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11 October 2015 @ 02:24 pm
Under the Lake/Before The Flood  
I think these are probably a stronger pair of episodes than The Magician's Apprentice/The Witch's Familiar, though I'm not sure that they were as enjoyable. I'm also definitely getting weary of this washed-out colour palette and the slight air of doom and gloom that seems to pervade the 12th Doctor's stories. I want Doctor Who to feel like its enjoying itself and although I get flashes of humour from Peter Capaldi, the show feels mired in some kind of seriousness (yes, even when Michelle Gomez is chewing the scenery as if she hasn't eaten for a week).

My reactions to this episode feel like a sequence of "it was nice, but"s. For instance, it was nice to see a deaf actress, playing a deaf character with due weight given to sign language as a means of expression in its own right but it was sad that this opportunity would obviously never have arisen had the need to lip read not been a plot point.

I'm in two minds about the faming device for The Flood. It was very well done and fun to see the show experiment with breaking the fourth wall in a deliberate fashion I don't think it has tried since the infamous "a Merry Christmas to all of you at home" (and I'm sort of half-hoping we get that in this year's Christmas special now!). I think it was also a wise choice in terms of explaining the bootstrap paradox, because NLSS Child followed the Beethoven story but struggled to follow the Doctor and Clara's conversation about the bootstrapping of the main plot. I also vaguely felt the plot would have been stronger without invoking timey-wimeyness which is probably an indication that, as a general device, it has been over-used of late and no longer feels particular surprising or clever.

I thought it was a good, solid, scary pair of episodes with a plot that mostly held together (though you have to squint a bit in places), and some great atmosphere and set pieces. I liked the invocation of the Fisher King legend but didn't actually see how they related, ultimately, to the creature we got to see. Similarly the fake Russian village seemed to serve no purpose beyond explaining why this particular location was conveniently deserted. It was, I suppose, the Fisher King's wasteland which, in the future, holds the alien ship/the casket containing the Doctor/Pritchard's profit as a Holy Grail. I don't know if these analogies were deliberate or are just me projecting arthuriana back on the tale given the hook of the Fisher King's name.

A solid pair of mid-season episodes. Far from the dumb two-parter it could have been, but I want Doctor Who to start enjoying itself again.

This entry was originally posted at http://purplecat.dreamwidth.org/174075.html.
 
 
 
daniel_saunders: Leekleydaniel_saunders on October 11th, 2015 02:00 pm (UTC)
breaking the fourth wall in a deliberate fashion I don't think it has tried since the infamous "a Merry Christmas to all of you at home"

There's a bit in The Invasion of Time where Tom Baker looks straight to camera and says "Even the sonic screwdriver won't get me out of this one!" EDIT: Just remembered he also delivers a whole monologue to camera at the start of The Face of Evil ("I think this is not Hyde Park...").

I liked this a lot and I think I found it more fun than you did, although I agree about the Fisher King and Soviet iconography seeming to be just dumped there, empty symbols with no real meaning I could find.

Edited at 2015-10-11 03:26 pm (UTC)
louisedennislouisedennis on October 11th, 2015 05:26 pm (UTC)
I think maybe this review came out more negative than my actual feelings. I think I'd pick it over the opening two parter, but I'm still left with a kind of nagging feeling that its not quite hitting the spot.

Of course, there's also Rose's voiceover in Army of Ghosts/Doomsday - though that is partly a cheat to up the tension. This still feels like a more obvious fourth wall breaking that is difficult to hand wave as introspection or storytelling to some unknown listeners....

Yes! "empty symbols with no real meaning", that's how it felt - though it also felt as if they might have had meaning in Toby Whitehouse's mind which somehow hadn't translated itself to the final production.
fredbassettfredbassett on October 11th, 2015 03:41 pm (UTC)
I enjoyed these two eps more than I've enjoyed DW for years. I thought it was a strong story with a really good cast. For whatever reason, it was good to see a deaf character in a strong role.

I've not found the whole thing to gloomy, and thought this was a welcome return to scariness. I did have second thoughts about looking at windows in the middle of the night when I had to go to the loo!

I do like Capaldi in the role a lot, not just because I'm so glad to see the back of Smith.
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on October 11th, 2015 05:29 pm (UTC)
I found the series 8 finale remarkably gloomy and looking back, I think there is a pall of foreboding (of some kind) over much of series 8 - only Robot of Sherwood is really truly enjoying itself. I mean, it doesn't help that they've decided to desaturate all the colours - its a trick that can be very effective, but not if used week after week after week. But I assume the desaturation is because they have a particular atmosphere they want to convey.

On its own, I rate this fairly highly, but I'm kind of concerned in terms of the surrounding context.
parrot_knightparrot_knight on October 11th, 2015 04:15 pm (UTC)
In response to criticism I've seen, I'm currently working on a more upbeat review of the episode than I originally published. It doesn't mean I renounce what I've already said; and I have a lot of sympathy with your reading.
louisedennislouisedennis on October 11th, 2015 05:31 pm (UTC)
I suspect this may have come across as more critical than I felt. I enjoyed the two parter, but there is a lot there to nitpick at, and I think that is a weakness. I'm also think daniel_saunders has hit upon something, in that the fake soviet village and the Fisher King feel like they should have had thematic significance, but that it is difficult to tease out what that might be.
parrot_knightparrot_knight on October 11th, 2015 05:37 pm (UTC)
I agree with you and daniel_saunders on the Fisher King and Soviet village too. I like your extrapolation of the wasteland parallels.
louisedennislouisedennis on October 11th, 2015 05:39 pm (UTC)
It will be interesting to see what the shape of this season is in terms of the Doctor's own story. I think there would be scope to explore the Doctor in the framework of the Fisher King and this would be a clever place to seed the idea.
parrot_knight: MummyIconparrot_knight on October 11th, 2015 05:56 pm (UTC)
One of the ideas I'm building up in my second review is that this is the Doctor's episode in a way others haven't been. This might well anticipate future developments.
cynthia2015cynthia2015 on October 12th, 2015 07:02 am (UTC)
"My reactions to this episode feel like a sequence of "it was nice, but"s. For instance, it was nice to see a deaf actress, playing a deaf character with due weight given to sign language as a means of expression in its own right but it was sad that this opportunity would obviously never have arisen had the need to lip read not been a plot point."

I think I mentioned this in another post that some people can have the ability to learn how to lip read without being deaf. If this is the case then it wasn't necessary to have a deaf character but it was nice that they did. At least to show this type of diversity.
That's how I see it anyway.
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on October 12th, 2015 11:15 am (UTC)
Oh yes! I'm not complaining about her presence, or the development of the character once they had decided to use a deaf character. It would just have been nice not to have had the moment when the Doctor was wondering what the ghosts were saying where I went "Oh! that's why there's a deaf character in story".
cynthia2015cynthia2015 on October 12th, 2015 12:06 pm (UTC)
I can see your point there. I'm curious myself whether it would have made a difference if they had someone who is good at reading lips without being deaf. Although the ending would have been a little different when Lunn confessed his love for Cass. When I watch a show where something seems too convenient it makes me think "Oh what a coincidence".