Hello there! Haven’t posted for a couple of weeks. I generally try to post at least once a week, but occasionally life happens. At the moment my silence is due to a number of things (sadly, not The Silence, that would at least be interesting). The biggest two things are that I’m Busy (with the Ffud, with other odd jobs, with thinking about writing but then not doing it because OMG I should be working on the Ffud) and that I totally meant to write a post on that black spot episode thing and I utterly failed to finish it. Srsly – I started this awesome draft, and I was going to be all super cool, like I am with my book and DVD reviews, telling you who wrote what, actors names, links, gorgeousness… and I ran out of steam because Life Happened and also you probably don’t care. Here, in a nutshell, is my response to The Curse of the Black Spot:
It was not the best Doctor Who Episode Ever, but it was also not as bad as most people later reviewed it as being. Watching my Twitter feed went a bit like this: ‘Woo! Yes! Amy kicking some butt!’ … ‘Yay! RORY!!!!’ … ‘AWESOME – PIRATES’ … ‘Wait, that didn’t make sense; this is the Worst Episode Ever’. Granted: whether your standpoint is science, medicine (if you draw that distinction) or plot, there was a point at which It was Just Fudge, but the general story hanging off it was pretty cool. I love that they got tension and the-doctor-makes-mistakes and Amy-kicks-ass-after-being-so-uninteresting-lately and Rory-Continues-to-Rock and did-you-notice-there’s-no-Riversoing-and-they-still-rocked-this-multi-companion-episode?
I also really loved that They Have Clearly Spent Their Severely Reduced Budget On Other Episodes and this resulted in the big bad being a spot on the palm being drawn on with felt-tip. Yes, there was also that model who’s currently getting jobs in Sci-Fi TV because her face is a bit weird whilst also being pretty, but I agree with the rest of the Internet that she didn’t make sense, and so choose to ignore her wherever possible. Let’s just remember: for kids, this will have been awesome. It has MERMAIDS, PIRATES, SPACESHIPS, a DYSFUNCTIONAL FATHER SON RELATIONSHIP WHERE THERE IS ACTUAL LOVE, and the claustrophobic minimal location with limited effects will have been sending their imaginations haywire.
The science sucks. Absolutely no question. But as all of the crap science happens at the end I’ll leave off the obvious comments to help combat spoilers. The point is that I like to view this episode as I would have 20 years ago. And I would have LOVED it. Yes, yes, the science makes no sense, but it’s so ridiculous it honestly wouldn’t have rotted my brain. I’m much more in favour of the fact that a woman kicks ass in a believable manner and the man needs rescuing. If anyone feels this is a ’emasculation of men in the cause of feminism’ thing then… well, I won’t reply to you in the comments because you’ve missed the point, and I hate pointless debates. Some men are weak, so are some women, some women happen to get themselves in sticky situations regardless of their personal strength, so do some men. We see far more women in need of rescuing in the media than men. Still. Rory may just be my favourite Doctor Who companion ever (and he’s up against some doozies) because he is so believable and so wonderful. Call him weak? That dude protected Amy for 2,000 years!
Anyway… it was a mixed episode, I was mixed about reviewing it, so I flaked. Now, on to our main attraction:
The Doctor’s Wife
Again, I feel almost as though I’m swimming against the tide. I didn’t hate this. In fact, I liked it quite a lot. But so many people have told me it was The Best Episode Since New Who Started, and against that backdrop… it doesn’t even make my Matt Smith best ep list. Yes – it was Neil Gaiman! Yes, we all love Neil Gaiman! Yes, we all had a Hive Mind Squee when we mistakenly thought that the Marquis de Carabas might be the next Doctor! But that does not a best ep make.
The idea was OK. A pocket universe – fine. Everyone in slightly Neverwhere-esque costumes… OK, a little obvious, but I like that stuff as much as the next fangirl. There were a number of moments extremely well realised. I LOVE the idea that the TARDIS thinks of the Doctor as its ‘Theif’ – brilliant. Lovely link designed to make all us fan-girls-and-boys squee. I also love that the TARDIS sees time differently – a simple idea, and lovely for the kideos who might not have thought of such things before. I also ADORED that this was the first episode that showed somewhere outside of the SODDING CONTROL ROOM. I appreciated the cultural reference to endless corridors. (No, srsly, people who witnessed me watching this can confirm my extra-normal joy.)
But the Neverwehere-esque was exactly what I expected from a Neil Gaiman episode, with no obvious reason (rageddy, yes, but corsets etc. … not so much). Neverwhere and Stardust are my favourite Gaiman works, and they work because they take us somewhere different from where we were before. I suspect The Sandman graphic novels do this for others, but I saw Neverwhere first, and it’s in a similar vein. This was… just as one might expect from a Neil Gaimanised version of something else. It was nothing new or spectacular. And that’s OK. Mr Gaiman doesn’t always have to produce something new, although it was interesting to see such a signature piece in a universe that’s usually geared to a more techno angle.
I suppose the main reason I don’t give this five stars and infinite love is that it touched on so many easy fan-squee things. Possibly my response is utterly personal – if so, disregard it. I just find that the trope that the Doctor is really most in love with the TARDIS to be old hat. The actual concept I’m fine with – clearly, if we accept any kind of sentience for the TARDIS, they’ve had a longer relationship than anyone else – but the idea that there’s anything sexual about it…? It just screams ‘FanPlease’, to me, and I didn’t need it. I’m actually pro more risqué views on the Doctor, but I didn’t buy this, and even if you do ship Doctor/TARDIS, this felt like a throw-away, fan-pleasing element. The whole ‘Oh! I must try “kissing”‘ thing is so much a part of sci-fi cliché that I was just waiting for it to be over.
Don’t get me wrong: as I say, there were some really nice, back-reference touches to the Doctor/TARDIS relationship, and I enjoyed them TO THE MAX; but we all have our lines of believability vs. fan-please and this didn’t quite meet it for me.
I feel like my general sense of going against the flow may be misleading as regards my general impression. I liked this. I liked the hint that there might be other Time Lords (although to say more would be spoilers…). I liked the emotional realism that Matt Smith worked throughout. I wished that Karen Gillan did a better sad face (I have concluded that she’s awesome when wise-cracking or kicking ass, but doesn’t do the sad so well) but we can’t have everything. This was a fun episode. My reservations are minor. The point where I balk is the idea is that this episode was better than (for instance) The Beast Below, which has become one of my favourite Doctor Who episodes of all time.
Matt Smith has had some fine stories. I severely doubted that he could match David Tennant’s highs (and I was unconvinced by Tennant at first, so that just shows how it goes), but he won me over in the first episode. Not ‘This is my Doctor for all time’ won me over, but I liked him. He blended New Who with Old Who, and, as a fan of both, I liked that. Fish Fingers and friggin’ custard! I love me some angst (and HOWDY) by even I recognise that the ANGST is a tool that requires skillful wielding. The tenth Doctor was walking on some cracked and furrowed ground. And those last episodes stretched… it. Matt was a breath of fresh air, and with so many wonderful episodes to pick from, I just feel it’s unfair to call this one the best of New Who. I liked it, but not that much. That’s all.