Tag Archives: Tansy Rayner Roberts

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

DAVID:

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.

TEHANI:

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

TANSY:
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.

DAVID:

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!

TEHANI:

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

TANSY:

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.

TEHANI:

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?

war5TANSY:

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.

TEHANI:

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!

DAVID:

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.

TEHANI:

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.

TANSY:

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.

DAVID:

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.

Doctor-River-6x07-A-Good-Man-Goes-To-War-the-doctor-and-river-song-25918753-1920-1080TEHANI:

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.

TANSY:

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.

DAVID:

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.

TANSY:
Oh, sweetie.

TEHANI:

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.

TANSY:

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.

TEHANI:

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.

DAVID:

Yes, I actually shuddered when that happened.

6x07-a-good-man-goes-to-war-doctor-who-22613257-1014-570TANSY:

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.

TEHANI:

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

TANSY:

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.

DAVID:

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!

TANSY:

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!

TEHANI:

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.

TANSY:
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).

TEHANI:

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

TANSY:

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.

DAVID:

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.

TANSY:

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.

TEHANI:

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!

DAVID:

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!

6x08-Let-s-Kill-Hitler-doctor-who-24887528-1024-576TANSY:

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?

DAVID:

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.

TANSY:
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.

DAVID:

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.

river-song1TEHANI:

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.

TANSY:

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.

DAVID:

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.

TANSY:

Oh, sweetie.

lkh-4TEHANI:

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.

TANSY:

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.

TEHANI:

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.

TANSY:

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?

DAVID:

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.

TEHANI:

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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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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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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New Who in Conversation: A Christmas Carol (2010 Christmas special)

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! 

CC“A Christmas Carol”, 2010 Christmas Special

The Doctor – Matt Smith

Amy Pond – Karen Gillan

Rory Williams – Arthur Darvill

Kazran/Elliot Sardick – Michael Gambon 

Abigail – Katherine Jenkins

Young Kazran – Laurence Belcher

Adult Kazran – Danny Horn 

DAVID:

A very interesting Christmas special, as Doctor Who riffs on Dickens. I actually think this is one of the best Christmas specials so far, and certainly the one that takes itself the most seriously (I say this because “End of Time” doesn’t really feel like a Christmas special to me, aside from the original broadcast date which I of course missed). Yes, there are lots of a nice little moments of humour, but this has far more meat to it than the others. It’s very self contained, too, and you can imagine watching this with family members who had never seen Doctor Who, and not having to explain very much – the only vital starting point being that he is a time traveller, which is rather self evident. Because of that It reminded me a little of “The Girl in the Fireplace”, a story that shares some of the same themes – the idea of the Doctor ducking in and out of someone’s life and the way time passes differently from different perspectives.

CC1TANSY:

It’s a great Christmas special – RTD launched the crazy fake snow tradition for the show and I do enjoy his various slightly cynical takes on what constitutes Christmas telly (a grand British tradition that we don’t have here in Australia where the idea of a flagship drama premiering a new episode on Christmas Day is basically unheard of) but I like the Moffat specials more. They feel a lot more genuinely Christmassy and less self conscious. And I do have a soft spot for Victoriana.

More importantly, this is a gorgeously designed alien planet! One of my favourites, in fact. I like all the little worldbuilding details like the flying fish and the way it all feels a bit like it’s an underwater kingdom, with all the tech and architecture resembling old world diving helmets and portholes.

TEHANI:

Very steampunkish! A lot to love, and following a theme of bloody fantastic set pieces for the season! Continue reading

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New Who in Conversation: The Pandorica Opens / The Big Bang S05E12/13

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! Tansy and Tehani love this season so much we’re making David do more work – we’re changing up our usual plan and reviewing each episode, in sets of two.

the_pandorica_opens_by_shereline-d5vm3gk “The Pandorica Opens / The Big Bang”

Season five, episodes twelve and thirteen

The Doctor – Matt Smith

Amy Pond – Karen Gillan

Rory Williams – Arthur Darvill

River Song – Alex Kingston

TANSY:

I always forget quite how much I love “The Pandorica Opens” until I’m watching it. The ‘cold open’ piece before the credits is especially wonderful. It’s fascinating how quickly this new mode and tone of Doctor Who has established itself in only a few months, so that the season finale is able to rely on nostalgia about the Eleventh Doctor and the friends he has made along the way.

TEHANI:

It’s quite amazing how much is packed into that beginning, and how lovely it is to revisit old friends in such a way. And they feel like old friends, even though we’ve really only just met them!

River1DAVID:

The whole setup of this episode is wonderfully done, not only do we get a refresher on some of the key players of the season, we barely have time to draw breath. River is wonderful, and we see her as this real James Bond type figure, absolutely dashing and fearless. And the reveal of the cliff face and the message was hilarious – It is certainly one way to get someone to return your calls!

TANSY:

The River Song of these episodes is my favourite. This is the point at which we start seeing the Doctor respond to her overtures (if not entirely crossing over into romance on his side) by being genuinely intrigued (rather than just annoyed) by this woman who knows him so well that she will deface one of the wonders of the universe just to get his attention – and of course set up a colossal scam which establishes her as Cleopatra, and him as Caesar. My favourite River quote of this episode (and there are many): “I hate wizards in fairy tales. They always turn out to be him.”

TEHANI:

I love that line. And River too. I also love in these episodes that the Doctor by now just completely expects River to be able to do the things she can, and believes her and works with her, without a blink. Continue reading

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