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Stentor

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[Dec. 28th, 2012|12:15 pm]
Stentor
Bringing this thing out of retirement to post about a TV show -- I think that's appropriate. I've seen every regular episode of the new series of Doctor Who up through "Dinosaurs on a Spaceship," and I got to thinking about which ones I liked most and least.


BEST

10. Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead: Here we get to see River Song at her most mature, and therefore most awesome. The ghost consciousnesses left in the spacesuits of those who are killed are super creepy. I also quite like the tension between happiness and reality in Donna's life in the computer simulation.

9. The End of Time: Wilf is awesome. Wilf's role alone is enough to put this episode on my favorites list. Wilf has respect for the Doctor, humility, and a willingness to do what needs to be done (see his seniors' Doctor-hunting brigade). I like that the Time Lords are the bad guys and the Master is their victim (but not in a way that absolves him of responsibility), complicating any simple good-vs-evil take on the Time War. And seeing everyone in the world converted to a copy of the Master is great silly fun. My main complaint is the drawn-out melodramatic closing sequence of the Doctor visiting all his old companions while his radiation poisoning and regeneration somehow hold off.

8. The Doctor's Wife: I love that this episode explores the Doctor's relationship with the TARDIS. I love the scene where Amy and Rory run around the maze and get separated in time. And building a new TARDIS in the junkyard to chase down the old one is just fun.

7. Dalek: This is the only episode where the Daleks really felt threatening. There's something scary about having to face up one-on-one to a lone Dalek that is missed when you have thousands of them pouring out of a dimensional portal and so you know something giant and crazy is going to happen to fix it all. As the first Dalek encounter after the Time War, this episode really brings out the "holy shit, they're all supposed to be gone" aspect, as well as the Doctor's PTSD-fuelled and pathological hatred of the Daleks. Henry van Statten also makes a plausibly human-motivated antagonist.

6. Rise of the Cybermen/The Age of Steel: This is the story when Mickey finally goes from being furniture to being awesome. He tells us he's tired of being a symbol of the directionlessness of Rose's pre-Doctor life, and strikes out to make something of himself. After the tide turns against the Cybermen, Mickey shows his character by taking on the job of helping the resistance fighters clean up the world while the Doctor jets off to his next adventure. It helps that the Cybermen were actually scary here, more so than in their other appearances. I also like that unlike so many other "big enemy" episodes (e.g. "Last of the Time Lords," "The Big Bang"), the damage done by the bad guys is not simply erased -- alternate-universe-Jackie and all the others stay dead.

5. The Waters of Mars: My favorite episodes are the ones where the Doctor has to wrestle with the implications of his own power, where it's not as simple as "bad guys are attacking, we have to stop them." In this episode, the primary struggle isn't between the people and the water virus (since we know from the start that the latter will end up destroying the base but not making it to Earth), but between the Doctor's humanitarian desire to save people and his responsibility and powerlessness with respect to fixed points in history.

4. Midnight: I love the claustrophobia. I love the dynamics among the other characters. And I love the fact that people don't just do what the Doctor tells them to do, and even try to -- entirely understandably -- turn against him.

3. Blink: I'm a sucker for the wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey aspects of Who (see also #11's vortex manipulator shenanigans in "The Big Bang"), and "Blink" is obviously the epicenter of such things. I love that the Doctor has to trust to a human he's never met to save him. And the Weeping Angels are the second scariest enemies in the show. I am much more interested in baddies like the Silence or the Angels that have weird powers that mess with your mind (if only I have the willpower to not blink!), rather than ones like the Daleks and Cybermen that just have really high attack/defense stats.

2. The Impossible Astronaut/The Day of the Moon: The Silence are the creepiest aliens that the show has seen, and I loved the way the editing frequently made it so that the viewer didn't remember having seen the Silence either. Add to that a big "the Doctor has a crazy plan that manages to come together perfectly in the end" that fits #11 perfectly. The only real criticism I have is the superfluous "we have to go save Amy again" aspect of the ending.

1. The Girl Who Waited: Old Survivalist Amy kicks so much ass, I kind of wish they had taken her along rather than Young Amy. (I have in my head a whole AU end of season 6 onward in which Old Amy gets dropped off somewhere and then becomes a major antagonist to the Doctor, e.g. she's the one behind the creepy hotel in "The God Complex") The episode plays with interweaving time streams and the horrors of confinement in the best Who fashion.


WORST

10. Utopia/The Sound of Drums/Last of the Time Lords: I feel bad having to put this episode here. The Master is awesome, and I love the Doctor's relationship with him. The premise of the Master's domination plan (the paradox engine, using the Toclafane, etc) is great. And Martha is a total badass -- this is the episode that cemented her as my favorite companion. But her badassery is used in the service of getting Doctor Christ to rise from the almost-dead to save the world, keeping her role subservient to him even when he's been reduced to some sort of ridiculous Gollum thing. No wonder she walked away from him at the end.

9. Vincent and the Doctor: The monster in this episode is not very interesting. There isn't much drama or complexity to the storyline. They lay it on really thick at the end with reassuring Vincent that he will be remembered as a great painter. And I just couldn't get over the fact that they pronounced Vincent's last name "Van Goff," when I've always heard it as "Van Go." (The internet tells me the actual Dutch pronunciation is closer to "Van Gokh").

8: Daleks in Manhattan/Evolution of the Daleks: This episode had a lot of potential. The Dalek-humans were on the verge of creating a really interesting and productive tension between the Doctor's psychopathic desire to exterminate the Daleks, and the possibility that by hybridizing with humans (the Doctor's favorite species) they could become redeemable. But as soon as this possibility was raised, the show dumped it in the trash and left us with a simple "must defeat the Daleks" storyline -- ho hum. The episode also does this awkward dance around having to grapple with the racial dynamics inherent in a white guy and a black woman coming to the 1930s to battle an enemy whose whole scheme is about issues of racial purity, miscegenation, and genocide.

7. New Earth: The "humans as test subjects" evil secret has been overdone, so it's not especially creative or creepy here. Moreover, Cassandra's ability to jump her consciousness from person to person becomes really implausible and even slapstick, creating a really disappointing return for a character that seemed intriguing when we first met her in "The End of the World."

6: Turn Left: I wrestled with whether to put this in the "best" or "worst" list. There are lots of things to love here -- the "what if we didn't have the Doctor to save us" premise is great, I love how scrappy humanity is in dealing with the various alien invasions, and any episode that gives Wilf this much screen time gets major points. But it ultimately falls into the "Doctor as Jesus" trope that plagued the Davies/Tennant years. Humanity is screwed, and we need the Doctor to save us. Donna is the perfect avatar of this theme -- without the Doctor to bring out her strength and intelligence, she's the same ditzy, self-centered fool that she was at the beginning of Runaway Bride and after getting her memory wiped at the end of her run. Heck, she can't even handle herself for five minutes when she gets separated from the Doctor at Ching Chong's Orientalist Stereotypes Space Bazaar. So rather than Donna figuring out what needs to be done to save the world, she has to be dragged kicking and screaming into it by alternate-universe-Rose.

5. Partners in Crime: I loved the opening sequence with the Doctor and Donna both investigating the Adipose, and it's the one time in all of Doctor Who that I've been glad not to have seen a spoiler. But as soon as the villains' scheme is revealed, a giant gaping hole opens up: why can't Adipose Industries simply operate openly? Millions of people in Britain (not to mention other countries) want to lose weight, and (until the Doctor panics them into pulling the trigger) Adipose-based weight loss is entirely harmless. Just tell people how it works, and you'd have plenty of consenting customers. For once, aliens (other than the Doctor) coming to Earth would not be a threat.

4. The Stolen Earth/Journey's End: The ending of this episode shows a lot of disrespect for two of the Doctor's companions. First there's Rose, whose character is driven by her love for the Doctor. Rather than fulfilling that love (obviously impossible within the framework of the series) or having Rose grow and make a mature decision to move on from it (the way Martha did in "Last of the Time Lords," which is part of what makes her my favorite companion), she gets a copy of the Doctor as a consolation prize. And just in case we were worried that there wasn't enough sexism in the treatment of the female companions, she is instructed that she needs to be a good civilizing influence on him. Then there's the memory wipe of Donna. This could have been a really good tragic-but-hopeful device. Donna's character arc is all about her needing the Doctor to show her some adventure and help her grow into a more self-confident and competent person. If the season had all built toward the memory wipe as a way of giving Donna a chance to be awesome without relying on the Doctor (for example, if the possibility of the wipe had confronted her in previous episodes, and if she made a choice both to expose herself to the risk by touching the Doctor's severed hand, and to accept the wipe in the end), it could have been really good. Instead it felt like Davies was finishing up writing the script, remembered that Catherine Tate didn't have a contract to come back next season, and just went "oops, gotta get her off the TARDIS -- let's throw in a memory wipe, that'll be all sad and angsty!"

3. Asylum of the Daleks: So we've just given up on the whole idea that the Daleks were destroyed by genocide at this point, apparently. Oswin was fun, but a little too Manic Pixie Dream Girl for me. And the Amy-Rory divorce storyline, with its giant drama over a stupid misunderstanding that takes them from happy to divorce back to happy in 30 minutes, would be embarassing to a cheap Rom-Com, so it does a huge disservice to these two characters and to Who. And if the Daleks have nanobots that can turn anyone into a Dalek, why have they not released them on the whole freaking universe?

2. Voyage of the Damned: So the Doctor needs to find another pretty young thing now that he's lost Rose and Martha grew a spine (and she's dressed in a French maid costume, in case they haven't hit us over the head with it enough). The Van Hoffs, who were really interesting characters who I was hoping would be the heroes of the episode, turn into disposable fat jokes. And the Doctor gets to be Jesus at the end, with the robots obeying him because he's the nearest authority figure. The only thing that makes this episode even a little watchable is Bannakaffalata, and even he makes me groan by hitting on the pretty human girl.

1. Love and Monsters: This episode took a great idea and shat all over it. I was so excited to see the show pick up the thread -- hinted at all the way back in "Rose" but then never followed up on -- of people not directly involved with The Doctor who are fascinated by him and compile information about him, trying to track him down. Jackie Tyler was super hot, and I was rooting for her and Elton's budding romance. But then they all get eaten by some cheesy Shrek ripoff and it ends with an oral sex joke. Give me a break.
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: bedlamboy
2012-12-29 01:58 am (UTC)
Dude, love and monsters was totally redeemed when they all played an ELO song. That was the *point* of that episode... the shrek thing... that was, very much de-emphasized.


The thing that I feel much of the New Who crowd doesn't appreciate is that a lot of wack-a-doodle writing and random Don't Think About This One Too Closely kind of plot points are PART of doctor who. they've really come a long way since the 80's... but I almost feel like they are doing a lot of this on purpose, to keep to the flavor of the original show. Much more of the writing now is written by Who Fans who happen to also be writers... they seemingly adore falling into old who ideas and writing around problems like the Daleks and their planet have been erased by time... her wait... nevermind.

:D

but thank you so much for sharing... i share most of your opinions really.


also, psst... Doctor Who *is* jesus.
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[User Picture]From: crankyliberal
2012-12-29 02:51 am (UTC)
AND ELTON DANCING TO ELO! Sorry, just thinking about that makes me ecstatic. I probably wouldn't put "Love and Monsters" on a Worst list because I <3 Elton and the gang so much (and DANCING DORKILY TO ELO) that it outweighs the parts I'm less fond of, such as the last ten minutes.

Okay, I can see the rationale for "don't think too hard" plots; but I wish that wouldn't extend to character whiplash. As part of Wilf nostalgia, I watched part of "Turn Left" today, and Donna just makes me *cringe*. She's borderline sociopathic with her complete disregard for pretty much everyone in the world but Wilf. She was deliberately annoying in "Runaway Bride" which makes sense for her arc, but she was never just a total bitch. See also: Rose regressing at the beginning of Series 2 into Jealous Lady Who Doesn't Do Much. I watched most of Series 2 before Series 1. Watching just Series 2, I found Rose annoying much of the time, but in Series 1 she was cool.

Okay, clearly I'm about to go on a "Doctor Who: Be nicer to your female characters dammit" rant. *breathes* *Thinks of ELO* *happy again*
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