Six Smart Women Discussing Doctor Who

VerityExtraPROBEWe went there. Join Deb, Erika, Lynne, and Tansy as we delve into the deep past of Mark Gatiss‘ scripted Doctor Who work for our “year of firsts”. It may not be the tightest, flashiest DW-related production ever, but we manage to tease out some Gatissisms that recur later. We do our darnedest to stay positive! And even succeed to some extent.

Have you seen P.R.O.B.E. – The Zero Imperative? What did you think? Did it quench your need for Who in a time without it? Or did the all-star cast distract you too much to pay much attention to the spooky story?


Download or listen now (runtime 48:52)  

Comments on: "Extra! – Mark Gatiss, P.R.O.B.E.d" (16)

  1. terminuspodcast said:

    I guess I’m a weirdo because I really love the P.R.O.B.E. series (but then as I said before, I’m a HUGE Liz Shaw nerd, so…). I’d say the two Winterbourne stories are probably most popular with fans I know that have seen it (where Davison plays a very different character than in ‘Zero Imperative’) and there’s even a male-male kiss in them, which was awesome from a queer perspective.

    I actually really like ‘Zero Imperative’ BECAUSE of all the Doctor Who actors in it, personally, but then I kinda really like things like ‘The Airzone Solution’ (and bits of ‘The Stranger’ series) for the same reason, so that’s just me. The only P.R.O.B.E. story I’m not that keen on is ‘Unnatural Selection’, but then it just didn’t really grab me.

    I don’t know, if you’re bored, I’d recommend checking out the rest of the series. Maybe drunk? Or in MST2K style? If you look at it like video fanfic, it kinda helps. 🙂

    P.S. I ship Liz Shaw/Patricia Haggard SO HARD and, trust me, they get more femme-slashy in other stories and, in fact, it *kinda* alludes to them possibly being more than friends in some cases, but its all certainly subtext. 🙂

  2. As terminuspodcast says, it definitely gets more femme-slashy! I’d also agree that the two Winterbourne stories are actually pretty reasonable pieces (somewhat in the Amicus / Hammer House of Horror TV series tradition) and worth a gentle nose (especially with a League of Gentlemen hat on too).

    [And pretty much the only thing I liked about Sleep No More was the Patient Zero reference!]

  3. Hi Team Verity,

    Thanks for covering this outlier in the world of Who. It’s interesting to learn a bit more about something I’ve only seen occasionally mentioned before. For all of the flaws you mentioned, it sounds like something worth having exist for some fun moments. I’ll check it out on high speed in the future sometime.

    As an aside, since you are one of the more progressive podcasts out there, I’m curious why some members of the team describe certain things as creepy (e.g., McCoy kissing someone, Baker and Bryant’s implied physical relationship as characters in a fictional story), and others not (John and Jameson, McGann & ____, Coleman & ____, etc.). While there may be a case for it being ‘creepy’ in the narrative, or presentation, or the context you bring to it from Doctor Who fandom, describing certain thing’s of that nature as ‘creepy’ (perhaps morally deviant) could be inferred as ageist and body-shaming to some degree based on a personal judgement about someone’s appearance. (Noting that some of you shipped Jameson and John, the ageist inference doesn’t fly for women in this case). Although the actors you are describing in this case are men and the general population of males are much much, much, less affected by those issues than women, that type of language may be worth highlighting as it could be inferred in a negative way. It’s the morally/ethically deviant (GROSS) connotation that could be problematic if inferred as being related to body type/appearance. I brought to this episode of the podcast some knowledge of the Verity crew and their perspectives on these issues and can understand the comments better in that context, but new folks might not… Again, not a big deal, but I thought it might be worth bringing up this time.

    Kudos on another successful year for Verity!

    • terminuspodcast said:

      Unfortunately, I have to agree. I did feel a bit uncomfortable about the talk of Sylvester’s kiss and Colin with Nicola in ‘Airzone Solution’ as well. I never found those scenes “creepy”, myself, and especially not “gross”. I mean, I know that it can be a matter of not finding those people attractive or whatever, but I, for example, personally don’t find Billie Piper attractive at all, but I don’t think its “creepy” or “gross” when she kisses Ten(nant) on the show (even if narratively I’m not super-keen on it). I don’t think the Verities meant any harm by it, but yeah it did seem a bit on the ageist and body-shaming bent, as you said.

      • For my part it’s more about it being “The Doctor”. *Especially* when the kissy stuff is happening with an actress who plays his companion. It’s like taking a comfortable, familial relationship and making it…well…incestuous. So yeah, the Colin-Nicola thing was very very icky for that reason. It felt like a violation of a sacred trust.

        It was kind of the same thing with Sylv. That actress wasn’t a former companion, but in this very Who-centric context, I could not get that out of my head. His Doctor was so avuncular and mentor-ey, I can’t shake that. So him making out with an underling (which, in itself is kinda sketchy ethically) made me very uncomfortable. I suspect I’d feel the same way with Peter Davison (whom I find dreamy to the max).

        Can’t speak for anyone else, but that’s where I’m coming from.

      • Let me clarify as a longtime fan and inveterate shipper of many Doctors and Companions:

        The kissing in this story, for ME, is “creepy” because
        a) I don’t personally find Sylvester McCoy attractive (YMMV, of course) although I love him to bits as an actor, a person, and in the role of the Doctor.

        and b) the script and the direction indicate that this kiss is *supposed* to be manipulative. It is *supposed to be creepy*.

        So, it did what it was supposed to do in a horror tale. It was effective at what it was attempting to do.

        As for the Colin-Nicola scene, that’s another situation where *especially given the context of the nature of their dynamic on Doctor Who, which begins with Colin’s Doctor ATTEMPTING TO KILL Peri*, seeing them in bed together completely squicked me out. That is the remnants of an absolutely visceral reaction that I had 15 years ago when I first saw it. I have not watched it since.

        I have seen Colin Baker do “Love Letters” onstage at a convention with Louise Jameson, and it was transcendant. I think he can be an effective romantic lead. The Airzone Solution role was not effective.

        This is about direction and writing as much as it is about whether I find particular actors attractive.

  4. Tractators need more scripts for sustenance! said:

    Hi Erika and Terminus (Podcast),
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    Erika, I completely understand your perspective about being uncomfortable with it within the context you bring to the show, as you have every right to be uncomfortable or not find the ‘-ship’ appealing. (Just for fun… I personally don’t see Peri and Six, Dr. Shaw and Three, or Mel and Seven as familial, but just friends (even peers for the latter two)… as opposed to Jo and Three, Nyssa and Four, and Ace and Seven which have more of a mentor/guardian relationship.) After a speed watch, I didn’t see much of an issue with McCoy’s relationship in the PROBE episode as it seemed they were both professionals (the partner was a Dr.) and it seemed completely consensual. Even then, that’s my take after a speed watch, your concern about the power dynamic is completely valid from that context.

    I should reiterate that I’m not singling out the fine podcasters of Verity with any accusations. It just wasn’t the first time I’ve heard comments like that on Verity (although it’s very rare) and other excellent podcasts, and it’s fairly common in fandom. Since Verity is more conscious and analytical about things like this, I thought I would broach the topic in the comments to see if anyone else has observed this type of thing, and I appreciate both of your responses. I’ve personally seen some instances that hint of a bias in how harassment is treated in academia (regardless of sex or gender) based on socially-stereotypically perceived attractiveness, and so that likely has primed me to be more on edge about associations being made regarding sexual morality hinged on ‘looks’, especially in a consensual (fictionalized) context. Thanks again Erika for all of your work on the podcast and for taking the time to reply.

    Terminus… maybe I’ve had blinders on but I’ve never seen that Ten(nant) wordplay trick before! I jumped over and saw that your podcast covers some issues like this in fandom and will check it out.

    Cheers to both of you!

    • Deborah Stanish said:

      Hmm…this is an interesting conversation to tackle. I know my own personal reaction had nothing to do with looks/age but more character/power dynamics. I found Sylvester’s character deeply unpleasant so my reaction was more along those lines. Considering I was reacting to the kiss after I saw the entire story (if you recall I said I had missed it on the first viewing) so my reaction was definitely based more on the character I saw developed rather than reacting to them as they were developing. This is the same reason why David Tennant (who I find to be quite attractive) unwatchable in Jessica Jones and Secret Smile.

      I do think that sometimes an actor who is playing “creepy” is made-up/styled to appear less conventionally attractive which probably helps play into that stereotype as well.

      As someone who actually has Third Doctor “Sex Bomb” playlist on my phone (and who ships him madly with both Liz and Jo) I know my own personal reactions to attraction rarely fall along the lines of conventional attractiveness but are based more on character and charisma. It’s why my heart skips a beat for Eccleston and Pertwee but Smith and Davison leave me cold.

      Interesting to ponder – thanks for bringing it up!

      • Tractators need more scripts for sustenance! said:

        Thanks for your thoughts Deborah (Deb – in Verity parlance?)!

        First off, I appreciate Verity as being open to topics like this in the comments thread. It’s hard to raise a topic like that without coming off as accusatory and so thanks for being forgiving to the rough, imprecise tools of text in a comment block with my limited writing skills! I don’t believe that anyone on Verity is sexist, ageist, or a body-shamer (or to the crux of the issue being that the sexuality of certain types of people, subconsciously based on body type are inherently more morally deviant)… as you all are one of the most prominent voices challenging these problems. Finding something, or a situation, or an individual as unpleasant or not to one’s fancy is personal taste is a-ok… but some of fandom is completely wrong and leads to lame things like much less Donna Noble fanfic and ships then there should be. (There are some, but it’s still a deficit to what the universe demands.)

        As I mentioned, I’ve heard/seen things throughout fandom (and of course, society at large) that kept hinting at this, but are tricky to pin down and address. For example, I recently saw a new foreign (produced in a non-English speaking country) comedy film where a male character is raped by a woman from a different country (The cultural clash is played for laughs). The context of the scene began as a comedy, and then ends with the man crying in the corner of the room for a good 10 seconds of screen time. The two people I was watching with were from the country where the film was made thought it was funny (they identify as cis-women) and I asked why this was funny and the responses were along the lines of ‘men can’t be raped, it’s a joke’ and ‘she was attractive so it couldn’t be rape – that’s the joke – he couldn’t handle how powerful she was’. While attitudes around the world differ on these topics, I couldn’t help but connect this to some instances of harassment in the ‘real’ world that affected people near to me. Occurring in the timeframe of 2010-2016 and in higher education and the stereotypically ‘good looking’ offenders (regardless of sex/gender) seem to not be held accountable to the same degree as others who might not be considered as such… it just gets depressing that accountability and justice may continue to be hindered by subconscious biases. If these biases are boosted by representation in media, than it’s more problematic. However, I’m repeating myself quite bit at this point…and I’m not an expert on the subject by any means.

        So, thank you all again for allowing a space to raise the topic. Hooray for Verity!

      • Tractators need more scripts for sustenance! said:

        (Oops. In my attempt to trim down my ramble, I left out this paragraph preceding the paragraph about the movie. Sorry about that.)

        Your examples are great, and I think Jessica Jones (while I haven’t finished the whole series yet) works well, but I think the production and writing go very far to create a context to support the creepy, as Tennant is playing a very creepy, cruel, individual. Also, your note about seeing McCoy in the context of knowing more about the character from seeing the film previously to the kiss is right on. It’s more of a concern of a neutral context (perhaps, Bryant and Baker) being interpreted as deviant. Although, I do see the ‘creepiness’ that you mentioned in the podcast of fans writing roles for actors to do things that seem a bit forced…

        (And… now the text should have transitioned from neutral context example to the paragraph about the movie which has a more positive (intended) context…)

      • This. What Deb said. I still haven’t finished Jessica Jones or Secret Smile for exactly these reasons, although I’ve happily watched David Tennant snog dozens of people in other contexts, as I do find him attractive.

        I’ve never had pants-feels about Matt Smith in any context, so it has nothing to do with age in particular. Sylvester McCoy was 50 or 51 when he shot P.R.O.B.E.; I am 41 now, watching this for the first time. It is not a function of his *age* in this case. Just whether or not the pantsfeels manifest in a general sense.

  5. Ah, the wilderness years.

    It really did seem like Who was dead and gone, and would never be back on the telly. I had drifted away from the show in the late 80s so didn’t feel the loss too keenly at the time, but my older brother was still very hardcore and it was through him that I was made aware of the BBV productions.

    I never saw any of P.R.O.B.E. but I did see The Airzone Solution and a couple of Stranger vids. I thought they were quaint fan productions, but it was nice to see all those actors on screen together in even a vaguely Who-ish context.

    It’s lovely that so many of the people involved have gone on to be involved in the renewed show. 🙂

  6. […] not a Whovian, but I am a Sherlock fan, so I’m always curious about Mark Gatiss, and the Verity! crew slakes that thirst with a dive into an obscure show he wrote before Doctor […]

  7. One of my absolute favorites aspects of being a Verity! fan is the expansion of my personal Whoiverse because of your conversations. I had no idea P.R.O.B.E. existed. Thanks, Verities!

    Thank being said, I don’t know what it means that I really enjoyed it! I didn’t watch it until after I listened to your conversation, so maybe the reverse of too much hype occurred and I ended up expecting it to be worse than it was. Anyway, I think I might watch the rest of them!


  8. Paul A. said:

    A bit of a late comment, because I’m behind on listening to the podcast, but for a BBV video that I would recommend as more than just historically interesting, there’s the Auton trilogy, which BBV made a few years after PROBE, and in which UNIT fights off a new Auton invasion without the Doctor’s help. (UNIT and the Autons were licensed directly from the respective writers who created them, and the Doctor as usual wasn’t mentioned directly, although there was a throwaway line about a “Doctor John Smith” that Who fans would recognise.)

    The Auton trilogy doesn’t have any Doctor Who actors in it, as their Who characters or otherwise; the original plan was to have Nicholas Courtney starring, but he had to pull out due to ill health and they had to invent a new UNIT chap to replace him. In my opinion that worked out for the best, because they could do new and interesting things with their own character that would never have happened with the Brig.

    The trilogy was written and directed by Nicholas Briggs, who was a fairly active presence as a writer, director, and actor in fannish projects during the wilderness years. One of his lasting legacies, of course, is his work on monster voice effects, which started out in the fannish things, then led to him getting hired to do monster voices professionally for Big Finish, and in turn to working on the revived series (including, to bring it back to Autons, the Nestene Consciousness voice in “Rose”).

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