Saturday, January 2, 2010

Plus ca change

Tonight is the big night on BBC America. And if you don't already know that, then this clip won't be of any interest to you at all.


Muffy St. Bernard said...


Generic said...

Unless I missed a few things the finale seemed too muddled to achieve the Wagnerian splendor it seemed to be shooting for.

The Doctor understands the mechanism of regeneration yet fears "death"? And was the mechanism of the "Return of the Time Lords," and even the latterly revealed fact that Timothy Dalton was playing Rassilon...


...a wee bit confusing? So the TLs really did die at the end of the war of the Daleks, but they were able to send a link (a diamond and a drumbeat) from an earlier period of time, before that event, in order to travel into the present to be reborn?

Nice coda of his encounters with various assistants. And the text continues to unfold: for the first time I can recall, the Doctor's clothes regenerated also.

Muffy St. Bernard said...

For me it was ALL about the coda, and about the Doctor's relationship with Grandpa Noble. I also liked the cacti, and I thought the Master was MUCH better this time.

But Rassilon, yes, as a fan of the classic series it was like "WHAT?!?" But no doubt RTD has some convoluted explanation which he's passed on to Moffat for a future Time Lord comeback.

What bothered me most was the suddenly overt fan-wankiness. The classic series was notorious for that during the '80s -- constant extraneous continuity references and the return of past enemies "just 'cause." I hope this isn't a sign of things to come, because it leads to bad things.

As for your points:

* The Doc knows about regeneration but he said it's "like dying." He made that speech about how it's like everything ends for him and some other guy takes over. I thought they handled that well, actually.

* The TLs didn't die, they were -- along with the other combatants AND the planet Gallifrey -- trapped in a time loop. Since Gallifrey was in the time loop they could go back and implant the drum beat as a beacon which would guide the only thing which could escape the loop (something small) back to the Master.

There's all sorts of paradoxes in there and it's SO silly, really, that I can only say "Wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey."

Davies seems able to work himself out of ANY self-imposed dilemma. Unfortunately -- as in season four's conclusion -- his contortions end up being so complex that they're virtually impossible to follow AND a bit too "clever."

What I don't understand is how Tennant survived falling from the cactus ship. Tom Baker regenerated after a short fall onto grass, for goodness sake.

Generic said...

The time loop thing I simply missed.

The key question for me in deciding if regenration is death-like or only a shape change would be continuity of consciouness. I've been assuming for years that it was the latter -- and Matt Smith's exhuberance after the change suggests delight at the discovery that he's still himself, with arms and legs and all the other attibutes needed to keep on falling in love with his companions.

My question: Will Alonzo be turning up soon on Torchwood? As the "new Ianto"? Might be a nice touch.

Christian Lindke said...

As I am watching Season One right now, having been frightened off by Torchwood when I finally had time to watch Who episodes, I have noticed something that may explain some of the disappointment you describe in the Season 4 finale.

While I have enjoyed the stories of the individual episodes so far, and the acting, I have continually found myself agonizingly bored in the final 3 minutes of every episode. RTD has already set the tensions, and I already know the resolution, yet I seem to be forced to watch a slow motion playing out of the resolution every episode.

When I know the stakes, I need to see them acted out in a natural manner. The final scenes of Season One draw out the "tension" longer than an episode of 24. If you draw out a "tense" moment too long, it loses narrative tension and shifts into annoyance and boredom.

It's really getting to the point where I consider fast forwarding the last 3 minutes -- the better to watch the action unfold in real time.

Generic said...

I'm with Russell on this one. I think his willingness to wallow, at times, is pretty close to the heart of the matter.

You might do better with "Bob & Rose," which has very crisp fade-outs.

Muffy St. Bernard said...

The season four and "end of time" primary resolutions seemed WAAAY drawn out to me too, Christian, though Doctor Who (and Torchwood) episodes often suffer a different sort of end-problem: the desire to squeeze as much emotional impact as possible out of the characters in the final ten minutes, even when it causes just plain tedium or silliness.

I'm thinking of the end of "The Family of Blood," which keeps piling on emotional-whallop endings, and also Torchwood's "Random Shoes." Sometimes they just don't know when to QUIT.

The "time loop" element in The End of Time was part of the dense exposition during the Time Lord Standoff ("Hey Master, THIS is what's been going on throughout the episode, and also the series! Let me explain it to's complicated! Viewer, just go to the bathroom for a few minutes").

The classic series always seemed to present post-regeneration as traumatic, though they weren't on the same page regarding what it actually meant. Tat Wood's amazingly-obsessive "About Time" series has a big essay about how different writers and producers worked the gimmick into their shows. It's a wonder it's as consistent as it is.

Good point about Alonzo, I bet you're right!

Generic said...

I've just started reading P.D. James on the detective story. She defines her ambitions as (in this order) "to writing good novels that are also good mysteries." Davies seems to want add a level of "good drama" to the SF adventures in his Doctor Who scripts and for the most part, to my taste, succeeds. Perhaps what we're dealing with in the "drawn out" issue, IOW, is the tightrope that has to be walked when adding dramatic layers to genre stories, especially something like a long established series. Genre stuff tends to thrive on briskness and to develop a shorthand; dramatic elements to be things in themselves that can be chewed on a bit. The aspects of the Who stories we're describing as stretched out (such as the season two finale? almost my favorite section of the entire series) tends to have a high "drama" quotient. If Davies doesn't always strike exactly the right balance, I say cut him some slack. He's trying to do something that's pretty damn difficult.

Two things I'm prompted to do: re-watch all of Dennis Potter (since I seem to be clearing a spot on the same shelf for Russell Davies) and looking up Tat Wood.

A co-worker who is a Who and Torchwood (and Ianto) obcessive was offended by the Alonzo bit. Says it's "too soon."

Tulkinghorn said...

I was very moved at the coda. Davies has an extraordinary sense of what time travel would do to the soul of a time lord -- create a paradoxical sense of the fragility of relationships. And seeing Donna as an old woman, returning to help Wilf? (which is what I think is communicated by the significant glances at the wedding)

A stone would weep.

Obsessive Brit TV fans will remember Alonzo's (Russell Tovey) performance as the love-lorn son of the Marshallsea gate-keeper in Little Dorrit.

Christian Lindke said...

I'm more referring to the sequence at the end of the first episode of Season One when the "collective" is animating the department store dummies.

The resolution of the scene, i.e. the companion jumping in to save the day by knocking the "anti-plastic" into the molten entity, took forever. There was the footage demonstrating the stakes of the collective's actions, which were excellent initially, repeated ad nauseaum. How many times did I need to see failed attempts at cell phone calls and indecision regarding leaping to aid the Doctor? Too many, that's how many.

As I stated, the layers of narrative conflict in the season have been very satisfying, though only adding a level of "good drama" to those who believe genre is deficient in this area. Davies isn't really doing anything new here, he's just telling good genre stories. Those that think that others aren't, or haven't been, are delusional.

Generic said...

Freema was in Little Dorrit as well,m as I recall -- so it's a Who reunion.

Generic said...

A lot of genre stuff is too devoted to "what happens next" to pay as much attention to "what's happening right now, right this second"? Not the best, of course. There are always exceptions.

Davies pays a great deal more attention than in the past to the companions' earth-lives: their family and romantic entanglemnts. The major change is allowing the doctor "human" responses; making him emotionally less alien, if you will. You have to wait for the season two finale to see how much power Davies was able to draw from this.

Christian Lindke said...

I just want to make clear that I like that his companions have lives, and I like the stories being told so far. I just think Davies stretches moments a little too long from time to time.

Tulkinghorn said...

I just want to make it clear that at David's recommendation I watched "Blink" the other day at lunch (Netflix streaming, which is better then standard definition BBC America for sure) and it is on my short list of Best Television Programs Ever. Stars future Oscar nominee Carey Mulligan. Best use of the "By His Bootstraps" time travel paradox as well.

Series completists can watch out of sequence without harm.

Muffy St. Bernard said...

I agree that the season two finale was brilliant...I was criticizing the season four plot-resolution as being too complex and drawn-out (though the coda was, I think, one of the best moments in the series...except now maybe for the coda to End of Time!)

"Blink" is how I exposed a friend to the genius of the new series, it does EVERYTHING very well.

Christian, the season one/episode one was sloppy for several reasons: a new crew, a new doctor, a new show, a new tone, the last-minute realization that they'd underrun the length, but -- most importantly -- the need to introduce a new doctor AND a new companion to people who might never have seen the classic show. All in 45 minutes. With a monster. And a time war backstory. It's a wonder it worked at all...see the awful Photoshop pictures of the Doctor At The Motorcade for an example of the time crunch they were under.

It took me until "Dalek" before I fell in then the layers of the story had been fleshed out enough to actually resonate with me, and everybody had gotten up to speed, and the tone had settled down.

Muffy St. Bernard said...

PS: The Tat Wood & Lawrence Miles "About Time" books:

They're more "reference" than anything, and they can get EXTREMELY meticulous, but they put the series in context, particularly explaining the British social/political issues that informed each episode, and also explaining how British viewers perceived elements of the series.

Lots of great essays too "What is the Gayest Doctor Who Episode" (that's a hard one!), "What is the UNIT Timeline," and "Can You Rewrite History, Even One Line?"

It's very fannish and may simply reflect personal biases, but there is SO much information.

And it's funny and bitchy too.

Christian Lindke said...


I completely agree that season one/ep one suffered from "pilotitis," but the deeper I get into the season the more I notice some stylistic choices that are echoes of the structure of that episode. Things that mildly annoy me.

I should emphasize mildly.

I should also not make it seem like I am overly in need of "action, action, action" to satisfy my genre cravings. One of the things I am really enjoying about Stargate: Universe is the fact that it is letting human relations evolve and develop in a way far more sophisticated than prior SG shows.

Generic said...

Davies points out in an interview that Dr. Who has always had a strong gay following -- and that he created a charcter in Queer as Folk who took refuge in it.

I notice that the same publisher also offers a one-volume "history of the timeline" that looks a little less overhwlming. Do you know that one?

Muffy St. Bernard said...

I haven't read "History of the Timeline," I'll need to check it out!

I wrote a blog post about Tat Wood's take on the Gay Following of Doctor Who. It only excerpts a small part of the essay...the whole thing is certainly worth reading!

Generic said...

Very nice post, as always.

As I recall, Davies' take centers on the Doctor-as-outsider motif -- which is some ways has been less pronounced under his leadership as the Doc becomes more entangled with the lives and families of the companions. Wilfred as surrogate dad, etc. Interesting, too, in this context that Tennent's is the most heterosexually functional Doctor to date.

I guess I will have to spring for those books, after all. Next paycheck.