Let’s Not Pretend You Were Ever Searching for Saints

It has been an interesting year. Last year was turbulent and I got my shit turned upside down. I was emotionally butt-fucked and at the end of it I was living day to day. After the cataclysm. This year was supposed to be about survival and rebuilding. However, I found myself somewhere I didn’t expect to be. While working for less money and no longer being able to afford, or at least justify three holidays a year (minimum), I found something. I found that for all the money I had made in the last six years, I was empty. Part of the reason my life seemed to collapse so spectacularly around me last year was that I’d become embroiled in a sense of vacuous materialism. I was fastidiously unable to appreciate what I had and I was taking everything for granted.

“Sometimes we lose our way (and find it again).”

To now find myself in the opposite situation is interesting. The money is less, but I actually enjoy going to work. I like the people I spend a large amount of my waking life associating with. I’ve developed some friendships. This in itself is novel. The overwhelming majority of my working life, actually, most of my life, has generally not extended much further than ‘professional relationships.’ I read somewhere recently that a ‘goal’ would be to develop a life where you don’t require a ‘vacation,’ to run away from it. In the midst of my interminable winter, I found just that. Like Camus (almost) said, there is an invincible summer, just around the corner waiting for you.

“I’m just a bloke… wandering around, telling stories.”

On another note, I started writing something a few weeks ago. It’s something I don’t think I’ll ever be able to publish in conscience. It dawned on me just how much I love women, and there’s a couple in particular where I think it’s gone beyond that, I have mythologised them for all of eternity. However, that’s a story for another invincible summer…

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The World Enough and Time/The Doctor Falls – Critical Review

Doctor Who fans can mostly, certainly not always, be defined by either their love of stories involving monsters, bases under siege and running through corridors or their love for David Tennant and floppy haired Matt Smith. My own personal love of the show stems from the fact that at its very heart is a show about ideas and telling stories. From this angle, I personally believe that the ‘Moffat era’ of Doctor Who is the greatest in the shows history. Therefore, I’ve decided to look at The World Enough and Time and The Doctor Falls and explore some of the concepts within these episodes and how they relate to various concepts throughout the ‘Moffat era’ and the history of Doctor Who.

The idea to set The World Enough and Time/The Doctor Falls on a 400 mile spaceship teetering on the precipice of a black hole whilst encountering time dilation is actually a brilliant one. Infact, you could quite easily have based a whole season around this concept. It’s that good. Season 10 has been essentially a disappointing one, for reasons we will tick off as we go along. A lot of the season has felt thrown together at the last minute on a number of levels, a lot of aspects of these episodes didn’t strike me as being developed enough as they could have been throughout the season to be fully paid off. This even includes The Doctor’s relationship with Missy. We only have to look at the 2016 Christmas special and the subsequent niggly retconning of The Doctor and Nardole following that episode to see that the idea of Missy being kept in a vault was clearly a last minute one. Nardole’s whole season has up to these episodes been mostly underpinned by a steadfast determination to keep The Doctor in Bristol, it’s difficult on the surface from his characterisation to see where jaunts to New York and ancient Mesopotamia fit in with that. Still, we’ll leave it as a niggle.

I love Michelle Gomez’s portrayal of Missy and her menacingly playful take on playing Doctor Who is a joy, as is her explanation of The Doctor’s name. I’m actually happy to accept that The Doctor’s real name is infact ‘Doctor Who’ and by the way, I will not accept Bill Bradley portraying William Hartnell’s Doctor in the upcoming Christmas special if it is anything other than Bradley portraying a cranky old man who thinks he’s from the 59th Century. I also expect him to at least have the decency to cantankerously abduct someone for relatively ambiguous reasons. I digress. Missy’s flirtation with decency is interesting and wouldn’t have been harmed by some more development.

Her scenes with Capaldi’s Doctor have been some of the most interesting and dynamic of the past three seasons. From this, we get to see a little of The Doctor/Bill/Nardole relationship leading into this episode. I’m not entirely sure how necessary this was, but it doesn’t hurt the pacing of the episode, which is frankly excellent and seems to fly by. Bill is shot by a scared blue meanie who, well, has absolutely no reason to be scared at all actually, as he firmly states and it is firmly shown that the creepy prototype Cybermen are only interested in humans, which he isn’t, so yeah, that makes absolutely no sense.

The macabre nature of the hospital scenes is excellent. The volume control is also a nice Moffat touch. The next point of contention is that on the whole, the scenes of Simm in disguise could be viewed on one hand completely unnecessary as the BBC stupidly decided to ruin the whole reveal. Moffat just about gets a way with this one in terms of the actual episode itself as a) The Master has a precedent for using disguises, b) The Master was PM on Earth’s ‘twin’ Mondas, which made me smile and is a cute nod to the RTD era and original series and c) because John Simm is just really, really good to watch and it’s kind of fun watching him to pretend to be Razor. There in a nutshell is The World Enough and Time, which gleefully sets up the pieces for the finale.

In terms of the modern series, Moffat is the only one who has actually mastered the ‘two parter.’ Part of this entails starting the second episode off from a completely different point to where we left off with the first. So if the first part was Frankenstein meets Interstellar meets Genesis of the Cybermen meets The Day of The Master, then the second part was obviously going to be… Little House on the Prairie with creepy scarecrows.

Missy has decided for the time being that she has absolutely no interest in being good and as a result, we spend the first few minutes after the credits watching her and The Master gleefully ponder how to kill The Doctor. Ever notice how much John Simm’s Master likes tying The Doctor to chairs? I’m sure Tumblr probably will have. A few minutes of this, The Cybermen turn against The Master/Missy and we’re onto our next set piece of Little House in the Prairie.

How Moffat has decided to portray CyberBill from here on in is interesting. Moffat has Bill rejecting the programming in a manner not too dissimilar to how he introduced Clara in Asylum of the Daleks, obviously this also allows the wonderful Pearl Mackie a chance to shine. I found it pretty interesting that in the first scene where we see Bill rather than CyberBill in this episode she’s shown as a black woman who the children are scared of. Given that we’re now in Little House on the Prairie, this probably deserves a critique in itself. CyberBill will also later be shot by the same scared white woman. Capaldi and Pearl Mackie however really are good. (It’s disappointing that we’re not going to get another season of Bill as she’s a wonderful character who is an absolute joy to watch.) Also really, really good is The Master’s taunting of CyberBill. “Didn’t you used to be a woman? I’m going to be a woman soon.” At this point it is already hands down my favourite episode since Hell Bent, just for Simm’s performance.

The pacing again is absolutely fantastic. Moffat is at his best just delivering line after line of quality exposition and concepts at break neck speed. It’s just great to watch. We seamlessly flow from Simm putting on eyeliner, making erection jokes with Missy which are entirely inappropriate for Saturday evening television, to a little girl blowing up legions of Cybermen with an apple, which is a classic Doctor Who idea.

The Doctor delivers his big speech which is cruelly dismissed by The Master, although received a little bit more receptively by Missy. Are we going to actually have Missy redeem herself… well yes and no. The only way The Day of The Master was ever going to end was with both The Master and Missy after 45 minutes of flirting, (read: Master-bation) literally stabbing each other in the back.

The Doctor makes his final stand along with CyberBill to an absolutely gorgeous soundtrack from Murray Gold. Gleefully blowing up Cybermen. On first watch I actually thought it was Bill who shot him. That would’ve been dramatic. The Doctor defeats The Cybermen and it’s time for the de rigeur season ending piece of deux ex machina. This time it’s puddle girl. This is a truly lovely scene and I’m pleased that Bill gets a happy ending. I think this also the first time I’ve ever seen two lesbians get together on TV without one of them being killed. Well, actually, they’re both technically dead, but they’re getting a happy ending where they’re both alive, so this can only be read as a victory for Bill, Puddle Girl and LGBT representation on TV, so huzzah. I’m kind of pissed off only in the sense that this would’ve been so much better if Puddle Girl had at least got a cursory mention at some point between the season opener and the finale, but still. Despite the fact Puddle Girl is essentially an immortal, omnipotent being, Bill decides she is going to Billsplain the universe to her…

As for The Doctor, despite being electrocuted, shot and blown up, he decides that he can’t be arsed with regenerating and we get to see him one last time in an adventure with the only person more cranky than he is at Christmas, so to finish off in true Moffat style, please return to paragraph three.

The World Enough and Time and The Doctor Falls: A Theory

A theory regarding the forthcoming Doctor Who episodes: The World Enough and Time and The Doctor Falls:

I’m basing my thoughts on the premise that the Missy/Master episodes since season 8 are out of sync.  I also believe Missy ‘died’ at the end of Death in Heaven. This is why The Doctor looks upset at the end of The Empress of Mars. He already knows on some level where their “friendship” is heading.

In Missy’s timeline the events of The World Enough and Time/The Doctors Falls lead into Season 8 culminating with Death in Heaven. This would make a lot of sense with regards to how Missy ends up hooking up with the Cybermen in Dark Water and Death in Heaven and *may* also shed some further light on Season 9’s arc about the ‘hybrid.’ There’s a myriad of ways this could be done. On the other hand, I suspect all of that stuff has been quietly put to dead and it was probably just a fairly convenient device for reintroducing the Time Lords in the last season finale. 

Based on this premise, it’s also conceivable that Missy sets Clara up with The Doctor several seasons ago to make up for the death of ‘exposition’ or ‘comic relief’ or possibly both. This would be a *very* Moffat thing to do and would probably be in keeping with his style of writing. He doesn’t generally write characters who are irredeemable, so it’s perfectly feasible that a) Missy was genuine in her remorse in the previous few episodes – which would add an interesting dimension to the two Master’s sequence, it’s also perfectly feasible that b) neither of the Doctor’s companions die, or they’re atleast not as dead as you think. Moffat doesn’t like (permanent) endings.

In Moffat’s most famous arc, The Doctor and his ‘wife’ River Song lived their lives out of sync, the joke is his life is out of sync with his ‘mistress’ too.

‘The World Enough and Time’ is an allusion to the Andrew Marvell poem ‘To His Coy Mistress.’ Moffat seemingly also took the episode title ‘Before the Flood’ from Season 9 from the same verse of the poem. This is notable as this episode centred around the ‘bootstrap paradox’ which would heavily tie in with my theory of what is going on and possibly give some indication as to how the episode will resolve itself. Intriguingly, there’s also a strong possibility the First Doctor (and probably his granddaughter Susan as was alluded to by her picture in ‘The Pilot.’ It is however doubtful that Moffat will want to tackle the ‘problem of Susan’ as Neil Gaiman calls it head on and this would be the most sensible means of including a somewhat significant character who was sensibly ditched in the early sixties without creating a massive narrative clusterfuck) will feature, there are certainly some intricate possibilities here with regards to the bootstrap paradox.

As a side note, I quite hoped something would come of the ‘Minister of War’ mentioned in that episode, as that sounded intriguing. I imagine this is just one of those ‘hooks’ Moffat likes to throw out and nothing will be made of it.

‘Time’ will certainly be a factor and based on the premise that there is a 400 mile ship with one end of it teetering on a black hole, my GCSE physics class dictates that this will play a part in creating some kind of discrepancy with regards to time on one end of the ship.

The Doctor promised that Bill would always be safe in the TARDIS in episode one of this season, which indicates she is definitely not going to be safe in the TARDIS. This will be one of two vows The Doctor will have broken in this season, the other is with regards to keeping Missy locked up in a vault. This dictates that breaking promises and haughtily breaking ‘rules’ will be the reason Capaldi has to ‘kick the bucket.’ Again, the reason this itineration of the Doctor has the face he does, as we were told during the Viking episode of Season 9 is because of a promise. His death will come because he breaks it. Of course, the Christmas special will allow for a period of contrition and redemption, but the damage will already have been done. 

Unfinished business:

Nothing more seems to have become of those strange zip head aliens from The Husbands of River Song/The Return of Doctor Misterio. 

‘The Paternoster Gang’ also known as ‘comic relief’ from the previous few seasons seem destined to never be seen again since Nardole assumed the title.  

The Spectacular Narrative Collapse of Theresa May

Theresa May currently shares many parallels with Armando Ianucci’s BBC comedy ‘The Thick of It.’ I’m fairly sure May’s “omnishambles” of a General Election campaign and her series of bungled interviews, policies and initiatives were what Ianucci was aiming for in crafting the character of Nicola Murray and many of the other hapless, shambolic government ministers. It isn’t difficult to imagine many blunt ‘conversations’ between Lynton Crosby and May during the campaign resembling Peter Capaldi’s Malcolm Tucker in a sweary rant on the sheer levels of incompetence exhibited by any one of the characters on the show. I’m also reminded of Tucker’s speech to the minister Hugh Abbot in the first series of the show.  Something along the lines of, “People love it when you go (resign) a bit early. They say, “Oooh I wasn’t expecting that. You don’t see that much anymore.”” What follows is a lot of desperate attempts by Abbot to save his own skin rather than immediately resigning. He laments, “My optimum resignation window has gone.” When he eventually goes to resign, he’s been ‘beaten to it’ by junior minister Dan Miller, who has quickly learned the art of the strategic resignation. Miller will go onto become party leader in the final series. As Wilde said, “Life imitates art far more than art imitates life.” In May’s failure to resign on Friday morning she has ensured she has been consigned to the political dustbin of history. She remains Prime-Minister in name only and is a political person non-grata. She is a walking irrelevance. Her continued clinging to power only serves to further damage her and her own party through her toxicity. She committed political suicide clasping to her manifesto. Described as the ‘vaguest suicide note in history.’ If this was fiction, hers would be a narrative collapse. Usually the point in a story where a character dies and they can no longer serve the narrative in any constructive way. If you are in the business of writing fiction, there is always a price to be paid for killing off a character. Usually it is in the form of ‘hitting a brick wall.’ To circumvent and recover from a narrative collapse. A new narrative must be formed in its place. How big the price is anyone’s guess or what the new narrative will be is anyone’s guess. I’m sure fans of Marx’s material dialactics will have some tantalising ideas though.

On the subject of narrative, the author Robert Harris in today’s Sunday Times compared Brexit to a disaster drama. Harris pointed out that the secret to any great disaster drama is to set a countdown to said disaster (Article 50) and then shorten it to ramp up the tension (calling a general election shortly after). Now seeing as we’ve had the person we presumed to be the main character in this drama commit hari kari ten minutes in, we can safely say, you couldn’t write this stuff. 

For Our Safety and Security, Theresa May Must Go

You can tell a lot about a person by looking at who their friends are. Currently, the weak, incompetent, increasingly isolated Theresa May’s only political friends are the bigoted, despotic and much derided Donald Trump, the sectarian, racist, homophobic, climate-change denying DUP who are supported and heavily affiliated with various Loyalist terrorist groups and the ugly Saudi Arabian regime who are currently responsible for ongoing horrific murderous actions in Yemen and are responsible themselves for funding terror. We can form a picture of Theresa May from this that her politics are repellant and absolutely toxic.

Yesterday, after the worst political miscalculation since her Conservative predecessor David Cameron called the EU referendum, Theresa May should have resigned. Instead, she has opted to brassneck it out and in the process, again, jeopardise the peace, safety and security of the British and Irish Isles by doing a deal with the bigoted menace that is the DUP. 

After twenty years of peace in Ulster, May is now severely jeopardising the Peace Process by placing herself into a corner in a desperate bid to cling to power. Britain by the terms of the Good Friday Agreement is supposed to be a neutral arbiter in the North of Ireland. As of yesterday, this can no longer be the case. Theresa May has chose what is politically expedient for herself over the hard won peace and the safety and security of the people of the province of Ulster and on the British mainland. This prospect of a resurgence in conflict in the province of Ulster should horrify everyone in the electorate and in Britain and Ireland.

Of course, this wouldn’t be the first time Theresa May has severely jeopardised the safety and security of the British people. After six years as Home Secretary and a year as Prime-Minister where she has overseen cutting 20,000 police with her Conservative government overseeing a cut in armed forces, this year alone, despite having had seven attacks in the last fifteen years on British soil, under Theresa May’s watch we have endured three major terrorist attacks in the space of three months. For someone who talks tough on crime and terror, Britain is the least safe on her watch it has been for decades. This is unlikely to improve. She has shown herself to be a weak, incompetent politician who is completely indecisive as shown by her countless U-Turns. The sooner this omnishambles of a ‘Prime-Minister’ is ousted from her office – likely by her own MP’s in a fashion that will make what the Conservative Party did to Margaret Thatcher look like nursery class – the better and safer Britain will be for it.

For the love of God, Theresa, just go.

Hammer-on, Power Chord, Slide, Power Chord

This isn’t really a resolution (how cliche), more a statement on my current mindset. The key word for the year is “value,” after five years of throwing money (away) at pretty much anything I liked the look of, it’s time to knuckle down and appreciate – and get the very best – out of what you’ve already got. The issue is, you’ve got so much stuff, you don’t even realise what you’ve got.

Last year I spent around 5 grand on guitars, amps, pedals only to find my preferred rig of choice is a 1988 Fender Strat, Seymour overdrive pedal and Fender Mustang amp. Mind you, I probably spent the same on my girlfriend only to, well, suffice to say, I’m a lot more in love with my guitars. So yeah, value. I’m a lot more focussed on getting my career back on track, sorting out my finances, getting good at guitar, making the best of what I’ve got and making 2017 a really good year.

I kind of figure it’s easy to become jaded and cynical. I watched ‘The Great Escape’ earlier and what I really love about that film is how resourceful the characters are. How they make the best out of what they’ve got to work with. As a liberalised society, we’ve seemingly gone in the opposite direction, we have absolutely everything and I imagine there’s many people in my age group who would still struggle to change a lightbulb without a YouTube tutorial. Sometimes less is more. Instead of throwing money at cheap fixes and chasing magic bullets it’s probably in many respects better to have less, appreciate what you’ve got and get the best out of it. I’m interested in being more resourceful and creative with what I have – honestly, the last few years, I’ve been privileged and I can’t even remember half of what I own. I get photo-shocked when I look on Instagram and see something I’ve bought that’s cool and completely forgot about. That’s privileged – this year I’m working at getting the best out of what I’ve got. 

Probably the happiest I’ve been, or the most joy I’ve got from that aforementioned five grand wasn’t achieving some mystical tone, it was simply learning and pretty much nailing the riff from Clapton’s Layla. That was the most satisfying. Immersion in music will triumph over sound effects any day. I have a list of stuff I want to learn and do this year. Current cost: £0. I have everything I require right here.

Parts 5-9

Possibly the most misinterpreted story of Russell T Davies’ tenure is The Stolen Earth/Journey’s End and depending on your feelings about the completely nuts idea of Davros stealing planets in order to destroy ALL OF REALITY you either love it or hate it. My initial feelings towards this was that it was an over ambitious mess and even by Doctor Who standards was completely over-the-top and unbelievable, which really is saying something and I actually hated it. Incidentally, I felt exactly the same way about Last of the Timelords and The End of Time. However, with the benefit of Netflix, it’s far more rewarding to view Stolen Earth/Journeys End as not as a two parter, but a three parter along with Turn Left, which it actually is. Turn Left is very much the first act of three. Actually, if you want a hugely insightful reading of the Tennant era – and to fully appreciate how good a writer RTD actually is – then it’s possible look at a block of five stories starting with The Christmas Invasion and Turn Left as the end of the first act to fully appreciate the astonishingly huge narrative arc he created.

Turn Left is fascinating, because we get ‘The It’s a Wonderful Life’ version of England through the eyes of Donna and what would have happened if she’d never met him and he’d died in ‘The Runaway Bride.’ Broadly speaking though, what’s perhaps more revealing is that this vision is little different to what Tennant era Doctor Who would look like if told through the eyes of any ordinary person who managed to survive the countless invasions and weren’t amongst the handful he saved throughout these episodes on more of a whim, than anything else. The most that can be said Tennant hadn’t stopped the Titanic wiping out London, modern England would basically be ‘Utopia.’ Just a few billion years early.

When viewed as a three parter, rather than two, it’s glaringly obvious Donna is going to be this season’s Martha. Just as Rose was the season before that and the season before that. Saving the world but at a price. I think it was Raymond Chandler who said, “If a weapon shows up in the first act, you know it’s getting used in the third.” To make it more obvious, Davies in the next two episodes precedes to through every combination of companion at the Daleks, whilst keeping Donna safely tucked away from the narrative, with only the minor feint that “she’s going to die.” Which frankly RTD knew everyone would ignore anyway, because that’s not how Doctor Who works. He could then get on with the business of closing out the Rose storyline which had been hanging over the show for long enough and needed putting to bed. Overall, he came up with probably the most satisfying solution available. The problem of having a Doctor in love or in a relationship is that love and relationships aren’t really compatible with the concept of adventure. It would entail instead not putting yourself or the one you love in grave danger. So it had to be done and closed out. Simple as that.

Where Donna however, fits with Tennant’s Doctor is interesting, because he’s the only Doctor who has been created purely to be loved. In the Christmas Invasion, we wait almost three quarters of the special for him to show up, at which point RTD gives him a long piece of dialogue which – being a consummate theatre actor – he completely nails. Tennant defeats the Sycorax leader and this is where it gets interesting, we’re given the reason his Doctor will ultimately regenerate in his very first outing. He conceitedly changes history. He brings about the end of “Britain’s Golden Age” (apparently Jackie has been twenty quid a week better off) because he believes he knows better. Which will in turn lead to The Master swooping into become PM, which in turn leads to his comeback in The End of Time. The Master is a byproduct of the conceit of Tennant’s Doctor. The Time Lord victorious. Still, in the Christmas Invasion, he is our Christmas present. It’s all there from the start, but we’re a long way from Doomsday, Journey’s End and the End of Time just yet.

“Sometimes I think a Time Lord lives too long,” the Doctor says at one point, and we’re meant to disagree. And yet why? When the Doctor puts the principle of not being willing to shoot someone over the fate of all of humanity, what are we meant to do with him? For the second time in the Davies era, the Doctor’s vain insistence on not being the one to pull the trigger is set to become the doom of humanity. We are all to be the Master, our worst impulses, the rot that sets in as the universe finally goes black, and the Doctor refuses to save us because of a moral point centering entirely on the question of propelling pieces of metal at high speeds via a controlled explosion at the base of a rifled barrel.

Even at the end, the question is arbitrary. Somehow shooting a diamond and consigning Rassilon to death in the hell of the Time War is acceptable, but shooting Rassilon himself is not. Letting the Master walk into the Time War is acceptable, putting a bullet in him is not. Apparently “how the Master started” has everything to do with projectiles and nothing to do with an actual system of ethics. Wilf’s military service renders him noble, but the use of a gun is wrong. There is no substance to this, just a mess of would-be principles masquerading as morality. That’s why Tennant’s Doctor is so, well, irksome.

However. On top of this, running parallel with The Christmas Invasion, there’s an angry underlying narrative about Barack Obama ending the recession with a great financial scheme – although as Ginger tells us, it won’t reach people like him. It actually doesn’t, because The Master (The former PM) kills him. So we’ve gone from ‘Britain’s Golden Age’ to a homicidal lunatic running the country, to a recession under the Doctor’s watch and them the former PM returning from the dead to go on another mad homicidal spree against Britain’s working class. When this is contrasted with the reason Tennant’s Doctor overthrew Harriet Jones in the first place, his arbitrary system of ethics seems even more dubious. Even by RTD’s standards which are frankly bleak and deeply cynical, there’s little doubt that Harriet Jones doesn’t at any point in the three stories which she appears act in anything other than good faith. She may perhaps be infact the most sympathetic portrayal of a politician ever to appear on television. Although it’s a clear allusion to Thatcher and the Belgrano, unlike Thatcher, she acts out of what could be described as a rational fear for the safety and well-being of humankind. What causes her to panic and call for the destruction of the Sycorax? Well actually, it’s because of The Doctor telling her there’s probably going to be a lot more invasions and next time they mightn’t be so lucky, and yep, it’s all down to sending out probes into space and getting noticed. So she acts. Then The Doctor arrogantly deposes her.

Still, not that she needed redeeming per se, she does sacrifice her life in order to get in touch with The Doctor in The Stolen Earth. She dies a true hero, whereas Tennant’s Doctor will go onto die an arrogant, feckless narcissist who believes he can pick and choose who he can save. Because he allows a kind old man to live, because after wiping Donna’s memory and erasing the amazing woman she’d become, he gives her material wealth, but only after robbing her of the gift of knowing that there’s a huge world outside of neo-liberal Britain. The gift of knowing that there is more to life than materialism. Because he hooks up two broken hearted men in a bar, because he saves the life of two people he’d fucked over. Mickey whose girlfriend he stole and Martha, who after being the most competent companion in the history of Doctor Who, a person who travels the entire world, valiantly spreading a message in order to defeat The Master and save humanity, is not unlike Harriet Jones (no relation) in being consigned to the Doctor’s personal dustbin of history,  and all because she takes a job with a military organisation. One which he himself had hypocritically worked for in the seventies (!) Not to mention the conceit in this relationship too. I struggle to see how for a promising young junior Doctor, who was at one point the only person capable of averting total oblivion in marrying a hapless mechanic who has subsequently wound up as a ‘freelance’ read: jobless paramilitary, whilst being shot at by the rubbish Sontarans on an industrial estate is anything short of a regression.

In the Waters of Mars, it’s actually a relief when he is finally called out on his shit and this is ultimately the point where he has no choice but to go. It’s interesting by the way, that the production team consciously chose – and this is undoubtedly a conscious decision, as it was the same production team in the End of Time who in probably the most weird, ostentatious use of CGI in history and a moment of insane micro-attention to detail used The Mill to correctly colour in the Noble’s Turkey in order to reflect the correct time of day on Christmas Day – chose to show the 2050’s to be little different in what we’d expect to see design wise to an episode set in the present day, and I write this six years on from the original airing. From the outset, we see a modern interior, with prints of the Queen Elizabeth definitive postage stamp on the wall, the web pages are what we’d expect to see when we click onto the BBC website, the technology is distinctly, little more advanced than we’d currently be capable. Even the robot is until The Doctor upgrades it, completely underwhelming. This is Davies’ vision of the future throughout his time on the show. Fixed and bleak. Even at the end of the universe itself, there’s little progress beyond a slight change of skin colour. (In recent months post Brexit, there’s particular sequence in ‘Utopia’ which has taken an astonishingly prescient and bleak connotation to the present.) Davies’ idea of material social progress is bleak, bleak, bleak. Take even his vision of spaceships in the future, while the Enterprise in Star Trek: The Next Generation has shades of Virgin Atlantic, what Davies offers up for luxury outings in ‘Midnight’ is Ryan Air meets Mega Bus. On some level it’s difficult to see how with this in mind in the End of Time, or even Journey’s End, the Time Lords or Davros wouldn’t just be doing us a favour by putting a full-stop on reality. In Davies’ vision of the future, there’s absolutely no aspiration. Only the conceit of ‘pot luck’ that you may be that ordinary working class person (un)fortunate enough to be saved by the Doctor and cast back onto the gruelling wheel of slow if not nonexistent social and material progress. Whilst unlike the Daleks, the Time Lord’s at least aspired to at least becoming beings of consciousness as reality and time melted away. They are however, still Lords. As is the Doctor, and everything that entails.

It all ends with the destruction of the TARDIS caused by Tennant clinging to life and unleashing a pent up wave of destructive regenerative energy. The world he leaves is no further forward. I’ll probably, eventually at some point do a write up of where Moffat’s ‘Day of the Doctor’ which effectively rewrites the cynicism and conceit of Tennant’s Doctor and where that fits together with this narrative. Thankfully, when we get to Moffat, time can be rewritten, and rewritten again until you get it right.

Like Tony Soprano, his death is written from the start and foreshadowed in big bold letters across the screen. Of course, with Doctor Who, the story can never end.

3 and 4: The Pirate Planet, the Stones of Blood and Digression

The Pirate Planet or ‘Douglas Adams’ ode to drug addiction.’
Interesting, because it’s a rarity and exists as a story where the people don’t actually really want the Doctor there (in the sense that “We’re fine,” not in the say, Daleks on Skaro we’re going to kill you, or you’re atleast going to die a painful death from radiation poisoning way. By the way, what happened with the Daleks’ dependency on radiation, anyway? Speaking on whom, the premise of the Pirate Planet bares some similarity to the Daleks ridiculous plan in The Dalek Invasion of Earth where they plan to hollow out the Earth’s core and presumably drive the planet around the universe like a sports car. Me neither. Conceptually, The Pirate Planet makes a little more rational sense. The planet materialises around other planets at which point they plunder the planets entire mineral wealth before moving on elsewhere. In this case however, the planet turns out to not actually be a planet at all but a section of the Key to Time. Which going back to my original point, really accentuates how fucking insane the premise of The Daleks Invasion of Earth is. Although I’m sure I’ll get around to writing something on that at some point as despite the craziness, some aspects of it I absolutely love. However, I digress. It’s an interesting story, just don’t try and think about it too much, like for instance, people who are unwittingly complicit in the Pirate Captains scheme acting against their own material self interest and ultimately coming around to fuck over themselves and their own material self-interest. Then again, there’s working class people who vote Tory. You say tomato, I say…

The Stones of Blood effectively takes place at a pseudo stonehenge, has a pseudo villain and a literal cliff-hanger. I was recently reading something about cliff-hangers and the correct way to use them which I thought was fascinating. Essentially you know that the person who is “hanging from a cliff” isn’t going to die. It’s a way of making the audience engage with the plot. I used to watch Batman when I was six or seven. The campy 1960’s one and I unashamedly loved it and still do. I think in fairness, having the capacity to enjoy something like that is a prerequisite for enjoying Doctor Who and ultimately why I enjoyed the classic series so much. The first episode of Batman I ever saw ended on a cliffhanger where, I can’t remember if it’s Batman or Robin are caught in a trap by the Catwoman with a choice of opening two doors. The episode ends with the opening of a door that contains a tiger, unleashing it into a small room. Now, I was an evil child and I used to hope that Batman and Robin were killed and just for a change the villain would win. However, the fact that it wasn’t for whatever reason years later until I saw the resolution of that cliffhanger and I actually can’t remember how they got out of it, I just remember that what was far more interesting was engaging with the story and coming up with my own ideas for how that may turn out. Of course, in modern Doctor Who, Steven Moffat understands this fully and has brilliantly mastered how to do the cliffhanger. He probably does it better than anyone I can think of in the history of television or cinema actually. Moffat doesn’t actually bother insulting the audience with the conceit that there’s a possibility a main character is going to die. Of course, the most beautiful execution of this was after ostensibly killing off Sherlock, in the next episode where he brought him back from the grave, he didn’t even bother to explain how the suicide was faked, instead just presenting a series of meta  fandom squabbles. The point being, that it really doesn’t matter. It’s a hook for the viewer to latch onto. That was the brilliance of the cliffhanger to Time of Angels where the question is not of the Doctor dying but of “Why is the Doctor firing a gun?” His resolutions are usually equally inventive. Moffat has learned that the best place to start the sequel is in a completely different place to the cliffhanger. Doctor Who is by far more interesting when the writers just throw cool sounding hooks out there, for example post ’05: Bad Wolf, the jaws of the Nightmare Child, the Hoarde of Travesties, the Meanwhiles and Neverwheres led by the Could’ve been King, the Silver Devastation, the cracks in time. It’s more fun to speculate, than have an outright resolution. Intriguingly then, probably Moffat’s biggest failure in his time as show runner was also as a result of a cliff-hanger. When Matt Smith’s second season started off with the cliff hanger of The Doctor being killed outright – a brilliant premise –  right at the start of the episode – and The Impossible Astronaut and Day of the Moon are good – it had the unfortunate result of the season finale being reduced to merely tidying up loose ends or, just being about what trickery the Doctor used to survive, which was far less satisfying. Moffat is by far at his best when he just throws hooks out there and leaves them hanging like he did with Sherlock than he is at tidying them up. Fortunately, I think he figured that out though, which is why his two-parters and season finales have been more satisfying. Even his Cyberman – the most rubbish of recurring villains, and turning them into Ironman-esque cyborgs instead of humans obsessed with survival doesn’t improve them at all – with Missy as the Master reveal worked reasonably well. The fact that Chris Addison and Michelle Gomez are brilliant helps a lot. The Dalek two parter the following season had flaws but had enough intriguing combinations and loose ends to overall make it reasonably successful. The only combination it didn’t really try was Michelle Gomez and Davros. Of course the point is, that Missy abandoned on Skaro leaves a lot of potential for an active mind. The final three episodes of the season is where Moffat nails his formula again, and they’re brilliant. So as a result of those season 8 and 9 two and three parters, at any point you can have Clara and ‘Me’ cruising around time and space in an American diner, Missy delightfully scheming with Davros, anyone brought back from the dead and pretty much anything you can think of being only a line of dialogue away from becoming a reality in Doctor Who.

By the way, I’ve been considering how to do the next Star Wars. As we’ve established, starting where we left off would be a pretty rubbish way to do it. Start years into the future where Kylo Ren has learned discipline and went back into the shadows and where Rey is a fully fledged Jedi but has suffered some pretty bad injuries, (presumably a knee replacement will be in there somewhere going by the way she runs) – and some big losses including that stupid fucking robot C3PO and Luke Skywalker to give Kylo his promotion to serious villain  – we know Jedi don’t really die anyway so who gives a shit. Put the alliance on the back foot. Have Finn turn villain too because he’s been rejected when Rey chooses celibacy and the Joseph Campbell monomyth only to have him redeemed in the final part.

“A long time ago in a galaxy far far away…

The Alliance have suffered great tragedy at the hands of the enemy. The Sith Lord Kylo Ren has long disappeared and the pilot Po Dameron, is sent on a mission to safely return the injured Jedi commander Rey who has been seeking a Macguffin to complete her training… However, the weird Voldemort dude from the last movie has chosen to finally reveal himself. ”

Actually starting off the movie with that Snook dude is probably far enough out of left field to work.

“Your manner appeals only to the homicidal side of my nature”

Part 2 – Doctor Who: The Ribos Operation

This is part one of the famous ‘key to time.’ Doctor Who’s first attempt at a season long story arc. What’s astonishing is that whilst the premise of a ‘key to time’ is rubbish and frankly everyone knows it, the story is nonetheless absolutely brilliant. 
The reason I love Doctor Who is that it’s driven by concepts. It is a show built on ideas. This is a story that starts off with the Doctor meeting God. This isn’t the first time the show has dipped its toes into theology. The writer of this, the brilliant Robert Holmes (more on him later) previously wrote a story where The Master summoned the devil. Which actually as a concept is quite difficult to top. Many years later, in the brilliant Satan Pit, the Doctor will again meet the devil, with the brilliant premise of a creature that existed before ‘time’ itself – don’t think about that too hard – and the script strongly alludes to the fact that the beast was jailed by the Doctor’s own people. This is an intriguing proposition. In the Ribos Operation, the allusion is therefore very much that the Doctor has outgrown his own people and therefore exists somewhere between The White Guardian, who although he persuades the Doctor to take on his mission under by threat of death and looks like a plantation owner, we will assume here is “good” and the Black Guardian who well, if the White Guardian isn’t all that good, the Black Guardian is a whole lot worse. 
However, this is where Holmes’ craftsmanship as a writer comes in. He knows the premise is absurd. Tom Baker plays the Doctor, absurdly and then we introduce a new character, the brilliant Romana played by Mary Tamm, who nails it by refusing to take the narrative seriously. She basically plays both a mirror of the Doctor and in a cute piece of meta-fiction, the relatable companion, by treating it all as a bit of a joke. This is a brilliant way to handle introducing a super attractive, super intelligent alien who ostensibly appears out of thin air. By the way, what makes Romana ‘super attractive’ is not that she’s strikingly beautiful, it’s because her character possesses a mystique and is frankly kind of awesome.

That’s not the only thing that’s brilliant. No-one in the history of Doctor Who writes a villain quite like Robert Holmes, it’s telling that he is the writer who introduced The Master (and is the only person to ever write him properly), introduced The Sontarans in the Time Warrior – to be clear he didn’t create The Sontarans, and it’s intriguing that his villain in this piece was a Master replacement. Holmes is of the school where he is impossible to imitate. If you wanted to imitate him, then you’d do well to remember that he doesn’t reuse old stock characters, he invents new ones. He also wrote the brilliant Caves of Androzani where Peter Davison is violently put through the mill by a bunch of deranged psychos in a serial that both combines Dune and basically foreshadows The Revenant. Here, he brilliantly gives us some somewhat pathetic conmen in the fashion of ‘Count’ Victor Ludwig trying to flog a planet to a nutso tyrant. For a low budget seventies TV show where absolutely no-one is taking it seriously, it manages to ascend astonishingly close to being the most brilliant antithesis of Star Wars in the fundamental rejection of that style of narrative. However, I would go further and say that with Ribos’ lack of pretence it almost overtakes it. I didn’t really want to do this as a review, but seriously, this is brilliant and probably one of my favourite episodes of Doctor Who ever.