Tag Archives: David McDonald

Squeeing over Supergirl: Livewire, S01E05

David McDonald and Tehani Wessely have been squeeing about the new Supergirl television show for months, so they decided to take time each week to discuss the new episodes as they air. They may occasionally rope in their friends to get excited too.


Supergirl – Episode 5 (4?), “Livewire”

TEHANI: Well, I’m just going to say it: this episode had my least favourite dialogue of the season so far. Some of it was downright clunky, and a lot of it was disjointed and awfully juvenile. I mean really, would Supergirl say … “You MEAN girl!” in the middle of a battle? It was just a bit naff, and I kind of expect better. And the “coming out” innuendos were cute, but just a touch overdone.

DAVID: I really didn’t know how take those, as nice to see that TV has moved to a point where those references are just part of everyday reference rather than being used as insults, or whether it is appropriating the real experiences of people and using it in a way that cheapens it. I don’t think I am qualified to make that call, but I would be interested to hear from people for whom it has a personal meaning.

TEHANI: I also had some concerns about the mother/daughter dynamics portrayed here. I mean, Kara doesn’t even call Eliza “Mum” (or Mom, whatever…), but Eliza does and apparently consistently has put Kara above Alex. And the kind of non-resolution at the end was very wishy washy. I get what they were aiming for, but it fell a bit flat.

Supergirl-Recap-An-UncomforDAVID: I thought that was really weird, and actually kind of toxic! When Winn calls Eliza Kara’s mom, and Kara very clearly and very firmly corrects him with “foster-mom” I saw that as a bit of a warning sign that the relationship had a weird dynamic—even if Kara doesn’t call her mom, you would think in that context she wouldn’t have been so quick to correct it.

I am also not sure that one Thanksgiving mother/daughter chat is going to make up for decades of psychological trauma on Alex’s behalf. Those sort of things just don’t go away, and it isn’t as if she is all of a sudden not going feel undervalued or under extreme pressure from her mother’s expectations.

Eliza just didn’t come across as a very nice person, or a particularly good mother. I know that’s harsh, but we only go by what we see. Now, that’s an interesting story choice, because the Kents are held up as the gold standard of parenting (and even their relationship with Supergirl is traditionally much better than the one with Eliza shown here). It’s fascinating to see a Supergirl whose family life is a bit more…dysfunctional.

TEHANI: It will definitely be interesting to see if we get more of this. I’m going to make a prediction here – I reckon Alex’s dad, Jeremiah Danvers, isn’t really dead…

I was completely unsurprised to discover (thank you Wikipedia) that this episode was originally slated to air as episode five, with another episode (“How Does She Do It” – scheduled now for next week) supposed to run prior. The sudden jump in James and Lucy’s relationship didn’t make sense, and Cat Grant has mellowed somewhat, rather abruptly it seemed. Sort of feels like something else has gone down with Winn and Kara too. A couple of times while watching I wondered if I’d missed something!

SGS1E5 JamesDAVID: I’d already heard that they had changed it but, yes, there are some bits that seemed to have jumped well ahead. I’ll be interested to see the one that was meant to show.

The James and Lucy thing is a bit odd, too, he is so obviously into Kara that I feel bad for Lucy.

TEHANI: I think we really missed something in the network switching the air dates – hopefully that will be a bit clearer after this next week.

Despite my reservations about the dialogue, there was a lot I liked about the episode. I think it started really strongly, and I continue to adore the relationship between Kara and Alex. It was also lovely to see Helen Slater and Dean Cain getting airtime, although I really hope we don’t fall into the flashback trap that can become a bit tedious in Arrow. And this is a show about Supergirl, so keeping the focus on her is important.

SGS1E5 Kara-AlexDAVID: That’s very true, but the twist with the history with Henshaw has made things very interesting, and made the flashbacks worthwhile all by itself. I can’t wait to see where that goes, because it has major ramifications not just for Kara, but for Alex.

TEHANI: I particularly liked Cat Grant’s shot at Leslie Willis regarding attacking Supergirl about her body and that sort of thing. It was a bit undermined by the idea that Cat was only defending Supergirl because she was trying to build a relationship with her to exploit, but I think that’s a bit of a front. It certainly follows on from other points like this that have been made previously, and is echoed when Cat decided not to publish awful photos of young celebrities the day after Thanksgiving.

SGS1E5 Cat-LeslieDAVID: I think it is good that Cat made a stand on that sort of toxic commentary, but it is weakened by the fact she didn’t do it until it was affecting her plans for Supergirl and her magazine. I am sure that Leslie did the same to other celebrities, so why was Cat only reining her in now. Leslie was quite justified in calling her on her double standards.

But, maybe the photo thing did show that she has had an epiphany?

TEHANI: I wonder if the next episode (which should have come before this) will mean we see this differently? Perhaps there was another lead up event. We’ll have to see!

Look, I know that Marvel and DC riff (rip?) off each other a lot, but seriously, Livewire? Last week a cut-rate Iron Man, this week, a genderbent Electro, for goodness sake!

SGS1 LivewireDAVID: In fairness, Livewire is a very established DC character (who is also a very fun character), so I am not sure who was first. However, I had never heard of Reactron before and, given Iron Man’s current profile, I think they made a mistake there by not distinguishing the two enough. But, I doubt too many people would be comparing Livewire and Electro in the same way.

TEHANI: Oh, I googled it and Electro was first by a good three decades. AND he was in the relatively recent Amazing Spider-Man movie!

I’m going to put this out there – I think Cat Grant knows Kara is Supergirl…

DAVID: I wouldn’t be surprised if she does. Maybe she has a plan for that knowledge?

TEHANI: Look forward to finding out!

Previously, in “Squeeing over Supergirl”…


Stronger Together

Fight or Flight


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Squeeing over Supergirl: Fight or Flight, S01E03

David McDonald and Tehani Wessely have been squeeing about the new Supergirl television show for months, so they decided to take time each week to discuss the new episodes as they air. They may occasionally rope in their friends to get excited too.

Supergirl_1920x1080_586896_640x360Supergirl – Episode 3, “Fight or Flight”


DAVID: Three episodes in and I am still really enjoying Supergirl, but it is clear that they are going the “monster-of-the-week” route which definitely has its weaknesses. I thought the idea of the villain being one who saw Supergirl as a way of getting at Superman was a good one, as was his back story, it’s just a shame that he looked like a cut rate Iron Man. It will be interesting to see where the show goes from here, because there is only so long that this style works before it gets repetitive, but the good news is that lots of shows that have started out like this have matured and developed, and been very successful—Smallville and Buffy are both examples. Hopefully we see more of an emphasis on season long story and character arcs as it goes on.

SG ep3jTEHANI: I don’t really mind the monster-of-the-week just so long as we continue to also get Kara growing into her role as Supergirl, Alex being badass, and lots of lovely team byplay and Cat Grant truisms. Although Reactron really was an Iron Man rip off, you’re definitely right there!

DAVID: We also saw a ramping up of the love triangle and I am definitely Team Winslow—for the simple reason I always go for the underdog, and he is definitely overshadowed by James! However, he hit on the winning strategy of not trying to hold Kara back, but instead supporting her in her decision to do the whole hero thing. I am calling something early, though, I am tipping that we will see Maxwell Lord as another love interest. There was some good development of James with his confession that his calling Superman was about him, not her, and his dependence on the Man of Steel. Superman casts a long shadow.

SG ep3gTEHANI: You and I are on different sides of this one—Team James here! And nopeity nope nope to Lord as love interest. Not a chance there, although he and Cat Grant are another story…  

DAVID: How about a friendly wager? I think they are setting him up for it, he is too pretty for a start! And, it would be a contrast with the “good” guys in her life—similar to one of the key romantic pairings in Smallville.

SG ep3eTEHANI: I’ll take that bet!

DAVID: Speaking of Cat, her interview raised the interesting point of the difference in questions men and women get. I can’t imagine Superman being asked when he was starting a family. That’s one of the strengths of this show, I think, the way it contrasts the way different genders are treated.

SG ep3fTEHANI: Isn’t the underpinning commentary WONDERFUL? It’s not always subtle, but it does shine a light on so many things. I also like the lovely little pop culture references—sure, they may date, but they make the show feel super modern, which is great for NOW. I do like that there’s some fallout from the interview, in that Kara realises how what she says can be taken out of context.

DAVID: The were a lot of mentions of Superman in this episode, but I think it makes sense that Kara would constantly be measured against him. He is obviously an established hero in this universe, and the moment she started wearing the “S” people would be comparing them. This is a fairly standard theme in the comics/other spin offs as well, where Supergirl tries to establish herself as a hero in her own right, not just as Superman’s cousin. Even the theme of Superman always wanting to rescue her, or being overprotective, is quite common and a source of tension between them—albeit usually minor. The show is walking a fine line here between acknowledging their relationship and turning this into a show about Superman, and I think they are getting it mostly right. And, I did love the IM conversation!

SG ep3aTEHANI: I’m interested by how they are dealing with the Superman stuff. I’ve read some really great team-up stuff with Superman and Supergirl, and while I don’t think we’ll get that in this show, I do like that he’s a part of Kara’s story. I think it’s important to always keep in mind who the actual audience for the program is—we’re talking about appealing to the teen demographic, mostly. Just as for many of them, life is about figuring out how they work and who they are out from under the shadow of their families, Kara is doing the same thing, except that her family is Superman. Well, it’s Alex and the DEO as well, to a point, but that’s not quite the same.

SG ep3hDAVID: I am not sure why Kara is taking orders from DEO about who she is allowed to take on, and Wynn’s control room should give her some more independence. Anyone familiar with the other versions of the mythos will know where they are going with Hank’s glowing eyes, but it is good to see his and Alex’s working relationship being explored.

TEHANI: I think I get why Kara is listening to the DEO. Partly it’s because of Alex, but I reckon mostly it’s because for all her talk about standing on her own two feet, it’s reassuring for her to have backup. She appreciates the support, even when she feels like it chafes, but you’ll notice how quickly she will take matters into her own hands if she disagrees, even this early on…

SG ep3iI don’t know what the deal is with Hank—bad fan, Tehani! But I have resisted looking it up, because I’m enjoying the not-knowing, so don’t tell me :) Also, I had no idea Lucy Lane was a canon character. I totally want she and Kara to become BFFs and sit around comparing Jimmy stories…

What did you think about James and Kara letting slip to Wynn about Superman’s secret identity? They really are rubbish at keeping secrets!

SG ep3DAVID: I have to admit that I actually did laugh at loud at that moment. I mean, it really is terribly bad of them, but it was pretty funny. Not sure Superman would be thrilled, though!

TEHANI: And can I just add how absolutely adorkable the last scene between the sisters was? I was in fits of giggles watching it.

Kara: …I will melt your face.

Alex: I hope you get fat.

Kara: Not on THIS planet…

SG ep3cPreviously, in “Squeeing over Supergirl”…

Episode 1, “Pilot”

Episode 2, “Stronger Together”


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Squeeing over Supergirl: Stronger Together, S01E02

David McDonald and Tehani Wessely have been squeeing about the new Supergirl television show for months, so they decided to take time each week to discuss the new episodes as they air. They may occasionally rope in their friends to get excited too.

Supergirl_1920x1080_586896_640x360Supergirl – Episode 2, “Stronger Together”

TEHANI: Well, I’m going to admit it now, but I was a bit worried that I’d overinflated my hopes for this show in the waiting period since the first episode was “leaked”. I had wondered if it really was going to be as good as I hoped, based on that first amazing and intense 45 minutes, and would the showrunners really and truly commit to the lovely standup “it’s awesome to be a girl” message? So it was with a little trepidation I came to episode two. I need not have worried. “Stronger Together” was just as great to watch, with a whole bunch more of the wonderful, female-centric storytelling the first episode set up. Yay!

“It’s not because you’re a woman, Ms Danvers.” – Director Henshaw

02-supergirl.w750.h560.2xDAVID: I was relieved that the second episode wasn’t a let down, too! It was a little cheesy in parts, but that is part of what they are going for—this is not the grimdark superhero story we have so much of. They have introduced a promising story arc and some good villains, we are seeing some great character development and, most importantly, there is still such a sense of fun about it. Kara’s powers aren’t a burden on her, she isn’t an unwilling hero. She wants to help people, and she enjoys her powers the way that you’d think most people would. Who wouldn’t love being able to fly and wouldn’t love dodging missiles and stuff? I am a bit over the whole mopey superhero who wishes that they could just be normal thing.

TEHANI: There is so much great critical commentary in this show. The way the media is so fickle, turning quickly on Supergirl when she’s messing things up (and heck, yes she really messes up!) but within DAYS turns around and makes her the media darling again when she’s doing good. On that same topic, I loved the message that it’s actually okay to mess up, and you can do better, without it being hyper harped on. Added to that, the way that a bunch of people around her suggested in different ways that maybe she was taking on a bit too much too soon, but it was the way Cat Grant explained it to her that stuck.

“Every woman worth her salt knows that we have to work twice as hard as a man to be thought of as half as good.” – Cat Grant

Screen Shot 2015-11-09 at 9.30.52 amDAVID: I found that whole idea that her heroics would not be greeted with universal acclaim, and that her mistakes would be seized upon, very true to life. We only need to look at the polarisation of opinion on media, especially social media, to see how differently different people react to the same story or public figure, and how quickly criticism or praise can spread to see this. Even the idea that the media might try and “manage” or “manufacture” a hero doesn’t seem too far fetched.

The bit I didn’t like was that for all her speeches Cat seemed more willing to tear down a female superhero than build her up. But that is human nature, you’d like to think someone who had had to overcome obstacles would be supportive of someone else trying to do the same, but often you see people can be less forgiving in that scenario if they think the other person is doing it wrong.

Two of those lessons you mention were really good ones, the idea that we can mess up and get better being one of them. But, I did like that whole learning to be willing to work your way up to things and be realistic in your expectations. A lot of “Chosen Ones” in stories mess up because of their arrogance and unwillingness to admit that they aren’t ready for certain things. Kara has a good group of people around her—but also a lack of arrogance that is refreshing.

Supergirl S01E02 1TEHANI: If I have one criticism, it’s that I’m not sure about the blatant love triangle set up—look, I know it’s a staple of young adult stories but it’s really very tired… And yes, I absolutely believe this show is made primarily for the teen audience, despite the fact lots of adults love it too (of COURSE we do), but this isn’t about me projecting adulting on it, it’s about thinking that our young people are smarter than the overdone love triangle trope implies they are, and wanting media to show them other options for young relationships. Or NOT—I mean, couldn’t Kara have a season when she just discovers who she is, without romance getting in the way?

DAVID: Haha I thought I was reading one of my comments from a New Who review there for a moment! :-P

I am hoping that they really don’t push the love triangle too much. I think that James makes a better mentor figure through his friendship with Superman, and Winslow doesn’t need to have a romantic interest in Kara for their relationship to work. The idea that men and women can just be friends and still want to support each other in their dreams and passions is not that crazy, is it?

I think they will continue to work the romance angel, because of the type of show it is, but it doesn’t need to be at the forefront to create dramatic tension—as you allude to, the real story here is Kara discovering how to use her powers and become a real hero.

Supergirl S01E02 AlexTEHANI: I really liked that Alex Danvers both ended up saving herself and demonstrating her inherent kick-assery at the same time. I adore that we have awesome female characters who are not all the same, but could we please have some more? With a variety of backgrounds? Does Kara not have any other girl friends?

DAVID: One of my favourite episodes of The New Batman Adventures (and, in fact, one of my favourite of the Timmverse)  was “Girl’s Night Out” where Supergirl and Batgirl teamed up to take on Livewire, Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn. The best thing about it was seeing them all just hanging out as friends (the three villainesses as one group, Supergirl and Batgirl as the other). It was a really rare example of seeing female heroes and villains as more than just extensions of the “central” male characters and I would love to see more stuff like that.

Supergirl S01E02 FightTEHANI: Yes! I hope the showrunners give us something like this, rather than fall back on the usual stuff. Let’s find out!

Previously, in “Squeeing over Supergirl”…

Episode 1, “Pilot”

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Squeeing over Supergirl: Pilot, S01E01

David McDonald and Tehani Wessely have been squeeing about the new Supergirl television show for months, so they decided to take time each week to discuss the new episodes as they air. They may occasionally rope in their friends to get excited too.


Supergirl – Episode 1 (“Pilot”)

DAVID: The first thing that struck me about Supergirl was how bright and colourful it is! It’s a welcome contrast to the gritty, washed out look that has become the norm of late. It was also reflected in the sense of fun that permeated the show. It wasn’t just that there was a sense of wonder in her discovering her powers, but also just a different feel to the way the characters interacted. It was like everything didn’t have to be brooding or ominous, we got to see them simply being people separate from their other role. It reminded me more of The Flash than something like Daredevil or Arrow.

TEHANI: Agreed! It definitely has a lighter vibe than anything else we’ve seen—for me, that reflected the target demographic the show is being aimed at, but my, so refreshing!

DAVID: However the show that it reminded me of the most was Smallville, which is one of my all time favourite television shows, and still one of the best versions of the Superman mythos that’s been done. So far, like Smallville, Supergirl seems to show an understanding of the core of what Superman/Supergirl is about—and what it really means to be a hero. It certainly has a better handle on it that Man of Steel did! It looks like it is going to follow the Smallville trend of nice little shout outs to the comic and to other versions—we’ve already seen Dean Cain (Lois and Clark) and Helen Slater (Supergirl: The Movie) pop up! I loved playing spot the reference in Smallville, and it looks like that will be a feature.


TEHANI: Ahem, so this is where I admit I never really watched Smallville? But it absolutely made me smile with glee to see Dean and Helen!

DAVID: Speaking of casting, I think they have been spot on. When I heard that Melissa Benoist had been cast as Supergirl, I was a little dubious, but she brings an adorable goofiness to the role that suits this version of Supergirl perfectly. It’s great to see Calista Flockhart back in a role that gives her a lot of room to move, and I really enjoy this more imposing version of Jimmy Olsen—a character that has, at times, had very little presence or simply been there for comedic effect (and often as successful at that as Jar Jar Binks). I was interested to see that we have at least three actors who have significant musical backgrounds—Benoist (Glee), Jeremy Jordan (Smash), and Tony Award winning Laura Benanti (Nashville and lots more). Perhaps we will see a musical themed episode!


TEHANI: I love the James Olsen character and the way he’s being played, and I also love Chyler Leigh as Alex Danvers, Kara’s adopted sister, and I LOVE the way Calista Flockhart is playing Cat Grant—it’s brilliant! I think the casting choices are excellent.


DAVID: I am actually really impressed with the decision DC have made about who this series has been aimed at. Rather than the usual demographic of young men, they appear to have realised that girls are interested in superheroes, too! I don’t mean that in a derogatory sense, but my female friends who are watching this feel that this is something that has been made with them in mind, rather than treating them as an incidental benefit on top the people studios normally cater to. It seems like a no brainer to many of us, but most of the studios have been avoiding a female helmed series or movie as best they can (the closest being Captain America: Winter Soldier which was really a buddy cop movie like Lethal Weapon with Captain America and Black Widow deserving equal billing). Hopefully this is a much needed step in the right direction and, along with shows like Jessica Jones, will herald a sea change in marketing.


TEHANI: Look, it’s crazycakes—us gals are YELLING for content that has at least got SOME women, let alone someone as the lead. I continue to be particularly disappointed in Marvel for the lack of women—we got Agent Carter, and yes, Agents of SHIELD has some excellent female characters, but the films, and shows like Daredevil, despite being excellent in so many ways, are absolutely woeful for gender diversity (among other diversities…). I really hope Jessica Jones gives us more but we’ve most recently been disappointed by Ant-Man, and by the news that the potentially awesome Captain Marvel movie has been pushed back. DC is doing better, with some interesting and engaging female characters in Arrow, Flash and Gotham, but this is the first time (other than iZombie, which isn’t really a superhero show, despite being great!) that we’ve got ourselves a female-led series. And not just that, we’ve got other women who Kara gets to TALK to and everything! So woohoo DC!

Supergirl Cat Grant

And OH MY GOSH do I love the discussion of being a girl!! Kicking butt, Cat Grant. Actually, I just love all of this. I truly hope that the show continues on the way it has begun—the gentle interrogation of certain superhero media tropes, the clever casting, the jump-in-with-both-feet-and-just-get-on-with-it style—it’s brilliant! Can’t wait for the next episode!

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New Who in Conversation: A Good Man Goes to War/Let’s Kill Hitler S06E07/08

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 all New Who 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 would like to thank everyone who nominated our “New Who in Conversation” series for the William Atheling Jr Award again this year – it’s a great honour to be on the ballot! Voting for the annual Ditmar Awards (which the Atheling is included in) is open to all members of  Continuum X (2014 Natcon – Melbourne) and Swancon 40 (2015 Natcon – Perth), and can be done online.

DW_6x07_A_Good_Man_Goes_To_War_048“A Good Man Goes to War / Let’s Kill Hitler”

Season six, episode four

The Doctor – Matt Smith

Amy Pond – Karen Gillan

Rory Williams – Arthur Darvill 

River Song – Alex Kingston

Mels – Nina Toussaint-White


I really enjoyed the introduction to “A Good Man Goes to War”. I do think that there are times when Amy puts the Doctor in roles that by rights are Rory’s, and it was great that he was the subject of her speech and, unless, I am way off, the “good man” of the title and the prophecy. The scene where they confront the Cybermen is quite effective, though you do have to ask about the ethics of blowing up so many of them just to get information – it’s even more casual slaughter than we are used to. I actually had already seen this scene when it was played during the Hugo ceremony, but I had managed to blank it out and it didn’t diminish my enjoyment of this.


Rewatching the beginning I’m just all “RORY ROCKS”! Which is, almost certainly, the idea.

I love that Rory uses his Roman Legionary costume and identity when he needs to kick ass, and I do like this scene very much – of course, as soon as you start thinking about the ethics of exploding the whole army it’s a bit icky. Looking back to 2011, when this episode aired – this was the point very much at which fandom accepted Rory as officially awesome instead of complaining about him being a doormat or another Mickey. I’ve always given a bit of a side-eye to this group reaction, as it seems to me that Rory became a lot more popular as a character as soon as he became more traditionally macho – waving swords and uttering threatening lines. Which is a shame, because I love squooshy, sensitive Rory too.

I am very glad that they seem to now have dropped the whole thing with Rory feeling jealous of the Doctor – it feels like discovering Amy’s abduction has led him to finally drop that very boring narrative thread, so he can concentrate on what’s important.

PS: the ‘A good man’ of the title is the Doctor I think, but it also refers to Rory, and takes on different meanings for each of them.


Interesting. To me it is far better fit for Rory. But, that’s the joy of prophecies, right? Discussion fodder!

So, were these Mondasian Cybermen? I get confused by all these alternate timelines etc!


That’s quite clearly a question Tansy needs to answer, because I don’t even know what you’re talking about!


I don’t know that it’s clear at this point – there’s one school of thought that the Mondas Cybermen have still not been officially brought back in New Who (apart from the head in Dalek), but it’s clear there are plenty of them surfing around ‘our’ universe at this point, and they have ditched the Cybus industries logo as of The Next Doctor, so… NO ONE KNOWS, GUYS. Peter Capaldi recently stated that bringing back the Mondasian Cybermen was a priority for him.


On that note, Tansy, do the opening scenes make any sense at all in terms of continuity? I mean, there are characters who are familiar but not as themselves I think, and the events we see them in seem like they come from Doctor Who past, but I don’t think they all are? I think it’s all fabulous, but I don’t know it makes any sense?


Ah, that’s the clever part. All of these characters feel like they belong solidly to the Doctor’s past – they obviously all have a past with him, but certainly in the case of Madam Vastra, Strax and Jenny, we’ve never seen them in the show before. I love this opening, it’s like a proper heist film, with characters who have a murky past with each other.

Something Moffat has done very well, which RTD only started allowing for in his later seasons, is allowing lots of gaps and spaces between stories, including long periods in which the Doctor lives a life we don’t get to witness. In this case he’s had these friends whose lives he has completely changed, who owe him favours, and we get to walk in on the middle of the friendship.


Which is super smart for the fandom side of things, because it allows lots of (authorised and non-authorised) opportunities to play in the history. Big Finish is going to have an absolute ball fiddling around in this era in ten years or so!


One of the things that has concerned me with New Who, especially the later seasons, is that it sometimes crosses the line with portraying the Doctor as a darker, more powerful figure into something that is far too potent. I kind of liked the Doctor when he was a mysterious wanderer, and where people did not know who they were messing with, rather than someone whose name so well known as to cause armies to panic and flee. There have been times this has been done well (such as “The Eleventh Hour” and “The Pandorica Opens”), but it can also get a bit too self congratulatory and back slappy. This episode walked that line, and came close times to stepping over.


By gosh Matt Smith was marvellous in this though. I came back to rewatch after way too long and fell in love with him all over again in this. He’s pitch perfect as the madcap showman in the start of the battle, but that underlying anger, fear and sadness coming through at points (and the gorgeous “I speak baby” stuff too!), oh, so good.


I think this is the Eleventh Doctor at his darkest, and his most morally compromised – as is telegraphed quite heavily in the story! The theme of the Doctor as warrior is carried through, and we finally see the potential for him to be a war leader but also his deep dislike of the very idea that he might do such a thing. Now that we know (CLOSE YOUR EARS DAVID) so much more about what happened to him during the Time War, this story has extra resonance, because this is what he promised himself he would never do again.


I quite liked River Song’s speech at the end where she lectures the Doctor on the dangers of the legend he has created, and just like in Pandorica Opens, we can understand why races might decide the Universe would be safer without the Doctor in it – though of course their methods are inexcusable and completely reprehensible. I think that the modern incarnations of the Doctor have sometimes lost sight of his moral core, and act as if the measure of whether things are right or wrong are whether it is the Doctor doing them.


It’s all about River Song though, really. Both these episodes are about solving the mystery of River, and I love the way that starts, with her lovestruck and whimsical then thrust into events that she clearly knows the outcome of. Paradoxes, they break my brain.


I was spoiled the morning that the episode aired (still bitter) but yes I think this is a great River Song story – if anything, the revelation is only a small part of the episode (though a huge part of the season). Some of my favourite River scenes are in this episode, particularly the one at the beginning when Rory comes to her and asks for help, and she turns him down. You can see in her face, watching this in retrospect, that she’s searching for the person she knows is her father, and that this is the last time she’ll see him before he knows who she is.

It’s a great disappointment to me that the River-Rory relationship was given so little exploration in stories afterwards, because while I think the awkward-loving vibe between her and Amy is so interesting, I think the most interesting scenes between River and Rory were basically in this episode, and back in The Impossible Astronaut.


I was more than a little confused about who the bad guys were in this episode. I thought at first it was the Church Militant from the last Angels episode (which would have bothered me as I thought that was a great concept). Then there was a mention of a Papal directive, as well as Anglican soldiers and the Headless Monks confusing things. The Silence’s doctrine has nothing in common with Christianity, so I will be interested to see where the threads all come together. New Who has had interesting relationship with religion, so I will await with great interest to discover the logic behind all these connections.

Oh, sweetie.


I think I gave up entirely trying to sort out the continuity, if there is any! Without spoiling, some of this is (somewhat) explained over the next seasons, but here, nah, not so much.


Yes, the church militant and the Papal mainframe are heaven neutral (I love this term though no idea what it means) and I think that’s important – they are neutral, they just happen to be under orders currently from characters who are working against the Doctor.


That said, for my mind the only villain is Madame Kovarian – the scene where the baby turns out to be Flesh absolutely shocked me the first time, and it upsets me every single time I watch it.


Yes, I actually shuddered when that happened.


I found the baby plot incredibly stressful the first time around – this screened in 2011 when my youngest was still toddler, so the whole thing with Amy and Rory losing baby Melody was genuinely devastating – though it was actually the stress of not knowing what was going to happen that made it worse for me. In retrospect, now that tension is gone, I can watch the episode without my heart in my throat.


It’s still completely awful. Too many babies in my life for this ever not to be ridiculously sad.


A lot of people hated the Amy abducted subplot, and there was something really horrible about the idea of her being pregnant in a box for so many months, while her mind was still cheerfully travelling around with the Doctor and Rory. I do like the strength of how Amy is portrayed here as a mother – a role that by no means comes naturally to her, and which she has had no preparation for. I like that she’s not softened by having a baby in her arms – she’s harder than ever, like when she’s so sharp to Lorna Bucket because the idea of sentiment in this situation makes her want to stab things.


I really enjoyed the three characters introduced here, Madame Vastra, Jenny Flint and Strax (though I assumed he was the Sontaran from a much earlier episode at first). I’ve heard that they pop up again a few times, and I will look forward to that. Strax especially appealed to me, and I thought both hilarious and believable that the Sontaran idea of penance might involve being forced to “help the weak”. His conversation with the boy was comedy gold. And, I so want to know more about that war and that time zone, it looked like a steampunk fan’s dream come true.The idea of a Sontaran breast feeding was pretty amusing too, I would love to see a cafe owner tell him to cover up!


I love these characters so much. Always and forever. It’s rare for a single Doctor Who story to launch so many memorable, worth-bringing-back characters – this one has four and I won’t tell you who the fourth is, yet. Spoilers!


The arch looks Vastra and Jenny exchange in that scene in the control room! *dies of love* They are so awesome, and I’m still waiting for that Vastra and Jenny spin off please and thank you! They are all brilliant in this. And though I maybe felt, particularly on rewatching again, that there are perhaps a few too many characters that were really somewhat extraneous, I really genuinely loved this episode. It makes me laugh and cry and ache for them. So much good.

It’s amazing how epic this story feels considering that it is a one-parter – I know we’re here to talk about both stories, but you both did not have to WAIT TWO FREAKING MONTHS between episodes like those of us who were watching it live! (Or wait, Tehani, were you watching it live by this point? I lose track).


I was TOTALLY watching it live by then! The pain…


The big cast of characters makes it feel like a big, sprawling space opera and I love that – also how well the various characters are set up, even with only a few lines.


I know I am a conservative fuddy duddy, and I don’t think that New Who should be completely constrained by the continuity of the old show, but I am not sure that I approve of throwing out established canon for a one liner and a minor plot point. I am sure that temporal grace has been an important part of the show and a wonderful concept that deserved better.


To be fair, David, the idea of temporal grace has been contradicted in Classic Who at least as often as it has been relevant to the plot! Let us not forget Susan and the scissors in Edge of Destruction. :D I personally think that the temporal grace idea is something a bit like the Randomiser from the Fourth Doctor’s era, or the isometric controls – something that has occasionally been active in the TARDIS, but is not a permanent, always-taken-for-granted feature.


So we’re kind of cheating with this one, because it’s not really a double episode. However, the program originally aired with a two and a half month gap between the episodes, so technically, as well as “A Good Man Goes to War” being Hugo nominated, we could call them a season closer and a season opener, yes? I just think we really REALLY need to talk about “Let’s Kill Hitler”, so we’ll justify it!


It’s probably long overdue that a TV show about time travel needed to address the elephant in the room. If you had a time machine and a gun, why wouldn’t you travel back in time and try and kill Hitler? Of course, all know it is never going to go to plan!


I don’t know that it is overdue in that it’s a trope that has been referenced and discussed almost as often as the JFK shooting or the grandfather paradox. But then it is supposed to be ridiculous in this context – the whole idea is that it’s what an adrenalin junkie teenager would come up with, given a gun and a time machine.

The actual elephant in the room is that the Doctor gets hugely judgmental about all kinds of atrocities when he’s faced with them – he even brought Harriet Jones down for shooting one spaceship out of the sky. So why doesn’t he kill Hitler? Why didn’t he save Adric? How can we actually put our faith in a hero with near-unlimited power to change time, who allows himself to choose his battles?


Well, and a hero who has done far worse things than shoot one spaceship out of the sky!

The problem with Nazi references in a lot of movies (and in political discourse) is that there is a danger of minimising evil and of weird moral equivalences. The idea that River’s crime of killing the Doctor is somehow comparable to Hitler’s crimes made me uncomfortable and I think that they should have made it clear that there were levels of punishment/crime that they were enforcing.

It is uncomfortable – again I think it’s supposed to be uncomfortable, but that doesn’t mean it’s okay. The British have a long history of turning Hitler and the Nazis into a joke, from World War II propaganda onwards, as a way of coping with what they represented and what the potential invasion of Britain signified, but I think we’re at a point in history where a lot of that humour is pretty misguided.


Because I am so far behind, I don’t know whether we get the story of where the Doctor went looking, and what happened in the time between the start of his search, and meeting in the cornfield, but I am a big fan of these gaps as these can be filled with all sorts of wonders from new companions to homicidal super computers and leather clad savages.


The first time I watched this, it was really weird to see newly regenerated River suddenly being a psychopath – it didn’t make sense that Rory and Amy could have known Mels so well and yet she turns into this lunatic so quickly. But rewatching, it was more palatable. The idea that the brainwashing imperative to kill him didn’t actually kick in until she encountered the Doctor makes sense, if you squint at it, so I can hand wave other stuff to make it work.


I like many parts of this episode – particularly Alex Kingston’s portrayal of the very young River Song/Melody coming into her new body for the first time – but I think the search part of the story is disappointing mostly because the Doctor promises he will get their baby back, and he fails. He fails terribly, and we don’t see him fail – we don’t even see him try. Instead, time travel catches up with them – but while I normally support gaps in the story, this one is pretty massive and means that all the emotional punch of “A Good Man Goes To War” is allowed to fizzle. It feels like maybe he just put his feet up in the TARDIS and had a cup of tea then came to collect them at the end of the summer.


River Song being Rory and Amy’s daughter certainly introduces some weird family dynamics, especially if her and the Doctor end up together. One wonders how Amy would feel about that, and the Doctor is continuing his run of entirely inappropriate relationships. Fortunately, the power dynamic between River and the Doctor is much more balanced than some of the other ones we have seen.

I wasn’t sure about the shoe-horning of Mel’s character into Rory and Amy’s past, but that conversation where Amy tells Rory he is gay made it worthwhile. I wonder if there are any expanded universe adventures of the incarnation of Mel’s floating around, whether books or Big Finish? If not, maybe there should be. They didn’t really explain why she was simultaneously wanting to kill the Doctor, and had grown up idolising him. Did the brainwashing only kick in at a certain point? Was there a trigger word? Did she come and find Amy and Rory because they were her parents or because they were a way of getting to her target. I am sure all will be revealed.


Oh, sweetie.


I’m so ambivalent about Mels. On one hand, I think she’s awesome, and I could watch an entire spin off called The Amy, Rory and Mels Adventures played by their younger selves (with a few cameos from the “teenage” selves just for giggles). On the other, without that background, without ever seeing or hearing a single thing about Mels for the entire season and a half we’ve known Amy and Rory, unfortunately it just falls flat for me. I get why we HAVE Mels, but it’s so obviously a plot device and it’s one of the few times I’ve been disappointed by a random add-in.

I think part of the problem I have with it is the way Rory and Amy have basically got over the loss of their baby, and it’s so unfair that they basically just give up on getting baby Melody back again. Just because River was Mels and they kind of grew up together, and they know how things work out (basically), it’s not at ALL the same as being parents to a baby who they were clearly so invested in THE LAST EPISODE.


Yeah, I think a single line earlier in the season to say that Amy named the baby after her best friend Mels (which would make sense and actually would have distracted from the melody – song connection) would have signposted Mels a little better. But then this whole second half of the season is characterised by episodes which needed one or two lines of dialogue to FIX THEM.

By the way there was a great comic in Doctor Who Magazine – I think the December issue in the same year? Which showed a hidden adventure of Rory, Amy and Mels at Christmas. I think the three of them and their odd childhood together is absolutely a goldmine of missed storytelling opportunities.


Look, in all, I think this episode is a bit over-the-top and melodramatic, but Alex Kingston is as always fabulous, there are some very good parts interspersed with the bits that don’t make complete sense, and there are some really nice callbacks to past episodes and tidbits that are picked up in later episodes.


Alex Kingson and Matt Smith together are amazing in this. And while I know very much that feminist Doctor Who fans all over the world were infuriated by the “I’m looking for a good man” line at the end of this episode, and the reframing of young River as someone obsessively shaping her life around the Doctor…

I actually really like this piece of their story, because the power imbalance between them with him knowing more about her and their relationship is an important bookend to the early episodes where she was all-knowing and he was innocent. Their relationship is much more fun to watch in stories when they’re both somewhere in the middle, but this piece of the puzzle is important. The fact that she is vulnerable, erratic and less confident here, in her youth, does not take away from how awesome and extraordinary she becomes, just because we’ve seen it in the wrong order so it feels like regression. If that makes sense?


Definitely. To me, all this is doing is showing how she became the River Song we meet when she first appears in the show, not retconning her character or diminishing it. If we went from the River Song we first met to Mels, yes that could be seen as a step backward for a great character. But that River Song hasn’t changed or gone anywhere–we are just getting an extended flashback showing us her backstory! It’s actually a pretty clever idea.


Definitely! Like, you know, people (even fictional ones) can grow and change – nicely done I reckon.

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

The Doctor’s Wife” S06E04

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