zeborah: The Eleventh Doctor holds a mop. Text: Clean all the things? (Doctor Who)
[personal profile] zeborah
I'm determined to go into this one trying/expecting to like it, in the hopes that my recent dislike of All the Doctor Who is at least partly due to justified bias against the Moffat.

This lasts literally four seconds. That's how long it takes to go from generic space battle scene to the sounds of a Woman In Distress, and quicker than conscious thought my subconscious hurls in disgust at Yet Another Woman In Distress.

Try to like it, Zeborah.

I spend the next minute alternately thinking:

In space, no-one can hear you shout. Just talk into your radio like a normal person.

No, Zeborah, you're trying to like it.

Come to think of it, that probably applies on Earth too.

Trying to like it, remember.

But if we must have a Woman In Distress, couldn't she be cool and collected?

Try to-- Oh never mind, maybe the next scene will be better.

ca. 2min 30, the Doctor makes the Woman in Distress beg to be taken home. I feel at this point it might be relevant to add that she's black. (Which might be why she figured out so much quicker than I what he wanted. I thought he was going to point out that if she distrusts him so much in these wartime conditions then she shouldn't really be telling him the position of her command ship.) Now, I don't mind the Doctor being a jerk. I mind the Doctor being a jerk in racially coded ways when I know that the writers want us to think that he's cool and always right. So I am Highly Uncomfortable with this scene.

But maybe the third scene's the charm?

Ooh, yes, someone's threatening to kill the Doctor. I could enjoy this episode after all.

The next few scenes are quite enjoyable because the Doctor isn't there. Unfortunately then the Doctor shows up and whisks Clara away from the interesting new character.

"A good Dalek?"

"There's no such thing."

His memory really is shot to hell. What about the one he and Rose rescued from the thingy mountains? Or the one who turned out to be a version of Clara? Some of the mutant ones from New York weren't irredeemably evil either.

Now, it makes no sense that you'd explode if you hold your breath. The whole environment is shrinking, that clearly includes the air around them so it ought to include the air inside them.

The Doctor talks as if he's often been miniaturised and injected into a Dalek's eyestalk.

Also I'm not clear on what scale we're working. They don't look like blood-cell tiny, but everything seems to be taking a long time to get places and they're seeing visual impulses on the way to the brain. Mind you I think Fantastic Voyage had this problem too.

Ruthless!Doctor is Ruthless. <pretends the script is rife with ethical nuance> I can enjoy that.

The fall through a tube into goop is disappointingly reminiscent of Amy's second episode. Though the twist gives us another round of Ruthless!Doctor Is Ruthless.

I feel a Geiger counter should go at least as high as "This is killing you as we-- Oh, never mind, rest in peace," so "off the scale" is more alarming than they give it credit for.

"No, Doctor, that is not what we just learned!" OMG this might be Clara's Crowning Moment Of Awesome. I could wish that she would be the one to actually tell us what we just learned. I wish even more that the Doctor would say it instead of wittering on in trite clichés; I have no idea how those could possibly convince anyone of anything especially in the time he has. But still, it's a really, really good and important point that Clara just made.

...Okay, what I thought we just learned was you can make Daleks be good with a suitable application of radiation. This is perhaps a little mechanistic, but on the other hand it would have been a lot easier that fiddling around with the brain and hoping that wiffly waffly touchy feely revelations would recur.

However Doctor Who has always been about the wiffly waffly touchy feely revelations. Tinged occasionally with the predictable but nevertheless satisfying twist that the Doctor's mind is as full of hatred as beauty. A risky thing always, trying to give someone religion.

But still! Clara gets to do a Clever Thing! Even better, she gets to do a technical Clever Thing without being told that she doesn't know anything about computers and therefore displaying a modicum of intelligence must be a sign that something's possessed her! Why yes I'm still bitter about those episodes, but if this is a sign of things to come I'm all for it.

I'm not entirely clear why Rusty tricked the other Daleks into retreat, instead of ploughing ahead and exterminating. Tactically this is of course the superior approach. It's just that Daleks have never really seemed to be about tactics so much as overwhelming numbers and complete dedication to their calling to exterminate.

Also not clear why Journey Blue wants to go with the Doctor and Clara. I like his rejection in that it's true to character; I could write fanfic about her feelings about it. Her face. :-(

Clara's "I don't know if you're good but at least you're trying" is sweet but actually, no. There's no "at least" about it. The Doctor is powerful; it behoves him to try harder. Handing him a copout doesn't help him. What he needs is specifics in where he fails and how he needs practically to improve, or at least a kick in the rear to inspire him to sit down and use his big brain to figure this out for himself.

But we get to see Danny Pink again. I hope we continue to, and that he becomes a companion, and that someone kills the Doctor so Clara and Danny can take over the show.

Verdict: With critical brain turned as far towards off as I can manage, the story was predictable but enjoyably so. (Focus on the able-to-be-enjoyed. It's not like it goes out of its way to make you enjoy it, but if you want to enjoy it you may well be able to.) I still wish Clara could be more respected by the writers (the big revelation was hers; she should have got the glory of spelling it out).

And I still consider the Doctor fundamentally weak-charactered: he recognises that he's not a good man, but he's not willing to actually face the fact and admit to it, let alone to commit to doing something about it. What I want in a character is either someone who's flawed but strives to do better, or someone who's flawed and revels in the fact. The Doctor is neither of these things. He's a moral coward. And as for the writers who expect us to admire him? I don't even know what to call that.

(With critical brain turned on, omg the treatment of both Journey and Gretchen just ugh. And the heaven thing probably has the potential to be cool, but it's hard to see how even if it weren't a probably-villainous-woman in Steven Moffat's hands so we all know how terribly that's going to turn out.)

Actually the thing I really like? That it appears that the kids in Danny Pink's class didn't tell. Okay, all we know is that they didn't tell anyone who'd tell Clara. But still. There are stories at the edge of these stories that are a hundred times more interesting that these stories themselves.

Hopefully my theory that second episodes are more indicative of where a show's going than pilots will hold up, because in my various social circles it's important to stay up with current events in the Whoniverse, and this episode made doing so quite tolerable.
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