Saturday, July 24, 2010

And Now I Promise To Shut Up About It Until 2011

Season 5
Season 4
Season 3
Season 2
Season 1

Seasons 1 -5


  1. Interesting to see actual numbers put to this, though I'll never understand how you didn't give top marks to ANY of the Human Nature/Family of Blood/Blink trio.

    I wonder whether you might explain some time why you loathe Fear Her so much? I'm not going to argue that it's a classic, but I don't see why it's worse than, say, New Earth.

  2. I guess I have a preference for traditional stories. Human Nature and Blink were good: I just don't think they were the best things in Old New Who.

    Army of Ghosts / Doomsday went up in my estimations when I reviewed the Cybermen boxed set a while back: I felt that Doomsday was about the point when RTD did the thing that he was trying to do with Who about as well as it could possibly be done.

    Fear Her. Olympic Torch. At the time it was the worst thing to happen since John Logie Baird invented television, but Davies topped it a few weeks later with floaty glowy Jesus Doctor.

  3. Agreed on Doomsday: the ending, with Rose trapped in a parallel universe, was an actual ending (a fact not changed by the fact that RTD un-ended it later; let's just pretend that never happened). In retrospect, if Davies had stepped down at that point, we'd have looked at two mostly-brilliant seasons of Then-New Who and seen a coherent and praiseworthy whole. Continuing with Martha and then Donna rather cheapened this (despite some outstanding individual episodes) and, I think, make Season 2 look less good in retrospect -- not by comparison, but by dilution.

    Yeah, still not getting the level of hatred for the Olympic Torch. I have to admit that I laughed out loud when I first saw this, at the Doctor's sheer I-can't-believe-I'm-getting-to-do-this joyfulness. Yes the BBC narration was overwrought, but still. I guess it was a Marmite moment.

    [Oh, and Floaty Glowy Jesus Doctor (hereafter FGJD) was a year and a bit later, not a gew weeks.]

  4. A year and a few weeks actually. Had Last of the Time Lords been broadcast right after Fear Her, I think I might have switched off the show for good and not come back. As it was, all of Human Nature/Family of Blood/Blink came in between the two.

  5. Oops, Mike beat me to it. The whole of Fear Her was abysmal. The ending was just so over-the-top bad that it firmly cemented Fear Her as the worst Doctor Who story ever made.

  6. I'm going to stop posting in the middle of the night, or my reputation as a Who guru will be irreparably damaged....

  7. As awful as Fear Her was, it's saved from being The Worst Doctor Who Ever by Love & Monsters, which is quite possibly The Worst Thing Ever.

    The ratings numbers above are confusing to me--I thought I'd heard somewhere that The Hungry Earth/In Cold Blood were actually the lowest-rated episodes of New Who ever. Overall, good to see that this (superior) season is doing better than the others. I'm also kinda surprised that the better episodes seem to have higher ratings--wouldn't it be kind of random, with people not knowing that the episode was good until they'd actually watched it?

  8. Prankster, those ratings are Rilstone's own personal evaluation of the series. They are not BARB ratings.

    I agree on Love and Monsters, though it's really pretty good for half an hour and teeth-grindingly terrible for fifteen minutes. But that's part of why I say I would have given up if Last of the Time Lords had immediately followed those two. Instead, we got the watchable Army of Ghosts/Doomsday, while the terrible Last of the Time Lords came after what was otherwise a pretty decent season.

  9. You're all mad. Love & Monsters is great. Fear Her is solid, and the torch bit is outstanding.

    And I'm also going to go ahead and declare my love for The Idiot's Lantern, as well. He defeats the villain by *inventing Betamax,* people. Genius.

  10. 'Love And Monsters' was a good idea wasted. 'Fear Her' was a bad idea done badly, so was at least consistent.

  11. Hmm, so someone on the internet liked "Victory of the Daleks".

  12. Love & Monsters is great, if you think a woman's main job is to be a blowjob machine.

  13. Oh, those are Andrew's ratings? OK then. Shouldn't have made them look so official-like, it's confusing. (Though I do believe this season has actually done very well in the ratings.)

    Looking at these, it seems I differ with Andrew a lot more than I thought I did. "The Impossible Planet/The Satan Pit" is, to me, just a more competent version of the movie "Event Horizon" with a blatant deus ex machina at the end. Don't see the appeal of "The Sontaran Stratagem", either, and I thought "The Waters of Mars" was a tad overrated. And in general I thought the show improved each season, to the point where Season 4 was the best of the Davies run (not counting the specials).

    This definitely has been the best season of the new show (and since I don't know much about the old show...) I do feel like Moffat stuck a little too close to what Davies did, though, and I'm hoping he's willing to branch out a bit next time.

  14. "The Impossible Planet/The Satan Pit" is, to me, just a more competent version of the movie "Event Horizon" with a blatant deus ex machina at the end.

    'Event Horizon' was a wholly unoriginal mash-up of 'Alien' and 'Solaris', so to suggest something was copying it seems fairly comical! A large part of the ending of 'Satan Pit' is ripped off from'Alien', of course, but I don't think 'Event Horizon' has all that much to do with it.

    I'm with Andrew on this one. That two-parter was a highlight of New Who which is oddly under-rated.

  15. "with a blatant deus ex machina at the end."

    Also somewhat mystified by this comment! Surely the episode ends in a 'proto-Moffat era' way, with the Doctor working out what's going on. (Plus Rose having watched 'Alien', but then that's hardly a deus ex machina device.

    I'm assuming you're not using the term merely to mean 'Big Supernatural Figure Appears'. The only thing i can think of the Tardis reappearing As If By Magic, but that's hardly the centrepiece of the finale.

  16. I did indeed mean the Event Horizon comparison as a put-down (though Impossible Planet is better than Event Horizon--many, many things are).

    The Deus Ex Machina is the appearance of the Tardis, casually blasting out of the black hole at the end. The annoying thing is that this wouldn't normally be a Deus Ex Machina, except the Doctor spent quite a bit of time at the beginning marveling at the fact that the planet was perched "impossibly" on the edge of the black hole. To suddenly reveal, conveniently, that not only is the Doctor well aware of technology that can do this, but has it in his own ship, can only be counted as a particularly sloppy Deus Ex Machina.

    Oh, and this storyline also falls victim to a common flaw in these kinds of "ancient evil/incredibly destructive artifact that's been locked away for billennia" stories, namely, if it's so easy to destroy the Bad Thing (by, in this case, dropping it into the black hole), why didn't the Ancient Wise People do that in the first place, instead of carefully preserving the Bad Thing and then leaving it where someone could eventually release it?!?

  17. Well I could compare ’Fear Her’ to ’Police Academy 3’ as a put-down. But for the put-down to work, there has to be some comparison between the two things. I’m still not sure what comparison you’re making here.

    Given the large number of quite literal deus ex machina devices Davies subjected us to, I’m surprised you’re making such an issue out of this one. (You must have loved the Earth being towed around in ’Journey’s End!’) I’d give some credence to what you say, but really it all happens after the foe’s been defeated and they just need to make their getaway. The scene where the Doctor stands there and works out what’s going on and what to do, rather than just setting his sonic screwdriver to some handy new setting... it seemed such a break by that point in the season that I’d almost call it exhilarating!

    Regarding your final point, perhaps the Ancient Wise People prohibited themselves from killing and assumed no-one would be foolish enough (or have the technology) to visit the edge of a black hole. An assumption which panned out for millennia. the end of the day, though, I like to ask questions like “was this entertaining to watch?” and “did it have something to say?” To me this two-parter gave us both. The point is that the Big Scary Red Guy isn’t really the Devil, the voice in your head that preys on your fears is the Devil. Hence just focusing on the Big Scary Red Guy just lets the actual Devil go about his business unhindered...

  18. For Pete's sake, it's about people in remote outer space awakening an ancient evil via a black hole that in both cases is explicitly linked to the literal devil, and which then begins to possess and kill crew members. Is it really that hard to see the Event Horizon comparison?

    I actually agree that, graded on a curve, "Impossible Planet" is one of the better stories of the first three seasons, and that Davies subjected us to many worse Deus Ex Machinas over the course of his run. But that's a pretty shallow curve, and saying "This crap is less crappy than the crap around it!" is hardly a ringing recommendation. And the mere fact that it showed a jump in quality from other episodes made some of the bad writing really jump out. (Also of annoyance: the Doctor's cavalier attitude towards the Ood, which even he commented on later down the line. I'll grant, though, that even though it wasn't intentional, that did set up a good character arc for Tennant's Doctor in which Donna Noble was able to pester him out of his amoral ways.)

  19. If you think 'Devil in Deep Space' stories start with 'Event Horizon' I think you need to get out more. Or rather, stay in more and read more cheap old SF paperbacks.

    I'm not sure the Ood stuff wasn't intentional. Everyone starts off with a dismissive pack mentality about them, but (from memory) the final moment is someone reading out a list of the dead and including all the dead Ood.

  20. When the show itself eventually points out how "off" the Doctor's reaction to the Ood's death was, I'd say they're pretty much acknowledging that they screwed up there. I mean, he didn't even seem to blink at the idea that humans are using a "slave race", which is pretty messed up, no matter how subservient the Ood are by default. (I have a theory that in an earlier draft the Ood were robots instead of aliens, which would have made them more acceptable cannon fodder.)

    As for Event Horizon, you're moving the goalposts. My original point is that "Impossible Planet" is a lot like Event Horizon, and it is. Who cares if there are other, older "satan in space" stories? There are older SF movies and stories that "Star Wars", but it's still the most obvious point of reference for many, many tropes of modern SF and fantasy movies. If a young hero gets inducted into an order of peacekeepers with SF superpowers, you don't think "Lensmen!" You think "Jedi!" It doesn't really matter which came first.

  21. he didn't even seem to blink at the idea that humans are using a "slave race", which is pretty messed up

    Another point you're overlooking is how much Rose didn't accept the Ood's subservient status, tried to talk to them, told the Cook Ood she used to be a School Dinner Lady etc. This was pretty much a role assigned to Rose by this point, so it's not so surprising.

    (I have a theory that in an earlier draft the Ood were robots instead of aliens, which would have made them more acceptable cannon fodder.)

    That wouldn't work with the 'frightening the horses' scenes such as in the Ood pen. Robots don't possess well. In fact in an earlier draft, the subservient aliens were more active accomplices of the Devil. (See fourth point from bottom here.)

    Regarding your final point, I absolutely agree with the arguments you use, and in fact they're the very reason why I can't agree with you. When I watched 'Impossible Planet' I thought "very 'Alien'", and I'm pretty sure most other people did. If you want to argue 'Event Horizon' is a totemic movie like 'Star Wars' or 'Alien' please do go ahead. 'Event Horizon' adds the Devil to the 'Alien' template, but I don't see why that's so worth getting excited about. The Devil was already a movie star by then.

    But more generally, and more importantly, you don't have to look at too long a section of 'Doctor Who' to realise it has shamelessly borrowed from everywhere - and not just SF. The many fans of 'Talons of Weng Chiang' (of which I'm one) aren't unaware of how much it borrows from Sax Rohmer. They just don't care about it.

  22. The many fans of 'Talons of Weng Chiang' (of which I'm one) aren't unaware of how much it borrows from Sax Rohmer.

    And Gaston Leroux and Holmes would go back to that well with Caves of Androzani. Holmes always stole his plots from other people. It's the dialogue and characters which is the important part of a Holmes script.

  23. It was nice that SOMEONE did a double take at the "slave race" idea, but Rose's objection was particularly halfhearted, and ended as soon as someone explained that the Ood liked to be bossed around. Then the rest of the episode had them as demonic monsters who ended up getting killed en masse with very little regret from the human protagonists. And then two seasons later we found out there was a horrific injustice at the heart of the Ood's relationship with humanity, but up until then neither the Doctor, Rose, nor anyone else seemed to give a toss. The situation really should have been ringing alarm bells for any nominally "heroic" protagonists.

    I know a number of Who fans have been complaining about this--the demonization of "the other" that's been occurring a lot in NuWho, with alien races consistently being portrayed as faceless threats rather than sentient and perhaps sympathetic beings. The Moffat run's been pretty good at reversing that, but the Ood were literally the only "good" alien race introduced during the Davies run, and even then they kept being turned into threats, plot devices, or cannon fodder.

    The Event Horizon thing: all I'm saying is that the episode is a lot like Event Horizon, whether the writers were using it as a touchstone or not. It's hard to believe they weren't, since it's a relatively popular and recent SF movie that most geeks have seen, and a lot of the details are similar, but I grant that it could have been a coincidence. If that's the case, though, they most definitely were using ALIEN as a touchstone. And this isn't automatically a bad thing--as pointed out, The Time of Angels is very ALIENS, as any "marines on an alien planet battling an implacable alien foe" is likely to be, and I loved that one. But "Angels" had lots of details and ideas to set it apart and give it a personality of its own. The issue isn't "Impossible Planet" using Satan in Space and black holes and whatnot, it's that it didn't do much of interest with these concepts, any more than Event Horizon did. There may be far better "satan in space" movies and books out there, but my whole point is that this seemed on par with one of the most mediocre of the lot, Event Horizon, which also happens to be the most recent touchstone and a movie to which it bears an obvious resemblance, no matter how hard you're trying not to see it.

  24. I know a number of Who fans have been complaining about this--the demonization of "the other" that's been occurring a lot in NuWho, with alien races consistently being portrayed as faceless threats rather than sentient and perhaps sympathetic beings.

    I'm guessing you haven't watched Old Who a great deal!

  25. I haven't, personally, but I know there were sympathetic aliens among the monsters. And even if there hadn't been, that would be a problem with Old Who, not an excusal of the new.

    There's a good blog post that Andrew, I think, linked to a while Old Who fan talking about this aspect of the show and how it made her uncomfortable.

  26. There were. But there was a tendency to have a bad, dominant race and a good but submissive race who needed to be galvanised into resistance by the Doctor. 'Good' aliens tend to fit in with the latter. The story of the Daleks' first appearance got recycled over and over again.

    ...but don't let that put you off Old Who entirely. Even stories which sat within that could still have their appeal. The Other is never actually Other, of course. (If Freud was posting here he'd already be mentioning the return of the repressed.)

  27. Oh, I have no problem with alien monsters, it's just that, in my case, I found the Davies series to be rather annoyingly repetitive at times, and generically evil (or, at best, self-serving) aliens in episode after episode was definitely part of that.

    The Ood could have been a major break from that, and the fact that they were handled so perfunctorily didn't sit right with me. I like Planet of the Ood a lot better for dealing with some of the issues raised by the two-parter, but then you do kind of run into the issue of "why didn't we deal with this sooner?"

  28. The Pertwee era is the only era of the programme which consistently did give us sympathetic alien races (I can probably name more than a dozen from that era, greater than the rest of the show combined, I think). In fact, I was quite offended when Moffat listed the Draconians as one of the enemy races hunting down the Doctor since the Doctor was always entirely friendly with them, both in Frontier in Space and in his earlier encounters referenced in that story. For almost the entirety of the rest of the show, humans are the only race which is even occasionally good or noble.

    The Ood were not, by the way, literally the only good race introduced during Davies, although I wouldn't have nitpicked had you said virtually. The fish people from The Doctor's Daughter were sympathetic, for example, and there are other sympathetic individuals from alien races where we have no examples of evil members (e.g. Bannakaffalatta).

    By the by, the Ood were a much more interesting race when they were voluntary slaves as they were in Impossible Planet, since it raises real moral dilemmas (whether or not they were thoroughly explored). Their potential was completely ruined in Planet of the Ood where they were made much less interesting, just another unsophisticated people exploited by evil men (and Keith Temple really laid it on thick - he had his evil exploiters actually whipping them even though they were 100% subservient - subtle it was not). They even had the mystical powers that are obviously possessed by all technologically unsophisticated exploited races. In short, Impossible Planet>>>>>>Planet of the Ood.

  29. Yes, well, Planet of the Ood attained near-Silent Running levels of wet stupidity.