Posts Tagged With: silence in the library

Have I Got Whos For You (Bumper Thirteenth Doctor Edition)

It’s just typical, isn’t it? You wait ages for a trailer and two come along at once.

To be fair, one’s not exactly a trailer; it’s more a teaser. Well, not even that. It’s more a bit of a publicity drive for Just Eat. There’s Tosin Cole, tucking into a full English (with sausage and mayo that the entire internet and her grandmother mistook for fish fingers and custard). Mandip Gill finds her pizza mysteriously replenished. And there’s Bradley Walsh, reading his newspaper. Then bang! There’s a bit of lightning and Jodie Whittaker appears. Look at that smile. It’s the sort of smile that says “Yay! I actually get to be the Doctor!” It sort of spreads, casually and steadily, stopping short of being the broad grin you know she’d like to be wearing; it’s understated and restrained, and it spells promise for her performance to come.

It could all have been so different.

When I put that one on Facebook it got a few laughs and also a fair share of abuse, mostly from people who thought I was actually being serious and that she’d be a better choice. It’s 2018, folks, and the irony meter is officially broken. Someone call an engineer. Frank Skinner’s probably got a window.

The full-length trailer proper, of course, launched a few days after the BBC’s World Cup teaser, and promised dingy corridors, period piece drama, sinister forests and alien beaches that look like Cornwall. Plus the Doctor visits an enormous soft play area. No, sorry, wait a moment.

Amidst the trailers: a wave of publicity, and a few photos, including a leaked shot of the new TARDIS.

(Sorry. Not sorry.)

Perhaps most notable is the one in which Jodie Whittaker and her band of merry men appear to be peering down at a glowing object. If you’re of a certain age, it conjures one particular image.

We never did find out what was in that briefcase, did we? There are various theories, mostly centred around the soul of Ving Rhames (which would make sense; nothing else explains why he did I Now Pronounce You Chuck And Larry). Tarantino sort of agreed with it, which led many people to assume that this was what he really intended all along, or that he was at the very least granting it canonical status, the way social media makes these things explode beyond all proportion. I sort of like the idea of the soul-in-the-box – it fits with the narrative, and it’s basically foreshadowing Se7en – but I can’t help thinking that it’s better if we don’t actually know for sure. The story in your head is always better than the one the writers eventually provide, and the gaps are always more interesting, but try telling that to Doctor Who fans.

Speaking of fans, someone on t’internet took umbrage at this image. “It’s upside down,” she complained. “David Tennant would be disappointed if he saw this.”

What’s upside down? I thought, and then realised she meant the screwdriver. Dagnabbit, she’s right. Truthfully I only put it in there because Tim Roth is holding a handgun and that didn’t seem very Doctor Who, somehow; removing the entire arm necessitated more time than I had so it was easier to Photoshop in a screwdriver. Unfortunately it’s pointing backwards, and I hadn’t noticed, which is the price I pay for doing it in a hurry.

But rule one: never admit that you’re wrong about these things. “What makes you think it’s upside down?” I said.

“The blue bit is supposed to face out.”
“Unless you’re pointing it the other way.”
“Why would they aim it at themselves?”
“I don’t know. Doesn’t mean it couldn’t happen, though.”
“Maybe.”

Phew. I think I got away with it.

Anyway, you should be careful of listening too hard to what others think, particularly when it’s your own subconscious doing the talking. For example, a few weeks ago I had a dream that Ted Dewan, creator of Bing Bunny and with whom I’ve had a couple of convivial exchanges, got in touch over Facebook and told me I should redo Cliff Richard as the Thirteenth Doctor. Needless to say, the moment I woke up I went straight to the computer.

Cheers, Ted. Last time I listen to you.

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Have I Got Whos For You (July Edition)

Howdy, peeps. How are we all coping with the hot weather? Anyone fancy an ice cream?

What’s been happening? Well, there’s leaked footage doing the rounds – I’ve seen it, although you will not see a link to it in here – and it’s all very…generic, isn’t it? Whittaker still doesn’t seem to quite inhabit the part yet, at least based on what’s out there – but it is the moment she meets her companions, very much post-regeneration, so it’s all going to be a bit weird. It’s a strange clip to show, in a way, because it won’t silence the haters – although I suspect the only thing that will is gag-shaped.

Anyway, in the absence of a new Doctor Who trailer, I sort of made my own.

 

For some reason or another, news broke of Who North America, situated just outside Indianapolis, and catering to all your Doctor Who merchandising needs, large and small. (They also have a Voyager arcade game, joy of joys.)

They acquired the property back in 2016, but last week that photos began circulating in earnest round social media, so perhaps they’ve only just opened their doors. Of course, it wasn’t long before this happened.

Elsewhere: National Selfie Day came and went.

And finally, news emerges of a brand new spin-off.

Bounce!

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The Wig Planet

It’s quite gratifying that when I do an image search for ‘Donna Noble Library’, this crops up in the first three lines of results.

IMG20120824_002

(You can read about why Thomas is doing that in this post from August 2012.)

I can’t even remember why we were talking about it, but it probably involved the fact that Emily was cutting my hair last night. “I mustn’t overdo it,” she said. “You’ll look like Donna did when she was attached to that node.”

Anyway –

And while we’re on that, this one seemed obvious.

Donna_Library2

In for a penny, in for a Pond, as the Seventh Doctor would probably have said.

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Hedgehogs and donkeys

It’s a Sonic Screwdriver.

Thomas and I are halfway through series 4 (“Hey! Who turned out the lights?”). In re-examining the warm chemistry of the Tennant / Tate pairing, I am reminded of the time we were camping and my second son appeared through a flap in the tent, like this:

Thomas_Tent

And boldly declaring “Donna Noble has left the library. Donna Noble has been saved.” Oh, I was so proud.

Anyway, the other week they tackled the Good Samaritan at school. He understood the story, but didn’t fully understand the significance of the Samaritan’s decision to stop and help the Jew, because the animosity between them hadn’t been explained. Parables are funny like that. The Prodigal Son, for example, is laced with all sorts of detail that escapes a modern audience. The son’s request for his half of the money was akin to wishing his father dead. Working with pigs would have been beneath contempt for any Jewish man. And when he’s on the way home his father runs along the road to meet him – and never mind the fact that he was filthy and smelled of bacon, running in public was something that no respectable landowner would ever be seen doing. All these details would have been familiar to Jesus’ audience and would have emphasised the point of the story, but over the years a lot of this has been lost.

So I explained to Thomas that the Samaritan’s decision to stop and help the injured Jew was rather like the Doctor and Amy stopping to help a battle-damaged Dalek. Which satisfied him, although my friends were less sure. One asked if the Doctor could turn water into wine, while my brother-in-law said “Was it more like a Dalek stopping to help?” Someone else concurred. “You expect the Doctor to help, but you wouldn’t expect a Dalek to.”

I had thought about doing it that way round. Still, it’s always been my understanding that the Samaritan / Jew disdain was stronger on the Jewish side. Which would mean in turn that the hatred the Daleks have for the Doctor is stronger than any he might have for them – and therefore it makes sense to have the Doctor rescue the Dalek. This does then put you in the unfortunate position of a Jew / Dalek paradigm, which is ironic (and somewhat inappropriate) given the Nazi imagery of ‘Genesis of the Daleks’.

Emily got the last word. “I think,” she said, “that it was less about the hatred between the two characters in the story and more about who the audience would identify with. In which case it would be better to have the Dalek help, as that would be the last thing we would expect. Daleks / Samaritans = horrible begins who never do anything nice => shocking story.”

Which reminds me of this.

My friend Rachel pointed out that “A Dalek would have trouble getting the Doctor onto a donkey”. Still, that didn’t stop someone else producing this lovely piece of artwork:

Dalek Samaritan

In any event, it seems like Doctor Who has an answer for everything. But I think we already knew that.

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Protected: Nottingham Forest of the Dead

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“It’s midnight in the library”

The Doctor was standing on top of a balcony, overlooking a vast metropolis of futuristic-looking buildings that sat beneath a vanilla sky. It could have been anywhere in the universe, but he had Donna Noble with him, which would make it 2008 in real time (2009 in the Whoniverse, but we won’t get into that now). It was eerily quiet.

“You know what?” said the Doctor, after a moment. “This is the biggest library in the universe. So where is everyone? It’s silent.”

Thomas, sitting next to me on the sofa, said “Maybe it’s closed…”

For Thomas, this is a pretty sharp observation. It’s also astute political commentary, not only given the problems we’re having in this country but also coming the same day that a friend of mine informed me of a stunt to save a library in Michigan by staging a book-burning. (Make sure you watch the whole thing. The techniques used therein are somewhat underhand, but it worked, and it is nice to see the Tea Party get a kick up the backside occasionally.)

But I don’t do politics, at least not on this blog. Instead we watched an hour and a half of the Vashta Nerada (which, I’ve just Googled, can be rearranged to form ‘H: Data Save Ran’, which kind of fits with the episode. It has Alex Kingston before she became smug and irritating. It has Miss Evangelista, who gets processed and winds up looking like this:

Which freaked out Joshua no end. It has the usual Moffat preoccupation with interesting-scenes-delivered-through-technology, partly when Cal is speaking with the Doctor through the TV screen, and used to its greatest extent here:
——

MISS EVANGELISTA: Hello? Are you there?

Donna shakes her head in horror.

DOCTOR (whispering): Help her.

DONNA: She’s dead.

DOCTOR: Yeah. Help her.

MISS EVANGELISTA: Hello? Is that the nice woman?

DONNA: Yeah. Hello. Yeah, I’m, I’m… I’m here. You OK?

MISS EVANGELISTA: What I said before, about being stupid. Don’t tell the others, they’ll only laugh.

DONNA: Course I won’t. Course I won’t tell them.

MISS EVANGELISTA: Don’t tell the others, they’ll only laugh…

DONNA: I won’t tell them. I said I won’t.

MISS EVANGELISTA: Don’t tell the others, they’ll only laugh.

DONNA: I’m not going to tell them.

The lights of the neural relay are now blinking.

MISS EVANGELISTA: Don’t tell the others, they’ll only laugh.

RIVER: She’s looping now. The pattern’s degrading.

MISS EVANGELISTA: I can’t think, I…don’t know, I… I… I… Ice cream. Ice cream. Ice cream. Ice cream.

She keeps repeating those words.

RIVER: Does anybody mind if I…?

She steps to the skeleton and turns off the relay.

DONNA: That was… that was horrible. That was the most horrible thing I’ve ever seen.
——

I maintain – even four years later – that this is the best scene Moffat’s written for the show, and the Doctor’s hardly in it at all.

So we watched the Doctor snap open the TARDIS doors, and River making kinky jokes about handcuffs (sadly marking, even at this early stage, the beginning of her decline into a sex-obsessed harpy) and another of Moffat’s Villains That Talk Without Moving Their Mouths:

In fairness, the Empty Child was probably speaking behind the mask. And in fairness, Moffat didn’t come up with the Ood, or the Host, or the Cybermen, for that matter, but you can see what I mean. I do love them, because they’re frightfully easy to dub, but they have become a bit of a Thing.

Anyway, the ‘next time’ trailer was for this:

As I recall this episode polarised people, but I confess I’ve always liked it. I always felt it would work well on stage: it has that kind of claustrophobic, dialogue driven compressed violence that is so common in theatre. The characterisation is reasonably strong for a forty-minute science fiction drama, and it’s nice to see the Doctor apparently facing genuine jeopardy for a change without having a companion on hand to save him.

The point of the teaser is just that – to tease – to the extent that the reveal only happens at the very end, if it happens at all. And of course, in ‘Midnight’, there’s nothing to reveal. Inevitably, this disappointed Joshua.

“Oh, but we didn’t see the monster.”
“No, we didn’t.”
“But what is it?”
“Spoilers, sweetie.”
“Please tell me.”
“You’ll have to wait.”
“But please.”
“Oh, all right,” I said, squatting on the floor and pressing the DVD back into its case. “I’ll tell you: I don’t know.”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean I don’t know. We never really find out.”
“So we don’t see it at all?”
“…Not really, no.”
“Why not?”
“Because the writers thought it would be more fun that way.”
“Oh,” he said, confused.
“Come on. Time to sleep,” I said, leading them both down the corridor.
“Daddy, wait. Just stop. Turn around.”
“Why?”
“Just do it. Oh, phew. Only one shadow.”
“See, I was right there with that. It was going to be my next joke, and you got there first. Now: into bed,” I said, entering the darkened room. Before adding “Hey! Who turned out the lights!”
“Daddy, stop it.”

He didn’t go to sleep until gone ten. I am bowed down by guilt.

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Pond Life

The best way to prevent spoiler leakage? Pre-empt it by doing it yourself. You dictate your own terms, control the information that you want given out and gain tactical advantage. It’s like the conclusion of 8-Mile, which sees Jimmy Rabbit obliterate his opponent by listing his own failings before said opponent gets the chance. When the time comes to swap the microphone, the hard-as-nails, puffer-jacket-wearing Clarence (who goes to public school and whose parents are still together) is absolutely lost for words.

I don’t know if Steven Moffat’s an Eminem fan, but I wonder if something like this was going through his mind when he announced the imminent departure of the Ponds. The timing – a week in advance of the Christmas special – cannot be ignored. Nor indeed can Moffat’s rant about spoilers earlier this year, a moment in which he completely lost his rag, and a fair bit of my respect for him. The problem, of course, is that you can’t court the press and then expect them to play ball; nor can you tease the fans with shoot access and stills and then expect them to keep quiet. These are the days of instant file transfer, of photos being passed round the world faster than Polaroid development speeds, of tweeting and blogging and –

Sorry, where was I? The point is it’s easier to share information than ever, and as much as Moffat may rail against the people who choose to do such, to create and promote a culture when such controlled leaking is standard practice in your own institution hardly gives you the moral high ground. And what’s more, as various people have pointed out, if you cultivate a show whose success depends crucially on the retention of certain information – in other words, if spoilers are your be-all and end-all – then you’re in serious danger of writing yourself into a corner.

But that’s neither here nor there. I’ve touched upon it before and others have done so with more eloquence and attention to detail than I have the time or energy to commit to screen. For all our ranting about spoilers, the news of Amy’s departure is neither particularly surprising, nor (as such) is it particularly newsworthy: it was going to happen sooner or later, because no one wants to travel with the Doctor forever, unless they happen to be Rose Tyler, who couldn’t have been more irritating in her final episodes if she’d donned an orange fright wig, raised her voice a couple of octaves, lost the Danny Baker sheen and impersonated Mel. (Yes, I know she was better in Big Finish. But I still remember her for ‘Time and the Rani’, and that’s simply no fun.) Characters who never want to leave are in serious danger of wearing out their welcome, and it’s a good thing, in a way, that Amy lacked the see-the-stars wide-eyed schoolgirl wonder that her previous companions seemed to possess in abundance. When it came to dealing with time, and the consequences of time (perhaps that should be the Doctor’s campaign slogan: “Tough on time, tough on the causes of time”) I always got the feeling she learned to cope remarkably quickly.

Perhaps that was part of the problem some people had with her. Amy seemed to divide the viewers like no other companion before or since. Some people loved her. I did. Amy’s a character who’s been messed up by the Doctor and it shows. She’s crazy and that’s understandable, and the complex she gained after the fish custard incident has given her a wonderful zaniness that is consistently fun to watch (Amy is arguably at her least interesting, I’d suggest, when she’s being normal). Many have expressed a view to the contrary, but I don’t think her innate goofiness lessens our ability to relate to her, unless it means that those who can are in some way quietly crazy (“Oh yes, sir. Every time sir!”). Gillan has a wondrous gaze about her, and Amy speaks to the Doctor in a manner that no other companion has chosen to adopt since the revival, and whatever she’s doing, she always lights up the screen.

But there’s a flipside to this, and while many people found her a breath of fresh air, others found her irritating, kooky, with skirts of inappropriate length for a family show (hello? Leela? Peri?) and her treatment of Rory in rather poor taste. They may have a point about that – certainly the young Mr Williams (whom, I have to say, Arthur Darvill plays brilliantly) has the patience of a saint to have put up with Amy’s treatment of him over the past few years; it’s clear that he and Amy love each other, but he seems to alternate with the Doctor when it comes to playing gooseberry, and that’s no way for a marriage to survive. It was, finally, the Doctor who realised this come the end of ‘The God Complex’, and Rory and Amy’s subsequent exit was refreshing in its brevity and (relative) understatement; I remember wishing at the time that that could be it for them, but of course it was not to be.

Because, you see, companions don’t just leave in New Who. They have the most ridiculous, protracted departures imaginable. It’s strung out over three or four episodes (in the case of Donna, almost an entire series) and when it happens, you’re so anxious for it to happen that you can’t wait. This in itself is nothing new. I can recall, some fourteen years ago now, sitting in a darkened cinema on the outskirts of Reading – where I was living at the time – watching Leonardo Dicaprio clinging to an iceberg and muttering something incoherent and rambly through chattering teeth. James Horner’s music was building to a swirl, Kate Winslet was all doe-eyed and the girl behind me was sniffling through an entire box of Kleenex, and my only thought at the time, I can well remember, was “Will you please hurry up and fucking DIE???”. This was not, I’m sure, what James Cameron had in his mind when he filmed it, and concordantly this makes the scene, and indeed the film at large, a spectacular failure – although it is a visual spectacle, even now, with the sinking of the boat rendered effectively and with appropriate emotional pathos for many of the passengers. Take out the wraparound love story, and clean up the historical detail, and you’ve got yourself something with serious potential.

What irritates me most about New Who, though, is the way that death is trivialised. This has become particularly prominent under the obsession with ontological paradoxes that has epitomised Moffat’s two-season reign. One of the most beautiful moments in ‘Blink’ was the death of Billy Shipton, the police officer who dies in the hospital in the company of Sally Sparrow, because such a death has since become so rare. It’s terminal in a literary as well as literal sense: the character is never mentioned again, despite the fact that ‘Blink’ is a story that essentially eats itself. Conversely, the death of Miss Evangelista in ‘Silence in the Library’, and the subsequent ghosting scene that follows – one of the most glorious moments in the post-2005 canon – is seriously undermined when she re-appears in ‘Forest of the Dead’ dressed as a Photoshopped Woman in Black – before being magically restored, in the episode’s closing scenes, presumably no longer thick, and in the company of the ever-irritating River Song.

I remember my first entry to this blog was a brief discussion on the Classic Who episode I recall with most clarity – that of Adric’s death – and as I may have said then, I loved the fact that it’s final, at least in the official continuity. So when Moffat says that the exit of Amy and Rory will be “heartbreaking”, I am resolutely sceptical about what he actually means, but personally I would dearly love to see the death of a companion. And ideally I would like it to be Amy, and for Rory to blame the Doctor. Because that would be the right way to get rid of her. Take the inappropriate relationship to its logical conclusion: have her choose him, in that she’d die to defend him. Elton Pope, way back in ‘Love and Monsters’, talked of what happens when you touch the Doctor, and while the self-congratulatory Doctor Who Confidential has always spoken of taking the show “to dark places” (oh, thank the love of God it’s been canned), what I really want is for them to do something truly dark, and just have someone die. And when I say “die”, I don’t mean

  • Die in the sense of getting trapped in a parallel universe, separated from the man you love, with your records expunged so you’re legally dead
  • Die in the sense that you’ve had your memory wiped
  • Die, with subsequent erasure from existence, only to find yourself resurrected as plastic
  • Die, only to be resuscitated
  • Die, only to be resurrected inside a computer mainframe
  • Die, only to take astral form and drift out among the stars
  • Die, only to find out it’s a hallucination by your other half
  • Die, only it turns out to be an act of fakery to get you into Area 51
  • Die, only to later reveal that you were hiding inside a robotic head
  • …I don’t think we need any more
 
 

This would be grown-up. The audience can handle it. Transformers and the X-Men are constantly killing people (and later bringing them back, but that’s another bugbear of mine for another day). But at least they die and stay dead. You don’t see them again a few episodes later as a disembodied head, in a scene of pointless comic relief that provided no relief nor any sort of comedy.

Gareth has alerted me to a suggestion on the Big Finish forum that goes like this:

What could happen that would give the pair a “heartbreaking” end to their story?

DOCTOR: Ah, here we are on the planet Fixedpointintime. Oh no, Rory, look out for that falling piano!

AMY: Sigh. How long till he comes back to life this time?

DOCTOR: Ah. Well. You know what I said the planet was called….

It could work. It really could.

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