Six Smart Women Discussing Doctor Who

Posts tagged ‘My Two Cents’

Tansy’s My Two Cents – Episode 11

clara hideI am loving the stroppy TARDIS arc! This is my favourite aspect of the Clara plot so far, not least because it’s different. I think it’s great that only a season after the universe-altering revelations about the TARDIS and her motivations back in The Doctor’s Wife, we’re learning even more about the TARDIS.

Back then, we learned that she was fiercely devoted to her ‘thief’ and that the companions were basically blips she barely bothered to notice – Amy and Rory were therefore ‘the red one’ and ‘the pretty one.’

But Clara has made a dent. Why? That’s a far more interesting mystery to me than the whole ‘why are there many Claras’ thing – which when you ACTUALLY think about, the Doctor shouldn’t blink at because, you know, this sort of thing used to happen to him a lot back in the old days. Abbot of Amboise, Salamander, Princess Strella, Ann Talbot, anyone?

So yes, the TARDIS-Clara interplay is not only the best thing about this episode, but also this season. Is the anniversary episode going to happen because the TARDIS decided Ten and Rose were her favourites after all??

(Love the comment in the podcast about how the TARDIS doesn’t give Clara air or gravity when the Doctor’s not there – I also really enjoyed her having the doors slam in her face, and the Doctor’s worry that the TARDIS had been saying mean things to her when he was out)

I personally hate the female jealousy trope, and I especially hate it in Doctor Who – BUT I have to say, having just taken my girls to see Peter Pan at the theatre, don’t you think that the whole Clara-TARDIS thing is basically the TinkerBell-Wendy relationship?  I hope that the TARDIS’ dislike is more of a reasonable warning of a danger she feels Clara poses to the Doctor, rather than actual jealousy, but seriously, their interactions feel SO Wendy and Tink.

But back to the episode itself. This was an odd one for me. I had flagged it as  A Scary One and didn’t want the same situation that happened back with Cold War so I packed the kids off to bed and watched it when they were sleep. But because my honey is away right now, that meant watching a new Doctor Who episode ALONE for the first time in… um. Years, maybe?

So maybe this episode wouldn’t be proper scary under other circumstances, but my anxiety and stress levels were already at peak capacity with the horrid week we’ve had, and so… yes. It totally worked for me. I was practically climbing the walls with tension & fear. DAMN YOU HORROR TROPES.

I thought I wouldn’t enjoy this one. The Doctor and Clara felt very by-the-numbers at first and my jaded, cynical self decided that actually all the internet haters were right, and Clara was in fact far too generic a companion.

But slowly, over the episode, largely because of the TARDIS spats etc., Clara won me over.  And the next day, I patiently explained all the plot twists to my 8 year old daughter ahead of time, assuring her it was an episode pretending to be scary, but with a happy ending, and she decided she really, really wanted to see it.

We watched it together in daylight, cuddled up, and she adored it. When she looked like she was getting a bit freaked out about all the weather and the lights and the ghost faces (the ghost faces were a bit much for her) I patiently explained horror tropes to her, and the ways in which the episode was trying to scare her. She came away exhilarated, and delighted. She loved it to bits. It’s her favourite episode of the season so far.

Raeli also now has a taste for stories that are scary but turn out not to be at the end so, guess what I have to make up every bedtime now?

On that second viewing, not just because of Raeli’s enthusiasm, I really came to love it too. And Clara in particular. I actually felt inspired by her bravery in the face of quite reasonable fear. (And over the week that followed I really needed some inspiration towards bravery)

The scene which really clicked for me in conveying Amy and Rory’s characters was in Vampires in Venice, where she ran towards the source of a sudden scream, and his instinct was to run away. I like that dynamic from a gender point of view because it is not what people expect – and the male nurturer/female warrior team dynamic is also what I love most about the audio pairing of Ace and Hex.  Recently in Season 4 of Fringe I found that again when Olivia was paired with NerdLincoln (as opposed to HairGelLincoln – it’s a parallel world thing). As new FBI partners when they came across someone who had been shot, he stayed to help the victim while she ran for the gun. Lovely!

That running towards the scream characteristic has actually summed up most of the Doctor Who companions of New Who – along with the not staying put when the Doctor tells you to characteristic.

So I really like that Clara has to work up to being brave – she’s not cowardly or scream or in any way passive or weak. But she is reasonably cautious in the face of the unknown, the terrifying, and the bizarre. I love that she felt confident enough to challenge him on the idea that chasing a ghost through the haunted house might not automatically be the best thing to do that very second – and later, that she told him she wasn’t happy. In both instances, she was risking the Doctor’s respect for her.

I don’t see Rose admitting to the Doctor that she’s not feeling okay about them doing the brave stupid thing to defeat evil.

I loved Amy dearly – I’ve loved all the New Who companions. But short of getting another 30+ companion, having one who actually weighs the odds before leaping in feels pretty appealing to me.

A few short responses to other parts of the podcast discussion:

  • I like the “monster is not a monster” twist, not only because I think it’s a good strong Doctor Who Story message, but because it feels like a less sad version of the monster storyline from Vincent and the Doctor. It’s also the aspect of the story that made it a really positive, enlightening story for children. I will defend that story choice to the death! Every time we have a monster story or an evil story where the Doctor really does destroy something evil or monstrous (cough, Solomon) he feels a little bit less like the Doctor to me – and I feel that for each one of those we ALSO need a story that tells us that just because someone is a monster doesn’t mean they don’t get rescued too. Or as Liz noted in one of the recent podcasts when correcting me loudly – sometimes the monsters are also PEOPLE and that’s an important thing for the Doctor to remember when no one else does.
  • As I tweeted earlier in the week, my daughter was reading ‘When is the Doctor’ (the closest thing we have to Doctor Who picture books) and as she came to the Metebelis 3 page, she pronounced it “MeatBells”. Just saying.
  • I agree with Deb it’s unfortunate that the only conversation that Clara and Emma have privately is about boys but I see why it was necessary – I felt at the time that it moved the story forward in a way that almost anything else Clara could have said would not have done. Having said that, Deb is on the money in her Bechdel Test post. THERE SHOULD HAVE BEEN ANOTHER WAY.
  • Numeral-based Eleven conspiracy theory: Clara is the Valeyard.
  • I think if Clara turns out to seriously be a threat to the Doctor, merely by existing, we will get all the payoff we need for this season. Especially if that threat is resolved, and she gets to move forward as the companion without that baggage next year.
  • Is anyone else kind of hoping that the Doctor’s name turns out to be Susan? Just me? It could also mean that the horse from A Town Called Mercy is one of his future incarnations…

Also no one mentioned the gorgeous 1970’s historical design. Having had an 80’s and a modern day story I am now really hoping we get in a Swinging Sixties episode before the end of the run. Possibly filmed in black and white.  Clara would rock a mini-dress, Dodo or Polly style. Why are no Doctor Who stories set in Carnaby Street?

Episode 8 – My Two Cents: TANSY

cult-doctor-who-the-bells-of-st-john-still-5I was quite relieved at first to discover I wasn’t rostered on to the first Verity NEW EPISODE episode of 7b, as I’m still on the fence about reviewing New Who immediately upon it coming out – generally speaking I prefer to stay quiet, enjoy the honeymoon of newness, and creep up on the intelligible critique after a decent amount of time has passed.

On the other hand, doing the Snowman episode was the MOST FUN EVER, and listening to you all this morning as I took my walk around the river, I had to keep stopping to take actual notes soooo…. here I am, then!

In order that things occurred to me while listening:

1. I agree that Clara is quite different to Amy and River and that this owes a lot more to Jenna-Louise Coleman’s excellent performance than for example, the writing. Moffat is often criticised for writing the same female character every time and I don’t think that’s true, but I think his love for witty dialogue does rather put his female characters in line for this criticism because female characters tend to attract a billion times more criticism than male characters in this show.

Anyway, the three actresses deliver the Moffat Wit-and-Flirt with greatly different styles, and it’s quite fun to imagine Alex Kingston or Karen Gillan tackling some of these JLC lines/speeches to see how very different they would have sounded. Not better or worse, just different.

2. OMG Kat I am so happy that you have a New Who female companion to like! I always felt a little sad that you didn’t have that!! It must have been so disappointing for so long. I can’t tell you how great it was to hear all FOUR of you liking her at the same time. Clara squee!

3. Clara is going to be compared to Amy for all time, I know that (when she’s not being compared to Rose, sigh) and hopefully the current wave of Clara love won’t turn into too much Amy-bashing (double sigh, like it’s not happening already) but I am very pleased that so far Moffat has given us some new material when it comes the character herself.

One strong difference between the two is that Amy was running away from something when she entered the TARDIS, while Clara (this Clara at least) is clearly running towards something. Her craving for travel, and for her life to start is reminiscent of Donna more than anything, but without the rather icky ‘look at her, how much her life sucks when the Doctor’s not around’ narrative that crept in from time to time. There’s less desperation about Clara, which is nice because obviously the tension is going to come from other places.

And I quite like the idea that the narrative arc for this companion so far is “She’s awesome, let’s follow her and solve the mystery about how she got here” which makes a change from “there’s something terribly wrong about her, she needs to be fixed”.

Did you NOTICE that after complaining about it I ended up comparing her to the other female characters that preceded her? Sigh. Let’s try again.

Clara is GREAT and I am enjoying her and she doesn’t need character progression, I’m okay with her being just fine to start with, and having adventures with the Doctor.

4. The Doctor’s fondness and protectiveness of Clara is fascinating – because it could feel terribly patriarchal and arrogant of him, but it doesn’t to me. It feels like the loss of Amy and Rory and indeed the double loss of the Clara-Oswins that preceded her has had a profound effect on the Doctor’s psyche – he actually worries about her.

And this is new because mostly the Doctor treats his companions as an extension of himself, carting them along in his wake and being quite cavalier with their safety – it’s one of his more endearing attributes while also frustrating at times. This was never so obvious as when he told Martha to ‘act as if she owned the place’ and dismissed her concerns about how her race might affect her safety in another time period. But he does it all the time – and with Nine and Ten in particular we saw flickers of resentment whenever a companion forced him to see she had needs (such as seeing her family) beyond the next adventure.

But  he looks at Clara like she is a baby bird – he’s deeply worried that this one might die too, and it’s interesting because it makes him more vulnerable than I think we’ve ever seen him before. He fails her/loses her twice in this story, and both times we see far more guilt and sadness than the Doctor generally lets us see.

5. I was a bit disappointed in the Cafe scene where Clara is busy being awesome and the Doctor comes up to her and he’s a Spoonhead – because my first reaction was ‘oh the bad guys got him and she has to rescue him now, this is awesome, it’s totally her turn!’ and in fact no, it was the other thing. Sigh. Maybe next week.

But I did very much like the doublecross where he didn’t go to confront the villain directly but stayed in the cafe (again, looking after Clara) because again, that feels like a new thing for the Doctor

6. Clara’s cup of tea made me ridiculously happy and you know what? I believe there was still tea in the bottom, I’m sorry but I’ve hung on to a cup of tea while juggling babies and running around the back garden and maybe one time I ended up on a trampoline, and sometimes there really is a precious drop right at the bottom. I love the little domestic details that Clara drags along with her and I can totally see her moving aspects of that into the TARDIS – WHEN CAN WE SEE HER TARDIS BEDROOM PLEASE? Throw cushions and ugg boots!

7. The different attitude towards the family of the companions in the Moffat era to the RTD era is quite marked – Moffat only brings them in when they’re relevant to the story, while for RTD it was part of the essential set up for the character. We don’t know anything about Clara’s family from this story at all – but I like what we learn about her as a person from this family she is living with and helping.

8. Did anyone else notice that Clara not only got a SECOND console room discovery room scene, but also that she got to do yet another new thing with it – I love that she howls “It’s actually bigger on the inside,” repeating herself in case he might not have noticed that’s the case. (did saying it’s smaller on the outside mark Victorian Clara out as the wrong version to travel in the TARDIS?)

9. Speaking of the TARDIS console room, I am so glad that I like it in this episode because I was quite put off by the version in the Snowmen (and particularly the publicity shots) – I was in denial about how much I didn’t like it, and it did have that quite frigid, clinical look about it (I know, I know, the original was white walls and roundels I’m sorry but I’m programmed to read that as COZY).

I particularly like how the TARDIS interior was shot, the very dynamic short scenes with the Doctor and Clara using that space in interesting ways, and hope it’s not just a ‘that director did a great job’ thing though can I say, that director did a great job!

10. I’ve always loved Celia Imrie, but I think she was brilliant in this. I particularly like that her character is one who didn’t have to be either a woman or indeed an older woman, but that they cast HER when it could as easily been, oh, Stephen Fry or Keeley Hawes speaking exactly the same lines.

11. On the lack of a backlash against Clara as opposed to say the polarisation of views about Amy – well, a lot of it has to do with who you listen to, as there are plenty of people out there who love Doctor Who and don’t love Clara (and indeed plenty of people who don’t love Matt Smith – beyond odd, but true!). But I suspect that the big reason that there has been such warmth and vocal support of this Clara in this episode is that we have been effectively warmed up to her as a character already.

Think back to when Donna first appeared in The Runaway Bride and massively divided Doctor Who fans – but by the time she appeared again in Partners in Crime, we were ready to embrace her. I suspect that part of the reason she is so loveable in Partners in Crime is because we got the backlash out of our systems already and were prepared to let her have a “blank” slate.

It’s hard to accept a new companion, and I think the point at which a new companion is launched into the TARDIS, as with a new Doctor, is the time we are most keenly aware of the artifice of the show – of what the showrunner and his team are TRYING to make us feel. And we resist that. So it doesn’t hurt to get a bit of that resistance out of the way ahead of time.

I say this as someone who loved Clara to bits back when she was Oswin and again as Victorian Clara, and is very excited about this contemporary Clara too.

I also wonder if the general acclaim is part of massive relief? Because there was such deep skepticism about Contemp Clara, and whether she could be as awesome as Victorian Clara, or whether we’d like her at all, and wasn’t she just going to be Amy Pond Again anyway?

So yes, The Bells of St John might not have been groundbreaking Doctor Who, but it was New and it was Dead Good and it was edged all over in Astoundingly Charming bits, and it feels a bit like Doctor Who fandom (or at least the part of it that mostly inhabits my iPod, my Twitter feed and my blogstream) collectively breathed out in a sigh of relief.

Does not suck. More please.


Episode 4 – My Two Cents: Tansy

tumblr_m8ibirvFU81r34971o1_1280Me again!

So, my true confession is that the first nomination I put forward as ‘representative episode’ of the Ninth Doctor was totally Dalek, and I later changed it to Father’s Day because almost everyone else (hi, Kat!) had chosen Dalek, and it annoys me to do what everyone else is doing.

Plus debate is more fun, right?

The Ninth Doctor blazed on to our screens in 2005, grinning and holding hands and running and bopping along to music and wearing a black leather jacket, and Doctor Who was never the same again.  Nine years earlier, Paul McGann requested to play the part with a buzz cut and leather jacket, and was poured into a 19th century jacket and a long curly wig. Fandom (and the perception of fandom) wasn’t ready for it yet, just as they weren’t QUITE ready for that snog with Grace Holloway.

Technically Kissable

But in 2005 we were totally ready for leather jackets and hand holding and quips that acknowledged there were gay people in the world, and KISSING.


Episode 3 – My Two Cents: Tansy

Doctor DistractingBefore you read this, run and listen to the awesome song “The Tenth Doctor’s Hair” by Radio Rassilon, later covered excellently by Laura Sigma of the Ood Cast. I forgot to include this in the “Things We Like” post but it is, I believe, a song that sums up Tennant’s era as the Tenth Doctor a billion times better than any single episode of his run could do.

So, David Tennant.  I like him a lot as an actor and I enjoyed huge swathes of his run as the Doctor.  But like my fellow Veritites (Veritesses?) I have mixed, mixed feelings about many of his stories.

“School Reunion” was my pick too. I love this story, despite agreeing with many of the items on Liz’s list of rage – I also cringe about the set up of Sarah Jane and Rose being jealous of each other, and I personally edit out about three lines of dialogue in my brain every time I watch this one, because the idea that Sarah was a) in love with the Fourth Doctor (dear God, no!), that she spent her whole life pining for him and that her life after the TARDIS was somehow less awesome than her life with the Doctor (Ex-CUSE me, have you met Sarah?), and especially the rage-inspiring sentence that outright stated she didn’t get married because ‘no man could compete’ (pass me the sick bag).

Once those lines are edited out, though, there is so much to love about this story.  Sarah and the Doctor finding each other again is adorable, and there is definitely a ‘whoa you are so pretty’ vibe between them that I personally liked far better than the idea of their past relationship being anything less than platonic.  The chemistry between the Doctor and Sarah in this story is electric, and a line about how she was too busy with her career to get married would have made it perfect.  Also possibly a bit where she pretends she wasn’t pining for the TARDIS while making it obvious she did a bit but only a little bit would have been far better than what we got.

I’m with Liz that the only way to survive the episode is to pretend that Sarah is guilt tripping the Doctor to make him suffer, though that in turn means pretending that Sarah is a much harsher person than headcanon suggests.  Cough. Anyway, lots to enjoy, not least the formation of the friendship between Rose and Sarah once they get over the annoying jealousy bit. Their duel of ‘my crazy adventures were crazier than yours’ is one of my favourite bits of Who of all time (“the Loch – Ness – MONSTER!”) and this story also gives us Mickey at his most likeable, bonding with the battered K9.

I want a K9 T-Shirt with “he’s a bit disco” as the tagline.

Regardless of how good and how cranky-making this story is, I do think it represents the Tennant run in many key ways. It stands at the precipice of the expanding Doctor Who universe, giving us not only the introduction to Sarah who would shortly get her own excellent spin off children’s show, but also via Mickey’s hacking gives a nod to the Torchwood organisation.  Tennant’s run is the only run of Doctor Who episodes which had TWO spin offs running concurrently, and while I agree heartily with Erika about Journey’s End (or perhaps a better example, The Stolen Planet) representing these three separate shows coming together, we see the start of that here in School Reunion.

The Doctor going undercover at the beginning of this story, and Rose playing the comedy sidekick to the investigation, represents the format of many stories across this run, and is reminiscent of similar scrapes he gets into with Martha and Donna. The story has a balance of madcap, lighthearted alien adventure and deep angsty emotion, two main cornerstones of this era of Doctor Who.

Sure, Sarah and K9 represent the past, but they’re also here to foreshadow what will always be the case – The Doctor lies, the Doctor won’t be with you forever, and the Doctor will keep reinventing himself forever long after you are gone.

There’s an artless cruel streak to the Tenth Doctor which we see again and again, but many fans tend to forget about or ignore because David Tennant is, let’s face it, adorable. But it could be argued that the Doctor has always had this tendency, it just shows up in sharper contrast against excessive adorableness.

It wasn’t the Tenth Doctor who left Jack on Satellite 9 in the far future with a crazy eternal life disease shortly after having been killed by a Dalek – but it’s the Tenth Doctor who says to Jack’s face that there’s something wrong with him and that’s why he left.  Likewise, it’s the Tenth Doctor here in School Reunion who admits that he doesn’t want to watch his friends growing old.

(Though the BRIGADIER gets a free pass on this, I notice, is it only the hot young ladies and Jack who aren’t allowed wrinkles?)

Having said all that, I think Erika’s argument in the podcast for Journey’s End was pretty much on the money, and it probably ticks more boxes than School Reunion. The Girl in the Fireplace comes in for me as the one of the three I would perhaps most have liked David Tennant’s run of Doctor Who to be like, but I guess I did technically get my wish with that one… except for the Tennant part, because it wasn’t until he left that Moffat took over the show with his love letter to time travel, and banterific romances.

For the record: I agree with Liz that Doctor Who is always about love stories, of many different kinds, and also that the Tenth Doctor and Rose are often a bit insufferable about their own particular love story – though there are other moments in the 2nd series where I sympathise with them very much. I do disagree with Lynne that there is shagging-like-bunnies in the TARDIS at this point, but only because I think the romance is better and angstier if they hadn’t actually got around to that part by Doomsday. (This view was a lot less convincing when Jack was in the TARDIS, I have to admit)  Shagging-like-bunnies-behind-the-scenes alternate readings of stories are however enormous fun, and if they are wrong I don’t want to be right.

It’s a big, wide, crazy Doctor Who universe, and we all have the absolute right to be wrong about the show in our own special ways.

A heartfelt yes, yes YES to everything Lynne said about fans who try to keep other fans out, or put others down, because they might like something in a different way.  This is never as clear cut as Classic fans vs. New fans, Male fans vs. Female fans, Fans Who Call Themselves Fans as opposed to Fans who Merely Watch the Show Over and Over and Love it To Bits And Bake TARDIS Cakes But Don’t Technically Participate in Fandom… but there often is a gendered aspect to these discussions, and that’s important to take note of.

We’re all capable of being patronising or over judgy at times, especially when talking about things we love more than air, but there are times when it becomes a rather toxic habit, especially when whole communities get in on the mocking, bullying and public humiliation of PEOPLE WHO LIKE THINGS A BIT DIFFERENTLY. We can all work on doing better about this stuff – never hurts to be kind.

All of which leads me to think that the most important way in which School Reunion is a representative episode of the Tennant era is that it is, text and subtext, largely about the fact that the Doctor is kinda hot this time around, and the ladies have noticed this important fact.

If only Sarah had got a line to lament at one point that Rose got the hot Doctor with great hair, and she never fancied hers but this one is a whole other matter, doesn’t Rose find it really stressful to be around a Doctor who is so fanciable? instead of implying that Sarah and the Fourth Doctor (ew) used to hold hands in special ways and he ruined her for all other men (EWWW).  Just a few leeetle changes in dialogue would have made this story most definitely a perfect Ten.

Disco Dog