Posts Tagged With: the caretaker

Have I Got Whos For You (Apocalypse Now Edition)

Excuse the radio silence these last weeks, but I’ve been away. And busy. And now I’m neither. Which is a blessing, but it comes with the realisation that I’m rather behind. So let’s crack on with this week’s meme roundup, shall we?

First and foremost:

I haven’t seen Good Omens yet. Needless to say the interest of the DW community was piqued when someone (it might have been Gaiman, it might have been Tennant) happened to mention that there were some Doctor Who references in there, which instantly led to people freeze-framing number plates and street corners to try and find them. By far the most hysterical conversation I witnessed was an American who was convinced that they’d seen a red TARDIS, which was in fact a telephone box. It’s a cultural misunderstanding, but you know how these things work: even when it’s been explained to you, you don’t want to back down.

Anyway, I was trawling the web, looking for Easter Eggs, and –

[coughs]

In politics this week, a leaked mock-up shows a rather different set of prospective nominees for the backstabbing skirmish that is the Conservative leadership battle.

(It’s going to be Boris, isn’t it? Dear God, it’s going to be Boris.)

Entertainment now. And as the new face of Worzel Gummidge is unveiled, the old one reveals that he doesn’t like it.

I never read the books, but Mackenzie Crook’s appearance is supposedly based on the idea that Worzel was supposed to have a turnip head, as opposed to looking like Jon Pertwee covered in soil. This is fine, and understandable, but he looks like someone who’s been prematurely aged (see: Beetlejuice, The X-Files and various episodes of Doctor Who) and the plant strands that serve for a beard remind me a little bit of Davy Jones from Pirates of the Caribbean. The problem is that irrespective of faithfulness to the source material, Pertwee’s iconic rendition has all but usurped it. Worzel Gummidge is like The Wizard of Oz: everyone remembers how it looked, rather than how it read.

Elsewhere, in gaming: as Forza Horizon 4 unveils its new Lego-themed expansion, the Doctor has a nagging feeling that he should move the TARDIS.

When I posted this, various people were keen to point out that the TARDIS would be fine, since it had extrapolator shields. To which the obvious response is “Yes, but the car doesn’t!”

 

Finally, it’s been – can you believe it – five years since the death of Rik Mayall, which makes me sad that he was never involved in Doctor Who in some way. He was an extremely talented actor – both in straight and comedic roles – with a tremendous screen presence. He even makes Drop Dead Fred semi-interesting – although you’d have to use him carefully. There is no place for the man in a Dalek story. Bottom was – to all intents and purposes – the Waiting for Godot of sitcoms, so it would have to be something ostensibly mundane, where characters are lulled into a false sense of security and mostly just sit around waiting for things to happen.

“IT’S NOT BLOODY DOING ANYTHING!”

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God is in the detail (part xvii)

Here at God is in the Detail Central (yes, it’s an actual place, and there is cake) we don’t do things by halves. It’s been conspiracy theory overload this week, so thank you for bearing with me. One last push, and then we’re up to date.

This morning, we’re looking at ‘The Caretaker’ – an episode that was ostensibly a complete waste of time, until you delve beneath the surface. Here are just some of the seemingly trivial things that will actually turn out to be VERY IMPORTANT LATER ON.

Early in the episode, Clara confronts John Smith in the staffroom about what he’s doing at Coal Hill. It’s one of the better scenes in the story, which makes it harder to concentrate on what’s happening in the background.

Caretaker Detail (1)

You see the poster, don’t you? The one that talks about breaking THE SILENCE? Never mind the fact that Dorium prophesised that “Silence will fall when the question is asked”, and we can clearly establish that the question is NOT “Doctor Who?”, but rather “John, can you move that poster somewhere more prominent, because we’ve got something else we want to put up there?”.

The ‘B’ in ‘Bullying’ is obscured so that the word now reads ‘Pull Ying’. A quick Google finds that there is a Doctor Ying Gu practicing family medicine in Houston, Texas. This may not seem important, but we’ll come back to it.

There’s more. Notice that the girl / woman in the poster has her finger on her lips, in the same manner that the Tenth Doctor does in ‘Fear Her’ and the Eleventh Doctor does in – oh, everywhere…

Lips

(From the top, reading left to right: ‘Fear Her’, ‘Closing Time’, ‘The Doctor, The Widow and the Wardobe’, ‘The Wedding of River Song’, a BBC promotional poster, and my aunty Beryl.)

Curiously, if you take the four episode titles above, and rearrange the words, you get:

The time of the Doctor, and wedding the
the widow River Song. Fear her closing the wardobe.

There are obvious references to ‘Let’s Kill Hitler’ here, in which Hitler is stuck inside a cupboard (did they ever let him out?). But the eagle-eyed among you will notice that one word is repeated, across the end of the first line and the beginning of the second. However, I’d be willing to bet that not all of you noticed that straight away. Which calls to mind this:

paris-in-the-the-spring

Notice the triangle resembles a pyramid, which is a CLEAR AND UNAMBIGUOUS reference to ‘Pyramids of Mars’, featuring the Fourth Doctor. Who also visited Paris.

Next we’re going to Clara’s classroom.

Caretaker Detail (2)

Ignore the Charles Dickens wall display on the left, at least for the moment. Look instead at the shape we can triangulate by joining the dots.

Caretaker Detail (2b)

It’s clearly a sideways ‘D’, for Doctor. Sideways writing is important, as we’ll see below, but in this instance it CLEARLY infers the concept of parallel timelines, which is embodied in ‘The Wedding of River Song’, WHICH FEATURES CHARLES DICKENS.

Notice also the positioning of the camera so that ‘Poe’ is the only part of ‘Poetry’ actually visible to us – a clear and unambiguous reference to Edgar Allan Poe. Edgar Allan Poe wrote a story called ‘The System of Doctor Tarr and Professor Fether‘ which can be (with a bit of jiggery pokery) rearranged to ‘Master Fed Rotten Spheres Forays, Doctor’. A clearer reference to the imminent return of the Toclafane I cannot imagine.

Now look at this.

Caretaker Detail (3)

Again, it’s not the words that are significant here – it’s the way they’re slanted. For a start, the ending of ‘Ozzie’, ‘the’ and ‘squaddie’ now appears to form ‘999’, possibly indicating the involvement of the emergency services in a future episode. However, this is only a working theory. It’s equally likely that it’s ‘ggg’, the IATA airport code for East Texas Regional Airport – AND WE’VE ALREADY MENTIONED TEXAS. Never mind the appearance of the Doctor’s Stetson. CLEARLY we are going to visit Susan the horse again.

This little anomaly isn’t the first inverted letters thing we’ve noticed. There’s the Theta Sigma thing, for one. And people may recall that the other week, during the referendum for Scottish Independence, I posted this:

Distress

The original image showed Gatiss and Moffat with copies of re-released Conan Doyle books, with new introductions by the pair of them telling how the original stories inspired the Sherlock remake. ‘A Scandal in Bohemia’, for example, eventually became ‘A Scandal in Belgravia’, with Moffat taking the story of Irene Adler and transposing it to contemporary London. Curiously, that episode concludes with Irene on her knees facing execution by a terrorist squad – except the man wielding the sword happens to be a masked Sherlock, who (just before he rescues her) reassures Irene with the words “When I say run, run…”

Anyway, none of this appears relevant, until –

clara1

(Thanks Gareth.)

One last thing: that sofa scene.

Caretaker Detail (5)

Just one thing in here. Notice the light. Recall the fuss we made a couple of days back about the Fifth Doctor. You know, this one.

Fifth_Portrait

I’ll say no more. There’s no need.

Categories: God is in the Detail | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Review: ‘The Caretaker’

Things we noticed in Doctor Who this week.

1. When Moffat wants to do the Aloof Doctor, he has her making unkind remarks about Clara’s appearance. We’ve had age (‘Into the Dalek’), lack of makeup (‘Listen’) excessive makeup (‘Time Heist’), and now she’s had a wash. YES, WE GET IT: THE DOCTOR CAN BE RUDE. And him being rude to Jenna Coleman is funny because – ha! – she’s always suitably gorgeous, even when sweaty and exhausted, and even after a five-mile run you can still see the foundation. So it’s funny, see?

Plus, Clara doesn’t have to worry about being a victim. She gets to slap the Doctor – something that didn’t happen this week, but which always makes me uncomfortable, because it’s viewed as amusing, or at least What Was Deserved. River gets to slap the Doctor because he’s going to piss her off two hundred years in the future. Francine Jones and Jackie Tyler get to slap the Doctor because they think he’s a dangerous sexual predator. But that’s OK, because most of the time He Deserves It, and he’s not even human, so that’s fine. And if you think I’m overreacting, consider how you’d feel if the scene were played in reverse, when the Doctor slapped Clara for making fun of his wrinkles.

 

2. Danny is a former soldier who is now a mathematics teacher. The Doctor gets this wrong on multiple occasions, and both Clara and Danny take it upon themselves to remind him. There’s a whole Electra thing going on this week, which actually doesn’t bother me that much because it’s an excuse to showcase this.

Casebook_01

(Yes, I have written more. Yes, I will post them when they’re done. Yes, she keeps her clothes on.)

The ‘soldier’ debate is tedious beyond belief and is obviously building to something, presumably when Danny’s PTSD takes hold and he flips out later in the series. We’re all about dramatic irony, then, which reaches a head when Mr Pink outs himself as Clara’s boyfriend, but the Doctor has not been this nasty to a member of the military since series four, or perhaps ‘Into the Dalek’.

By the way, according to his Twitter feed, this (which I didn’t do) has apparently not occurred to Gareth Roberts.

Brig

I do wonder if I’m the only one to pick up on what feels almost a veiled racism on behalf of the Doctor’s assumption that Danny teaches P.E., but before all the abuse starts, I’ll accept that perhaps I’m reading too much into things. (Your fault, Steven. You encourage us.)

Author’s note: I have left this remark in for the sake of scholarly integrity, but in the cold light of day, I do now think I’m totally off base about it. It’s one of those things Guardian columnists do. Please don’t hit me.

 

3. Heaven. All ambiguities aside, it’s now revealed that this is more or less the afterlife. It’s something that Gareth (our mutual friend, not Roberts this time) says we haven’t actually dealt with in Who before now. The reception area for heaven looks like an art gallery corridor. Still, it beats the hell out of RTD’s nihilist assumption that “Oh my God, there’s nothing”.

Coincidentally, “Oh my God, there’s nothing” is what neurologists generally say when they examine the brains of those people who ACTUALLY THINK that Missy is going to be Clara, because, you know, ‘Miss C’. (If I turn out to be wrong about this, I will eat my Fedora. Not because it’s unlikely to happen, but because I will need roughage.)

On that note – stupid fanboy quote of the week:

Screencast

 

4. The Doctor has amazing eyebrows. This is presumably mentioned in case we’d forgotten it from last week, or the thirty second conversation we had about them in ‘Deep Breath’. Nothing is left to chance these days, and these recurring references cannot be a coincidence: the eyebrows will, at some point, develop full sentience and dance off the Doctor’s face entirely, or perhaps grow into two more Peter Capaldi heads with split personalities.

Caretaker_02

On the other hand, as Gareth also points out, we may actually be about to visit Delphon.

We also can’t blame the unnecessary recurring gag on Roberts, because this episode is co-written; the third such example this series, as it happens. Perhaps it’s a union thing. I hope so; the alternative is that the chief writer’s being even more of a control freak than usual.

 

5. When you need to write a Doctor Who story that’s half Grange Hill, half Hollyoaks, but need to include at least some sort of McGuffin to keep the kids happy, a rubbish robot with no motivation, backstory or general point whatsoever will do nicely. (Grizzly death scene optional. Use of Jimmy Vee mandatory.)

Caretaker_09

Incidentally, the number of people who can name the monster-of-the-week without Googling it is precisely the same number of people who voted ‘The Twin Dilemma’ as their favourite story in Doctor Who Magazine’s August poll. (I do confess to feeling a bit sorry for ‘Time-Flight’, which I actually rather enjoy. But not ‘Fear Her’. I’d rather have my fingernails peeled off.)

Poll

 

6. Dull chase scenes? No problem! Enliven them with jaunty camera angles. Particularly useful if you want your audience to think they’re being pursued by a bandy-legged creature that actually walks completely straight.

Caretaker_10

 

7. Not a P.E. teacher? Pah.

Caretaker_06

 

 

If Doctor Who were Torchwood, this would be the ‘Meat‘ episode: it’s The One Where The Boyfriend Finds Out. S.J. was telling me earlier that this was the first time she actually cared about Danny, and that makes sense, because Coleman and Anderson are as watchable as ever (as is Capaldi, come to that) and everyone does the very best they can with what they have. Still, what irritates the hell out of me is that seemingly the only way Moffat and Roberts can write this storyline is to have the Doctor play grumpy father. It’s as if Capaldi’s incarnation has automatically morphed into a disapproving patriarch figure purely because of the laughter lines.

This is the sort of simplistic analysis that mars ‘Time Crash’, in which Tennant’s Doctor maintains that his spell as the Fifth Doctor was the first time he got to dash about. Never mind the fact that in ‘Kinda’, Davison’s Doctor is an almost carbon copy of Baker’s Doctor, right down to mannerisms and general flippancy – or the fact that ‘The Caretaker’, at least for its first twenty minutes, could (with a few dialogue tweaks) have been a Matt Smith story. This is (once again) an exercise in writing the characters to fit the point you’re trying to make, rather than writing the dialogue to suit the characters. Hence, the Doctor disapproves of Danny because on some level, Moffat presumably suspects that we do, and the only way to actually deal with this is to turn him into the kind of character you see on Facebook wearing those ghastly ‘RULES OF DATING MY DAUGHTER’ t-shirts. It’s the Vastra / Clara ‘Deep Breath’ conversation all over again.

And I’m sorry, gentlemen: I don’t buy the concept of a stern, disapproving father figure who spends half the episode making disparaging remarks about Mickey Danny. It simply doesn’t feel very Doctor. Historically, he doesn’t care about that sort of thing. Of course the dynamic had to change after the regeneration. Flirting was off the books because Peter didn’t want it, and also because (and here’s the elephant again) an older man / younger woman will-they-won’t-they would have seen an awful lot of executives bum-shuffling in their seats. But you were already in murky waters with the Eleventh. This isn’t Highlander, where the worst you have to worry about is an idyllic rural montage scored to Queen and a colossally low sperm count. The Doctor isn’t even human. And you honestly thought the most effective way to get out of this corner was to bring in a boyfriend so the Doctor could switch from love interest to father? Couldn’t you have just not mentioned it at all, and had them pootle along in some sort of dysfunctional carer / patient relationship? We’d have been fine with that.

The thing is, you have to either include the monster that’s worth our time and investment, or (if you must) include a decently written domestic. In the end, you did neither. There was a lot of bluster and silliness, and some lovely early scenes with Peter, but all that went completely down the pan once the cat was out of the bag and the chickens came home to roost. You wrote gags, rather than dialogue – and ideas, rather than a story. It was all snappy metaphor and unnecessary shoehorning and needlessly repeated jokes, and (some of the Clara / Danny stuff aside) comparatively little substance. I could go on about this until the cows come home, but I think I’d be flogging a dead horse.

Anyway, here’s your report card for the end of term. You’ll note that you’re below the average, although the other week you dipped distinctly below the average, so I suppose we could call this an improvement. Just not a very good one. See me after class. Now back to work.

Caretaker_Chart

Categories: New Who, Reviews | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

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