So we’re done with another season, Moffat’s second as showrunner, and it looks like I got a fair bit right in my assessment last week.
The point of this year’s story was to cut the Doctor down to size. He’s now invisible to the Silence and his principal enemies, who now think him dead. His future incarnation knew who the Impossible Astronaut was, and so did River’s. And the ‘Doctor’ who ‘died’ was indeed not him, but it wasn’t a Ganger – instead it was a robot body provided by the Teselecta (although as I’ll get back to this creates more problems than it solves).
I have to say I loved the series but I’m no wiser to what’s going on now than I was at its outset. Series 6 pretty much answered its own self-contained questions, but the outstanding questions from series 5 were bafflingly left hanging. Why was the Tardis blown up and the universe rebooted? I’m no clearer to what the point of series 5 actually was – was it jus another assassination attempt or was there a deeper purpose? Worse, was it another ‘Bad Wolf’ moment – a great idea by the show runner, who never gets about to explaining it?
I’m enjoying the sophistication, but I’m getting worn down by subplots taking too long to resolve. Moffat may have budget problems with the BBc, but why do we still have multiple, poorer quality filler episodes, which could be used to tell his story? RTD’s series finales tended to be poorly written but at least he gave us a start, middle and end for each series!
High point for series six though were plentiful: Neil Gaiman’s episode, River Song every time she turned up (but especially in her origin episode), and the unexpected gems like ‘The Girl Who Waited’. Matt Smith sure raised his game, now fully comfortable in the role, but who though Karen Gillan would do the same? I’m now hoping she returns in 2012, which I couldn’t say this time last year. There were down sides too of course: Mark Gatiss’ episode (again), that godawful pirate story, and the whole ‘big reveal’ about Melody/River was handled kackhandedly, but these were mostly unimportant, and anyway RTD had more than his fair share of clunkers on his watch.
I would sway though that Moffat needs to have a think about how he approaches series 7 in the coming months – if the only thing he has to say about Who is the River Song/Silence saga maybe he needs to leave the stage soon. He’s written the best stories I’ve seen in the current era, but has largely side stepped the needs of RTD-era fans for straightforward resolutions to grand plots. I wish I knew what the current plot is ultimately all about. The answer to the question ‘Doctor Who?’ surely doesn’t need three years to resolve. And for that matter can someone please tell me how th Teselecta robot managed to mimic a Time Lord’s regeneration?!
Personally I’m going to go with ‘no’, but it’ll be interesting to see how we’re going to get there. My theories (in addition to what we know) are:
- The object of Moffat’s run so far has been to cut the godlike RTD figure down – his ‘death’ will be sleight of hand;
- The Doctor knew in episode 1 that the Impossible Astronaut was River Song, and so did her ‘present’ incarnation;
- The Doctor and River Song both lie – just because we’re still being led to think that it’s the Doctor who’s shot by River Song, it doesn’t mean it’s not a Ganger.
My questions however remain:
- What was the point of rebooting the universe? Was that actually River blowing up the Tardis?
- ‘Silence Will Fall’, eh? So the whole thing has been about killing The Doctor? A simple yet dastardly plot? Is the assassination in America just a second attempt by the Silence movement?
- Who the hell is Madame Kovarian?
Comments and theories welcome!
I have a very strong suspicion this one is completely correct. But first…
We’re hours away now from the mid-season finale of Doctor Who series 6, and unlike the disappointingly paced series 5, we have a great deal to talk about ahead of the alleged massive cliffhanger later on. Seeing as I’m boosting this blog post into my Facebook and Twitter though, it’ll need
It’s River Song. We know that River Song is Amy’s daughter. The truth is incontrovertibly here, but what does that actually tell us about what we’ve already seen? Here goes:
The universe has successfully rebooted after all but nothing is as it seems. The apparently 1103 year old Doctor leads his friends (and himself) to his execution and wake, but why? Amy sees a Silent, who promptly kidnaps her, leaving all players with no memory of her abduction. Well, almost none – River knows what’s happening to her mother, stops Amy (presumably Ganger Amy) from rescuing the Doctor, makes her think he’s dead (she never admits it) and conveniently fails to kill Eleven’s apparent assassin. I suspect because she remembers not getting shot by her future self (and River is all about not upsetting the timeline).
Kidnapped Amy’s personality continues to feed through to her Ganger body, which the Doctor is fully aware of; the snippits of Madame Kovarian are flashes to what her real body is experiencing. This explains Kovarian’s cryptic comment when Amy ‘sees’ her in the orphanage – the real Amy isn’t even there, nor is she rescued by the Doctor and companions. But what of the Silence’s timeship, and who is the Time Lord child wandering around New York?
River Song (initial name to be revealed as Melody Pond) is the tool in a conspiracy to kill the Doctor – Kovarian herself admits she’s been taken to use a weapon, presumably against the Doctor. Except Amy kills her, as she rescues her daughter, which somehow this kills off the timeline, which the Doctor has also been murdered in, but also results in a new, utterly mad timeline. How does this affect the existence of Pond twins? Is River’s Time Lord sibling (how exactly?) wiped out, with Melody/River going on on her own? We know River and the Doctor are married in her past/his future, and it’s not unreasonable to think that the regenerating child is their offspring. But how does the word about twins feed into that?
The questions I have remaining are this:
- Who is it masterminding the kidnapping of Amy and manipulation of Melody/River? Madame Kovarian seems to be working for the Silence – who has something to gain from this grand plan? Another incarnation of the Doctor (a la Dream Lord)? Or is another coalition of his enemies gathered against him because of something he’s done – it’s referred to in one of these videos, and could well be what makes him accept he’s deserving of execution.
- Who is the Time Lord child? If she’s River (which I doubt), why can’t River regenerate (or has she even lied about that, to her grave)? My suspicion is she’s River’s and the Doctor’s child – we have been assuming the child and the pregnancy are connected – what if the reason Eleven is so protective over her at the end of Episode 1 is because he knows who she is? What if the alliance against him is because of something he’s done to her?
- The Doctor tells River something at the end of the series which will undo his death (which Ganger Amy unwittingly revealed to him this week) – what is it?
- Who is Amy Pond? How can she (and just she) reimagine the Doctor into existence after Big Bang II? What’s so special about her that it should be she who’s kidnapped for her child?
I’ve seen recent complaints that this series isn’t as accessible as Russell T Davies’, and whilst I’d agree, I’m also delighted with what we’ve got. RTD played to the gallery well, and was careful not to make his extended storylines too long or too complicated – I can understand the criticism of Moffat in this, but I love it. It may not play anywhere near as well to children as some believe it should but a) that’s pretty dismissive of children’s ability to track complex storylines (I’ve only heard adults complain they don’t know what’s going on) and b) the post RTD era had to be different. Having said that I hope these storylines are completely wrapped up this series (with maybe some intrigue left about River Song), and I wouldn’t be surprised if this was the last we saw of Amy and Rory as companions.
I’m sorry it’s taken me such a long time to report back on Neil (‘Sandman’) Gaiman’s debut writing effort on Who, but what can you say about this episode other than that it was just beautiful. A love letter to the past, present and future, hitting old, familiar beats and creating new ones, this epitomised the potential of Steven Moffat’s run – sophisticated narratives, strong character development and filling in gaps (albeit off-screen) in canon, making you long for more.
The Doctor receives a message in a box, which could only have come from a Time Lord. Racing into the pocket universe from which it was sent, he, Rory and Amy find themselves on a sentient junkyard world, but all is not as it seems. The Tardis matrix is ripped from the console room, as House unveils its trap, leaving the time travellers in genuine danger and the Doctor with no idea of how to escape, while his companions run for their lives through a suddenly possessed Tardis. But they are far from helpless – the matrix has been deposited in the body of patchwork human Idris (Suranne Jones), who gets to talk one-on-one with her Doctor for the very first time.
The relationship between Time Lord and his ‘old girl’ is investigated with warmth, sensitivity and huge intelligence. It has to – he lives his life out of order and she exists throughout all time and space simultaneously – how on earth can they possibly understand one another? The acting picks up on this and is just sublime – Suranne Jones in particular as Idris is spellbinding – channelling Helena Bonham-Carter style madness yet refining it into incredible sophistication, acting as the perfect foil for a 900 year old man who’s still a boy at heart. ‘What makes you think I would ever give you back’ made me laugh out loud. It would be churlish not to remark on just how good Matt Smith is in this episode too – it’s hard to imagine David Tennant delivering the Doctor’s joy and bewilderment in such an honest yet alien way. His Eleventh Doctor is a brilliant creation, and his ability to vary his performance (under the right director) from boyish glee to ancient stature really is exactly what Steven Moffat’s run needed.
The production values this time around are also superb – Victorian costumes, possessed Ood and half eaten Tardises sit alongside butchered Time Lords, patchwork people and even a (welcome) return to the coral console room used by the Doctor’s last two incarnations. The revelation that the companions are standing in a graveyard of hundreds of Tardises and Time Lords is particularly fascinating and horrific (and impressively delivered), and Gaiman doesn’t scrimp on the horror. The architect of many of the last of the Time Lords’ people’s demises (voiced brilliantly by Michael Sheen) puts captives Amy and Rory through extraordinary levels of hell, and it’s unsettling viewing. Yet it’s delightfully filled with humour too: from Idris’ remarks about the Doctor’s misuse of her front doors to the freshly revealed irony of their very first encounter and the true nature of their relationship (‘I always got you where you needed to go’), the master author is always sure to vary the sensitivity of his touch.
It’s an episode with enormous heart, as the Tardis of course can’t remain in a human host, leaving the Doctor to continue with the way things used to be between them, and I must confess I was pretty moved by their parting comments. Yet now they understand each other for the first time, and Amy rightly voiced the truth that these two travellers will stay together long after his human friends leave him. ’The Doctor’s Wife’ didn’t expand on the series’ mysteries, other than a cryptic comment about (presumably) River Song, but it didn’t matter. Directed by Richard Clark, this standalone did what others in Steven Moffat’s run haven’t always managed – it delivered humour and horror alongside dramatic character development (which I hope Moffat draws on), whilst evolving the mythos in a way to appeal to viewers old, new, classic and rebooted. I really hope this isn’t the last we see of Gaiman. It may be the best episode of the series ever written.
It can’t be this good. It can’t be. They couldn’t have got the tone that right, they couldn’t have reimagined the Tardis, the costume, the feel of the show that perfectly, could they? Our expectations of Steven Moffat couldn’t possibly be met or even exceeded, could they? The answer is yes to everything.
A newly regenerated Eleventh Doctor (Matt Smith) crash lands his burning Tardis in rural England and gets the attention of young Amelia Pond. Neither he nor the Tardis have finished rebuilding themselves and after a garbled first meeting, he rushes back to his ship to send it five minutes into the future to stop the engines from exploding. But misses by 12 years. When he returns he collides with a now adult Amy Pond (Karen Gillan) as the new menace he’d seen emanating from her room when she was a child begins its assault. Will the Earth survive when Prisoner Zero’s alien jailers threaten to destroy the earth to kill it?
Steven Moffat begins his run as head writer and showrunner with a tale of a child’s imaginary friend and what happens when he returns to her as an adult. With threats happening out of the corner of your eye, with menace lurking where you least expect it and a wry, often dark humour replacing RTD’s slapstick, Moffat explodes series 5 into our consciousness with a script just as sharp as expected. The real revelations are Matt Smith as the Eleventh Doctor and Karen Gillan, whose chemistry easily rivals Tennant’s and Piper’s, the former in only one episode bringing a truly fresh approach to The Doctor. It’s easy to see how he defeated his rivals for the role, owning every scene he’s in – bonkers and young one minute, an old man out of his time the next; very human one minute, quite alien the next. It feels entirely fresh, entirely true to what’s gone before, and Moffat even has him walking through holograms of his preceding personalities, establishing himself quite authoritatively as someone quite new by the end of the episode. The tone is spot on, the production values give it valuable extra weight, and Moffat was telling the truth when he said every episode wouldn’t turn out as dark as Blink; the crackpot whimsy he uses to launch his run is a delight. We do however have the Weeping Angels to look forward to in three weeks…
The new Tardis is insane, far bigger than ever before, with no right angles, and cobbled together with retro chic. It’s a wonderful evolution, whilst again remaining true to what’s gone before. What stories Moffat wants to tell in that space is anyone’s guess, and don’t miss the oscilloscope on the new console. Amy thinks Eleven has latched onto her by accident, but he and the Tardis already knew about the crack in space in her wall. What’s his real motive, and for that matter is Amy all she appears to be? A conspiracy is set up to run through the next three months:
“The cracks in the skin of the universe – don’t you know where they came from? You don’t, do you? The Doctor and the TARDIS doesn’t know. The universe is cracked. The Pandorica will open. Silence will fall.”
With the impending return of River (‘Alex Kingston’) Song, we can only guess. I’ll admit I hate the new title sequence, but everything apart from that has been a true delight. Welcome to the new Who era!
David Tennant and the Tenth Doctor are no more, and Russell T Davies is no longer in charge of Doctor Who. Was Davies the saviour of the franchise? Without a doubt, and all of us who love the show owe him a debt of gratitude which can’t be repaid, but in more recent years his writing quality has shown a marked decline in quality. The show’s never lost its entertainment value, particularly because Tennant is such a good actor (and is unquestionably the Doctor of this generation), but Davies’ writing has often been quite painful. No doubt there have been good reasons (Torchwood: Children of Earth showed just how good he can still be), but part 1 of The End of Time was a recent example of just how bad things had got.
I’m going to see the Tennant run out by warmly welcoming new show boss Steven Moffat and Eleventh Doctor Matt Smith to control of the franchise, and offer you the trailer for series 5 which went online this evening. I don’t believe for a moment that we have anything to worry about with these two at the helm; far from it. I am convinced the show’s glory days are ahead of it. We’re going to be lucky enough for Moffat to pen a sequel to his much lauded Blink? April can’t come quickly enough…
James Macintyre argues the BBC’s decision to invite the BNP’s Nick Griffin onto Question Time had nothing to do with impartiality or freedom of speech:
The BBC is not being completely honest when it says it is inviting Nick Griffin on to Question Time because the BNP leader was elected as an MEP in June. “By winning representation in the European Parliament, the BNP has demonstrated evidence of electoral support at a national level,” a spokesman has said. “This is not a policy about the BNP. It’s a policy about impartiality.” In fact, the proposal was doing the rounds when I was a producer there more than two years ago. This was long before the BNP’s “breakthrough”, which suggests that the move is, in reality, “about the BNP”.
It was always a ridiculous argument to suggest that they should be allowed air time merely because they’d achieved representative office – would the BBC allow them a party political broadcast advocating the drowning of African immigrants? I saw an excellent suggestion on Twitter the other day, that the other parties taking place in the broadcast should all field non-white participants, but it remains to be seen whether or not the BBC has the editorial savvy needed to prevent the BNP using its prime-time appearance as either a bully pulpit or excuse for martyrdom. Even David Dimbleby has found it hard to lay a glove on him on election night broadcasts in recent months, which should give cause for concern. Macintyre might well be right – having him on Question Time might be the problem, when programmes like Newsnight would be much better suited to provide the hard edged questioning he and his party so richly deserve.
It’s almost sacreligious in some circles to say it, but the BBC was right to invite BNP leader Nick Griffin onto Question Time:
Nick Griffin, the BNP leader who was elected to the European parliament in June, is expected to be on the show in October. The corporation has decided that the far-right party deserves more airtime because it has demonstrated “electoral support at a national level”.
The move has caused consternation among politicians, with some Labour MPs and at least one cabinet minister pledging to boycott Question Time. They fear the BNP will use the publicity to promote a racist agenda.
I can understand why, but freedom of speech surely has to apply to people you don’t like as much as people you do, otherwise it’s pretty meaningless. It’s not as if Nick Griffin doesn’t have a constituency – he does – and part of the reason why has been the refusal of mainstream politics to address that fact. In an age where people see their needs being increasingly met by non-traditional political parties, he’s used his isolation to paint himself as an outsider who knows how to speak for a significant number of people who consider themselves left behind by mainstream politics; to pretend that isn’t the case is to court disaster. But of course just blithely inviting him onto the show and hoping that his arguments get soundly thrashed also courts disaster – those who complain that his presence on the show will legitimise the racists’ agenda do have a point, and why tolerate intolerance anyway? Bart Cammaerts suggests:
that extreme right parties should not be ignored altogether and the societal tensions and conflicts they are the symptom of, even less so. But the media should expose extreme right parties for what they really are and lay barren internal conflicts (just as with other parties) rather then give such parties and their representatives a platform to repeat their discourses of hate and exclusion.
Journalists should furthermore be very aware of the dangers of legitimizing extreme right discourses when reporting on the extreme right and when interviewing their representatives.
Pluralism should be radical in a democracy, but for vibrant multi-cultural and ethnical democracies to be able to survive, a common ground relating to basic values such as equality, respect, solidarity, difference, etc. is crucial as well. Popper’s paradox of tolerance sums it up pretty neatly, up until what point can intolerance be tolerated before it destroys tolerance all together?
(via Charlie Beckett)
I think he has a point – if the BBC are determined to go down this route, then very difficult and contrasting issues will quickly be in tension and need to be kept in check. The BNP should be as free to speak its mind as UKIP, Respect and the Greens, but only on condition that it agrees to use its freedom responsibly – there’s no freedom to incite racial hatred after all, and nor should there be. David Dimbleby and the show’s editors must also be prepared to examine the legitimate social issues which have in part accounted for the nationalists’ rise to greater prominence – doing so will undoubtedly provide an important journalistic insight into forces at play within the BNP (and amongst its constituents), and hopefully begin to expose and explain the gaps in their own support which the parliamentary parties have not yet fully understood. Philip Hensher is right when he says the BBC isn’t obliged, in the way it claims, to represent every political opinion, but I don’t think that’s the issue in play. Not prominently challenging the BNP as it continues to build its mystique as the party of outsiders, while the gap between rich and poor is larger than ever, causing ever more Britons to feel left out and left behind, would be the height of journalistic irresponsibility.