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26 May 2017 @ 10:01 pm
Oxygen struck me as, structurally, being very similar to Knock! Knock! and, like Knock! Knock!, I feel I like it less than it deserves to be liked.

Both Oxygen and Knock! Knock! tell neatly self-contained stories. These are well-produced and acted with scripts that are thoughtful while fitting recognisably within the mould of a Doctor Who story. Fond as I am of the Sylvester McCoy era, it would have struggled to produce two stories of this high quality in close succession. In fact if these had appeared during a Sylvester McCoy season, I suspect I would have rated them as highly as stories like Ghost Light and Curse of Fenric.

This isn't a Sylvester McCoy season though, my expectations are different, and somehow neither managed to really grab me.

I don't really want to nit-pick at Oxygen, but among other things I'm dubious about the economics on display. I've mentioned a couple of times when discussing this season, about how you identify that point in a fantastical show, where it's breaking its own unstated rules of consistency. The problem Oxygen had for me specifically as someone who has hung around space scientists a bit, is that its very emphasis on the realities of surviving in a vacuum made me expect more realism from the rest of the Space Science. The reality of space is it is really, really expensive to put people up there (in weight terms, even if you're not factoring in the expense of training someone and are, apparently, discounting any value in human life) so you probably don't want them randomly suffocating even if they are not being as productive as you might like. This then, of course, made me think of the practices of Victorian factory owners and making your workers indebted to you for their use of oxygen (and thereby imposing a form of slavery) and that somehow seemed more plausible though not, obviously as likely to produce space zombies. Like the "how does agriculture work on Christmas?" problem I had with Matt Smith's final story, this distracted me far more than it should have done.

I'm not really qualified to comment on the depiction of disability. [personal profile] hollymath has written eloquently about how hurtful she found it though I've seen other commentary that was cautiously optimistic or at least "jury still out" on the subject.

I was disappointed that the blue alien had no function in the story beyond making a simplistic point about racism and then dying.

Did I like anything about the story? Yes, actually. I really liked the interactions between Bill, Nardole and the Doctor. This is the first time we've seen them operating as a team and I liked the way the dynamic of two companions (who aren't romantically linked in any way) worked, particularly the way that the two of them can jointly put different perspectives to the Doctor. In fact I really like this softer version of the twelfth Doctor and both his new companions.

I did think the story was well-paced, well-acted and I liked that it was allowed to be about something and that its resolution tied back to its themes and the set up of the problem. I'm far from convinced it is really Oxygen's fault that I got distracted by picking holes.

This entry was originally posted at http://purplecat.dreamwidth.org/449393.html.
philmophlegm: cyberleaderphilmophlegm on May 26th, 2017 09:15 pm (UTC)
Hated this one as much as I've ever hated a Doctor Who story.
liadtbunny: DW Twelveliadtbunny on May 27th, 2017 02:49 pm (UTC)
I found the killing off of the blue alien after the racist point had been made distasteful and kind of racist itself!

I blanked the Dr's blindness as being a sci-fi show I expected he could get a seeing device, and also 'Dr Who' (like most shows) can't do disability at least not from a disabled person's POV so I was ignoring it. Can't understand why the Dr is hiding his blindness. It's not the end of the world!
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on May 29th, 2017 07:45 pm (UTC)
I found the killing off of the blue alien after the racist point had been made distasteful and kind of racist itself!

Yes! There's an interesting discussion to be had around intent and impact and how being a victim of discrimination doesn't give you immunity to inflicting it on others. But this felt much more like rather simplistic point scoring and the fact that the story couldn't be bothered to do even some basic follow through on the relationship between Bill and the Blue Alien annoyed me.
daniel_saunders: Leekleydaniel_saunders on May 27th, 2017 11:09 pm (UTC)
I actually liked this a lot, although no one I've spoken to seemed to like it as much.

I'm not qualified to talk about disability either, but if we're playing the identity politics game, then I'm glad we've got a Jewish companion actor for the first time since 1964 (I think) and am annoyed (but not surprised) that this has gone unnoticed despite all the fuss being made about Bill (in my experience, from the point of view of identity politics Jews are white and priviliged and probably Evil Patriarchal Imperialist Oppressors too).
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on May 29th, 2017 07:51 pm (UTC)
I actually liked this a lot, although no one I've spoken to seemed to like it as much.

That's interesting, most of the podcasts I've listened to have been really enthusiastic about it.

I had no idea Matt Lucas was Jewish - which just goes to show really. Certainly the tendency, particularly on the left, to conflate Judaism with Israel and Palestine with Islam has mixed with existing prejudices about Jewish financial power has led, as you say, to a tendency to assume that Jews fit into the Evil Patriarchal Imperialist Oppressors trope - though I have a feeling that Jewish voices have got better at pushing back against this in the past couple of years (but that may just be a subjective impression rather than anything real).
daniel_saunders: Marxistdaniel_saunders on May 30th, 2017 12:05 pm (UTC)
It goes much further than the Arab-Israeli Conflict, though, although that makes things more complicated. When Auguste Bebel said in the nineteenth century that "Anti-Semitism is the Socialism of fools," he said it because left-wing antisemitism was so common, not because it was rare. Karl Marx was rabidly antisemitic despite (or perhaps because) he was Jewish. Even the idea common on the left that all wars are started by big business and high finance was originally that wars are started specifically by Jewish businessmen and financiers. And this has fed from the old Marxist left into the new identity politics left and is worse because whenever one raises the issue, the response is, "The left is anti-racist so it can't be antisemitic" and accusations of trying to cover-up supposed Israeli crimes.

I'm not convinced that Jews are any better at dealing with this now than previously. If anything a lot of left-of-centre Jews feel disenfranchised by current trends in left-wing parties, not wanting to vote for the right, but no longer feeling welcome on the left, particularly in Corbyn's Labour Party.

Sorry for going wildly off topic! Although maybe not so much, given the anti-capitalist nature of Oxygen.
louisedennislouisedennis on May 30th, 2017 02:40 pm (UTC)
Corbyn's Labour seems to have a particular problem, but I'd say it was a problem that is pretty visible to non-Jews which I'm not sure it was back in the day which seems like progress of a kind.
daniel_saunders: Leekleydaniel_saunders on May 30th, 2017 03:00 pm (UTC)
I hope you're right. Certainly the right-wing press has seized on it as another stick to beat Corbyn with, but I don't think there's any perception that this is a long-term structural problem on the left going back well over a century; the assumption seems more that it's something confined to Corbyn and Momentum or that it's an epiphenomenon of the Arab-Israeli Conflict, which is just another form of victim-blaming, given that the underlying assumption is that all of the blame for the Arab-Israeli Conflict lies with the Jews.