Month: April 2015

The Ten Problems with Spooks…

The Ten Problems with Spooks…

People who know me well know that once upon a time I was safely what I’d call obsessed with a BBC drama about melancholy spies. That show was named Spooks. It ran for ten series with wildly varying degrees of quality from series to series.…

Flash Fiction: The Hestia

Flash Fiction: The Hestia

This piece was originally published last year as part of IfBook Australia’s Open Changes project, but I thought my blog readers might enjoy reading my brief crime piece here. The Hestia My hips wedge against the boat rim. I can taste the roughness of knotted…

Doctor Who Re-watch: The Caretaker Review

Doctor Who Re-watch: The Caretaker Review

Disclaimer: In 2013 I reviewed the second half of Series 7 for The Hairy Housewife and fully intended to do the same for Series 8 last year. Unfortunately, it proved impossible. Life and work and caring responsibilities called and at my lowest point, I was about five episodes behind everyone else. After speaking recently with Gemma, she thought it would be cool for me to do a re-tread of Series 8 to tide blog readers over until Series 9 airs. So that’s what’s happening. Every week I’ll re-watch and review an episode for this blog. Feel free to join me! Oh, and there will be spoilers.

The Caretaker reminded me an awful lot of Chris Chibnell’s The Power of Three. In many respects it achieves the same thing that that episode did with Amy and Rory’s relationship with Eleven explored in that episode just as Clara and Twelve’s is in The Caretaker. The difference is that Danny is an outsider whereas Rory is a companion at that point in Series 7. The Caretaker also features one of the common threads of Moffat era Who: interesting thematic ideas and character development with a lousy alien of the week. The alien is a vehicle for character exploration. Nothing more.

The Caretaker sees Twelve go undercover at Clara’s school to face down an alien force. Comedy ensues as The Doctor antagonises Danny and his relationship with Clara, trolls Clara trying to teach, is a bad influence on the children and generally makes a fool of himself. There are also some nice shout out moments to previous episodes with The Doctor referencing his relationship with River, a re-visit of the John Smith pseudonym, a police officer death similar to The Eleventh Hour, an Eleventh Doctor reference and the return of unimaginative and irritating children (Clara’s earlier charges in series 7 I’m looking at you).

Companions who Never Were

There’s a pattern here, Series 8. Young Courtney fills the role this week, though her response to the TARDIS (vomiting and running away) leaves a lot to be desired. I can’t help but feel that her staying far away from the TARDIS is a good thing.

Dan the Soldier Man

One of the strongest points of Series 8 has been its willingness to follow a theme through to the end and give character’s space to develop. The Doctor’s hatred of soldiers continues in The Caretaker. This time The Doctor equates sport (PE teachers) with soldiers as he puts Danny down again and again.

Doctor: Some military idiot will attack it… the world is full of PE teachers.

Clara protests: He’s a maths teacher. Not a soldier.
The Doctor: Interesting.

It is implied later in the episode that The Doctor is testing Danny as a person and Clara’s ability to choose a partner well. In one of the more interesting ideas of the episode, Danny tells The Doctor that he is the officer who lights the flame which draws soldiers into conflicts. Death In Heaven follows this through so more on this theme later.

The Danny and Clara Relationship

I didn’t actually like Danny as a character until Dark Water. Samuel Anderson feels a bit too forced to me and his character was no Rory. It didn’t help that he was inconsistently written. One second he was a second Rory, the next he was a controlling tosser. Like Amy, Clara cannot admit to her lover that she leads a double life (despite the lessons of Listen). Unlike Amy, she tries to have her cake and eat it too by living both lives at once. Understandably Danny is upset, but that doesn’t make it OK when he says the below:

Danny: Do you love him?
Clara: No, not in that way.
Danny: What other way is there?

Wow Danny? Have you never heard of a little thing called friendship. Douche. Admittedly The Doctor is no better when he says:

You’ve explained me to him [Danny]. You haven’t explained him to me.

Why on earth does Clara need to justify herself to either of them? She is a grown woman who can make her own decisions and choices. This is one of the few Moffat era Who episodes which I genuinely feel is sexist. On the plus side, Danny rushes in to protect Clara from evil aliens. Unfortunately, unlike Rory, he doesn’t do it because he genuinely loves Clara and wants to understand her choices. He does it to prove himself worthy to the person he perceives controls Clara ie The Doctor. I genuinely wanted to throw something at the screen when he said the following:

Danny: I was behind you every step of the way… I had to know you were safe. I had to be good enough for you… that’s why he’s angry. Just in case I’m not.

Everything about this plot thread annoyed me and I’m glad they abandoned it down the track.

Understanding Twelve

Twelve continues his trend of failing to differentiate between human faces, getting confused by Clara’s appearance and expressions and assuming that Clara’s lover is an Eleventh Doctor look-a-like teacher down to the bow tie. His habit of putting down others continues to jar. However, this episode reveals more of the true Twelve, the one fully developed by the series finale, the one who is simply an old man with a box travelling and learning.

Though I don’t much enjoy the child actors they get on New Who, I did enjoy Twelve’s exchange with Courtney:

Courtney: I’m a disruptive influence!
The Doctor: Pleased to meet you.

Here, The Doctor’s cluelessness is endearing.

As is his banter with Clara (also Clara the teacher is much more interesting than Clara the walking plot device). I love it when he leans into the classroom and argues about literature, when he winks at her upon being announced as the new caretaker, when he says ‘sing Hosanna’ at Clara doing what she’s told for once and when he equates acting like an idiot with the care-taking job. I also like Clara’s quip to The Doctor and reminder to the audience that she is The Doctor’s teacher as much as her students teacher.

Clara’s Addiction

Like The Power of Three, this episode highlights what happens to companions when they grow addicted to running with The Doctor. The opening of The Caretaker sees Clara exhausting herself managing two lives at once. Something has to give and that thing is her relationship with Danny. She even gives up a night of ‘canoodling’ to run with The Doctor.

She has ‘learnt’ The Doctor’s role, this time telling Danny the TARDIS story herself (as he looks inside to Amy’s Theme). The show continue to show us how she has adopted the role as the series progresses. However,Danny warns her (and us) about the dangers of finding running with people like The Doctor normal.

Danny: They make you stronger, do things you never thought you could do. You weren’t scared. You should have been.

It will be interesting to see how Moffat develop this in Series 9.

A Glimpse of Heaven

We get another reminder of Missy this week and get our first glimpse of the officious Seb to some great work from Murray Gold as we hear the first proper run of Missy’s Theme. We also get a better look at The Neversphere/Promised Land. When Seb says ‘So… any questions?’ It’s a deliberate meta question to the fans who have so many.

The Caretaker: 6/10 inky stars

And the winners are…

And the winners are…

What a great time I had at the 2015 Aurealis Awards. Such talent we have in Australia!

Getting Lost in Translation: An Interview with Stephanie Smee

Getting Lost in Translation: An Interview with Stephanie Smee

And now for something completely different on the old blog… My brother has a passion for all things linguistics so I am very excited to be able to host an interview with a translator at the InkAshlings blog. Stephanie is currently working as part of…

Doctor Who Re-Watch: Time Heist Review

Doctor Who Re-Watch: Time Heist Review

Disclaimer: In 2013 I reviewed the second half of Series 7 for The Hairy Housewife and fully intended to do the same for Series 8 last year. Unfortunately, it proved impossible. Life and work and caring responsibilities called and at my lowest point, I was about five episodes behind everyone else. After speaking recently with Gemma, she thought it would be cool for me to do a re-tread of Series 8 to tide blog readers over until Series 9 airs. So that’s what’s happening. Every week I’ll re-watch and review an episode for this blog. Feel free to join me! Oh, and there will be spoilers.

I was so excited for this episode the first time round because KEELEY HAWES Y’ALL. Ahem. Anyway, who knew that an episode penned by Stephen Thompson (he who also wrote orientalist Sherlock episode and the abysmal The Curse of the Black Spot) could be such rollicking fun and still smart at the same time? This episode is what happens when Oceans Eleven meets Doctor Who and the story could have worked as part of the Series 7 run, when each week caricatured a new genre. Time Heist sees The Doctor and Clara positioned alongside two other strangers to rob the most secure bank in the galaxy. Only problem is, neither of them can remember why they agreed to rob the bank or who the mysterious Architect is who directs them on their mission.

Companions who never are?

Luckily, beyond the opening credits, this stand alone episode really kicks off as we meet Psy (zomg Ollie from Broadchurch) and Saibra (The Doctor and Clara’s partners in crime) as well as see the impenetrable bank, with a set and costumes reminiscent of The Hunger Games (yay for high production values!) Both Psy and Saibra are interesting would be companions, adding to the long list found in Series 8 as a whole. Psy can delete memories and did so in prison to protect his loved ones. Saibra can shape change. Both die in blazes of glory with Saibra telling The Doctor, ‘You’re a good man. I left it rather late to meet one of those.’ Psy goes out the tragic hero.

But this is a Moffat overseen episode, which means people don’t stay dead and everybody lives if The Doctor comes to call. Though some may have found this a bit of a cop-out, I enjoyed the scene in the TARDIS at the end as Clara, The Doctor, Saibra and Psy enjoyed some TARDIS take-out. One of the (many) things I like better about Moffat’s run, is that we see The TARDIS as both a home and a friend.

The Clara/Danny/Doctor relationship

The second time watching, the episode opener with Clara and Danny tackling their second date moved me much more than it initially did, even if Danny’s acting is still slightly off and The Doctor’s continued criticism of Clara’s appearance continues to irk. More interesting than The Doctor’s insistence on insulting Clara’s appearance, was Psy’s conversation with Clara where he says that The Doctor calls himself The Doctor because he goes in for professional detachment with Clara transparent about travelling with him for so long because she has learnt to keep making excuses.

Revealing Twelve

This episode is predominantly fun filler with a tough edge, but we do learn more about Twelve. We learn that this Doctor sees him being in charge as ‘his special power’ and that his idea of a plan is to say what the heck and hope ‘that a thing happens’ (How very Eleven of you, Twelve). Finally, he reminds Karabraxos and the audience that he has been around a long time and is still wearing in a new face as he says of his regeneration, ‘I was hoping for minimalism, but I think I came out with magician.’

The Villainess

Keeley’s entrance as Ms Delphox didn’t disappoint, even if she did continue the trend of female villains on Doctor Who being tall, angular and wearers of bright red lippie. Ms Delphox is an interesting character: a creepily seductive villainess, who nonetheless becomes sympathetic towards the end of the episode when you realize that she is only doing her job. Though The Teller’s detection of another man’s guilt is horrifying as his brain is turned to soup, we can see both sides to the story. Ms Delphox is cruel to people with criminal intent, but she is protecting the bank’s reputation and security rating at the same time. The message is clear. If you obey the rules at the bank, there will be no moral or physical consequence. Alas for The Doctor and his companions…

Keeley had a challenging part: having to play both the clone, Ms Delphox, as well as the real puppeteer behind the bank, Karabraxos, a bitter, rich woman who doesn’t care about people unless they get her more tangible things to add to her wealthy collection. We see this in her private room, a den of antiquity and collector’s items complete with classical music playing in the background. Keeley is a revelation, playing both parts with ease and still bringing a dash of humor to the role.

Karabraxos doesn’t understand The Doctor and his companions at all. ‘What is this display, as amusing as you are?’ she says in response to The Doctor weaponless. At last he realizes his own clever deception for the woman who called The TARDIS was Karabraxos herself, old and infirm and choked up on regrets. He tells her humorously, ‘I thought we were getting on,’ as he gives the young and surprised Karabraxos his number, followed by ‘You’ll be old and full of regret for the things you can’t change.’ Helping an awful woman undo regrets and rescue an ancient species – is this not the summation and the essence of The Doctor? I like to think so.

Time Heist: 9/10 inky stars