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16 June 2013 @ 04:45 pm
The Name of the Doctor  
Oh dear! Poor old Lawrence Miles. In the late 1990s Miles was the golden child of the Doctor Who books, coming up with such mind-blowing ideas as the concept of a cataclysmic Time War between the Time Lords and some, ever mysterious, enemy, and exploring the chilling effect that being on a war footing had on Time Lord society. His break out book, Alien Bodies, centred around an auction for the Doctor's own dead body, a powerful artefact of the time war and the Doctor's struggles to keep his future corpse out of the hands of unsavoury characters such as Faction Paradox, UNIT and, in a surprise reveal, the Krotons.

Miles has never worked for the revived Doctor Who. One suspects this is for a variety of reasons including his own troubled mental health and a tendency, when roused, to make incautious remarks - e.g., referring to Moffat's snarling predatory Scottishness*. Whatever one thinks of him and his books, which were controversial largely, I suspect, because they tried to take Doctor Who in new directions, it must be galling to see your ideas strip-mined, deliberately or otherwise, for the new show in quite the way they have been.

I sort of half enjoyed this episode. There was lots about it I did like. Despite the central companion arc, once again, being a timey-wimey puzzle, I liked the way this one had been constructed. I hadn't actually seen this answer coming and so was both surprised and satisfied by the resolution. I appreciate the fact that when Moffat sets up a mystery he clearly and consistently knows what the reveal will be. I'm assuming that there is still more to come with Clara as well, since both the TARDIS's antipathy towards her, and the apparent impossibility (according to the Doctor anyway) of the original Clara haven't really been explained.

I'm in two minds about the montage of previous doctors. Some worked quite well but the Patrick Troughton clip, in particular, was very poorly done. I liked the brief interaction between Clara and the first Doctor and would have appreciated more in that vein. I feel, I suppose, that this was a good idea that the show lacked the time and/or money to actually make work.

I loved the Doctor's farewell to River, but I was slightly put out by the dramatic fast forward which strongly suggested that the Doctor now knows he's had all his interactions with her. This suggests, if nothing else, a lot of unseen adventures, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, but I also felt we were only really just beginning to see the way the Doctor and River worked together as a couple and so felt rather short-changed that it has ended. I'd also have liked to see something done with the fact that the Doctor wouldn't open the TARDIS for the Great Intelligence, but River would. That should have been a really important character note for both of them, but somehow it was just glossed over. There's also something a bit troubling about all these women sacrificing themselves for the Doctor - multiple times in Clara's case.

My biggest disappointment was that the Great Intelligence got nothing more to do other than commit suicide at the Doctor. That seemed like a complete waste of a both good bad guy and a high profile piece of casting. There weren't even any yeti, although B insists that the whispermen were actually yeti.

I thought this was one of the season's stronger episodes, but it still contains many of the flaws of the other episodes of this season - good ideas, thrown away, Clara's personality subverted to being a puzzle or plot twist. But I didn't feel cheated by the revelation of the Clara mystery, which could so easily have happened in so many other genre shows.

* yes, this did cause fanfic.

This entry was originally posted at http://purplecat.dreamwidth.org/99471.html.
daniel_saunders: Eleventh Doctordaniel_saunders on June 16th, 2013 04:50 pm (UTC)
I have also speculated that Miles' exponentially increasing antipathy to new Who may be connected to Alien Bodies being the unacknowledged ur-text of the revived series, although to be fair, even Miles' Time War was inspired by Alan Moore's in the early DWM back-up comic strips. I did note in a recent DWM that Steven Moffat nominated Love and War as the greatest Doctor Who novel, whereas in the past he's championed Alien Bodies, perhaps unsurprising given how personal Miles' criticism has become. I certainly stopped reading his blog regularly when Moffat took over, because it just became a piece of sustained abuse*.

All that said, I think Miles' absence from the new series is simply down to the fact that he has no television experience whatsoever. Even Paul Cornell and Rob Sherman (who both admitted to surprise at being asked) had some TV experience, as well as no health issues and a less antagonistic attitude. I didn't read the fan fic script Miles briefly released a number of years back, but apparently it was pretty much unfilmable for TV: full of lengthy descriptions, far too expensive and with little action. The blog post you linked to shows Miles' inability to distinguish between a book targeted at a tiny, generically-literate, niche audience and a popular TV family drama (it also says a lot more about Miles' self-perception than it does about Moffat, probably more than Miles intended).

As there is no colour footage whatsoever of Hartnell in character, I suspect the colourization was too expensive to be done for long. Moffat may also be wary of too much emphasis on a character most of the audience won't know, or on the past in general.

I can see why people complain about all the female self-sacrifice for men, though Rory did some too (the end of Cold Blood. There must be others... ?). Self-sacrifice generally may have been over-done in new Who, although I suppose it's a generic necessity.

* There is also the fear that how I see Miles' blog is how other people see mine... I believe he lives in my borough and I have visions of one day meeting him at an NHS mental health unit of one kind or another.

Edited at 2013-06-16 04:54 pm (UTC)
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on June 16th, 2013 05:22 pm (UTC)
Your blog has a very different character from much of Miles' recent writing. You demonstrate, as do many others on my flist, that it is possible both to be depressed and to behave like an adult on the Internet.

I agree, that lack of TV experience almost certainly plays a large part, though I find it hard to believe, all things considered, that the current powers that be on the program would contemplate hiring Miles, even if he had a great deal of TV experience.

WRT. the old Doctors - to an extent I assume this was a 50th anniversary thing, so I suppose we could be getting more of the same in the anniversary special which would be interesting. I think in general, to be honest, the current show errs a little to much towards homage to the past, but every once in a while, especially in an episode like this one, it makes sense.

For historical reasons Doctor Who is fairly locked in to a a central virtually immortal male protagonist who is both super-intelligent and functionally super-human in many ways. This creates obvious difficulties in writing ongoing roles for women in the series. The format could be changed but for something that is intended as safe tea time drama I can sympathise with the impulse not to meddle with the core set-up. Even taking that into account however, I have a feeling that women have been more short-changed than they need to be, but it would take a lot of work to tease out where that impulse comes from though maybe from the fact that, with the exception of Martha (and there are other issues with her departure), no modern Who companion has left of their own free will to pursue a happy and fulfilled life without the Doctor - in a sense the Doctor has helped none of them grow into amazing and independent champions in their own right but instead they have all lived in his shadow and ultimately been sacrificed.
daniel_saunders: Eleventh Doctordaniel_saunders on June 16th, 2013 06:10 pm (UTC)
Completely agree that Miles couldn't be hired with his current behaviour - I just think if there was ever a serious possibility of his being hired, he might have behaved differently. Then again, maybe not.

I think the old Doctors were for the anniversary, which makes the fact that some were unseen and others glimpsed as body doubles odd... whether that means were are in for more of the same in November or whether Moffat is deliberately avoiding the previous model of anniversary stories is as yet unclear and, I suppose, may depend on the exact identity of John Hurt's Doctor.

Yes, the male protagonist is definitely a problem of the way the programme evolved (initially the Doctor not being super-human and there being more of a team dynamic). How to change that is harder - I think Graham Williams came closest with the idea of a companion who is the Doctor's equal down to the super-intelligence and super-powers, but many have complained of the lack of audience identification figures in seasons 16-18.

I think female companions suffered from Davies' desire for companions to have tragic endings - Jack didn't originally have a happy ending even if he came back from the dead later and Adam didn't either. With most post-2005 companion departures on Davies' watch (Moffat has only had two 'proper' departures in three seasons whereas Davies had about six in four, depending on which characters you count) that probably accounts for some of it, but not all. Davies also can't see why someone would choose to leave the Doctor (even Martha leaves out of obligation to her family and realization that the Doctor is never going to return her feelings), and Moffat is only fitfully aware of that, which again leads to tragic departures. This may be associated with the deification of the Doctor by writers for whom he was a childhood idol, not just another character in another assignment.

I don't know if you've ever come across the "Women in Refrigerators" site about sexism in comics. I've linked to the most relevant page, with speculation as to why female super-heroes are more likely to be raped, murdered or de-super-powered than male ones, and less likely to come back from the dead or get their powers back afterwards. It is a disturbing trend. I suppose we can thank the timeslot for ensuring Donna wasn't actually cut up and shoved in a fridge for the Doctor to find...
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on June 16th, 2013 06:26 pm (UTC)
I actually nearly complained that River was fridged, but I think that's a fairly simplistic reading of her plot arc (which started with the fridging and then built to a point where it actually had meaning, rather than vice versa, if you see what I mean), and I do give Doctor Who a bit of a pass, given the format inherent to it. I would love to see more in the line of seasons 16-18, but I don't think the current orthodoxy would allow it, if River had been allowed to become a companion then we might have seen something like that, but there was obviously a resistance to that - I guess either because Alex Kingston was busy/would cost too much or because the writers didn't want it that way.

And, yes, I think an inability to view travelling with the Doctor as part of the path to becoming an adult (which it often was in the classic series), as opposed to an end-point in itself, is part of the problem.
daniel_saunders: Eleventh Doctordaniel_saunders on June 16th, 2013 09:06 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I think you can't complain about character being killed if the vast majority of her appearances come afterwards!

I do wonder whether the audience would resist a Time Lady (or comparable post-Time War equivalent) companion or the writers just fear they would resist it. As I said, I've seen fans complain that seasons 16-18 lacks audience identification figures, but I don't think I've seen evidence of wider dislike of Romana.

Then again, as I child I always identified with the Doctor, not the companion, and to be honest I still do (bar a certain empathy with Zoe - go figure) so possibly I'm not the ideal person to talk about this.
parrot_knightparrot_knight on June 16th, 2013 10:34 pm (UTC)
There have been at least two attempts to introduce a nineteenth-century companion in the new series. The Victorian housemaid version of Martha was vetoed by Jane Tranter or someone else senior; and something similar might have happened to Victorian Clara as a long form companion, given that Neil Gaiman began writing Nightmare in Silver with her in mind.
daniel_saunders: Eleventh Doctordaniel_saunders on June 16th, 2013 10:58 pm (UTC)
I'd forgotten this. Still, while a nineteenth century companion would be less of an audience identification figure, she would not really be an equal to the Doctor. And it does suggest an intent to make the companions audience identification figures.
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on June 17th, 2013 08:51 am (UTC)
I wasn't aware that Victorian Clara was mooted as a companion. It does suggest that they are very strongly invested in the idea of a contemporary, earth-based companion.
Megs: Doctor/River: Hellodqbunny on June 17th, 2013 12:13 am (UTC)
I don't think think it's the last time we'll see River though. Alex Kingston told Radio Times in March that if Moffat had a story for River, she'd always do it. If it was River's last time on the series, they'd made a huge deal over it in the media. But even Alex as recently as last week hinted that she would be back (joking about kissing a female 12th Doctor on BBC's "The One Show.") I think if River was done, Moffat or Alex would had said something by now, and neither of them have.

I think the structure is there for River to come back. One of the scenes with splintered Clara shows her looking out for Ten in the Library, which could be a set-up for a last-second Clara intervention to save River (which in turn saves the Doctor.) Also, the "spoilers" that River hints at could mean he sees her younger self again (as she said in ToA/FAS, she's seen all his faces), because the Doctor knows that Clara is still alive in his time stream by this point. That's not a spoiler. I'd honestly be shocked if younger River wasn't there to see Eleven regenerate into Twelve.

I think the last time we see River, we're going to absolutely know it's the last time.
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on June 17th, 2013 08:53 am (UTC)
I guess the timey-wimey nature of their relationship definitely means there is no reason River couldn't reappear. I'd have to rewatch this, I think. I know at the time I felt it was being played with a lot of finality, but I may have been over-interpreting.
daniel_saunders: Eleventh Doctordaniel_saunders on June 17th, 2013 10:44 am (UTC)
Moffat has said in DWM that when we last see River, we'll know. That said, my response here was confusion: Moffat seemed to be saying this was the last time, then hinting that, actually, it might not be...