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Doctor Who XXXI.7: Amy's Choice

May 17th, 2010 (01:32 am)

"You're probably a vegetarian, you flop-haired wuss," said the Dream Lord in his butcher's smock. Did Simon Nye write this, I thought, or pennypaperbrain, who once used similar language (affectionately) of me? There was a lot here to prey on the mind of anyone who has ever suffered self-questioning or self-doubt; though it was not until the very end that I realised who the Dream Lord was, obvious though it should have been.

I'm not going to manage an essay this time round, but my observations would be:

- Still not greatly happy with the conceptualisation of Rory, or Arthur Darvill's apparentlyn superficial reading. He's less annoying than Noel Clarke's first reading of Mickey (and as [personal profile] purplecat|louisedennis has ably demonstrated, Rory is something of a commentary on Mickey's development) but comes across as suffering from arrested development. In defence of the script, for much of the episode Darvill is playing a Rory who is behaving perhaps as the Doctor fears the Doctor sees him - hence clowning, ineffective pretension, ineffective husbanding. Bearing this in mind I'll be annoyed if his development over the next two episodes is insufficient.

- Good use of a smaller speaking cast than is usual; and good (from a particular fannish perspective) to see that one of the pensioners was Nick Hobbs, sometime Aggedor of the Pertwee era's Peladon stories.

- One of those watching with me observed that this story might see the transition from an Amy character arc to a Doctor character arc. That hadn't struck me, though he might be right given that both dream settings represent the Doctor's fears for and about Amy and Rory as much as himself. The Doctor clings, at the end, to the lack of darkness in Amy and Rory, but this only bears out that the Dream Lord's earlier jibe, that the Doctor gives up on his friends once they have grown up, is one of the Doctor's constant fears about himself.

- "Sofas can talk" - all Doctor Who is a dream, and so it allows itself wilfully bad science. We have come a long way from the kitchen sink of the early Hartnells.

- Not only is it a dream, it's also a little bit of Tom and Jerry, hinted at a little in the musical response to Rory's whacking of Mrs Hamill.

- The specials are again treated as foreshadowing the new as much as they wrapped up the old: Elizabeth I is mentioned again (just as I thought there was going to be a reference to Donna) and there was I think just a little Waters of Mars music as the Doctor said that his travelling alone did not end well.

- I wondered whether the Dream Lord would turn out to be the Toymaker, or a projection of a regenerated Master, reaching out from inside the Time Lock; or else (and I thought most likely) left ambiguous. The Valeyard did not occur to me, though we are but two regenerations away from his creation.

- Generally a story which successfully reconciled the need to be straightforwardly entertaining with 'doing something different', but frustrating for those hoping for something more complex.

Comments

Posted by: segh (segh)
Posted at: May 17th, 2010 06:34 am (UTC)

I thought he might turn out to be the Toymaker too, much to the mystification of the two young people watching with me. I should have got it from "There's only one person in the universe who hates me as much as that!"

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: May 17th, 2010 09:12 am (UTC)

I hadn't thought of the Doctor as someone hating himself as such before this episode, I admit!

Posted by: Becky (beckyc)
Posted at: May 17th, 2010 09:30 am (UTC)

Why do people think that vegetarian is a good insult?

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: May 17th, 2010 09:48 am (UTC)

I wonder whether it's more powerful among men than it is among women?

Posted by: http://elevatormusic.space (sebastienne)
Posted at: May 17th, 2010 10:31 am (UTC)
notebook

I'm most intrigued by the fact that the Doctor, on some level, must think that 'vegetarian' is a good insult...

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: May 17th, 2010 10:36 am (UTC)

...and it's also interesting that I didn't query that, despite being vegetarian...

Posted by: widsidh (widsidh)
Posted at: May 17th, 2010 11:14 am (UTC)
liz shaw

context?

it is (only) an insult coming from a butcher inside a butcher's shop.

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: May 17th, 2010 11:16 am (UTC)

You're probably right - no reason to internalise...

Posted by: sharaz_jek (sharaz_jek)
Posted at: May 17th, 2010 08:03 pm (UTC)

Maybe he's inexplicably ashamed of his sixth incarnation.

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: May 17th, 2010 09:35 pm (UTC)
Argue mainly

Can that be possible?

I wonder whether script editors less in awe of Robert Holmes than Eric Saward was would have let that line about the Doctor becoming vegetarian through...

Posted by: Virgers! How are we doing with those explosives? (tree_and_leaf)
Posted at: May 20th, 2010 05:56 pm (UTC)

I've heard it treated as insulting. But only by my-cousin-the-butcher's-daughter, and only in jest.

Posted by: daniel_saunders (daniel_saunders)
Posted at: May 17th, 2010 05:54 pm (UTC)
Doctor Who

I wondered whether the Dream Lord would turn out to be the Toymaker, or a projection of a regenerated Master

I thought of the Toymaker and the Master, and also the Black Guardian and Fenric. I need to get out more.

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: May 17th, 2010 06:09 pm (UTC)
Sylvester

Fenric did occur to me too... *blinks at sunlight*

Posted by: Virgers! How are we doing with those explosives? (tree_and_leaf)
Posted at: May 20th, 2010 05:58 pm (UTC)
Tardis

I thought of the Master of the Land of Fiction, so am no better.

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: May 20th, 2010 08:26 pm (UTC)
Troughton

Someone suggested that on Saturday night. The Master of the Land of Fiction and the Dream Lord *might* be comparable figures if episodes 2-5 of The Mind Robber were a dream experienced by the Doctor as the opening moments of episode 1 of The Invasion (as scripted and broadcast rather than as reconstructed for the DVD) suggest.

Posted by: widsidh (widsidh)
Posted at: May 17th, 2010 06:09 pm (UTC)
K9

(just as I thought there was going to be a reference to Donna)

So did I, but in hindsight (with the knowledge of this being about his dark side), I assume he has a guilty conscience about Elizabeth, but not Donna :-)

There was a lot here to prey on the mind of anyone who has ever suffered self-questioning or self-doubt

It also implies that he regards himself as his own worst enemy, which is borne out by his helpless anger in Flesh and Stone, and which endears him to me...

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: May 17th, 2010 10:29 pm (UTC)
DavidIcon

I think he knows that he has done the best he can for Donna in the circumstances; we know from The Shakespeare Code that things didn't end well with Elizabeth I (perhaps that's why the Doctor appears more asexual to some eyes this year, though David Tennant's performance would be less fey than Matt Smith's).

Posted by: widsidh (widsidh)
Posted at: May 18th, 2010 05:56 pm (UTC)
K9

Yes, unlike many I think he did the right thing for Donna. Good to know he seems to think so too :-)

BTW, the ability to form a human bond with a person/companion/friend without having to kiss them is not asexuality, it's normal human behaviour which our society seems to have forgotten. In that context, the Doctor is not and has never been asexual - he has a granddaughter after all!

(I know you know this, but I thought I'd say it anyway, in case anyone else is still reading ...)

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: May 18th, 2010 08:48 pm (UTC)

I'm not sure if I did know it, if not consciously - it's easy to be sucked unwittingly into the prevailing mainstream.

Posted by: Matthew (emperor)
Posted at: May 17th, 2010 10:35 pm (UTC)

I was pleased that I spotted the "both a dream" bit, although I was thinking "Master" as to the Dreamlord's identity.

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: May 17th, 2010 10:38 pm (UTC)

I'd been prepared for the Master to return - in the second edition of The Writer's Tale RTD said that the Master had to survive, so he could be brought back by a future production team played by another actor. It's difficult to tell in Who Kremlinology what is code for what is being planned, and what isn't.

Posted by: Zelanite (zelanite)
Posted at: May 17th, 2010 11:20 pm (UTC)

Didn't like this one much – it did have some good moments, but I'm putting it in the "lousy idea, executed well" category.

If I want to watch people angsting about who fancies who, and worrying about how they feel about the way that they think that somebody else feels about them, and all that kind of stuff, well, the TV schedules appear to be adequately provided with a selection of soap operas. I would like Doctor Who to be about saving the planet / base-under-siege / colony from invading monsters / a megalomaniac mad scientist / evil-from-the-dawn-of-time, please. If we must have all this "character development" business to keep the "mainstream audience" happy, can we at least put it in a sub-plot rather than making it the focus?

Also not thrilled to see the return of the "it's alright to like Doctor Who, just so long as you grow out of it" sub-text (and that's "sub" as in "just barely"), which I really, really hoped was gone for good with the passing of the RTD era.

Oh, and for the record: I did wonder if the Dream Lord was the Toymaker (too obscure, though, surely, to be brought back), or possibly a re-imagined Guardian of some kind (didn't Craig Hinton add a Guardian of Dreams in one of his BBC books – something about having six Guardians to match the six segments of the Key To Time?), but didn't think either of those could really be said to hate the Doctor more than anybody else. Neither Fenric nor the Valeyard occurred to me, and for some reason I discounted the Master as a possibility immedeiately. In the end I decided that his identity would be left unspecified until the end of the season.

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: May 18th, 2010 08:16 pm (UTC)

I didn't notice very much 'soapiness' about this one, really - insofar as it dealt with the interactions of the TARDIS travellers it was very much in a direct line of succession from Inside the Spaceship.

I don't think that there is a subtext there such as you describe, though am prepared to be proved wrong depending on how this season plays out. Again, what's there isn't too different from old Who, such as Victoria's unhappiness with the Doctor's lifestyle in the last three episodes of Fury from the Deep; and if anything this series has softpedalled the subtext (and I think it could treat it more consistently) compared to the RTD seasons.

Posted by: Zelanite (zelanite)
Posted at: May 19th, 2010 11:01 pm (UTC)

I wouldn't exactly say that it was "soapy"; but rather that stories which focus on the relationships between the characters, and the feelings of the characters about those relationships, are what I would expect from soaps, rather than from Doctor Who, and therefore if I wanted to watch those kinds of stories I'd watch a soap, rather than Doctor Who. Hmm. This is a subtle distinction, perhaps.

IIRC Edge of Destruction was emergency filler, rather than representing a deliberate choice of emphasis by the then production team. But I've never watched it, and remember very little from reading the Target novelisation.

Penny agrees with you that I'm reacting to a non-existent subtext. Hmm. So maybe I'm now reading a particular set of sentiments into episodes which don't actually contain them. But I'm not convinced yet – after all, Blink was one of the worst offenders in this regard from the RTD era, so SM certainly doesn't have an unblotted copybook.

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: May 20th, 2010 11:48 am (UTC)
Hartnell words

I've not read the Target for Edge of Destruction, though gather that Nigel Robinson drastically expanded it. The story builds on relationship themes within the first two adventures, and effectively reformats the series so the TARDIS travellers work more harmoniously with each other thereafter. I think 'emergency filler' is a bit of an exaggeration - it was blocked in fairly early on, so that Doctor Who could end after thirteen weeks if necessary.

I like Blink, but you won't be surprised at that...

Posted by: Zelanite (zelanite)
Posted at: May 20th, 2010 11:06 pm (UTC)

Oh, there's quite a lot I liked about Blink. But it would have been better without the "time to grow up, acquire a sexual partner and forget about the Doctor" stuff.

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: May 20th, 2010 11:36 pm (UTC)

There's definitely something about that - I wonder how Moffat is going to square the departure of Amy when the time comes.

Then again, the theme is hardly new - look at Jo Grant, for example. Or even Susan (though Verity thought afterwards that the way Susan was written out was a mistake).

Posted by: widsidh (widsidh)
Posted at: May 21st, 2010 05:36 pm (UTC)
liz shaw

It would be quite nice to have Rory and Amy getting married as companions, and settling down in some way some time *afterwards*

(after lots of running of course) ;-)

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: May 21st, 2010 05:55 pm (UTC)

I think it's entirely possible that this development might take place - it's a scenario that would be fun to explore.

Posted by: Zelanite (zelanite)
Posted at: May 21st, 2010 11:17 pm (UTC)

Or Leela. Though perhaps staying on Gallifrey doesn't quite count as "forgetting the Doctor".

What I didn't like about Blink, though, is the sense that this is supposed to be a Message To The Fans In The Audience. When, say, Susan left, however convincing or unconvincing one finds that in plot or character terms, or how elegant a mechanism for removing an actress one thinks it is, it's clearly not meant to mean anything outside the episode's narrative context. With Blink, I found myself too aware that the opinion that Doctor Who fans are kind of sad and should grow up and get a life was being communicated.

I prefer Doctor Who not to be hostile to Doctor Who fans....

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: May 21st, 2010 11:25 pm (UTC)

...but in a sense Sally takes the Doctor with her. She's contributed to his life, and now he knows how much he owes her. There's a sense of moving on, but there's also a sense perhaps of Doctor Who being reconciled to its fans too; though there is definitely a feeling of Steven Moffat dealing with his issues about fanhood too.

Posted by: Penny Paperbrain (pennypaperbrain)
Posted at: May 18th, 2010 01:12 pm (UTC)

I did not write this episode. But now Ponder wants to know what exactly I said of you.

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: May 18th, 2010 08:17 pm (UTC)

"Vegetable-sucking wuss" was the phrase which the Dream Lord's comment recalled...