BIT OF ADRENALINE, DASH OF OUTRAGE: Our Thoughts on “The Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos” and Series 11 Wrap-Up — Part 2/2

Janine Rivers (@janinemrivers on Twitter) is a writer, script editor, and musician.  She spends her days working in a library, and is the head-writer and editor behind her passion project, The Twelfth Doctor Adventures.  Her favourite Doctor is Peter Capaldi.

Header picture by Esterath (@finlay_hs)

 

You came back for Part 2!  Thank you. This is a good start.

(If you’re not a returning reader, and are wondering what this post is and why we’re talking about Series Eleven, check out the first half of the review over here.  Then, if you dare, come back to this post and witness the grand finale of Bit of Adrenaline, Dash of Outrage, where there’s a lot more outrage than usual.)

Following our discussion on characters, themes, and representation in the first half, today I’m joined by four new guests to discuss some slightly different aspects of the series, before we wrap up and provide a final verdict.  

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BIT OF ADRENALINE, DASH OF OUTRAGE: Our Thoughts on “The Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos” and Series 11 Wrap-Up — Part 1/2

Janine Rivers (@janinemrivers on Twitter) is a writer, script editor, and musician.  She spends her days working in a library, and is the head-writer and editor behind her passion project, The Twelfth Doctor Adventures.  Her favourite Doctor is Peter Capaldi.

Header picture by Esterath (@finlay_hs)

It’s hard to believe that we’ve already reached the end of Jodie Whittaker’s first series of Doctor Who.  When we started this column back with The Woman Who Fell to Earth, we didn’t even know half the episode titles — and now, wherever you look, fans are organising their rankings and making predictions for Series Twelve.  The nights have drawn in, too, and a decidedly Doctor Who-less Christmas approaches (unless you’re planning to catch the Twelfth Doctor Adventures Christmas Special).

With the show back on New Year and then off air until 2020, it seems increasingly likely that the New Year Special will be either a thematic summation of, or response to, Series Eleven, rather than the start of something new.  But for logistical reasons, we’re going to do the series wrap-up in this post, discussing both the finale on its own terms, and our thoughts on the series as a whole — then we’ll be back for a final post in the New Year, to see whether the special has met our expectations and/or alleviated our concerns.

For this post, I’m going to be joined by a selection of this year’s guests to discuss various aspects of The Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos and Series Eleven as a whole, from the characters and villains to the political complexities of the show and its new PR strategies.  So buckle up, and prepare yourselves for the trip of a lifetime…

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TIBERIAN THOUGHTS – Sheffield Steel, or a Subjective Look at the Thirteenth Doctor #9: “It Takes You Away”

Two things before we go – one, I’ve noticed I didn’t plug on here the article I wrote on James Wylder’s excellent blog here. So … There you go. It’s about the new Halloween movie, and if you’ve enjoyed last week’s “Witchfinders” essay, I’m sure you’ll find plenty to enjoy.

Second, and I’m very honoured to say so, I can now officially announced I will get to rant about Chris Chibnall’s era in a more formal capacity, since I’ll be publishing a book-length analysis of “Arachnids in the UK” for the Black Archive range of Obverse Books in November 2020. Mark the date, beloved readers!

Now, to the main attraction …

 


Run!

That’s how Doctor Who restarts, in 2005. One word, opening the floodgates, letting the wonders of the universe come in.

One word – and one paradox.

There is, after all, something deeply ambivalent about that idea of running: the Doctor “never stops, and never stays”, to quote “Last of the Time Lords”, but that can be both praise and indictment. They are a force of revolution, of upheaval, sending monsters back into the dark and toppling unjust regimes – but their actions are less of a continuous process, and more of a series of spectacular and explosive dots. It’s revolution, but without the boring parts: the struggle, the grind, the effort. It’s revolutionary politics as imagined by an aristocrat from a race of gods: more aesthetics than praxis.

Which is why writers have actively questioned that ever-present silent dynamic: including, which is relevant to the conversation is, Chris Chibnall in “The Power of Three”, when he has Eleven say that he’s not running “from” things, but “to” them. But of course, the main dichotomy is the one Moffat introduces at the tail end of his run: against “run, you clever boy”, he conjures up “where I stand is where I fall”. In front of a new political and human context, the Doctor needs to learn new modes of engagement with humans, and human affairs.

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SCARVES AND CELERY – Promoting Doctor Who Fan Fiction: “The Twelfth Doctor Adventures” is a Wonderful Thing

Something a little different today – this is not a regular column, but a bit of promotion for a fan series that everyone here at DoWntime has worked on – our very own Janine Rivers’ non profit fan produced audio drama “The Twelfth Doctor Adventures”. As part of the lead in to the series’ Christmas special, I’ve written this post, where, as one of the writers on the series, I promote the first series, and as a fan of the production, I talk about what it means to me.

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BIT OF ADRENALINE, DASH OF OUTRAGE – Our Thoughts on “It Takes You Away”

Janine Rivers (@janinemrivers on Twitter) is a writer, script editor, and musician.  She spends her days working in a library, and is the head-writer and editor behind her passion project, The Twelfth Doctor Adventures.  Her favourite Doctor is Peter Capaldi.

Tom Marshall is a postgraduate working in the field of Norse mythology and ecocriticism. He has written about Doctor Who and other TV shows for CultBox, the Outside In book series, You and Who Else, and You and 42. His favourite Doctor is … also Peter Capaldi.

Header picture by Esterath (@finlay_hs)

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TIBERIAN THOUGHTS – Sheffield Steel, or a Subjective Look at the Thirteenth Doctor #8: “The Witchfinders”

It’s at this point in our analysis of series 11 that we must step back and acknowledge that it is very, very messy. This episode we’re discussing has had its airing order shifted around so much it’s basically impossible to ascertain where it originally fitted, for instance (the sixth slot? I think?). That’s undeniable. But then again: a lot of Who is messy – it’s just the issues this run has been experiencing feel all the more problematic given the structural strengths of the previous era and the way it very explicitly set up themes and avenues which are not all followed upon on one side; and the fact that it’s 2018, that Donald Trump is president of the United States, that the world sucks, and that it is incredibly easy for storytelling failures to become actual moral flaws in such a context.

The Doctor, as both a character and a concept, embodies this chaos well. The Thirteenth Doctor is, to put it charitably, complicated: she “loves conspiracies” (“Arachnids in the UK”) and also dislikes them (“Kerblam!”); she has a real love of material pleasures (be them the Kerblam! products, fried egg sandwiches, or apple-bobbing) while also basically acting as a tour guide for people who flee the horrors of materialist societies; she advocates for love and hope, but fails to shape these principles into an actual praxis or any form of political action.

And the Doctor, is, of course, allowed to be contradictory, with some writers even making a point of emphasising it: but these contradictions feel incredibly frustrating after the final Capaldi series, which felt like a very careful elaboration of a political agenda specific to the show, a (re)definition of its mission as a TV program; and with the first female Doctor. Because there is a problem there: in and on itself, having the Doctor adopting a privileged position is not unique, or even bad. It’s incredibly easy to rationalise their policy of historical non-intervention when you put it in relation with the fact they come from a society which is essentially the history police (and, according to the Wilderness Years lore, the creators of the concept of history itself, through Rassillon supervising the “Anchoring of the Thread”): there is a part of the Doctor which will always carry forwards that education, that sociological determinism, be it only in the way they experience time not as a linear succession of ordeals and sorrows, with actual effort required to structure a good life, but as what is essentially a highlights reel. But by changing the parameters of gender, you end up with what is essentially Schrödinger’s aristocrat: holder of privilege and subject of oppression simultaneously, and the series structures itself, consciously or not, around that paradox.

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BIT OF ADRENALINE, DASH OF OUTRAGE- Our Thoughts on “The Witchfinders”

Janine Rivers (@janinemrivers on Twitter) is a writer, script editor, and musician.  She spends her days working in a library, and is the head-writer and editor behind her passion project, The Twelfth Doctor Adventures.  Her favourite Doctor is Peter Capaldi.

Deb Das ( on Twitter) is an aspiring writer, who likes to spend her time on writing, reading, films and TV, and reviewing books and films for her blog. Her favourite Doctor(s) (please don’t ask her to choose between them) are Clara Oswald and the 12th Doctor.

A. L. Ferio (Laine, and  on Twitter) is a writer who likes spending time reading, playing Minecraft, and working on various academic ventures. Her favorite Doctor is the Twelfth Doctor, though she also thinks that the Doctor is the Doctor is the Doctor.

Header picture by Esterath (@finlay_hs)

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TIBERIAN THOUGHTS – Sheffield Steel, or a Subjective Look at the Thirteenth Doctor #7: “Kerblam!”

Order # 202-7639423-1748323: Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury, ed. Gallimard, translation in French and preface by Jacques Chambon

If I open this book, which is currently laying somewhere in my bedroom, I’ll find that sentence in there – a definition, by the translator, of what a dystopia is: “It projects a contemporary situation in the future, making it more impactful, zooming in order to turn it into an alarm bell for the present.”

That’s not what “Kerblam!” is, obviously. No, “Kerblam!” is something quite different, and genuinely unique. It’s not satire – it’s certainly not an utopia. It’s rather … An inversion of the dynamic of dystopia. Instead of current events and extrapolating from those a set of concerns which will structure a sci-fi plot, this episode takes a set of current concerns, and attempts to use science-fiction to essentially debunk them. It’s essentially a version of 1984 where George Orwell’s answer, in front of the rise of totalitarianisms, would be to show you a future in which we’ve made our peace with those and are living happily.  Anti-dystopia.

That, of course, will raise and has raised voices saying that it’s an absolutely fascinating subject for narrative analysis. And well, they’re not wrong, it is rather fascinating. In the same way someone deciding to shoot a movie through the singular medium of go-pros strapped onto tigers who are then sent to hunt down the cast would be fascinating. It’s a bit dangerous, the end result is probably going to have some “light” structural issues, and it’s just a fucking stupid idea through and through.

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SCARVES AND CELERY – The System is the Problem: A Critique of “Kerblam!”

It would have been easy for Doctor Who to overthrow space Amazon.

In some ways, that’s what makes “Kerblam!” one of, if not the, best put together episodes of series 11 so far. That’s also why I hated it, and found it the most morally repugnant Doctor Who episode I’ve ever watched. Here’s where my take may just diverge a little: the things that make it morally repugnant might just make it the best critique of neoliberal capitalism Doctor Who has ever made.

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