Sunday, June 25, 2017
This coyness, lady, were no crime.
We would sit down, and think which way
To walk, and pass our long love’s day.
--Andrew Marvell, "To His Coy Mistress."
The relationship between the Master/Mistress and the Doctor has always occupied a rather complicated sphere. They are antagonists, to be sure; the megalomania of the Master matching the Doctor's heroic streak point by point. Over the course of this very long series, they've engaged in more fights and battles than I could possibly detail here, but what makes the Master/Doctor relationship so meaty is that it does not just occupy the enemies space. There is a delicate push and pull of regret and longing that we don't find in, say, the Doctor's relationship with the Daleks or, as is more appropriate for this week's episode "World Enough and Time," the Cybermen. Behind the Doctor's unrelenting need to stop whatever plans the Master has concocted this time around to burn planets and destroy anything and anyone the Doctor loves, is a hope that our hero in a blue box can save his oldest friend. Nostalgia; it gets us all in the end. Trusting Missy, believing that she can be redeemed and be good, is possibly a very stupid move on the Doctor's part, especially by episode's end when we--and our Time Lord--are confronted by one of the most dangerous versions of his foe to date--but he wouldn't be the Doctor if he wasn't constantly trying to save everyone. It's a heartbreaking episode that also ramps up the stakes for the finale next week. Grab your ever present IV and let's go!
Miscellaneous Notes on World Enough and Time
--If the flashforward at the top of the episode is any indication, the Doctor will regenerate alone, in the cold snow, in anguish. I'm not ready for this.
--The music this episode--particularly the motif where we are examining the space ship and the Black Hole--were stunning.
--I wish I could quote the whole Missy speech in the beginning but a smattering of funny lines will have to suffice: "Hello, I'm Doctor Who. These are my plucky assistants, Thing One and the Other One."
--"What does he call you? Companions? Pets? ....Snacks?"
--"These are my disposables...exposition and comic relief."
--"Are you human?" "Oh, don't be a bitch."
--Missy (and the writers) casually trolling the fandom by insisting that the Doctor's name is really Doctor Who was possibly the most meta piece of exposition this show has ever done. I was laughing a bit too hard at "I've known him since a child and his real name is Doctor Who! He dropped the 'Who' later because it was a bit too on the nose"
--The Doctor addresses one of the peskier elephants in the room for the show as a whole when he insists that the Time Lords are the most advanced civilization in the universe and are beyond human obsession with gender and stereotypes...only to be called out by Bill that they still call themselves "Time Lords." Well done, show. Well done.
--I am troubled by the image that the show's first full time LGBT companion is killed off by a character we've never met before and to serve as a narrative point for a white man but there is something deeply political about that same LGBT character's story being a horrifying look at "conversion" to become "just like everyone else."
--John Simm, it has been too long. Welcome back to your classic role. I really look forward to seeing what goes down between the Doctor, CyberBill, Nardole, Missy and the Master next week! One to go....
Monday, June 19, 2017
--The art director for this show deserves all the awards not only for every single shot of Easter's house but also for the carefully constructed sewing room at Mr. Nancy's. Talk about gorgeous!
--"Once upon a time...see it sounds good already. You're hooked." Anansi doing what Anansi does best, telling a tall tale.
--Can we start a petition to have Ricky Whittle dress in grey and lavender all the time? Damn.
--"Worship is volume based; whoever has the most followers wins the game."
--I don't think I'd welcome Wednesday into my house either if he kept running over my bunny rabbits.
--"What are you pissed off about?" "You just cut off your friends head!"
--"People create gods when they wonder why things happen. Why do things happen? Because gods make things happen."
--There is a great power in sacrifice, most religious texts and traditions will tell you that. Notice that Laura was a sacrifice to get Shadow to where he is now, literally and mentally. Also, take note that Odin dedicates the deaths of the faceless men to Ostara which seems to give her some sort of power that she previously lacked.
--"Do you believe, Shadow?" "I believe." "What do you believe?" "Everything."
--I have enjoyed every single second of this show and reviewing it this season. The writers, actors, the producers, and everyone else have done Neil Gaiman and his magnificent work proud. Thanks to everyone who read! See you in season two.
Sunday, June 18, 2017
It might be helpful, when discussing this week's episode, to think about it terms of contrast to last week's. There was so much done right in comparison to last week's wrong--or if not outright wrong, than at least underwhelming and rote. Like last week, the mission to parts unknown is spurred on by a mystery, though this one is (literally) grounded to Earth and comes from Bill's insatiable curiosity for the unknown and nothing stumbled upon on a way to a different mission. Pausing quickly, but this is one of the better through-lines of this season; Bill's entrance into the TARDIS and into the Doctor's life is not one of mystery. She isn't a puzzle to figure out, clues carefully hidden throughout the text, her every word and mannerism supposed to telegraph something unknowable. Bill is simply....Bill and much like Rose or Donna before her, her adventures with the Doctor come from her desire to learn and to know. The universe, all of time and space, is the mystery for Bill to puzzle out and it's to the show's credit that they let her reason things out on her own, not needing the Doctor's (glaringly male) hand to guide her into realizations big and small. For example, past companions have needed the Doctor to explain why everyone in space speaks English (they aren't, of course, but the TARDIS and the Doctor are able to auto-translate what babble the aliens or peoples of the past/future are saying); but Bill didn't get the same explanation. She figured it out on her own in a particularly funny Latin/English exchange with a Roman soldier. Since this review is all about the contrast from last week's episode, Bill's active role is a good one to focus on for the moment. Last week, Bill didn't have much to do and, in fact, my most major complaint about the episode was how it missed the mark on letting Bill and the Empress of Mars present a unique version of feminism on and off world. This week, while femininity isn't exactly on display in an obvious way, Bill's active role is. Bill sets off on her own, wanting to solve the mystery of the Roman legion before the Doctor can; when she stumbles (er, falls down a hole) into the remaining bits of the legion she does not simply wait for rescue but uses her time with the lads to tell them about the Doctor and his way of seeing the universe. When Bill realizes that her long sought after Romans are really just boys with swords, she takes charge, she tells them how they are going to get away from the monster. Bill has been one of the season's best surprises, turning Moffat's typical (and often maligned) female companion on its head. I've used the word refreshing on Bill more times than I can count but it bears repeating: she is a breath of fresh air in a show that can often get bogged down in formula.
--Just in case anyone thinks it's all sunshine and roses from me this week, the titular monster is one of the blandest and least developed of the era.
--As poignant and sweet as the episode was, the crow “Kar/Caw” thing was eye roll inducing. There’s a line, Doctor Who, between heartfelt and sickly sweet.
--Remind me to use popcorn as an escape mechanism if ever I’m in trouble.
--The Doctor not only lived in Roman times but he also juggled and was a Vestal Virgin, second class.
--“It’s called charm.” “I’m against that.”
--The final thread of this week's episode is the continuing Missy saga. I've already expressed misgivings about this plot because the moments of redemption or reflection on Missy's part are like this one here: kept and confined to the final few moments of the episode. Redeeming the Master/Mistress isn't something that should be left until the the end of an arc; this is a villain almost as old as the Doctor himself and there's a lot of ground to cover.
--However, there is a really nice push/pull between the Doctor and Missy; the former wants to hope that he might get his old friend back but the idea that she is pulling a long con on him fits with Missy's modus operandi more.
--Going along with that, though, it does look like Missy will be a focal point of the show for these last few episodes. Can the writers sell it? We shall see.
Tuesday, June 13, 2017
--It sounds like all the gods are headed for the House on the Rock in Wisconsin. Hopefully, we aren't too far behind because--no exaggeration--it's my favorite part of the novel.
--"In truth, the American colonies were more of a dumping ground.
--"I will eat you!" Honestly surprised more people do not threaten Huginn and Muninn given how annoying they can be.
--Mad Sweeney himself becomes a much more sympathetic figure in this episode as we not only hear about how he fled from a war, but also hear just how far his kind have fallen over time. From kings to fairies to being a joke and mascot for a breakfast cereal. Is it any wonder he'd join up with Wednesday?
--Another thing that shouldn't have worked but did: the 1950 doo-whop soundtrack that played throughout most of the flashbacks.
--"The more abundant the blessings, the more we forget to pray."
Sunday, June 11, 2017
--Speaking of shame, the eponymous Empress of Mars was a one-note character until the end. She did little but bark orders at her warriors and hiss at the humans. The only coloring she got was when she spared the officer's life.
--Well hey there Alpha Centauri! That's a blast from the long ago past if ever there was one.
--"Sorry, I never could resist a countdown."
--Why did the TARDIS zip Nardole back to the present day Earth? And why did Missy keep inquiring if the Doctor was okay when the team was all reunited? I have a feeling this dangling thread will come back before the season is over.
--It would have been very meta if the picture of Queen Victoria kept by the army had born a more striking resemblance to Jenna Coleman given her latest TV project.
--I think this is the least amount I’ve laughed during an episode all season. The only chuckle I got was that the Doctor hasn’t seen classic sci-fi movies like the Terminator or The Thing, but he has seen Disney's Frozen. Go figure.
--"You will die with honor, with bravery, and in fighting for those you have sworn to protect." Geez, foreshadowing the regeneration much?
Monday, June 5, 2017
--In my very first review of American Gods I also posited the question of what exactly was a god. It's something Mr. Wednesday shoots at Shadow as well before trying to explain, "people believe things which means they're real. That means we know they exist. What came first--gods or the people who believed in them?"
--"I got stabbed by Charlie Brown's Christmas tree!"
--My stomach did a whole lot of churning watching Wednesday pull out a root from Shadow's insides.
--“What the fuck are you? I mean, what the fuck are any of you, but first tell me, what the fuck are you?"
--"Did you just name drop Jesus Christ like you know a guy who knows a guy?" Laura and Sweeney's comedic timing is on point and I'm quite enjoying this non-novel insert.
--Speaking of Jesus, RIP Mexican Jesus? That whole scene was darkly funny in that of course the very second the Mexicans get across the river they are gunned down (because welcome to America!) but when the tumbleweed blew across Mexican Jesus and left a tumbleweed crown of thorns, I may have laughed just a little too long.
--"You could sacrifice yourself. You've done it before."
Sunday, June 4, 2017
Miscellaneous Notes on The Lie of the Land
--I talked about the Monks being the Doctor through a mirror, darkly, last week and that idea is carried over in the Monks rewriting human history to include them (and not him) defeating the Daleks, the Cybermen, and the Weeping Angels.
--"However bad it is, if people think that's the way it has always been, they put up with it."
--If there's a third thread in this trilogy of episodes, it's Missy's rehabilitation, something that got very little attention thus far but takes a decent sized step forward this week with her 1) explaining how to stop the Monks and 2) thinking about all her past victims. However, we only have four weeks of episodes left and I'm worried that Missy's progress is going to be rushed here at the end.
--Missy wants gifts to aid against the Monks and they include "new boots, a particle accelerator, a 3-D printer, and a pony."
--Missy is "the other last of the Time Lords."
--So how much of Bill's story was inspired by Martha Jones's season three story? It's hard to say because Martha did everything I said I wish the show had Bill do like spending time tracking down sympathizers, converting them, and getting in and out of the most dangerous places in the world. Bill doesn't face that sort of hardship and in the end the Doctor wasn't really held captive by the Monks. But, Martha only plays one part and it's the Doctor who beats back the Master whereas Bill has to offer herself up as a sacrifice to rid the world of the Monks. There's a quasi-positive but also quasi-negative feminist streak in both of these and I'm not sure how to parse it quite yet.
--I'm slightly confused by the ending. Humans don't remember the Monks (either consciously or subconsciously forgetting the past six months) but those six months did happen and we saw that people did die. Either the public executions were fake to curtail rebellion or this is another example of the writers making everything too easy.
--"You're version of good is not absolute. It's vain, arrogant, and sentimental."
--Why does the Doctor put up with humanity? Because in seven billion people, there's at least one person like Bill.