Monday, 3 November 2014

Death / Becomes Her

Overall I think I've probably taken a fairly critical tone when evaluating this current series of Doctor Who. Not that I haven't been enjoying it overall, but there have also been quite a few issues that have niggled me and thus I've felt compelled to address.

After all, blogging is basically the single player version of conversation.

But after a rough start and the odd dip, the series has seemed to be getting better over time. And now all of a sudden we've reached the climax. What's interesting here is that whilst, like much of the preceding episodes, the plot is very much founded on things that have gone before, they've finally worked out how to take all that nostalgia and remix it into something that not only feels fresh and exciting, but that actually seems to be making some sort of logical sense.

Which, I have to admit, is not something I was actually anticipating.

See, the worry at the back of my mind has always been with this overarching plot of the afterlife being an actual thing. There's not really many ways you can square a mystical mumbo-jumbo concept such as souls with a (tentatively) rationalistic science fiction type setting that really isn't meant to do magic.

So credit where credit is due. Maybe all that ripping off old episodes was simply misdirection, to ensure that I was thinking of everything EXCEPT the Deadly Assassin.

So I guess you could say I was MISSing the obvious.

Obviously you can upload dying minds to the matrix. And then suddenly the presence of the Cybermen makes perfect sense. None of this silly wibbling Army Of Ghosts nonsense where they only start moving like actual Cybermen at the last minute. Here we have them hiding in plain sight in a new and interesting way. Although I admit that a cyclopean tomb full of tanks of liquid containing something creepy seems oddly familiar now that I come to think of it.

Although I could be MISStaken I suppose.

What is really great of course is that the way the skeletons in the tanks move is, in hindsight once the big reveal happens, entirely consistent with Cyber behavior. So you have a lot of really good design work subtly hinting at what's coming up, which works really well. I gotta admit that the bit when the 3W logo shape is revealed for what it really is brought a smile to my face. I didn't spot that at all.

Of course the big thing that we really need to talk about is the shock reveal of the major villains true identity. I mean, I knew Clara was a bit of bitch, but I didn't quite expect that she'd kill Danny Pink before the main titles had even started.

You may recall that I've been anticipating Dannys death for a while now. He's way to much of a nice guy not to be horribly doomed. But this isn't quite what I was anticipating at all. Which is a good thing by the way.

I do hope I'm not MISSattributing the quote.

So this gives us two important things. First it quite obviously drives the plot and gives us a nice, personal emotional hook beyond the standard world saving fare. And secondly it gives us yet more proof of how much of a horrible person Clara really is.

Think about. That fatal phone call she was making. What she REALLY leading up to? Because she certainly was going out of her way to make it sound as serious as possible. A super serious conversation that she, let us not forget, hasn't got the stomach to actually have face to face. Just think about what self centred cow she's been during the other episodes, how she keeps lying and treating him badly. That sounded very much like the start of an "I'm about to ruin your life forever" type conversation.

I'm not saying it WAS mind you. Just that she was distinctly framing it that way. Probably as part of some ham handed attempt at emotional manipulation or something.

Is it any wonder the poor boy wanders out into traffic? And then there's her conviction that SHE is owed retribution. Not that Mr Pink deserves to live. Oh no. That she is owed her trophy boyfriend all neat and pretty and sat in his cage of lies and emotional blackmail, not smeared across the pavement.

Again, I'm certainly over-analysing this and reading WAY to much into things. It's just that I've never particularly cared for Clara as a character, but somehow I really like Danny. I don't see what they're relationship is based on to be honest. I mean, what, does she do ass to mouth or something?

And more to the point, does anybody really believe he has any fetish so drastic it'd compel him to stay with that bundle of crazy?

So, as good as the threatening scene is, it is undermined by two significant factors. Firstly of course is the obvious fact that Clara may SAY she loves him, but we never actually get to see her ACT like it. Which does rather undercut the drama of being prepared to throw everything away for the one you love. Secondly, well....

Losing the key is not really much of a threat when you can open the doors simply with a snap of the fingers. Still, I appreciate the attempt at an emotional breakdown, even coming from a character I'm not 100% sure actually HAS human emotions. Still, we can always head off to the land of fan-fiction where Danny and Rory are no doubt happily married. It's funny really, who would have thought that Steven Moffats greatest contribution to Doctor Who would have been BOYFRIENDS?

I really hate to be so consistently down on Clara as a character, I just don't think she's particularly well written. We simply don't get shown enough of her actually displaying any worthwhile characteristics. We're just told she apparently has them. I guess that's what they call ludonarrative dissonance.

Of course there is one other big thing that needs to be discussed. The thing that we all kinda knew was coming. The return of The Master, albeit in perhaps the least bearded incarnation yet.

Seriously, how can you even evil without a beard?

Now, what makes this particular casting choice interesting is that it represents an cunning compromise for all those "should the Doctor be a woman?" debates that always crop up around a regeneration. Now, I'm quite firmly in favour of the Doctor maintaining his masculinity for several reasons, not least because I simply don't think such a change would be handled in anything approaching an appropriate manner. But curiously I'm quite in favour of this new female Master. I think perhaps because she's had the simple advantage of giving us a glimpse that she could make for a really good Master BEFORE it was revealed who she really was. Which is helpful in letting us put aside our natural biases. Of course, I'm sure that the fact it's an EVIL character whose swapping genders raises all sorts of potential issues as well. After all, whilst the woman Doctor debate is normally framed in terms of female empowerment you don't often see it being debated from the point of view of the women to whom it would be most important. I.E. Trans women. This is kinda why I feel that any gender transition on the part of the Doctor needs to be handled with a little more sensitivity than the inevitable joke about having boobs. But what's important about doing this with the Master is that it sets the stage for such potential future developments. Both by acclimatizing the audience to the idea as well as by canonising the notion that Time Lords can swap gender in manner that's pretty hard to ignore.

I mean, we all know what sailors are like.

So yeah, that's all interesting in a serious issues kind of way, as well as in a character dynamic sort of way. Quite what it's doing the fan fiction community is a question probably best left unanswered until someone actually invents mind-bleach.

Really, I think the Master coming back was kind of inevitable for the 12th Doctor. For pretty much the same reasons that he worked so well with the 3rd Doctor. When you have this somewhat acerbic and short tempered hero the best way to show that up is with a villain who is very smooth, debonair and homicidally crazy. Would you rather they were nice and killed you, or nasty but saved your life? It's a great dynamic for this sort of Doctor to have. The contrast between the face that's shown to the world and what's going on underneath and all that.

Also, isn't odd how the best cliffhangers in the modern series seem to be the ones where the Master shows up?

Although it would be nice if certain incarnations had lasted more than 5 minutes.

So yeah, it's taken a while, but things are really coming together for this latest era of Doctor Who. I'm looking forward to seeing how this all comes together, and after that I'm especially looking forward to what happens to what happens when they get rid of Clara.

Ye gods, I'm such a HATER.