived from restrictive budget conditions and a lack of resources. Low budgets often make for more creativity and freedom. I like splashy action sequences and dazzling effects as much as the next guy, but that’s not really what this show’s about, as impressive as the visuals have become in the last year or two. It might be interesting to see the show doing without that particular crutch for a while.
Ian: I’m not for a second saying I think the show should forgo sophisticated plotting and more ambitious storytelling in favour of empty-headed spectacle. And I appreciate the budget issue enough to keep my expectations realistic – I’ve even made very vocal allowances for it before. I’m simply saying that I find it odd how there can be effects and cinematography this good alongside makeup/wardrobe I’d find unacceptable in a school play.
Casey: So where does it go from here? I understand doing the short season, but not sure I am happy with it. I said it above, it is going to be a long wait for the end of the season, and really that is how I see this – as one season.
The Doctor said he knows where to find their daughter. And you have to love the title just left hanging there.
Spike: Well the second half of the season still has to deal with the fact that The Doctor is due to get Mozambique Drilled in 200 years or so. But I reckon the second half of the season is largely going to be about realising just what Melody is (by the by, did anyone else think her reaction to the TARDIS implies that she’s designed to hate everything about the Doctor) and trying to deal with it. There’s a reason that the name River Song can make a Dalek cower just as much as the Oncoming Storm.
Ben: Overall, then, a little muddled in concept due to the very idea of a mid-season climax, but well-executed nonetheless, and up to Moffat’s usual high standards of plotting. I have a suspicion, though, that where it takes us next will be much more interesting.