Sunday, November 23, 2014

It's A Thing: Kill the Moon

This story needs more crystals.
Moffat-Era Tropes: "The Ark in Space" reference (Bennett oscillator); alien that appears malevolent but actually just wants to be loved; traveling in the Tardis as some kind of emotional therapy for needy children; fairy-tale presented as (really preposterous) science; Timey-wimey (the return of the “Pyramids of Mars” idea of events being in flux); female military types who speak in monotones; skeleton in a space suit; “Everybody lives!” speech from the Doctor; sour grouch regaining an appreciation of the beauty of life thanks to the Doctor's intervention. It's not a Moffat Trope, but it's worth pointing out that the design of the mites is awfully close to that of the red-striped giant spider on the 1978 edition of the Target novelisation of “Doctor Who and the Planet of the Spiders.”

A Thing in a Thing: A space chicken in the moon.

The Doctor is A: Man who normally helps. At least, that's what Clara says.

The Master Is A: voiding this week. Evidently the sheer level of Science Fail is too much for her.

Clara Lies About: Courtney being special. Fact is, Courtney, however important she may be to the people around her, is nonetheless one of several billion human beings, and, even if she winds up as Dictator of the Solar System, she will be forgotten within a few thousand years of her death. Telling her she's special is just catering to some kind of entitlement mentality at best, and implying that some humans are superior to others at worst.

Reasons Clara Should Drop Danny Like A Hot Potato: Once again, it's all about him: he can't just listen sympathetically to Clara, he has to wrench the conversation round to being about him leaving the army.

Child Count: 28 (13 in the opening scene, 12 in the closing scene, Courtney, and two space-chicken embryos).

The Thick of It: The Doctor tells off Lundvik for swearing in front of children.

It's Actually About: Where to begin? It's about how if the majority votes for something you disagree with, you go ahead and do what you want anyway (a lesson Courtney is sure to take with her into the Oval Office); it's about how kids need to be told they're special, otherwise they'll start drinking White Lightning; it's about how the potential life of a single space-chicken is more important than the actual lives of billions of humans; it's about the Doctor being an arrogant manipulative bastard to Clara. Take your pick.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

It's A Thing: The Caretaker

Moffat-Era Tropes: Troughton-era references (the Doctor offers to introduce Clara to fish people, and later paraphrases the Doctor's “up or down, I don't care which” speech from “The Power of the Daleks”). Timey-wimey (Clara fitting her adventures with the Doctor around her dates with Danny). Doctor Who as romcom. River Song is mentioned. Bow ties are still cool. Companion with a boyfriend who is jealous of the Doctor. The Doctor's antagonistic relationship with Danny appears to have been lifted wholesale from the RTD era, namely Eccleston's antagonistic relationship with Mickey Smith.

A Thing in a Thing: An alien robot killing machine in a school.

The Doctor is A: Caretaker. Also Clara's Space Dad.

The Master Is A: bit busy today.

This machine kills caretakers.
Clara Lies About: Her relationship with the Doctor, both indirectly (in not telling Danny what she's up to) and directly when she pretends she doesn't know the new caretaker, and when she tries to convince Danny she and the Doctor are just rehearsing a play. She also doesn't tell the Doctor that she's dating Danny, or that she's smuggled him into the Tardis using the invisibility watch.

Reasons Clara Should Drop Danny Like A Hot Potato: Because he can't handle the idea that she's a time traveler, because it's always all about him, because it doesn't really seem to occur to him that Clara lying to him might have been justified (as it's not easy to explain a lifestyle like hers to non-time-travelers) rather than some kind of personal slight, and because he's a complete jerk about the Doctor, particularly with his passive-aggressive “I'm a soldier and he's an officer” bit. The Doctor's right; he's not good enough for her.

Child Count: Between 41 and 147 (17 outside Coal Hill, and 6 more as Clara and Danny go into the school; 12 in the act one establishing shot; 7 as Danny and Clara discuss Smith; 2 are moved on by the policeman in the shopping street; 15 in Clara's English class; 41 as Clara goes from her class to the school garden; 5 when Clara tells the two boys off for playing football on the garden chessboard; 19 when Clara bumps into Danny after her conversation with the Doctor; 20 on the wide establishing shot of the school before Clara gives Danny the watch; 3 at the parents' evening). Courtney (alluded to in “Listen”) is finally identified as the cheeky teenager with the Afro seen in Clara's flashback in “Deep Breath” and when Danny visits the school office in “Inside the Dalek”.

The Thick of It: Chris Addison is in the Nethersphere.

It's Actually About: Doctor Who changing from a wacky romcom about two pretty boys vying for the attention of a pretty girl, to one about a pretty boy and a pretty girl trying to get together despite the efforts of her crotchety older relative.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

It's A Thing: Time Heist

(with thanks to Penny Goodman)

Moffat-Era Tropes: Timey-Wimey. Businesswomen named Miss or Madame Something-or-Other with fetishistically severe suits, hairstyles and eyewear. Monster that looks fierce but actually wants to be loved. Creatures or accessories which induce memory loss. “Don't Think”. One-off character sacrificing themselves to save the Doctor or companion despite only having met them a few hours earlier. People gabbling out explanations at top speed.

A Thing in a Thing: A monster in a bank vault.

Some call him a butcher.
The Doctor is A: ...n Architect. Also, overbearing, manipulative, likes to think he's very clever, and hates himself.

The Master Is A: Woman in a shop, who has the Doctor's private phone number.

Clara Lies About: Not directly, but Psi does note that she's good at making excuses for the Doctor's behaviour. And she keeps her mind blank so the Teller doesn't detect her guilt, which is a sort of lie.

Reasons Clara Should Drop Danny Like A Hot Potato: Because he's angling for another date, apparently completely oblivious to the fact that he acted like an idiot on the first one.

Child Count: One.

The Thick of It: "Shuttity up, up, UP!"

It's Actually About: Atoning for past misdeeds, I suppose, though in this case it's actually getting someone else to do the actual work of atoning for it.

It's A Thing: Listen

Guess what, we found him.
Moffat-Era Tropes: Doggerel. Childhood fears. Things under the bed. “Don't blink”-style catchphrase. People being surrounded by beings they can't actually perceive. Timey-wimey. Visiting a regular character when they are a child. Monsters under the bed. The idea that humans all share some kind of collective, unconscious, defense mechanism against a particular being. Orphanages. Agism about the Doctor's current appearance from Clara, and slights against Clara's current appearance from the Doctor. Allusions to the Doctor having been a parent. Clara saving the Doctor by having a conversation with his past self. Scottish jokes. Barns on Gallifrey.

A Thing in a Thing: A monster under the bed.

The Doctor is A: fraid.

The Master Is A: bsent.

Clara Lies About: How she knows Danny's real name is “Rupert”. She also lies by omission in not telling him what's actually going on between her and the Doctor at the same time as she's on her date, and by not telling the Doctor what she suspects about her relationship to Orson.

Reasons Clara Should Drop Danny Like A Hot Potato: Because he continually interprets innocent remarks as some kind of slight on his war record, because he's self-righteous as all get out, because he's far too touchy about the fact that his real name is “Rupert,” because his dialogue other than that is a continuous stream of double-entendres, because he doesn't “do weird”, and because if she doesn't dump him, the future will have Orson. And only she will be to blame.

Child Count: Two (or three, if the Thing In Danny's room is really another child playing a prank).

The Thick of It: The Doctor masquerades as a government inspector.

It's Actually About: The benefits of the fear response. And the fact that sometimes, the monsters really are all in your head.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

It's A Thing: Robot of Sherwood

Moffat-Era Tropes: Having Mark Gatiss write a story full of Gatiss' own set of tropes. An episode where the Doctor and companion walk into some sort of mythical scenario (e.g. pirates) and the companion promptly starts playing up to it while the Doctor sulks about being sceptical. Banter. People gabbling things out far too fast. Scottish jokes. Patrick Troughton references. Robots fixing a spaceship with whatever they have to hand.

A Thing in a Thing: A robot in Sherwood. Actually several robots and a cyborg.

The Doctor is A: Bony rascal.

The Master Is A: ...way this episode. Probably watching the other channel.

Clara Lies About: Her story to the Sheriff of Nottingham, as she tells him later.

More realistic than this.
Reasons Clara Should Drop Danny Like A Hot Potato: Because she's having a little fling on the side with Robin Hood.

Child Count: None, but there's a dwarf to make up for it.

The Thick of It: The Doctor is in a permanent strop, but then again, confronted with the scenario he's in, any sane person would be.

It's Actually About:, seriously, what is it about? Robin Hood et al. Shouldn't exist in the form they do here, for countless reasons (just look up “Robin Hood” on Wikipedia and count the anachronisms in this story), and yet there's no indication that this is the Land of Fiction, or a case of people being mentally conditioned as in “The Next Doctor”, or any of the rationales the Doctor suggests for this ridiculous setup (Miniscope, theme park, etc.), or any connection with the Master and her virtual world either. There's no explanation for the warm climate or the general unreality of the scenario. There's an exchange at the end about people needing their heroes to be larger than life, but then again, since the heroes in this story are larger than life, there's no Firefly-style message about the reality of heroism versus the fiction, either. So all I can say is, it's about 49 minutes long.

It's a Thing: Inside the Dalek

Moffat-Era Tropes: Medical nanobots (or nanopeople and antibodies, here). Ripping off the Troughton Era (here, “The Evil of the Daleks”). Giving a Dalek or Cyberman a cutesy nickname. The Doctor and companion sliding into a creature's digestive system. Clara talks the Doctor out of a destructive frame of mind. The Doctor defeats something by talking at it, and has a big exultant speech about how beautiful and wonderful the universe is.

The last time someone put a human in
 a Dalek it did not end well.
A Thing in a Thing: A group of humans in a Dalek.

The Doctor is A: Good Dalek.

The Master Is A: Tea-drinker and baking enthusiast.

Clara Lies About: She's actually honest this episode. Enjoy it, it won't last.

Reasons Clara Should Drop Danny Like A Hot Potato: He's only just appeared, and he's already showing his colours as a passive-aggressive type who's got way too many ambivalent issues about his military career.

Child Count: Between 13 and 41 (we see 10 in the cadets' corps, 3 hanging around the school office, 16 in Danny's classroom, 4 in the corridor before Clara goes into the Tardis, and 8 when she emerges, but it's unclear how much crossover there is between the groups).

The Thick of It: “Am I a good man?” Possibly not.

It's Actually About: How hating something evil, doesn't make you good.

It's A Thing: Deep Breath

Moffat-Era Tropes: Silurians with hooters and honkers. The Paternoster Gang run through their greatest hits. Scottish jokes. Clockwork droids (who come from the Madame de Pompadour's sister ship). “Don't blink”-type phrase. Companion in love with the Doctor (in this case, Clara having to get over her crush on Matt Smith's version). Everyone's still belting out explanations at each other at lightning speed. Gratuitous reference to a continuity point (i.e., why the Doctor looks like Caecilius from “The Fires of Pompeii”). Dead people's personalities going to some kind of afterlife. The 51st century. "You've redecorated! I don't like it." Timey-wimey (the Doctor telephoning Clara from the past to tell her not to be scared of his new regeneration).

This is what a T-rex looks like.
A Thing in a Thing: A (featherless) T-Rex in the Thames.

The Doctor is A: Long-shanked rascal with a mighty nose.

The Master Is A: ...n egomaniacal needy game-player.

Clara Lies About: How uninterested in male totty she is-- she may have had a pin-up of Marcus Aurelius on her bedroom wall as a teenager, but she secretly fantasizes about hot guy-on-guy action.

Reasons Jenny Should Drop Madame Vastra Like A Hot Potato: She makes her serve the tea, tricks her into posing semi-clad, flirts with Clara, and generally acts like the wife from hell.

Child Count: 12.

The Thick of It: Continued jokes about how ferocious the Doctor currently looks.

It's Actually About: Love-- if you love someone, it doesn't matter if they're a lizard, or a Scotsman with angry eyebrows.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Dead or Alive

The Dead Zone: Early Cronenberg about a man who develops the gift of prophecy following a car accident. Filmed around rural Ontario, apparently entirely on location, which makes the whole thing feel at once ultra-realistic (the houses look like real houses, not like something designed) and fantastical (everything has a curious sense of isolation and decay). Guest starring Martin Sheen, who doesn't realise he's really auditioning for The West Wing, and Anthony Zerbe, who for once doesn't actually kill anyone (at least, not directly).

Ancient Grease

The Warriors: Low-budget classic interpreting a myth about Greek warriors returning home from battle into a tale of rival gangs in 1970s New York. Ludicrous in places (gangs themed around baseball and mime makeup? Really?) but does capture the weird atmosphere that pervades the subways of big cities after midnight.

Cleopatra: High-budget classic (modern viewers might have to keep reminding themselves that those are real people in the crowd scenes), which ultimately boils down to a story of a woman who finds her soulmate, loses him, then tries to recreate what she had with a younger man who ultimately proves inadequate.

Sunday, August 03, 2014


Attack the Block: A cross between Doctor Who and Top Boy, as aliens invade a London council estate, and its various colourful inhabitants (a gang of teenage muggers, a drug dealer, a posh university student ostentatiously slumming it, a nurse, and others) are drawn into trying to repel them. Best teeth ever.

And Soon the Darkness: Essentially a feature-length pilot for Brian Clemens' anthology series Thriller, featuring all the early-1970s horror tropes: pretty young women in peril, check, sinister stalkery man who turns out to be on the good side, obvious red-herring character, sensibly-shod lesbian, taciturn foreigners. The plot revolves around a killer who is murdering young women who go on cycling holidays in France, and that makes for the most interesting part: the beautiful, sometimes creepy, rural French landscape, isolated and cut off in a way that no place is anymore.

Movie count for 2014: 45

Saturday, August 02, 2014


Rise of the Planet of the Apes: Reboot which goes back to the racial-metaphor roots of the series. Caesar is a hyper-intelligent ape who is raised by humans, but recognises his privilege when events cast him out of the home, and works to uplift the rest of the apes. The movie's also improved on the original in explaining the ape origins-- I could never totally believe the ape-slaves conceit of Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, but having them as transgenic research animals being used to find an Alzheimer's cure (with the side effect that it improves the intelligence of normal individuals) is believable.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes: Carries on the allegorical exploration of the first film, this time pinning the woes of both human and ape societies, after the plague apocalypse, to fascism and the easy availability of guns. Marred by a completely unnecessary Bechdel-test fail (seriously, someone on the team should have read some Jane Goodall before developing that ape society).

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Older academic couple making each other's lives, and their colleagues' lives, miserable in complicated ways.

Movie count for 2014: 43