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10 July 2012 @ 02:44 pm
The Randomizer: The Girl in the Fireplace  
I loved The Girl in the Fireplace when it was first aired so I was interested (again) to see if my reaction to it was different in hindsight.

I've heard it described as both cold and heartless which strikes me as odd. Even if you consider the central love story somewhat contrived (and, I don't know, this is Doctor Who and it is no more contrived than a 100 other classic love stories out there), it's hard to deny its underlying themes of missed opportunities and time passing give Tennant and Myles plenty to get their teeth into.

I was a bit concerned, approaching it for a second time, that the puzzle box aspect of it would be detracting from the core story, characters would jump through plot hoops that weren't related to character just to maintain or resolve the puzzle. However this isn't really a "puzzle" story. In fact it doesn't really present itself as a puzzle until the final shot gives you the solution and, to be honest, the "puzzle" and "solution" are really just the macguffin that allows the rest of the story. Far from the characters being subservient to the puzzle, the puzzle is here subservient to the characters.

That said our two central characters, the Doctor and Madame de Pompadour, are both operating with a kind of brittle yet conspicuous intelligence. They keep the appearance of emotion at bay with casual witticisms, like the characters in an Oscar Wilde play. This is a cold sort of romance in comparison to the far more demonstrative affection of the Doctor and Rose, here very much backgrounded by Mickey's presence in the Tardis. Again I was a little concerned that this was going to be a "their eyes met across a crowded room" kind of romance which tends to irritate me, but the script works quite hard to suggest they know each other better than this both with the way the Doctor and Reinette rummage through each other's minds and with their extended, though unseen, acquaintance at the Versailles ball.

I even enjoyed Rose and Mickey's scenes, sidelined as they are. Mickey has come a long way from his appearance in Rose and I'm sorry we didn't see more of him in the Tardis since he acts as a good counter-weight to Rose's obsession with the Doctor. Much as Rory is later to act as a counter-weight to Amy's obsession.

So I still love this story. I think, as romances for the Doctor go, this is easily my favourite. I believe in the way Reinette both surprises and understands him. And I still love the final shot, the twist in the tale which makes sense of a question you weren't even aware you were asking yourself. I think this is great in the way many short stories are great, it couldn't maintain itself over any longer a time but for the 45 minutes it has, it is wonderful.


This entry was originally posted at http://purplecat.dreamwidth.org/72810.html.
 
 
 
Susan: AmyandRorylil_shepherd on July 10th, 2012 02:00 pm (UTC)
And I would agree with you, despite not liking Ten and hating Rose and Mickey. I love Reinette though, and the clockwork robots are of fascinating design. In fact, I think this is my favourite of all the Ten seasons...
louisedennislouisedennis on July 10th, 2012 03:14 pm (UTC)
I forgot to mention the robots - lovely design as you say and good use of body language to convey meaning as well.
philmophlegm: I'vegotasportscarphilmophlegm on July 10th, 2012 02:32 pm (UTC)
Yeah, one of my favourites too.

Can we also give some credit to the actress who plays the young Reinette? One of the improvements of new Who over old Who is the quality of child actors used in new Who.
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on July 10th, 2012 03:17 pm (UTC)
Well, to be fair, Who has thankfully always steered clear of using child actors often. The only one that's springing to mind at the moment is the little girl in Remembrance of the Daleks though I am sure there are others. She was fine if I remember correctly.

I get the impression child actors are always a bit of an unknown quantity, The Sarah Jane Adventures was much more reliant on them than Who ever is or was with, I would say, mixed results - though I believe the quality there was high compared to a lot of children's TV.
philmophlegm: cyberleaderphilmophlegm on July 10th, 2012 03:29 pm (UTC)
Actually you're probably right - I can't think of many child actors in old Who either (unless you count Bonnie Langford, whose acting style and skills hadn't obviously improved between Just William and Trial of a Time Lord).

Maybe it's a more general point - child actors today are better than child actors were in the 70s and 80s. No idea why this should be the case though.
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on July 10th, 2012 03:35 pm (UTC)
I've just recalled Womulus and Wemus from The Twin Dilemma - though, again to be fair, they are not the worst thing in The Twin Dilemma.

I'm not sure if child actors are better or worse, to be honest, my memory and my impression of current children's TV comes down with a verdict of "very variable". Budgets may come into it, the parents of the girl who played Maria in the first season of The Sarah Jane Adventures tried to insist on higher pay for the later seasons, as a result of which she was replaced by Anjli Mohindra who, in my opinion, also turned out to be a better actress. However if todays TV budgets now compare more favourably with film, modelling and, I suppose, theatre then they may have a larger pool of child actors to choose from.
daniel_saunders: Eleventh Doctordaniel_saunders on July 10th, 2012 05:24 pm (UTC)
According to Wikipedia, Anjli Mohindra was about 18 when she started The Sarah Jane Adventures, so not entirely a child actress. Daniel Anthony was 20 when it began, so not a child actor at all. I thought they were both pretty good, both as actors and as passing themselves off as teenagers..

The 'official' story about Yasmin Paige (Maria) is that she had to leave to concentrate on exams - where did you hear this alternative story?
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on July 11th, 2012 06:52 am (UTC)
I have no idea where I heard the story, I remember there being discussion about it so it must have been a forum, mailing list or LJ somewhere. It's highly unlikely to have been Outpost Gallifrey.
daniel_saunders: Eleventh Doctordaniel_saunders on July 10th, 2012 05:28 pm (UTC)
I agree about this being the best romance for the Doctor (well, this or The Aztecs). Definitely a highlight of the Tennant years for me, which I generally tend not to like much (you may remember!). I felt there was genuine emotion and detailed characterization here, whereas elsewhere I felt it was too forced and unbelievable e.g. Army of Ghosts/Doomsday, The Stolen Earth/Journey's End. On first viewing I guessed the twist about halfway through, though. :-P
daniel_saunders: Eleventh Doctordaniel_saunders on July 10th, 2012 05:30 pm (UTC)
I should say I'm boasting about guessing the twist because I'm normally very, very bad at spotting twists, so I take every opportunity to point out I guessed this one!
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on July 11th, 2012 06:56 am (UTC)
I've not seen all of the The Aztecs but the episode I did see (3, I think) I didn't much like and I don't much like the book. I'm not 100% sure why but the whole thing makes me toe-curlingly embarrassed in a way a lot of sitcoms do. My best guess is that its because I think Susan is behaving in an unbelievably stupid fashion throughout and I'm not sure Barbara is much better, though her dilemma is a lot more understandable.

I think there's a divide in people's reactions to Who which depend a bit on their tolerance for showy displays of emotion.
telperion_15: Tardistelperion_15 on July 10th, 2012 07:15 pm (UTC)
This remains one of my absolute favourite Who eps, if not the favourite (stiff competition from Blink there!) - I love both the romance and the puzzle :)
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on July 11th, 2012 06:57 am (UTC)
I think the romance aspect works better here. I find it hard to buy into Larry Nightingale/Sally Sparrow though it might be interesting to rematch in the light of Amy/Rory which seems to be a relationship with a similar dynamic.
Delia: Mailchainmailmaiden on July 10th, 2012 08:57 pm (UTC)
I really liked this one too despite not liking very many from the RTD era.
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on July 11th, 2012 07:03 am (UTC)
Davies writing is, I don't know, sort of sprawling and visceral. Moffat is much better at making sure everything fits together into a nice shape without lose ends or glaring plot holes but I think he exposes himself a lot less in doing so. Knowing both people who love Davies and despise Moffat and vice versa, I suspect a lot depends upon your tolerance for plot holes versus your tolerance for conspicuous clever-cleverness.
parrot_knight: DavidIconparrot_knight on July 11th, 2012 01:33 am (UTC)
Joining the chorus of agreement here... I vastly preferred Steven Moffat's portrayal of the Doctor-Rose-Mickey relationship to RTD's.
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on July 11th, 2012 06:59 am (UTC)
In the light of Moffat's tenure I think it very interesting that he's writing a couple on board the Tardis, and insofar as can be told, writing it in a very similar way to the Doctor with Amy and Rory. There's a lovely bit at the end where the Doctor is clearly deeply upset and Rose wants to pry and get to the bottom of it, but Mickey takes her away clearly deliberately in order to leave the Doctor alone - I felt it could easily have been the 11th Doctor, Amy and Rory in that scene.
chamiletchamilet on July 13th, 2012 03:33 am (UTC)
I found it horrible that the Doctor was willing to strand Rose and Mickey on the station for a woman he just met.
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on July 13th, 2012 04:13 pm (UTC)
Well the alternative was to stand by and watch her killed. I can't imagine the Doctor ever being able to do that with anyone even remotely sympathetic - I think his specific feelings about Reinette are really only a minor factor in his decision to take action. Also, one of the things I think NuWho does much better than classic Who is it has an assumption that, if push comes to shove, the companions are competent to look after themselves.