Episode Review: The Girl Who Waited, S6E10   Leave a comment

Spoilers:  The Girl Who Waited, pretty much all of Series 6.

In amidst extreme sappiness, The Girl Who Waited was definitely a filler episode that carried the themes of Series 6 forward.  In this case, it felt more like a theme-based episode, where everything happened purely because of the themes, rather than a filler episode, where the themes are mentioned for half a second to remind the viewer that there’s a series arc.

So, what do I mean by the themes of Series 6, and a theme-based episode?  The themes of Series 6, as I see them, are two-fold:  time can be rewritten, and alternate versions of characters (or reality).  For “time can be rewritten,” we see numerous instances of characters using the power of time travel with great care.  Amy wants to find a way to save the Doctor, though she realizes it involves changing the past.  She discusses this with both River and Rory.   The 1100-year old Doctor’s intentions are less clear, but he seems to want to prevent a change in his own time stream, by going knowingly to his death in The Impossible Astronaut.  (Since it is a future version of the Doctor, he has already learned his time and place of death from the Teselecta crew in Let’s Kill Hitler.)  The Teselecta crew realizes they’ve arrived in Hitler’s time stream too early, and do not kill him because they do not want to change history, only give justice.  “Time can be rewritten” is, of course, a major theme throughout all of Doctor Who—his companions frequently want to change the course of history.  The biggest example, of course, is The Year That Never Was.

But the emphasis on alternate versions of reality in Series 6 is a bit new.  First off, there is the Flesh; the parallel world in Curse of the Black Spot; the Idris-TARDIS in The Doctor’s Wife; more Flesh; Old Amy trapped inside the Apalapucia quarantine facility in The Girl Who Waited.  Every episode, it seems, involves a character who is either another version of someone we already know, or who has been possessed by something else.

The Girl Who Waited was basically a play on these two themes:  Amy gets trapped inside the quarantine facility, creating an alternate version of herself (Old Amy), and Rory has to decide whether to rewrite history and allow Old Amy to live, or erase Old Amy entirely from existence.

Together, “time can be rewritten” and alternate versions of reality point to two most likely scenarios for the end of Series 6:  1)  rewriting time (i.e., making it so the Doctor never dies); and 2) having an alternate version of the Doctor die instead (probably the Flesh).

The biggest question for me, at least, is that if the Doctor is the Flesh Doctor, what happened to all the other Flesh characters?  There is presumably a Flesh Amy, a Flesh Melody, a Flesh Jennifer Lucas (or a bazillion Flesh Jennifer Lucases) walking around, if there is a Flesh Doctor.  So, it might get interesting with all these alternate versions of characters coming back, if the Flesh can never die.

On the other hand, if it ends with history changing and the Doctor doesn’t end up actually dying, then who knows what direction it’s going to go?  Extra kudos go to Steven Moffat if he can weave both themes into the season finale (which is frighteningly close!).

Posted September 14, 2011 by sonic in episode recaps, series 6, spoilers, things in progress

Time … space … something   Leave a comment

Spoilers:  Clicking on any link in this post and then perusing the contents of that link will spoil pretty much ALL Doctor Who.  Especially beware if you have not yet seen A Good Man Goes to War, as you may be forced to go on a Wiki Walk that will RUIN EVERYTHING.  (Can you tell I’m not a fan of spoilers?)

As my brain is slowly fizzling to a pulp in this unrelenting heat wave, here is something fun that will hopefully require very little brainpower (and hence very little thinking, which is difficult in the best of times).

A map of the Doctor’s timeline.

Superimposed over the London Tube map.

**several hours later**

This would be nice wall decoration.

Posted July 29, 2011 by sonic in spoilers

Doctor cakes   Leave a comment

Nobody else in this entire galaxy has ever even bothered to make edible ball bearings … genius!  – Doctor

Because I have nothing better to do with my time, this morning I went adventuring on the interwebs for some Doctor Who cakes.  Low and behold, there are many.  (Not entirely sure why I thought of Doctor Who cakes, precisely, except that I recently discovered Cake Wrecks.)

Cake Wrecks, as it turns out, has four posts (maybe more?  That’s all I could find.) containing Doctor Who-themed cakes, one of which is an entire Sunday Sweets devoted to our favorite hero.

  1. Dalek-bunny of death.  It is a bit terrifying, and cute, at the same time.  (Kind of like the Dalek stuffed animals … or stuffed machines …)
  2. TARDIS-castle.  I confess I’m not entirely sure why this reminds the Cake Wrecks authors of the TARDIS, except perhaps that it has flat panels on the side.  Looks like a pretty awesome castle, anyway—and it has dragons on top!  (I am going to let you in on a little secret—if there is anything that I like almost as much as Doctor Who, it is dragons.  They can be fire-breathing monsters of doom, or cute little fluffballs, I don’t care:  dragons!!!!!!!!)
  3. The TARDIS itself, in all its glory.  These seem a bit common (Googling “TARDIS cake” brings up a gazillion images), but this one looks delicious.
  4. And finally, the Sunday Sweets.  That Cyberman is awe-inspiring!  Hard to believe it’s made out of cake.

Fandomestic has a page showing 10 Doctor Who-themed cakes—not all made by professionals, but all terrifying in their … er, quality.  (At least they are mostly recognizable!)

Barbara Jo at doitmyself.org decided to make a TARDIS … WHERE THE INTERIOR IS BIGGER THAN THE EXTERIOR. How cool is that? (Bonus points: She describes how she made the cake, too!)

And here, on Geeky Gadgets, is a cake with levitating Daleks.

What I want to know is, how on Earth (or Gallifrey!) does anyone have the courage to eat these?

Posted July 25, 2011 by sonic in spoilers, things in progress

Doctor Diplomacy   Leave a comment

In spite of what I’ve said, do you still intend to fire that rocket on London? – Doctor
I most certainly do. – Master
But that would start a world war. – Doctor
Exactly. And then later, when this planet is in ruins, I shall take over. – Master

In the spring of 1971, Chinese relations with the western world were at an all-time low.   Chinese military forces augmented the NVA as the conflict in Vietnam dragged on, while the Chinese seat in the U.N. was still controlled by elements of the Republic of China’s government-in-exile in Taiwan.  The world was embroiled in debates over nuclear proliferation and military expansion as the Cold War dragged on and on.  Rewatching classic Doctor Who serials from this period clearly shows that despite the show’s orientation as a children’s science fiction program, Doctor Who writers were subtly commenting on the current political clime.  In particular, The Mind of Evil, broadcast in 6 episodes from January to March of 1971, might be viewed as a commentary on Sino-British relations.

For those of us accustomed to the excellent cinematography and mind-boggling special effects of the revived Doctor Who, watching grainy, low-budget, black and white serials might be a bit of adjustment.  In fact, the titular “mind of evil” was conceived as a stationary machine equipped with blinking lights purely to reduce the serial’s production costs (it still went over brudget!)  Nonetheless, the Doctor is still the Doctor — complete with quirky dressing habits (frilly shirts anyone?), ego, and a long-standing and ongoing battle against the Master.  The Mind of Evil is one of a set of serials that takes place during the Third Doctor’s unfortunate and bitterly resented exile on Earth.  Confined to what was then present-day Earth, the Doctor works for U.N.I.T. as their scientific advisor and  expert on alien life forms.  Directly associated with and funded by the U.N., as the Mind of Evil opened U.N.I.T. was coordinating the security for the U.N.’s first World Peace Conference.  Simultaneously, U.N.I.T. is charged with overseeing the disposal of a deadly, nerve gas-equipped that is most definitely not supposed to exist.

Clearly, things are not going to go well as the Peace Conference when the Chinese aide shows up at U.N.I.T. headquarters to report that the Chinese delegate has been murdered and she suspects the imperialistic Americans!  The plot only thickens when she later summons the American ambassador to a “secret meeting” with the Chinese delegation and then tries to kill him (too).  As the episodes continue, the Master finally emerges from the shadows where he has been playing puppet master — trapped on Earth by the Doctor, he’s decided to amuse himself by hypnotizing people into starting World War III.  Great, now there’s a psychopathic Time Lord ready to exploit the current political tensions on the loose.

As unbelievable as the plot might seem from the perspective of the twentieth century — or maybe not considering the west’s long history of on-again, off-again relations with China — the Cold War, China’s potential alignment with the U.S.S.R., and nuclear obliteration would have seemed like very real threats to Doctor Who viewers in the 1970s.  The high jacking of the nerve gas missile by the Master, and his threat of firing it at the World Peace Conference, would also have struck a cord when ICBMs were a very new menace and global oversight of a country’s armament was virtually nil.

Thankfully, the Third Doctor saves the day in the nick of time, reconditioning the minds of those controlled by the Master, destroying the “mind of evil,” and aborting the missile before it can be fired (although I guess it’s not a complete success since the Master does escape unscathed).  World peace is preserved and the conference continues on.  It might also help that the Doctor’s fluent in Chinese and happens to name drop to the ambassador that he and Mao Tse-tung had been on a first-name basis.

In reality, 1971 (although there was no U.N. Peace Conference) did mark the dawn of a new era of Chinese relations, including both Britain and the U.S.’s acknowledgement of the PRC and the beginning of more cordial international relations.  Hmmm.  And you say Doctor Who is just a children’s television program . . .

Posted July 24, 2011 by bad wolf in classic who, get some perspective, spoilers

The Great Big Threatening Button   Leave a comment

Spoiler alert:  Series 2, the Christmas Invasion.

Allow? You’ve no choice! I mean, that’s all blood control is. Cheap bit of voodoo. Scares the pants off you, but that’s as far as it goes. It’s like hypnosis — you can hypnotise someone to walk like a chicken or sing like Elvis, you can’t hypnotise them to death. Survival instinct’s too strong.  – Ten

The Sycorax have arrived.  Earth is in danger, again.  Our favorite hero has arrived to save the day, and rid the planet of its most recent threat.  This time—blood control.  The Sycorax can use a drop of blood to control everyone on Earth with the same blood type.  One hapless technician had decided to send samples of Earthly products, including blood.  And now the Sycorax are poised to take over the planet if Rose can’t wake the Doctor up.  Across the planet, 2 billion people are standing at the edges of the tallest buildings, ready to jump at the press of the Great Big Threatening Button.

But the Doctor has a secret weapon—science!  Instead of allowing the Sycorax to remain in control, the Doctor presses the Great Big Threatening Button, releasing everyone from the voodoo blood control.  Because, the Doctor claims, blood control is like hypnosis, and you can’t make people do things under hypnosis that they wouldn’t do normally.  Blood control apparently works the same way.

Usually Great Big Threatening Buttons are red. This one's red, too. Sort of orangish, really.

Although the movies are littered with stories of people committing horrible crimes because they were in a state of hypnosis, actual cases where hypnosis was claimed to remove responsibility from the defendant are comparatively rare.  One recent example is the case of Sirhan Sirhan, who fatally shot Robert F. Kennedy on June 5, 1968.  Sirhan has come forth with a claim that he had been hypnotized when he shot at RFK, believing he was at a firing range rather than shooting at the Senator.  His alleged hypnotist was a mysterious girl in a polka dot dress, who worked for the CIA’s not-so-secret mind control program.

Sirhan’s latest attempt at proving himself innocent is interesting not just because it seems absurd, but also because it provides a new twist on the I-was-mind-controlled defense.  Rather than claiming that he was hypnotized to kill RFK, Sirhan is claiming that he was hypnotized to believe he was in a different location entirely, namely at the shooting range rather than pointing a gun at the Senator.  According to Sirhan, then, the assassination of RFK was essentially an accident:  apparently, it wasn’t Sirhan’s fault that RFK happened to be hiding behind an alleged range target.  (Never mind the fact that Sirhan is also claiming that the bullets from his gun didn’t kill the Senator.)

So how does all of this relate to The Christmas Invasion?  It doesn’t …  Well, maybe it does, a little.  If we temporarily accept the premise that Sirhan Sirhan’s claim of mind control is true, it presents a new angle on Hypnosis as an Extremely Dangerous Phenomenon.  The Doctor claims that the threat of 1/3 of all humans jumping off buildings is an empty one, because you can’t make people do things they wouldn’t normally do.  But what if the Sycorax actually used their blood voodoo to make people thing they were standing at the edge of a very large swimming pool?  Then killing 1/3 of the population of Earth would be easy—just tell them to dive in.  Most people would not be so opposed to the idea of swimming that they wouldn’t dive.

Of course, how aware people are of their actual surroundings during hypnosis might make this impossible.  I once saw a stage performance in which the hypnotist convinced someone that she no longer had a belly button (which was apparently an extremely embarrassing anatomical malfunction).  Hypnotizing someone to see a swimming pool in front of them doesn’t sound too much more difficult.  So maybe the Sycorax’s threat wasn’t so idle after all.

Ignoring the fact that the brain isn’t controlled by the blood, of course.  Luckily we don’t yet have a Great Big (Threatening) Button that makes a few drops of blood capable of controlling 1/3 of a species.

Look at these people.  These human beings.  Consider their potential. From the day they arrive on the planet and blinking step into the sun, there is more to see than can ever be seen. More to do than—No, hold on…  Sorry, that’s ‘The Lion King’. But the point still stands. Leave them alone!  – Ten

Posted July 22, 2011 by sonic in series 2, spoilers, textbook enigmatic

Identity theft   Leave a comment

Spoiler warning:  Series 5 & 6 (esp. A Good Man Goes to War and Pandorica Opens/The Big Bang)

Amy Pond seems to have a permanent problem with identity theft. She gets replaced by a Flesh ganger for four months, and then her daughter becomes the Flesh, as well. Her daughter further receives a new name and a new life. The Nestene consciousness recreates an entire world of Romans based on Amy’s memories, including (luckily!) her husband, Rory. And when Amy sees him all Roman-like, she doesn’t even remember who he is, because he had come into contact with the time energy spilling out of the cracks in the universe. In other words, Amy and her friends and family get killed, turned into other people, duplicated, renamed, forgotten, recreated, and re-imagined back into existence on a weekly basis.

Like I said, identity theft.

One of the most memorable moments occurs in The Big Bang (5.12). Rory has been reincarnated as a Roman soldier after being erased from history. Amy has no idea who he is, but she feels inexplicably sad at the sight of a little red box containing her erstwhile engagement ring.

In psychology, there is a syndrome called Capgras syndrome. It is, effectively, the reverse of what I just described. Rather than forgetting someone’s existence entirely, but still having an emotional attachment to objects associated with a person, Capgras syndrome involves being convinced that your friends and loved ones are all impostors. Yes, impostors. (Not Flesh gangers, though!)

The original case for which Capgras syndrome was described goes like this. Madame M, a patient of Joseph Capgras, had a problem: she believed she had had eighty plus husbands, because, according to her, her husband had been replaced by impostors, over and over again. Capgras patients commonly describe feeling empty at the sight of their friends and family, and this emptiness has been offered as a potential explanation for the syndrome: we are used to having emotional connections to the people we love, but if that connection vanishes, we think the person has been replaced by someone who looks, talks, eats, and acts exactly the same.

Amy has the opposite problem. She doesn’t think Rory’s an impostor—she has no idea who he is. He’s that guy, the one who did the swording thing, not Mr. Stupid Face. (The fact that he was plastic at the time, and therefore actually was an impostor of some sort, is unfortunately irrelevant.) And when something like Capgras syndrome might have come in handy—when Rory, for instance, could have used a bit of nagging worry that Amy wasn’t actually herself and instead had been replaced by a Flesh ganger and her body captured by evil people attempting to steal their daughter for the purpose of destroying the Doctor—no one except the Doctor suspects that there might be anything wrong with Amy.

Sigh. At least they didn’t call it Capgras syndrome as a pseudoscientific explanation for why the Doctor figured out that Amy was a Flesh avatar; instead, he gets that nice scanner alternating between pregnant and non-pregnant as a clue that all is not right.

Posted July 15, 2011 by sonic in series 5, spoilers, textbook enigmatic

DELETE!   2 comments

WordPress told me to.  That’s all I can say.

Posted July 11, 2011 by sonic in spoilers, things in progress