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October 4, 2014

It has SPOILERS on the Inside: a Dr Who Discussion Thread
Posted by Abi Sutherland at 06:16 PM * 89 comments

Since there’s a material lag between the broadcast times of Dr Who on the two sides of the Pond, here’s a spoiler thread for exasperated exclamations, squillions of squees, historical hrrumphs, and ridiculous retconning before the episodes are generally known.

Enter at your peril, if you aren’t caught up.

Comments on It has SPOILERS on the Inside: a Dr Who Discussion Thread:
#1 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2014, 07:06 PM:

I did like the line, "I'll smack you so hard you'll regenerate."

#2 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2014, 07:13 PM:

That was a good line, Abi. On t'other hand, I found the whole episode rather silly. I especially found the idea that the moon was a giant egg extremely annoying. The tick-like giant bacteria -- just no.

#3 ::: David S. ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2014, 07:42 PM:

A very irritating episode, even more absurdities that usual it seemed. Even ignoring the moon-as-an-egg nonsense they couldn't even get it's age or mass even nearly right - ooh, it's a 100 million years old, and it's mass has increased by 1.3 billion tonnes. Just pick some numbers out of your rear end that sound big seems to be the idea... A moon creature is born and flys away on wings, in the vacuum of space, oh dear.

The Doctor seemed very concerned about the high gravity too, when the shuttle was still free-falling towards the Moon... Except it clearly wasn't falling, it was a winged shuttle gliding towards the Moon's surface in vacuum!

I''ve been finding the suspension of disbelief increasingly difficult over the last couple of seasons, I think it's time they put Doctor Who back in the freezer for another decade or two, even the best one-liners and in-jokes can't sustain this incarnation any longer.

#4 ::: Michael I ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2014, 07:44 PM:

two sides of the Pond

Wait, I thought Amy left the show last season?

Oh, different Pond. Never mind.

:-)

#5 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2014, 08:47 PM:

The cobwebs were just too much.

#6 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2014, 08:48 PM:

Michael I #4: You win the internet.

#7 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2014, 11:27 PM:

Moffat needs to go. In fact I've proposed a panel for next WisCon on strategies for getting rid of him (I'm thinking letter-writing campaigns, not drone strikes). Not sure it will happen (or even if WisCon will), but I'm hopeful.

Peter Harness,* who wrote this episode, obviously failed grade/primary-school science. Of course the moon gained mass when it was getting ready to hatch; we all know how eggs get heavier as they develop, right? Oh wait, they don't.

And if it did, it wouldn't produce "high tides everywhere at once." No. Just no. Very high tides at high tide; very low tides at low tide. Because the tides move the water around, they don't fucking LEVITATE it. Or create more water, or whatever the fuck this idiot Peter Harness was thinking.

Or maybe it wasn't him. Maybe he got it mostly right and Moffat fucked with it to make it stupid, because he's actively trying to kill the show. Any sufficiently advanced incompetence, right?

And "it laid a new egg" as the explanation for why the moon is still there later is a typically stupid fishnet Moffat explanation. It laid a new egg, with all the craters from millennia of meteor strikes? Covered with pulverized rock from those selfsame strikes? With Neil Armstrong's footprints and an American flag in the Sea of Tranquility?**

I did like the part where Clara tells the Doctor to fuck on off beyond the Oort Cloud (not in those words). About time someone told off this asshole Doctor. (Please note, I'm not objecting to Capaldi; I'm objecting to the way Twelve is being written.)

And let's not even get into the racism of the previous episode.

*Apparently Peter Harness also wrote an episode of Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, which is apparently in pre-production.

**Actually I'm not absolutely certain we've seen those on the moon in the post-mid-21st century future.

#8 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: October 05, 2014, 03:31 AM:

Having now seen the episode:

Yeah, the spider-things were just stupid, as well as being a tacked-on menace. I don't really see a problem with having them die of being sprayed with Windex, however. (Hell, we've seen Slitheen explode from being splashed with kitchen vinegar, this is better than that.)

The law of conservation of mass, and the laws of gravity, definitely seemed to be pretty much in abeyance throughout. It was nice that they found a way of handwaving the inability to get 1/16th gravity in their studio, but things went well downhill from there.

The newborn creature immediately lays a new egg? It's immediately reproductively mature? Shades of "The Trouble With Tribbles".

And despite everything else going on, I found time to notice the lack of light-speed lag when they had the videophone conversation with Earth.

(Everyone on Earth heard the message, believed it, and obeyed? Even the people in charge of the streetlights? REALLY?)

Why was the space shuttle being piloted by people from England?

The one bright spot, I'll agree, was Clara giving the Doctor a badly-needed kick in the ass at the end. I'm guessing that they're intending an arc like Six was supposed to have, where he starts off abrasive and gradually learns better. It didn't work for that incarnation, but maybe they'll pull it off here.

#9 ::: soru ::: (view all by) ::: October 05, 2014, 07:44 AM:

It's the subtle things that make this episode so good.

A flying space dragon is impossible. So in the presence of an impossible thing, you would expect to see impossible behaviour. And you do: weight gain, macroscopic bacteria, etc.

But that wouldn't affect unrelated things, like a video link to the Earth. So if you look at the conversation between the astronaut and ground controller, there is a definite lag of around two seconds between question and answer. One way light time to the moon is 1.25s.

And when the light on earth turn off, they don't fade out, but go off in blocks. Because obviously somone is cutting the power, because obviously they would.

As for the age of the moon:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Silurian_%28Doctor_Who%29

' in their backstory, the Silurians went into self-induced hibernation to survive what they predicted to be a large geological upheaval caused by the Earth capturing the Moon. '

So this episode actually fixes a 40-year old scientific gaffe:-0

#10 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: October 05, 2014, 09:33 AM:

Why was the space shuttle being piloted by people from England?

Britain has historically had a thriving space programme in the Whoniverse, including at least one manned Mars mission.

#11 ::: beth meacham ::: (view all by) ::: October 05, 2014, 11:00 AM:

yeah, ok, but how did a US space shuttle (an old one, not a newly built one) get to the moon in the first place? They don't have the engines necessary to build escape velocity. Even with a newly earth-mass moon pulling on them.

No, we've thrown science out the window. The whole episode could have been done and made completely believable (in Dr. Who terms) by having a second moon appear in earth orbit.

Moffat must go. Also, I note that next week's episode is a rewrite of the Titanic episode. At least the Moon-is-an-egg idea is original!

#12 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: October 05, 2014, 12:19 PM:

Xopher #7: Drone strikes? Now there's a thought... Pity they're illegal.

beth meacham #11: The English accents of the shuttle crew were handwaved away (the shuttle was explained as an old one refurbished).

My wife wondered if the Windex was a tribute to My Big, Fat Greek Wedding?


#13 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: October 05, 2014, 02:23 PM:

My point is, why is the US refurbishing a shuttle and giving it to the English, instead of refurbishing it themselves and sending their own mission?

Refurbishing a shuttle and sending it up, instead of just building something new, makes no sense anyway.

Question, after a night's reflection: does it seem to anyone else that the Doctor knew that the dragon hatching would be harmless to Earth? In which case he was being really irresponsible — standing aside and letting someone make their own decision is one thing, denying them critical need-to-know information is quite another.

#14 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: October 05, 2014, 02:27 PM:

beth 11: Moffat must go. Also, I note that next week's episode is a rewrite of the Titanic episode. At least the Moon-is-an-egg idea is original!

Yeah, I noticed that too. I'm guessing other eps this season will be

1) A party of people in spacegoing covered wagons who get stranded without food on an ice planet and decide to eat the Doctor and Clara;

2) a group of people living in a super-advanced society who somehow can't manage to save themselves when their island nation is inundated;

3) a bunch of people flying on the starship Marie Celeste who have no idea why the Doctor and Clara are concerned about them until the godsdamned clockwork robots show up to take them all away in the middle of supper.

Moffat is so good at taking a good initial idea (hell, the man wrote Blink) and pounding away at it and changing it around until you're sick of it and bored by what it's become.

#15 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: October 05, 2014, 02:38 PM:

I agree, David. I think Clara was right, and he was being a total jackhole.

#16 ::: Christopher B. Wright ::: (view all by) ::: October 05, 2014, 05:00 PM:

It's hard to get too worked up over the bad science in this episode when one of my favorite episodes for 11 used the surprise reveal from The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas but then decided what the story REALLY needed to make it work was a giant space whale.

#17 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: October 05, 2014, 06:48 PM:

I was disappointed in the episode because it didn't have to be so dumb about the moon. They could have told an almost identical story by having some unknown body come into orbit around the earth and causing the effects, and you wouldn't have had to go through that malarkey about the moon being an egg. What were they thinking?

#18 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: October 05, 2014, 08:06 PM:

We also have a story arc that is inching towards resolution. This, it would seem, involves the departure of Clara Oswald. Is she going to be replaced as Companion by young Courtney, the dab hand with the Windex?

#19 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: October 05, 2014, 08:08 PM:

I recall reading a story ages ago in which the planet of the solar system turn out to be eggs, and the sun an incubator. I can't recall who it was by.

#20 ::: CN ::: (view all by) ::: October 05, 2014, 08:18 PM:

Does anyone else but me find Capaldi not quite up to the mark? It seems as if he's trying to be Matt Smith and not doing it very well. Time to start looking for a replacement, because he isn't working out.

#21 ::: Christopher B. Wright ::: (view all by) ::: October 05, 2014, 08:52 PM:

I disagree #20 cn, I think Capaldi has been stellar. He's come across as about as different from Smith's Doctor as you can get... at least, in my eyes.

Preferences will vary, of course.

#22 ::: Cat Eldridge ::: (view all by) ::: October 05, 2014, 10:07 PM:

Moffat's lack of scientific realism is no worse than any other writer in the history of television fantastic fiction, be it Max Headroom, Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica, or, oh pick your own series. But then much of sf literature is itself pure fantasy with a thin coating of well, it should be possible.

Any series built around a Blue Police Box that's bigger on the inside than it is on the outside is one who core premise is fantasy.

#23 ::: Lenora Rose ::: (view all by) ::: October 05, 2014, 11:16 PM:

Xopher @ 7: Racism in the last episode? I was under the impression the phys. ed. jokes etc. were attacking Pink as a former soldier, not about his colour. Did I miss something?

Cat @ 22: That sounds oddly like saying nobody is allowed to ever facepalm the science. Is that what you're trying to say? Because, no.

I don't think Moffatt is worse at science than, oh, much of the history of Doctor Who. it's always been built of handwavium. But this episode was bad BY THOSE STANDARDS.

(Also, "because fantasy" is actually no excuse either for bad science; magic replaces some scientific principles and handwaves others (So dragons can change shape to humans and not be so dense they have gravitational pull), but if it doesn't have *some kind* of internal structure, it also fails.)

In general: I like Capaldi, but with the possible exception of "Listen", which I thought did atmospheric creepiness very well, I have found the writing to be hitting all Moffatt's weak spots, and the writing from other writers is worse. Not only is Moffatt not a particularly good person to have as head writer (He does very well as an occasional episode writer under someone else's hand), he's also clearly not the best judge when it comes to others' work.

I also think, must the Doctor insult Clara's appearance at least once per episode? Okay, to be fair, that's the one thing he didn't do in Kill the Moon - instead he insulted a teen girl he *knows* is a teen. It's the same problem, it's not funny, it's not a cute quirk. it's just thinly veiled sexism. (And yes, I've also noted the eyebrow jokes; I don't think they qualify as sauce for the gander. A: He participates, which changes the dynamic. B: Note that insulting his appearance only ever criticizes ONE aspect of his appearance, where his insults of Clara and now Courtney have been pretty, um, ranging.)

So: This episode; Good on Clara for giving the Doctor heck. But the egg-moon itself and the dilemma it created were trash - by the standards of Doctor Who science.

Also -- and I seem to keep saying that -- the Doctor says eggs don't destroy their own nest, but there was significant loss of human life handwaved away. Which is inconsistent with the Doctor's morals as the show tries to make them.

#24 ::: omega ::: (view all by) ::: October 06, 2014, 05:02 AM:

And Lo! The Bird by Nelson S. Bond

http://www.isfdb.org/cgi-bin/title.cgi?69112

#25 ::: James Harvey ::: (view all by) ::: October 06, 2014, 05:55 AM:

I caught Saturday's episode and was profoundly disappointed. Ignoring the fact that the science made no sense whatsoever, the plot made no sense either and the acting was appalling, over the top melodrama. It's as though the producers feel that the lack of a believable script can be covered up with a lot of running about and shouting. There clearly isn't anyone of, say, Douglas Adams' talent editing and writing the scripts.

When I look at the brilliance of say season 17: Destiny of the Daleks, City of Death, The Creature from the Pit, Nightmare of Eden, this abject tosh is just embarrassing.

And I speak as someone who is definitely not a Whovian: as a Sevener I have always regarded the show's whimsy as a bit eye-roll inducing. But at its best it has been alien, other worldly, scary and thought provoking. The current show seems to exist to prove the point that bad scripts are far more embarrassing than bad special effects.

#26 ::: Margaret ::: (view all by) ::: October 06, 2014, 08:05 AM:

Fragano @19: Are you thinking of "Born of the Sun" by Jack Williamson? It's from the 1930s & collected in Asmiov's "Before the Golden Age" anthology series (I reviewed it briefly last year if you want a few more details, scroll down a bit to find it).

#27 ::: James Harvey ::: (view all by) ::: October 06, 2014, 09:24 AM:

This review of Saturday's episode in The Register is pretty close to the money

#28 ::: Lenora Rose ::: (view all by) ::: October 06, 2014, 10:34 AM:

James Harvey: Someone in the comments actually wins even more than the review, and says what I've ranted about elsewhere about Moffatt's almost-always "Everybody Lives!" endings, but better and more briefly (Re: a moral dilemma where some people might die to save everyone else):

"In Moffat's world such a moral dilemma doesn't exist... there further exists the big fat lie that if you can't find the sonic screwdriver/magic wand to dissolve the dilemma before your face (and here's where fantasy becomes pernicious) then you are a failure and you have no soul."

I LIKED the "Everybody Lives" ending to the Doctor dances, because it was at the time rare and transcendent. I thought it worked for the 50th anniversary, though not as powerfully because we've seen him do it a few times. But - this commentor, Success case, has nailed the reason behind why I hate it *besides* that it becomes cheap when every single dilemma is solved this way.

#29 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: October 06, 2014, 11:37 AM:

omega #24 & Margaret #26: Thank you. I suspect that omega has the one of which I'm thinking.

#30 ::: john, who is incognito and definitely not at work ::: (view all by) ::: October 06, 2014, 11:44 AM:

Xopher @ 7, Lenora Rose @ 23: I was reading his comments to Danny as racism too, in light of the times I've seen racists refuse to accept the intellectual achievements of people of color. I've seen people insinuate or even state outright that a person of color didn't earn/deserve his or her position (a position which might be librarian, professor, lawyer, doctor, or president but never seems to include athlete, musician, or artist).

So it's hard for me not to see that sort of assumption in a negative light, not to recognize an at least superficial resemblance to racism in the Doctor refusing to accept Danny as a maths teacher. I'm not sure the intended it to remind anyone of a racist interaction, which is I think a problem on its own.

And then when Clara asks the Doctor if the name Pink means anything to him, mentioning Orson Pink, the Doctor says that he and Danny don't look anything alike. So that's two racist tropes for the price of one ("all X look alike").

In Deep Breath he confuses Strax and Clara, so if the Doctor were generally terrible at recognizing people then I could accept that line as, again, possibly-not-racist on the Doctor's part. But it's problematic that it mirrors actual racist beliefs, and the situation isn't helped any by the Doctor's belief that Adrian looks like Eleven. Perhaps, as someone on Metafilter posits, the Doctor just has a vision problem, one perhaps caused by this latest regeneration. Another read on it, and the one I hew more closely to, is that the authors think they're being funny when they're not, and think they're not being racist or sexist when they are.

#31 ::: john, who is incognito and definitely not at work ::: (view all by) ::: October 06, 2014, 11:52 AM:

Oops. Clicked "post" when what I wanted was another preview.

I'm not sure the [authors] intended it to remind anyone of a racist interaction etc.

I think it might be unclear with what I meant by the Orson/Danny comment. With the Doctor saying Orson doesn't look like Danny, I'm taking that to mean he's going by hair [or clothes?] only, which would mean that he didn't look at the face, and which is where the specter of "all X look alike" comes in.

It is of course possible I'm wrong on some or all of this.

#32 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: October 06, 2014, 12:38 PM:

This may well be the "Spock's Brain" episode of the Doctor Who reboot.

#33 ::: Lenora Rose ::: (view all by) ::: October 06, 2014, 01:05 PM:

John @ 30, 31: Thanks for elaborating. Probably that's what Xopher saw.

This Doctor has had way too many digs at looks in general. and Moffatt has certainly shown moments prior to this that pretty much suggest he likes his humour "edgy", which often means going back to the Schrodinger's Asshole principle. (Or rather, what theophylact calls the preemptive version in that thread: claiming ahead of time that everything they say in that line is a joke...)

So it wasn't that I couldn't believe in probable racism on his part, just that I missed it. And I know myself to be Clueless sometimes.

#34 ::: Russ ::: (view all by) ::: October 06, 2014, 05:30 PM:

john, who is incognito and definitely not at work@30

I'm pretty sure that interpretation is US/UK thing - we're not quite as sensitive to that flavour of racism here, being more focused on more recent immigrant populations. It never occurred to me that the trope the writers were going for was anything other than "ex-soldiers who become teachers become P.E. teachers", which also fits with this doctor's inexplicably extreme reaction to soldiers.*

That's not to say the scene doesn't mean to you what it means to you, of course, just that I genuinely don't think that's the intention.

The gravity thing I figured I could explain away on the grounds that the space dragon manipulates gravity itself** - hence the weird bit where gravity turns off for a bit and Courtney floats. Killing it would stop it doing that. I also didn't have a particular problem with the 100 million year old hatchling immediately laying an egg*** - after all, aphids are born pregnant. But having balked at the macroscopic germs bit when they did it in Star Trek: Voyager, I could see no reason to repeat the same nonsense here (if they had to be there at all, why not parasites a la Cloverfield? And why *webs*?) and generally thought the writers could have more effort to come out and meet suspension of disbelief a little closer to half way.

Timelord technology is one thing, but things that we *do* sort of understand failing to behave sensibly is more jarring****.

I loved Clara's speech to the Doctor; fitting revenge after the cavalier way he's left some companions in the past. Has a companion ever dumped *him* like that before? On the other hand his leaving without giving them the information they needed was just bizarre, and it wasn't made particularly clear whether he was lying about not knowing the outcome or not.

All in all something of a mixed bag. I have been re-watching Ten episodes alongside the new ones, and despite some RTD cheesiness they are every bit as good as I remember - all in all I think I agree that Capaldi is excellent (and a very different Doctor), but Steven Moffat works much better as an occasional scriptwriter than as a showrunner. On the other hand, the wife is enjoying this series more than she did 11's - she never really got on with Matt Smith, or with Amy Pond - so something is going right somewhere, for someone.

* He's always had a difficult relationship with the military, but come on - Lethbridge-Stewart was one of very few old friends.

** Inconsistently, at this point, because baby.

*** Although it was a rather obviously convenient continuity reset.

**** Don't get me started on the ballistic improbability of a solid gold arrow.

#35 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: October 06, 2014, 05:54 PM:

Criticizing "Doctor Who" for the bad science is like the shooting at piscenes in a barrel. There must be something wrong with me because the last two episodes were - to me - this Doctor finally finding his sea legs.

As for the Moon as an egg... This reminded me of the Marvel Universe's retrofitted explanation for why there are so many superpowered being on Earth, especially in New York City. They're there to protect the hatching Celestial deep inside the Earth against Galactus, whose function is to kill Celestials before their birth otherwise they'd overrun the Universe.

#36 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: October 06, 2014, 06:19 PM:

CN 20: I'm with Christopher. I think Capaldi is about as different from Matt Smith as you can get and still be (barely) recognizable as the Doctor. It's the writing I think is barfulous.

Cat 22: It makes a difference whether the bad science is something you realize later (a "refrigerator moment") or whether it knocks you out of the story with an "oh, FFS!" (a "flying snowman"). The bad science in this ep was a flying snowman.

Of course, one person's snowman is another's refrigerator.

Lenora Rose 23: Racism in the last episode? I was under the impression the phys. ed. jokes etc. were attacking Pink as a former soldier, not about his colour. Did I miss something?

Yes and no. It was written as an attack on him for being a soldier, yes. Then it was cast with a black actor, and those insults became racially tinged. And especially the Doctor pretending not to notice being set right about the subject Pink teaches is a microagression many POC have experienced. Because obviously a black man couldn't be smart enough to teach MATH, right?

I've noticed that most people who say "WTF" to me about this seem to be in the UK, and one of them explicitly told me that the UK has better race relations than the US (not a high bar, to be sure). This may be so (and the u in 'colour' makes me think you're not US-based). And I'm sure the stereotypes and microaggressions applied to POC are different on that side of the Atlantic.

BUT. When the show is broadcast here, those are racist comments. Moffat doesn't care enough to modify them to avoid the problem, or anything else. Because you can call a white guy a "bright boy" and he'll laugh it off, but use the very same phrase to a black American and he's offended. The use of the word 'boy' for adult African-American men during slavery and Jim Crow, and by racists today, makes it offensive no matter how you mean it.

The thing you did miss is that he also verbally abuses a black teenager, telling her to get going, or she'll be late for shoplifting. Again, might have been written without thinking about it. But note that the "disruptive influence" is also cast with a black actor!

Since I haven't seen the script, I don't know if it has "Cast this part with a black actor! We really want to piss off the Americans here" pencilled in the margins or not. It was at least deeply thoughtless.

Also, what john said. And I agree with everything else you said here.

Russ 34: I'm pretty sure that interpretation is US/UK thing

Yep. Everything I read confirms it more. But see above about thoughtlessness.

#37 ::: Lenora Rose ::: (view all by) ::: October 06, 2014, 06:26 PM:

I like the episode prior to this, Serge (I also liked the crazy bank heist, and Listen, though.)

Still; do you REALLY Believe the fact that we can accept the Tardis and the sonic screwdriver of "I fix everything always" for the sake of the show means we *have* to accept eggs acting as eggs don't, the moon doing physically impossible things, and failures of junior high level physics?

I like Capaldi. And the fall-out with Clara was due, even barring the real world knowledge the actress was leaving the show halfway through this series. What it needed was a better moral dilemma and a more difficult resolution of same.

#38 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: October 06, 2014, 06:39 PM:

Lenora Rose @ 37... I must confess that my answer is yes. If it were another series, i'd probably have thrown something at the screen, but I give the Doctor a special dispensation because the bad science is more than made up for by the grand romantic adventure. Heck, I like the movie "the core", and for the same reasons. That last bit probably tells a lot about the value of my opinions. :-)

#39 ::: Lenora Rose ::: (view all by) ::: October 06, 2014, 06:43 PM:

Xopher: I'm a Canuck. We have the same racism issues as the U.S, but in different proportions of emphasis (First Nations issues crop up first on almost all fronts, with immigration coming in second, and the fallout of slavery and the deliberate ghettoizing of black communities third. The US has that exactly reversed.) So it does mean, as I stated later, I can sometimes have moments of missing things Americans find obviously racially charged.

#40 ::: bentley ::: (view all by) ::: October 06, 2014, 09:57 PM:

The handwaving that I had trouble with was when the thingy hatches and the moon-as-egg disintegrates into nothingness and we're all spared the danger of death by falling pieces of moon. But what about the space shuttle and the nuclear bombs? Shouldn't they be falling to earth or something? Or were they destroyed at some point (or eaten by the baby thingy)?

#41 ::: CN ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2014, 12:00 AM:

Xopher @ 36: It's my belief, however misguided, that a more capable actor than Capaldi could have made these episodes work much better than he has.

In my mind, as soon as I'm aware of him as an actor playing a role, rather than as a character in a story, he's failed. I never saw Smith, or Baker, or Tennant, or Eccleston, or any of the others as anything other than the Doctor.

#42 ::: CN ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2014, 12:01 AM:

Xopher @ 36: It's my belief, however misguided, that a more capable actor than Capaldi could have made these episodes work much better than he has.

In my mind, as soon as I'm aware of him as an actor playing a role, rather than as a character in a story, he's failed. I never saw Smith, or Baker, or Tennant, or Eccleston, or any of the others as anything other than the Doctor.

#43 ::: CN ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2014, 12:02 AM:

Oops. Sorry

#44 ::: Lenora Rose ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2014, 12:32 AM:

Serge: not the value of your opinions, just a difference in perspective. Since a good friend of mine really liked the movie of Dungeons and Dragons, and I am a fan of several questionable properties, I think de gustibus, etc. is a thing here.

And overall, I agree about Doctor Who and the grand romantical adventure versus the bad science (Or effects, or whatnot, depending on the era). It's just that I have a break point even for shows like this one that get something of a pass for some of their silliness.

Also, Doctor Who has spent a LOT of my "I'll let that bad tidbit/science/scene/episode pass of the sake of the overall show quality." tolerance, lately.

I just rewatched the end of Series Three -- a quite well-done trilogy badly marred by 5 minutes of Magickal Jesus Doctor at the climax. And my thinking here is *that's* how you pay for the unadulterated silliness - you START with the compelling drama then ease into the bad moments after you've done all the good stuff. Don't throw 20 minutes of bad science at us first then end with five of really good drama.

Not like there weren't bad episodes then, either, but they felt less, um, crowded.

#45 ::: Andrew Plotkin ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2014, 01:54 AM:

I'll buy a certain amount of rubber science(*) in any scifi show, and a lot of it in a Who episode. But it has to be leveraged by the plot. Do something twice, bring an idea back in the denoument, do *anything* with the gimmick.

This show was a perfect negative example. The spider-germs were nothing but padding and a way to kick two characters off-stage once they were out of lines. (The horde of spiders approaching at the climax was irrelevant -- the characters' deadline was the hatching timer, not the spiders.)

The floating student scene was padding. It had nothing to do with any other story element. Leaving the gravity (lack of moon-bouncing) completely unexplained would have been *better* script-writing.

The rest of the plot didn't work either.

(* Not to be confused with vulcanization.)

#46 ::: Russ ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2014, 07:15 AM:

Xopher Halftongue@36

The thing you did miss is that he also verbally abuses a black teenager, telling her to get going, or she'll be late for shoplifting. Again, might have been written without thinking about it. But note that the "disruptive influence" is also cast with a black actor!

I actually took pretty much the opposite thing away from this - in an East End comprehensive (very similar to one I volunteer in, actually) the majority of the students would be likely to be non-White, but it would not have surprised me at all to have the one speaking part be a white kid - the actual representative casting seems progressive to me! The comments about disruptive influence and shoplifting I took very much to be based on the trope of "inner city school kid", rather than "black school kid". It would be different if Courtney represented a minority in the school and others were shown as well behaved.

On thinner ground I would argue that it's a British show - whilst it's awsome that it has such a wonderful US following, I'm not sure how much responsibility the writers have to account for different cultural sensibilities. Having said that, the BBC apparently cut the "lesbian kiss" (or more accurately, cross species matrimonial breath sharing, I guess) out of Deep Breath in some countries. So I don't know where that leaves me, really.

Pro - Courtney is a strong, cool character who is racially appropriate to the demographic she's drawn from.

Con - when the doctor grumps dismissively at her (and this is indeed a grumpily dismissive doctor), it has uncomfortable racial undertones for the American audience.

#47 ::: Q. Pheevr ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2014, 09:43 AM:

I agree with what Lenora Rose and Andrew Plotkin have said about fantasy. I don't need everything to be scientifically plausible, or even possible, but I want the fantasy to have some internal logic to it, and I want things to have consequences. Good speculative fiction—science fiction or fantasy—should show some interest in exploring its own what-if questions. They can be explored in science-focused or story-focused ways (How do these dragons get enough copper in their diet to produce blue-green flames? versus What would Morgan le Fay do if she had a faster-than-light spaceship?), but they shouldn't just sit there doing nothing.

So, what if the moon were an egg, with giant bacteria living on it? That's an interesting idea! I'm willing to ignore the structural impossibility of single cells that size if you tell me a good story about giant bacteria on the egg-moon. So, what would giant bacteria look like? How would they behave? Oh, apparently they look and act just like giant spiders. Do they have any observable properties that are connected in any way with being bacteria? Well, they can be killed with ammonia. Oh. So, they're giant spiders that can be killed with ammonia. Got it. Why did you call them bacteria?

#48 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2014, 10:55 AM:

Lenora Rose @ 44... What actually annoyed me about the latest was the idiot plot. Let's see. You're on the Moon. You find an abandoned base. You find cobwebs all over everything, even on the outside. Hmmm... Could those have been made by giant spiders? Of course not. What a preposterous idea.

#49 ::: Ingrid ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2014, 01:13 AM:

I watch Doctor Who, especially the Moffat era, as a way to delightfully sidestep rationality and enjoy a truly barmy story. Every week, I wonder "how barmy will it be"? It'll be incubating-space-dragon-in-the-moon barmy, by golly! This is my particular jam, and I love it. Scientific inaccuracy (and even calling it "inaccurate" is doing it a favor, like it lives in the same neighborhood as accurate, which it does not) doesn't lessen my enjoyment - it heightens it. That said, I found the maiden-mother-crone "womankind" trio, arguing over whether or not to abort a near-term "baby" for the safety of humanity, to be pretty ham-handed. I'd love to discuss that particular piece of thinking with the writer - was it tacked on? accidental via casting? is that a go-to trope for him?

#50 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2014, 01:35 AM:

Someone on Twitter called it "this week's pro-life episode."

#51 ::: Lenora Rose ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2014, 12:05 PM:

Ingrid @ 49: See that's a motivation for enjoying the non-science that I can TOTALLY get behind. I understand ' Every week, I wonder "how barmy will it be"?' far better than I do 'it's just fantasy, why does it matter?'

#52 ::: Fragano Ledgister sees spam ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2014, 12:00 PM:

All I can say about this week's episode is 'Mummy!'

#53 ::: praisegod barebones spots Fragano needing a name change ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2014, 03:51 PM:

No spam here, I think.

#54 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2014, 07:34 PM:

Indeed not. No spam here.

#55 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2014, 08:07 PM:

I made the name, address, and URL spaces wider today. I’m hoping that’ll make it easier for people to notice when the spam-spotting version of their handle has gotten auto-entered.

#56 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2014, 08:12 PM:

I noticed that they were wider, but I thought it was something local. (Having a short name, I could see enough of the saved versions to pick the right one. Usually.)

#57 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: October 13, 2014, 01:10 AM:

This week's ep was stupid, but not as throw-things-at-the-TV stupid as last week's. The smoke in space was a minor irritant, compared to the stupidity of the whole setup. What was gained by having a stupid fucking TRAIN in fucking SPACE? It was in no way integral to the plot. It wasn't particularly amusing.

I guess it was vaguely reminiscent of a 20s "Mummy's Curse" plot, but clever combinations are only clever combinations if they're cleverly combined. You get no points just for "we're doing this silly hackneyed plot but now it's IN SPACE!" Frankly I suspect Moffat just wanted to get Jenna Coleman into a flapper costume.

It annoyed me that they didn't get the person who was behind putting all those people on the train with the mummy scroll, but if they track them down in the next few episodes, or even by the end of the season, I'll be mollified on that score.

Lately it seems like the scripts are entirely composed of plot holes strung together with loose ends. I'm calling this phenomenon a Moffat Net.

#58 ::: praisegod barebones ::: (view all by) ::: October 13, 2014, 02:46 AM:

Avram @55: Excellent move!

Xopher @57: My daughter and I suspect that the whole episode was engineered to accommodate the line 'are you my Mummy?'. Which might, conceivably, give you yet another reasons for disliking Moffatt.

#59 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: October 13, 2014, 09:09 AM:

I didn't actually mind the space train.

For one thing, the plot requires the setting to be (a) science fictional (b) full of people who think they're on holiday (c) able to be cut off from escape or rescue. A luxury passenger spaceship is just the ticket, and why not a luxury passenger spaceship with a visually interesting gimmick?

More than that, I think the Edwardian theme does suit the story. It's not just the curse of the mummy's tomb business, there's also that I see the story going for the Agatha Christie "isolated location where people are being picked off one by one" vibe. (In particular, I've seen it pointed out elsewhere that "Mummy on the Orient Express" and "Murder on the Orient Express" share the revelation that an apparently-random group of passengers have actually been arranged to all be on the train at the same time for a hidden purpose.)

#60 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: October 13, 2014, 09:12 AM:

Looking at it from another angle, I'll note that this isn't the first time the Orient Express in Space has been mentioned on the show: there was a throwaway line about it at the end of "The Big Bang".

So it's entirely possible that we got this story because somebody looked at the throwaway line and decided to turn it into an actual adventure.

#61 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: October 13, 2014, 11:04 AM:

The gimmick here is that the mummy is a soldier who, once identified as such, salutes and disintegrates. We are, thus, to infer that the mummy is Sergeant/Colonel Pink in yet another incarnation.Is it, therefore, the Doctor's descendant from the future?

#62 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: October 13, 2014, 02:40 PM:

I haven't seen it (but I don't mind spoilers, so I'm reading here).

There's also an entire anime meme about trains in space, mostly in Leiji Matsumoto's various series (Galaxy Express and The Galaxy Railways). Perhaps he's referencing that.

#63 ::: Michael Johnston ::: (view all by) ::: October 13, 2014, 05:09 PM:

At first I was bothered that the Doctor basically solves the problem out of left field in the final moments--but then it occurred to me that they could be riffing on the same sort of Mystery Story Tricks that Murder By Death lampoons, wherein the protagonist solves the whole mess in the last five minutes with information nobody could have known until that moment.

#64 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: October 13, 2014, 06:51 PM:

praisegod 58: My daughter and I suspect that the whole episode was engineered to accommodate the line 'are you my Mummy?'. Which might, conceivably, give you yet another reasons for disliking Moffatt.

You bet it does! He stole my joke.

#65 ::: Michael I ::: (view all by) ::: October 13, 2014, 07:02 PM:

Fragano@61

If the mummy is an incarnation of Officer Pink he would be a descendant of Clara, not the Doctor.

Although one of the comments in the episode's discussion thread at the "Exploring Our Matrix" blog does draw a parallel between the mummy and the Doctor.

#66 ::: James Moar ::: (view all by) ::: October 14, 2014, 05:14 AM:

Fragano@61, so far it seems to me much more like all these soldiers are meant to be thematically related, not literally (well, except Danny and Orson, but there we're told it straight off).

#67 ::: Jules ::: (view all by) ::: October 15, 2014, 09:45 PM:

A couple of replies:

Xopher @7: "Actually I'm not absolutely certain we've seen those on the moon in the post-mid-21st century future." -- I don't believe we have. According to the list at http://tardis.wikia.com/wiki/Category:Stories_set_on_the_Moon there are very few TV stories on the moon (there are more novels and audio plays, but those are usually considered fair game to be contradicted by later TV stories). Barring episodes with only incidental short scenes set on the moon, I see 4 stories: 3 from the classic series and 1 modern. Of the 3 classic stories, one is set in 2070 and therefore is chronologically before Kill the Moon. Scanning the descriptions of the others, it seems neither have significant external scenes, so wouldn't really show whether the moon is the same moon or not. The one from the modern series is, of course, Smith and Jones, which IIRC is set entirely indoors.

Fragano @61: I think they're trying to establish a theme. The moment where the theme was explicitly stated was when Danny said that while he was a soldier, the Doctor was an officer. Since (and I believe before) then, we've had multiple examples of the Doctor giving soldiers orders which they've then obeyed -- this is the latest example of that pattern being repeated.

#68 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: October 19, 2014, 07:35 PM:

Now we have had the Zombie Apocalypse. What comes next? Vampires?

#69 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: October 19, 2014, 08:57 PM:

Doctor Who has done vampires before. A couple of times, in fact.

#70 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2014, 09:04 AM:

The Doctor's little speech about time machines implies that this week's episode is set in 2016.

Which, on reflection, doesn't surprise me, considering how many weeks and months have been slipping away between episodes this season.

#71 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2014, 12:56 PM:

Tom: well, I doubt they were referencing "Main Line Adrift 000,” the alleged self-parody of 999 where the sexy guardian grabs a six pack whenever possible, because as far as I can tell the only one that's ever seen it is Fred Pattern.

(Referring to other manga: a Dr. Who based on the infamous "Shameless High School" [think of a co-ed St. Trinians with automatic weapons--I don't think it's ever been reprinted]? Sign me up!)

#72 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: November 24, 2014, 12:21 AM:

I've been catching up fairly slowly on this. I really like Capaldi's Doctor, unlike many here. I'm not pleased with how Moffatt is developing Clara, at all -- she's not showing the amazing intelligence that I liked in the late Smith episodes. But what's bothering me is that Moffatt seems to have forgotten how to tell a story. He tosses in lots of Stuff and hopes that it will make something that looks interesting; "Listen" and "The Caretaker" are both very much infected with this. But he forgets that a story starts with setting up a problem, and then working to resolve it. In both those episodes, he starts with problems that are completely irrelevant and just assumes that we'll play along and enjoy the ride.

But you can only do that so many times before I start wondering "why should I bother?" Yeah, there's clearly an overarching story that is going to be super-special -- but that's not enough for an episodic show.

Moffatt seems to be a very interesting writer, but he desperately needs an editor who can make him pay attention. He's showing that over and over again this season. And he's losing me.

#73 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: November 24, 2014, 03:51 PM:

That's why current thought among the #MoffatMustGo contingent is that what we really want is for him to go back to writing, under a competent showrunner.

#74 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: November 24, 2014, 04:06 PM:

It's the Peter Principle at work again, isn't it!

#75 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: November 24, 2014, 04:29 PM:

Just so. I want Davies back.

#76 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: November 24, 2014, 07:45 PM:

I really want to see Capaldi do an episode with Alex Kingston (River Song).

#77 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: November 24, 2014, 07:58 PM:

He did refer to her in passing at one point, if I heard correctly (in Listen, I think). So it's not impossible, and it would be interesting.

#78 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: November 24, 2014, 08:24 PM:

I'm also having difficulty with the amount this Doctor hates himself. It's most explicit in the bank heist episode (with everyone hating The Architect), but it's happening over and over again in various ways. And "hate" isn't a word used much in the series before now. I'm not liking how they're cheapening that.

#79 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2014, 09:19 PM:

I think - I hope - the Doctor hating himself thing has played out now. It seemed like he'd reached a point in the season finale where he knew and accepted who he is.

#80 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2015, 08:12 PM:

"Last Christmas" finally on US Netflix:

I can just see the high-concept pitch meeting for this ep.... In any other context, it would be a total act of desperation. Here, it just ... makes sense.

*snerk*: "Remember, our mugshots are on every Christmas card!"

#81 ::: Ian C. Racey ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2015, 12:18 PM:

Jacque @80

About twenty minutes into that episode, I said out loud, "I'm going to be so disappointed when this starts actually making sense, because it's all going to be so much more fun up until then."

#82 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2015, 03:33 PM:

It annoyed me that they made a big deal out of the lack of wounds to their temples when they thought they'd escaped but hadn't, and then when they woke up for real...they still didn't have wounds.

#83 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2015, 11:14 PM:

One thing that occurred to me quite early on in the later part of this week's episode: instead of running and hiding in the Faraday cage, why not just switch the base back to day mode?

#84 ::: Annie Y ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2015, 03:25 AM:

Because the ghosts managed to switch to night mode at least once last episode when it was too early for it. That implies that even if they switch to day mode, it can be overridden. At least that is what I figured out at some point :)

#85 ::: Andrew Plotkin ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2015, 01:04 PM:

Many bits of the episode didn't make sense. I find this to be par for the course. (What was the last Who episode you'd call "tightly plotted"? _Listen_ maybe?)

But I'm still a fan of the show, so obviously par for the course is good enough for me.

I am most interested by the extra-narrative scenes -- we've gotten two in four episodes: the Doctor's Beethoven lecture, and Missy's story about the Doctor (not necessarily the current one) being hunted. They're unsettling; I like that. Are these just a season motif or are they going to build up to something?

("Google it," grouses the Doctor to the camera. One could write a whole essay.)

#86 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: November 22, 2015, 11:59 PM:

So...Clara has the death clock on her neck. And she's in a room with two different people who are immortal in different ways. And nobody even mentions the idea that she could give it to one of them?

I liked the episode but that really spoiled the drama of it for me.

#87 ::: Andrew Plotkin ::: (view all by) ::: November 23, 2015, 12:49 AM:

*And* a stasis pod which was explained as "keeps you alive". The thing is visible in practically every shot during that scene.

Again, if this sort of thing bothered me, I wouldn't be a fan of the show. I actually paused the video, mentally composed the expository dialogue that was missing, and then unpaused.

#88 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: November 23, 2015, 01:58 AM:

Well, the stasis pod was explained as "keeps you alive if you're alive, preserves your body if you're dead." Doesn't seem to me like it would be effective protection.

#89 ::: Steve Wright ::: (view all by) ::: November 23, 2015, 05:05 AM:

The "quantum shade" evidently has some say of its own in the proceedings... I imagined it would simply refuse to go after someone it couldn't kill.

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