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New Who in Conversation: The Doctor’s Wife S06E04

David is coming to New Who for the first time, having loved Classic Who as a kid. Tehani is a recent convert, and ploughed through Seasons 1 to 8 (so far) in just a few weeks after becoming addicted thanks to Matt Smith – she’s rewatching to keep up with David! Tansy is the expert in the team, with a history in Doctor Who fandom that goes WAY back, and a passion for Doctor Who that inspires us all.

We are working our way through New Who, using season openers and closers, and Hugo shortlisted episodes, and sometimes a couple of extra episodes we love as our blogging points. Just for fun! 

doctorswife“The Doctor’s Wife”

Season six, episode four

The Doctor – Matt Smith

Amy Pond – Karen Gillan

Rory Williams – Arthur Darvill 

Suranne Jones – Idris/The TARDIS

TEHANI:

So, much as we could happily talk all day about different episodes, we’re going back to our original remit of Hugo Award nominees, season openers and closers and specials. That means we’re skipping “Curse of the Black Spot”, which most conventional fandom wisdom will have you believe is a really rubbish episode, a condemnation I actually quite disagree with, but we’re not TALKING about that one, so that’s okay! :)

DAVID:

Pirates and swords and sirens, what more can you ask for? I quite liked  “Curse of the Black Spot”, which just goes to show I continue to be completely out of touch with conventional fan wisdom!

TEHANI:

Say it with me: “Conventional fan wisdom can bite me”!

DAVID:

I also love that whooshing sound deadlines make as they fly past! (with apologies to Douglas Adams, of course).

TANSY:
I’ve come to appreciate the Dread Pirate Episode because it’s Raeli’s favourite of this season, and it has Kenny from Press Gang in it, but mostly because of Amy in THAT outfit.

gaiman_and_coTEHANI:

It’s a sincerely awesome outfit.

And here we are, at the episode that started it all for me. Not that it’s WHERE I started watching, but it is WHY I started watching.

TANSY:

Ah, I remember it well. Neil Gaiman has a lot to answer for :D

TEHANI:

He does indeed…

If there is one thing Moffat does well, it’s seeding teeny pieces of narrative along the episodic arc to lead towards a climactic ending. Amy’s observation that the Doctor wants to be forgiven for what he did to the Time Lords, SO MUCH FORESHADOWING!

For me, the best part of this story has to be the performance of Suranne Jones as Idris/The TARDIS – she is astonishing, and has forever enshrined in the minds of fandom what the consciousness of the TARDIS looks and sounds like. It’s a bonus that she looks like a character from a steampunk story… Cosplay ahoy!

DAVID:

Idris is a fascinating character, and Suranne’s performance is wonderful. I love the idea of a TARDIS being a living creature, though it is not a particularly new idea. It’s certainly something I have come across in the novelisation/New Adventures (after writing that, I tried to track down what I was talking about, but I think I may have gotten the character confused with I. M. Foreman. I seem to remember the Doctor meeting a woman on a hill who had a universe in a bottle. Perhaps our Who expert, Tansy, can shed some light?).

TANSY:
I had stopped reading the New Adventures/EDAs regularly by the time the intelligent and humanoid TARDISes entered the story, though I have read one or two featuring the companion Compassion who was actually a TARDIS-in-waiting, I think. Still, getting to meet *our* TARDIS is still a pretty big deal.

vlcsnap-2011-05-19-16h29m37s122DAVID:

The twist I really liked was that the TARDIS stole the Doctor, not the other way around. It really does say volumes about the Doctor that his perception of such a foundational event is completely wrong! But, we all suspect that we have never gotten the *true* story of how the Doctor came to be travelling the time-space continuum, right? But, the TARDIS being a living creature really does make sense when you look at their interactions over the years. The Doctor has always treated the TARDIS with a fondness, and always tried to cajole rather than command, that speaks of more than simply the sort of anthropomorphisation directed at ships or cars.

TANSY:

That blew my mind when I saw this episode – it’s pretty rare to watch a Doctor Who story that completely changes the way you view the stories that came before it, all the way back to 1963. (though I have to say, it’s more common than it used to be) I loved that our TARDIS became so real in this story, and that it added something so enormous to the mythology.

DAVID:

I always enjoy stories that explore the nature of the TARDIS, and its ability to reconfigure itself – sorry, herself! I think one of the reasons I fell in love with Doctor Who was this idea of such an amazing craft. More than just a spaceship, bigger on the inside than on the outside, it is the sort of thing that a young viewer finds hard to resist. The only other craft I think of that filled me with even a fraction of the same yearning was the spaceship from Flight of the Navigator!

One trick I think they missed, though, was when they go to the spare console room. That would have been a perfect moment to break out one of the Classic consoles, and the old white walls. In a show with the rich historical fabric of Doctor Who, it’s touches like that which can really “show” not “tell” those links with the past.

TANSY:

I agree with you on this one – it must have been a production decision, but the story calls so hard for the white walls with roundels, and I’m sure that’s what it will look like in the imaginary Neil Gaiman novelisation that we’re never going to get to read.

DAVID:

There were some great scenes in this episode, too. When the Doctor opens the cabinet and discovers he has been tricked, you can see the hurt and sadness and RAGE. It’s at that point I almost felt sorry for House because I knew that it was in for a world of hurt. Almost.

TANSY:

I was disappointed too! Any hint that we’re going to get Time Lords in the new show brings a frisson of excitement with it (yes even after The End of Time) and the idea that so many have been horrifically disposed of is very sad.

Worth a shout out for a couple of interesting details: previously-never-mentioned-before Time Lord the Corsair is namechecked in this episode (aww they do love their definite particles) and specifically mentioned as a Time Lord who changed gender with regeneration. This is the first mention of this possibility in TV canon. Also, the little white flying communication boxes are a thing from 1969 classic story “The War Games”. It had previously been teased that this episode would include SOMETHING we hadn’t seen since that story, and the little boxes were a bit disappointing for those of us who were peering suspiciously at the characters to figure out which one was The War Chief, or Lieutenant Carstairs.

TEHANI:

Personally, given my own connection with this story, I’m a bit surprised I don’t have more to say about it! I think it’s mostly “gleeful flail” when I think about the episode, without a lot of critical view. I always have to double check that House isn’t voiced by Neil Gaiman (it isn’t, it’s another one of those delightful sounding British (Welsh) actors).

I wonder how different the episode would have been if they had managed to get it into season five instead of this one, as was originally intended? What would that have done to that season (which we all quite like) as a whole?

“The Doctor’s Wife” won the Hugo AND the Ray Bradbury Award for Outstanding Dramatic Presentation – how much of that do you think is the “Neil Gaiman effect” and how much is due to the episode itself, do you think?

DAVID:

That is interesting! The first thing that comes to mind is that I don’t think that it would have deserved the Hugo in Season 5, as I don’t think it is stronger than a number of episodes from that season. It’s certainly a very good episode, but I am not sure it is a GREAT episode.

Which does lead on to your next question. It is a bit hard for me to comment as I am not far enough into the season to say if this is the best episode in Season 6, and whether it deserved the Hugo (which is a very subjective call, anyway!) over any of the others. To be honest, I hope it’s not the best, because I loved Season 5 and can think of four episodes from it off the top of my head that are better than this one.

Neil Gaiman certainly does have a massive fan base, but you’d like to think people vote beyond that, and if something wins it obviously resonated with lots of people. So, maybe it’s just me! Looking at the other entries, there are two other episodes of Doctor Who and an excellent episode of Community (another show I got on very late!). With all due respect to Chris, who is a great guy, I don’t think an acceptance speech should have been nominated, let alone won. So, is this better than the other two episodes, or the Community one, or did the Gaiman Effect push it over the line? I’ll probably have a better idea by the end of the season.

the-doctors-wife-20110513045606021TEHANI:

And I have to say something about the title – designed just to set the fannish tongues wagging?

DAVID:

Well, it doesn’t take much, does it?

TANSY:

Another piece of fannish history here – this title first got used in the 80s as a deliberate fakeout, left on a whiteboard to see if anyone on the production team was leaking info to the fanzines. So it started out as a provocative tease and is being used here in just the same way. If you haven’t seen it before, the point at which you realise that this episode isn’t about River Song but about the TARDIS is pretty awesome and brain-explodey.

Anyone have any favourite lines from this very quotable story? I think mine is still Amy with “Did you wish very hard?” but Idris has so many gorgeous things to say, like “Biting’s excellent. It’s like kissing. Only there’s a winner.”

DAVID:

That is a marvellous line. Any writer would also agree with “Oh tenses are difficult, aren’t they?” but I thought Amy showed exactly how well she knows the Doctor, summing him up perfectly when she responds to  Rory saying “He’ll be fine. He’s a Time Lord.” with:  “It’s just what they’re called. It doesn’t mean he actually knows what he’s doing.”

TEHANI:

I love this:

The Doctor: You didn’t always take me where I wanted to go.

Idris: No, but I always took you where you needed to go.

And this:

6x04-The-Doctor-s-Wife-doctor-who-22053299-1280-720Idris: I’ve been looking for a word. A big, complicated word, but so sad. I found it now.

The Doctor: What word?

Idris: “Alive.” I’m alive.

The Doctor: Alive isn’t sad.

Idris: It’s sad when it’s over.

And with that, this review is over too. But we’ll be back!

We’ve already reviewed:

“Rose”, S01E01

“Dalek”, S01E06

“Father’s Day”, S01E08

“The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances”, S01E09/10

“Bad Wolf/The Parting of the Ways”, S01E12/13

Season One Report Card – DavidTansyTehani

“The Christmas Invasion”, 2005 Christmas Special

“New Earth”, S02E01

“School Reunion”, S02E03

“The Girl in the Fireplace”, S02E04

“Rise of the Cybermen/Age of Steel”, S02E05/06

“Army of Ghosts/Doomsday”, S02E12/13

Season Two Report Card – DavidTansyTehani

“The Runaway Bride”, 2006 Christmas Special

“Smith and Jones”, S03E01

“The Shakespeare Code/Gridlock”, S03E02/E03

“Human Nature/The Family of Blood”, S03E08/E09

“Blink”, SO3E10 (with special guest reviewer Joanne Anderton)

Utopia/The Sound of Drums/Last of the Timelords” S03E12/13/14

Classic Who Conversation podcast – Spearhead from Space (1970)

Season Three Report Card – DavidTansyTehani

Classic Who Conversation podcast – Genesis of the Daleks (1975)

“Partners in Crime”, S04E01 (with special guest reviewer Lynne M Thomas)

“The Sontaran Strategem/The Poison Sky”, S04E05/06

“Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead”, S04E09/10

“Turn Left”, S04E12

“The Stolen Earth/Journey’s End”, S04E13/14 

Season Four Report Card – DavidTansyTehani

The Specials: “The Next Doctor / Planet of the Dead / The Waters of Mars

The Specials: “The End of Time”

“The Eleventh Hour”, S05E01

“The Beast Below / Victory of the Daleks”, S05E02/03

“The Time of Angels / Flesh and Stone”, S05E04/05

“The Vampires of Venice / Amy’s Choice”, S05E06/07

“The Hungry Earth / Cold Blood”, S05E08/09

“Vincent and the Doctor / The Lodger”, S05E10/11

“The Pandorica Opens / The Big Bang”, S05E12/13

A Christmas Carol”, 2010 Christmas special

Season Five Report Card – David, Tansy, Tehani

The Impossible Astronaut / Day of the Moon” S06E01/02

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Eddings Reread: The Sapphire Rose (Elenium 3)

Because we just don’t have enough to do, Alex, Joanne and I have decided to re-read The Elenium and The Tamuli trilogies by David (and Leigh) Eddings, and – partly to justify that, partly because it’s fun to compare notes – we’re blogging a conversation about each book. We respond to each other in the post itself, but you can find Alex’s post over here and Jo’s post here if you’d like to read the conversation going on in the comments. Also, there are spoilers!

Our review of The Diamond Throne (Elenium 1) is here.

Our review of The Ruby Knight (Elenium 2) is here.

ALEX:

Almost the very first page of this book has an Author’s Note, which says that the wife wants to write the dedication. And “since she’s responsible for much of the work,” he’s going to let her. Why don’t you just acknowledge the co-authorship, DUDE?

JO:

I don’t see the ‘David Eddings’ on the covers any more. In my mind, it’s ‘David and Leigh’ :)

TEHANI:

Of course, when I first read these I had no idea, but since finding out, it’s been an annoyance every time I picked up one of the books.

Also, I think this is the first of the books where we see a really intrusive breaking of the fourth wall by the author/s? For example:

The appearance of the detachment at the gate was, in Preceptor – ah, shall we say instead Patriarch – Darellon’s words, disgraceful. (p. 155 of my version).

ALEX:

The descriptions of Ehlana, who gets cured of the poison in this book, are beyond horrid. There’s “overpowering femininity,” and women being “notoriously adept” at recognising things like a ring being an engagement ring (did I miss that seminar? How DO you tell that a ring is an engagement ring? How do I know whether I’ve been stooged?). Ehlana is unbearable smug about “netting” Sparhawk. I will admit that the point about wavering between wanting to flaunt her “womanly attributes” and wanting to hide them is fair – and even perceptive – but it’s surrounded by so much URGH. And I’d like to say that I, for one, am glad that Sparhawk tried to get out of their marriage. I know that 17 years’ difference doesn’t HAVE to be a barrier, but there is SUCH a difference between the two of them.

TEHANI:

By the end of this book, I was starting to get an uncomfortable feeling about the number of very young girls who become obsessed with older men. And Aphrael’s manipulation with kisses is most disturbing!

JO:

Oh yes that’s definitely a thing in these books.

ALEX:

Urgh.

 

JO:

And we meet Mirtai! Isn’t she an interesting character? Super-strong, super-warrior who is quite happy to be a slave. In fact, she insists on it.

TEHANI:

the_elenium__ehlana_and_mirtai_by_opheliawasmyname-d5vm3dt

Ehlana & Mirtai fan art by Deviant artist OpheliaWasMyName

Mirtai is such a contradiction! Not always deliberately on the author’s part, I think… This bit really got up my nose on this reread though:

Mirtai’s skin had a peculiarly exotic bronze tinge to it, and her braided hair was glossy black. In a woman of normal size, her features would have been considered beautiful, and her dark eyes, slightly upturned at the corners, ravishing. Mirtai, however, was not of normal size. (p. 324 of my version)

SO. MUCH. WRONG. To begin, what the heck is “normal size”? And the “exotic” bronze tinge of skin and “slightly upturned eyes”? ARGH!

JO:
I should probably leave this discussion for Domes of Fire, because there’s not much Mirtai in The Sapphire Rose.

ALEX:

Jo – indeed – but yes, that exoticising is repellant. And the whole ‘normal size’ thing makes me cross-eyed.

In the last book there was the issue of being ‘misshapen’. I couldn’t help but notice that in this one, when the Pandions are being domineering of the Elenian council, there’s the pederast Baron and Lenda and “the fat man”. Does the fat man ever get named? Fat isn’t entirely an evil thing like deformity is, in these books – Platime is fat but approaches genius-ness on the council, Patriarch Emban is very clever, and both of them are good – but it’s still always mentioned. There’s barely a reference to Emban without mention of his belly. And he uses that sometimes – to defuse tension, for instance – but I’m still not entirely comfortable with it.

TEHANI:

That’s interesting though, because both Platime and Emban are important, good characters – not presented as useless or bad people, and so I guess I read that as subverting the trope? Although there is Otha…

JO:

Even though Platime and Emban are good and important characters, their ‘fatness’ is mentioned a lot. Like it’s a personality trait.

TEHANI:

Very true.

ALEX:

Speaking of the council, I would like to declare my sympathy for Lycheas. He’s a dimwit and a pawn, but surely he deserves sympathy.

TEHANI:

Oh, I disagree! He’s not very bright and he’s been led astray I accept, but I think he knew he was doing wrong, and there were times he could have chosen another path. He was as hungry for power as the rest of them!

ALEX:

Hmm. Perhaps. How much choice did he have with a mother like that probably poisoning him from the start? (If we accept the premise of the story.) … oh wait, does that shoot my theory down, at least somewhat, given that is probably exactly the reason why he’s hungry for power? Dang.

JO:

I think the Eddings set him up to be disliked, and he simply has no say in the matter. He’s always portrayed as snivelling and pathetic and stupid. He may or may not be hungry for power, it doesn’t matter. He’s there to be a lesser baddy that everyone can look down on and routinely threaten to kill.

ALEX:

You’re saying he’s just a narrative device? SAY IT AINT SO.

A rather chilling part of this novel is the utter lack of regard for the civilians in Chyrellos, during the siege. It was really quite unpleasant reading.

JO:

I find the siege so boring I have to say that never really bothered me. The scene that does stick in my mind is when Sparhawk and an unnamed soldier witness a woman dragged into an alley and quite obviously raped (though thankfully off camera). The soldier, crying because she ‘could have been his sister’ shoots the rapist. But then the woman staggers out of the alley, sees her not-quite-dead rapist, takes his dagger and violently finishes the job and steals his loot. The soldier ‘retches’ and Sparhawk says “Nobody’s very civilised in those circumstances”.

This scene was always a WTF moment for me. When you consider Sparhawk’s career, what about her actions make them ‘uncivilised’, exactly? He does much worse things to people and is rewarded for them! Is it because she’s a woman? Or because she’s not a Church Knight and it’s okay when they do it. Or because she took the loot? I mean, seriously…?

ALEX:

Yes!! This!! I was so ANGRY at that reaction from the men – who are safe on so many levels from this sort of thing – getting all uppity about her taking revenge. I don’t like her doing it either, but I don’t like the initial rape even more.

I cried at Kurik’s funeral. Not at his death – that all happened too fast, I think – but when I got to the funeral…well, I was glad to be by myself. However, I am still suspicious of the idea of Aslade being quite so accommodating of Elys.

JO:

Kurik *sniff* :(

TEHANI:

And you know, none of that business really makes sense. Kurik is portrayed as steadfast, loyal, moral and really quite upright (even uptight?), so the fact he cheated on Aslade (and their four sons, essentially) is, well, just a bit weird. It was a useful way to have Talen important to the group, I guess, but the character path is very odd.

ALEX:

YES. Also it makes adultery completely fine, which… I know there are other ways of doing relationships than ‘conventional’ monogamy, etc etc, but not within THIS world’s framework – everyone else who does that is regarded severely. Whereas Sparhawk etc are all, “dude, no worries! Everyone sleeps around sometime, the wimmens is so attractive we can’t help it!”

JO:

YES from me too. Never felt right to me for exactly those reasons.

TEHANI:

I do like the way the Kurik’s sons talk about their “mothers” in the later books though. That said, remembering I read the Tamuli trilogy first, I was quite certain Aslade and Elys had been both married to Kurik, the way they are referred to there!

JO:

Heh yes. I can imagine. Although I was always proud of Aslade and Elys for being able to put aside their potential conflict and just get on with life. So often the relationships between women are portrayed as bitchy, jealous, spiteful things. And usually its over the attention of a man. So I appreciate that they went down the opposite path.

Actually, in the Tamuli there are a lot more examples of strong female friendship too.

TEHANI:

Some more perpetuation of stereotypes here, too. In this case, the temper of the red-head:

In Delada’s case all the cliches about red-haired people seemed to apply. (p. 282 of my version).

JO:

Yeah I thought they got a little carried away with that!

TEHANI:

And what the heck is this bit of elitism? Stragen says, Whores and thieves aren’t really very stimulating companions… (p. 410 of my version). Um, well Talen and Platime AND HIMSELF are thieves and all presented as quite stimulating! The whores get a poorer presentation, but still!

ALEX:

That bit also made me very cranky. Again with the superior attitude.

TEHANI:

And this awful bit of Ehlana characterisation:

“Would you all mind too terribly much?” Ehlana asked them in a little-girl sort of voice.

YUCK! The woman is a queen, and fully in command of herself and the power she wields, yet she resorts to that (for no reason, anyway!)?! No! We talked a bit about this in one of the earlier reviews, how the women themselves are supposed to be powerful, and there are quite a lot of them, which is nice, but the actual presentation of them really undermines this at times.

JO:

Yes! This is what’s been irritating me the whole time, and it only gets worse as the series goes on. Doesn’t matter how strong a woman is, she still resorts to hissy fits and theatrics or childishness to either get what she wants, or basically keep control of the ‘relationship’. Even Sephrenia does it in the later books! It just feels to me like the books believe that deep down, women are irrational children. OR that they will resort to acting like them as a way of keeping their men in line.

JO:

Am I the only one who finds Ehlana’s speech to the council a little…difficult to believe. All these supposedly hardened politicians/Patriarchs completely suckered in by her ‘divinely inspired’ speech? Just because she’s pretty, or something? And because she ‘fainted’?

TEHANI:

I have such a different view of the Patriarchs to you! I always read ANY of those political gatherings as being a bunch of little boys just grabbing for power, none of the “hardened” politicians at all! In fact, Eddings seems to have very little respect for political systems at all. They’re all corrupt or useless!

ALEX:

I don’t think they’re MEANT to look like that, but they sometimes do – and it’s another thing that annoys me about the Eddings portrayal of religion, because it’s JUST another instance of politics and again there’s so much uselessness and cunning and unpleasantness. Also, Ehlana manipulates them, and I think it manages to make her look silly – conniving and dangerous with the using feminine things in dangerous ways – AND it makes the Patriarchs look silly for falling for such obvious, feminine strategies. Way to go for insulting two groups there!

JO:

Last time I said that I found The Ruby Knight a lot faster-paced and more enjoyable than I remembered. I have to say the opposite for The Sapphire Rose. Oh god I was so sick of the siege by the time it ended, and it seemed to take forever to get to Zemoch. It felt like so much padding. Just destroy Azash already!

TEHANI:

Some excellent examples of Faran the human horse again:

Faran made a special point of grinding his steel-shod hooves into a number of very sensitive places on the officer’s body.

“Feel better now?” Sparhawk asked his horse.

Faran nickered wickedly. (p. 155 my version)

JO:

I could summarise the plot again but you probably don’t want me to do that this time!

They cure Ehlana. She’s all grown up now and in love with Sparhawk. They ‘accidently’ get engaged. Off to Chyrellos to stop Annias being elected Archprelate. There’s a siege which goes on forever. Then Wargun and Ehlana turn up and the siege is over. Ehlana and Sparhawk get married. They go to Zemoch with Bhelloim to kill Azash. It takes forever. They get to Zemoch. Kurik dies. Martel dies. Otha and Annias die. Azash dies. Lycheas dies. Arissa kills herself. They return to Cimmura. Everything’s peaceful, but kinda crappy, because the gods are shell-shocked by Azash’s death. Danae happens. Eventually, Aphrael and everyone go on holidays and spring returns.

ALEX:

Nice work there, Jo. I would add: Sparhawk and Ehlana get married in the same way that a person might buy a horse; Martel dies but everyone’s real sad, because actually he was decent and just led astray, y’know? And “Danae happens” means that a goddess is incarnate in a different racial family and that’s really kinda cool.

JO:

Heh, that’s awesome.

Image by Deviant artist Bowie-Spawan

Fan art of young Martel & Sparhawk by Deviant artist Bowie-Spawan

TEHANI:

Well, we’ve picked a lot of nits in the Elenium books, but final verdict on the first three? For me, I have to admit I still thoroughly enjoyed reading them, with grins and tears throughout, and the comfy blanket feeling of an old favourite that still (mostly) holds up. Although there were definitely a lot more grimaces at the rough patches than when I was younger!

ALEX:

I think I feel basically the same as you, Tehani. It really is a warm comfy blanket… with moth holes and a few scratchy bits… but a lot of love and memories holding it together.

JO:

Couldn’t agree more! I might snipe at them, but I still love these books and rereading them has been thoroughly comforting. It also reminds me what I love about reading and writing in the first place. It’s just so much fun!

 

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Eddings Reread: The Ruby Knight (Elenium 2)

Because we just don’t have enough to do, Alex, Joanne and I have decided to re-read The Elenium and The Tamuli trilogies by David (and Leigh) Eddings, and – partly to justify that, partly because it’s fun to compare notes – we’re blogging a conversation about each book. We respond to each other in the post itself, but you can find Alex’s post over here and Jo’s post here if you’d like to read the conversation going on in the comments. Also, there are spoilers!

Our review of The Diamond Throne (Elenium 1) is here.

Ruby_KnightALEX:

Sparhawk starts this book a) immediately after the end of the first one, and b) wanting someone to jump him, so that he can get all violent on some unsuspecting footpad. I don’t think I was really paying attention to that sort of thing when I was a teen. He’s actually not a very nice man a lot of the time, and that makes me sad.

JO:

It is a bit sad isn’t it :( Sparhawk’s most common reaction seems to be violence, and the narrative and tone celebrates that part of him.

TEHANI:

Alex, you say “not a very nice man” but I never read it that way (and still don’t, I guess!) – he’s a product of his culture and his time. They seem to quite happily wreak havoc on people at the drop of a hat, and he IS a knight, trained to battle!

ALEX:

OK, maybe I don’t have to be quite so sad about him – that he’s a product of his time – but still his active desire for violence does act, for me now, against my lionising of him as a teenager. He is flawed, and I’m troubled because Jo is exactly right – the narrative celebrates him and his anger/violent tendencies.

TEHANI:

You’re both completely right. I still choose to read it in the context of the book, AND STICK MY HEAD IN THE SAND. Damn. That’s the problem with rereading with a few more brains behind us, isn’t it?! Continue reading

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New Who in Conversation: The Impossible Astronaut/Day of the Moon S06E01/02

David is coming to New Who for the first time, having loved Classic Who as a kid. Tehani is a recent convert, and ploughed through Seasons 1 to 7 (so far) in just a few weeks after becoming addicted thanks to Matt Smith – she’s rewatching to keep up with David! Tansy is the expert in the team, with a history in Doctor Who fandom that goes WAY back, and a passion for Doctor Who that inspires us all.

We are working our way through New Who, using season openers and closers, and Hugo shortlisted episodes, and sometimes a couple of extra episodes we love as our blogging points. Just for fun! 

We are incredibly honoured to have tied for the William Atheling Jr Award, alongside Galactic Suburbia. Thank you to everyone who voted for us, and to all our readers for your support and for spreading the word. We also want to thank Lynne Thomas, Jo Anderton and Kathleen Jennings for their guest contributions. Congratulations to not only Galactic Suburbia on their well deserved win, but all the amazing nominees – you are producing some wonderful writing! We are looking forward to writing many more reviews about the show we love, and hopefully catching up with the new season soon.

ImpossibleAstronaut“The Impossible Astronaut / Day of the Moon”

Season six, episodes one and two

The Doctor – Matt Smith

Amy Pond – Karen Gillan

Rory Williams – Arthur Darvill 

River Song – Alex Kingston

DAVID:

Well, what a great setup for for an episode, and what a great start to the season! Obviously we know that the Doctor can’t really die (especially from my viewpoint of knowing there is a Season 7), but we are immediately presented with a whole heap of questions and a massive time gap to fill. I may be a little obsessed here after watching all five seasons in a few weeks, but it reminded more than a little of Breaking Bad where you would see the aftermath of some catastrophe in the intros and then be left wondering how exactly you were going to get there. It’s certainly left me very excited about this season.

TEHANI:

Doctor WhoSo that early scene, when the Doctor started regenerating, was AWFUL. I’m glad I already knew Matt Smith was the Doctor for the whole season to come, else I would have been devastated! But yes, it’s very good :)

TANSY:
This is a really excellent season opener – the first time we’ve had a two parter to start a season, which seems odd because it works so well. It also marks the first time they really made inroads into promoting the show substantially in the US – I really like that they chose to do a historical story using all that beautiful desert cinematography, and the 1960’s stuff around it.

This story has major knock on effects in the whole season but I really like it as a self contained piece of Doctor Who.

DAVID:

Earth must get very cluttered with all the aliens behind the scenes pulling the strings, the basic premise is hardly new even to Doctor Who, let alone science fiction.

TEHANI:

Heh. The Doctor says it: Safe? No, of course you’re not safe. There’s about a billion other things out there just waiting to burn your whole world. But if you want to pretend you’re safe just so you can sleep at night, okay. You’re safe. But you’re not really.

DAVID:

But, there aren’t many completely new ideas, it’s all about how you execute them, and I thought that this was executed wonderfully. It had a great storyline, an excellent supporting cast and a very disturbing set of monsters. I was fascinated to discover the father-son sharing of one of the roles, and I thought Richard Nixon was portrayed really well. I can imagine there was a temptation to have him as a complete villain, but instead we saw a great performance. I did enjoy the little digs, though, like the reference to Frost, and the perfectly reasonable explanation for his obsession with recording all the conversations that took place in the Oval Office! But, the real stars for me were Gillan and Darvill, however I will expand on that further a bit later on.

TANSY:

I think the Silence are officially the scariest New Who villains now – Raeli has got over her fear of Sontarans but she can’t even cope with looking at these guys. The premise behind them is so chilling, the idea of taking away memories.

I do love all the Nixon stuff (if Abigail and Kazran are companions, so is he!) and that he came across as likeable but problematic. River and the Doctor debating his legacy (“Hippy!” “Archaeologist!”) was quite charming. Stuart Milligan, who played him, is perhaps best known as the kooky magician Adam Klaus in Jonathan Creek, and he also plays an amazing Big Finish comedy villain. It’s funny the way that the Doctor reacts to having a President in his pocket by employing him a bit like a sonic screwdriver, to open doors and unlock new areas.

TEHANI:

And I like that Nixon isn’t portrayed as a monster, either, even though we know (historically) his flaws. It’s very, hrm, human?

DAVID:

The Silence could have been been a bit ridiculous if they hadn’t been handled right, but I found them very creepy. You’d think that after the Angels, a creature that you had to keep your eyes on would be a bit old hat, but the twist was more than enough to differentiate them completely. For some reason the idea that you forgot them every time you looked away made me really uncomfortable, it made the characters seem so vulnerable and manipulated. No matter how vigilant they were, seeing the Silence was not enough. The scenes in the children’s home were particularly creepy, especially when Amy is all of a sudden covered in pen marks (which was a brilliant idea). At least with the Angels you knew they were coming for you, the Silence didn’t even give you that.

TEHANI:

That awful, “As long as there’s been something in the corner of your eye, or creaking in your house or breathing under your bed or voices through a wall…” line *shudder* – I think that’s what makes them so darn scary. Also, this:
Screen Shot 2014-07-15 at 3.48.19 PM

TANSY:

day-of-the-moonThe horror concept of not being able to remember the monster is terribly clever and creepy. The haunted asylum is genuinely disturbing.

When I remember this story though it’s less for the effective horror stuff and more for the crunchy character material. I adore Canton as an addition to the TARDIS team, and all of the River Song stuff is great. She’s definitely on the team now, with friendship ties to both Rory and Amy as well as the Doctor.

And oh, TIME GAP. The Doctor who summons them all to witness his death is about two hundred years older than our usual model, and how interesting that Amy and Rory have been home since the Christmas Special, balancing domesticity with adventure. There are so many delicious implications to this story, not least that the Eleventh Doctor’s timeline is complicated, more complicated than we could ever understand, and that he’s going to be around for a good long time.

DAVID:

Excellent point. Certainly leaves lots of room for lots of adventures.

TEHANI:

Yay!

DAVID:

I was interested to discover that this isn’t the first major time gap in the Doctor’s chronology. The First Doctor claims to be 450 years old at one point, but that jumps up around 300 years by the time Four is travelling with Romana. Then, when we get to Six he is around the 900s! While we need to take the Doctor’s claims regarding his age with a pinch of salt, that does leave lots of room for “missing” adventures. It does make sense that a time traveller’s chronology is going to be complicated, of course!

TANSY:

Moffat has actually done a great job at leaving deliberate gaps in the chronology, for the associated media to play in whether it’s now or in 25 years time. He has said that he does it on purpose. Unlike RTD, who gave us that distressingly closed-in Series 1, so the only non-Rose adventures we can insert happen somewhere in the middle of “Rose”.

tumblr_lki4aownvW1qb658io1_500TEHANI:

The first time I watched this season I got all sorts of terribly confused. I’m still not sure I completely understand the timeline. Where’s that River Song chronology again?

TANSY:

It bears multiple rewatching! And I believe there’s a bit of retooling we need to do after the fact with later revelations in the show…

David, let’s talk about Amy and Rory! What was it you loved so much about Gillan and Darvill’s performances?

DAVID:

There are a number of scenes where they shine (like Amy in the children’s home *shivers*) but, for me, the real emotional core of this story is Rory trying hard not to be jealous as he fights against his insecurities, and Amy’s feelings for him and the Doctor. Who wouldn’t struggle with feelings of inadequacy if they felt they were competing with the Doctor? I think it is a really pivotal moment when Amy clarifies things properly, and certainly left me feeling much better about things (“Poor Rory!” punctuates most of my notes that I make while watching these episodes!).

It would be quite obvious to anyone reading this review series that I had some real issues with the Nine-Rose-Mickey dynamic, but I find the Eleven-Amy-Rory one a lot easier to deal with. Nine was quite obviously competing with Mickey for Rose, and often rather nasty about it, and I often found it hard to watch. It was such an unbalanced competition and I constantly felt sorry for Mickey, and disdain for the Doctor’s bullying of him – because that’s what it was. There is a lot more friendship and genuine affection between the current (well, current as of this episode – I am SO far behind!) trio, and the Doctor has shown much more integrity in how he deals with Rory and Amy, and is far more mindful of boundaries. Plus, I do love the banter!

doctor-who-day-of-the-moonTEHANI:

Plus Matt Smith’s Doctor is a less “sexual” being than Tennant’s anyway, I think. He’s far more the goof (mingled nicely with the dark weight of everything he has seen) than Tennant ever was – this shows in his interactions with River Song, even as he grows into their relationship, I think.

TANSY:

I enjoy the odd, awkward balances and imbalances that come out between this trio and I agree that the Doctor’s role in it makes him a lot more likeable than when Nine was doing something similar – most of the Doctor messing up their relationship is a blunder rather than a deliberate jibe. I think it also shows that there are different kinds of friendship and jealousy and conflict doesn’t have to be romantic. Rory is brilliant in this story, it feels like he is coming into his own. I think my favourite bit is where he gets to explain everything to Canton, and that means Rory himself isn’t the new boy any more.

This team, running around solving mysteries in an invaded Earth in the 1960s. I could watch this team forever. I could have watched a whole season that was just this. Except, of course, that’s not how Doctor Who works…

We’ve already reviewed:

“Rose”, S01E01

“Dalek”, S01E06

“Father’s Day”, S01E08

“The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances”, S01E09/10

“Bad Wolf/The Parting of the Ways”, S01E12/13

Season One Report Card – DavidTansyTehani

“The Christmas Invasion”, 2005 Christmas Special

“New Earth”, S02E01

“School Reunion”, S02E03

“The Girl in the Fireplace”, S02E04

“Rise of the Cybermen/Age of Steel”, S02E05/06

“Army of Ghosts/Doomsday”, S02E12/13

Season Two Report Card – DavidTansyTehani

“The Runaway Bride”, 2006 Christmas Special

“Smith and Jones”, S03E01

“The Shakespeare Code/Gridlock”, S03E02/E03

“Human Nature/The Family of Blood”, S03E08/E09

“Blink”, SO3E10 (with special guest reviewer Joanne Anderton)

Utopia/The Sound of Drums/Last of the Timelords” S03E12/13/14

Classic Who Conversation podcast – Spearhead from Space (1970)

Season Three Report Card – DavidTansyTehani

Classic Who Conversation podcast – Genesis of the Daleks (1975)

“Partners in Crime”, S04E01 (with special guest reviewer Lynne M Thomas)

“The Sontaran Strategem/The Poison Sky”, S04E05/06

“Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead”, S04E09/10

“Turn Left”, S04E12

“The Stolen Earth/Journey’s End”, S04E13/14 

Season Four Report Card – DavidTansyTehani

The Specials: “The Next Doctor / Planet of the Dead / The Waters of Mars

The Specials: “The End of Time”

“The Eleventh Hour”, S05E01

“The Beast Below / Victory of the Daleks”, S05E02/03

“The Time of Angels / Flesh and Stone”, S05E04/05

“The Vampires of Venice / Amy’s Choice”, S05E06/07

“The Hungry Earth / Cold Blood”, S05E08/09

“Vincent and the Doctor / The Lodger”, S05E10/11

“The Pandorica Opens / The Big Bang”, S05E12/13

A Christmas Carol, 2010 Christmas special

Season Five Report Card – David, Tansy, Tehani

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Eddings Reread: The Diamond Throne (Elenium 1)

Because we just don’t have enough to do, Alex, Joanne and I have decided to re-read The Elenium and The Tamuli trilogies by David (and Leigh) Eddings, and – partly to justify that, partly because it’s fun to compare notes – we’re blogging a conversation about each book. We respond to each other in the post itself, but you can find Alex’s post over here and Jo’s post here if you’d like to read the conversation going on in the comments. Also, there are spoilers!

Diamond_ThroneTEHANI:

I was feeling a little book-weary yesterday so thought I might as well start my reading for this conversational review series, given it’s usually a soothing experience. Within a single PAGE, I was reaching for Twitter, because SO MUCH of the book cried out to be tweeted! Great one-liners, the introduction of favourite characters, and, sadly, some of the not so awesome bits as well. I was having a grand time pulling out 140 character lines (#EddingsReread if you’re interested), but the response from the ether was amazing! So many people hold these books firmly in their reading history, and it was just lovely to hear their instant nostalgia.

ALEX:

And I read those tweets and everything was SO FAMILIAR that I immediately started reading as well. And finished a day later.

JO:

Ok. A) You people read too quickly! B) Tehani those tweets were enough to start me feeling all nostalgic. I was in the middle of cooking dinner and had to put everything down, run upstairs and dig the books out of their box hidden in the back of the wardrobe. Continue reading

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