TIBERIAN THOUGHTS – Sheffield Steel, or a Subjective Look at the Thirteenth Doctor #6: “Demons of the Punjab”

[CW – descriptions of torture, references to trauma and alcohol]

 

Let me tell you the story of a man. 

That man was born in 1926, in the North of France. Saw the war pass, and, no doubt, inspired by the tales of heroism that he heard during it, decided to try his luck in the army. And he had a decent career, as he entered the 1950s, met a lovely wife, and had a lovely little baby boy.

And then, things started to happen in Algeria. Bad things. It was not “a war”, that, everyone was very clear about. Even in the history books, it wouldn’t be described as such for decades – these were the “Events” of Algeria. What that man knew was that the nationalists there, after losing the latest round of elections, had decided to try their luck at armed struggled. Throughout 1955, grim tales were heard – dozens of European settlers and those who took their side being slaughtered with axes, machetes and pickaxes, in the little villages. Fair and proportionate retribution of course follows, with little planes dropping little bombs over the hamlets deemed guilty, those in which bad apples might be hiding. 5000, 7000 killed, about? A strong signal. Also, the start of a cry for vengeance.

Then, just as he was headed there as a soldier, leaving his newborn son and wife behind, things got really nasty. Fighting broke in the streets of Algiers. François Mitterrand, future President of France, then Minister of Justice, merged the police forces of the colonies and of the metropole, essentially allowing for a complete takeover of the colonial justice system. Which then, obviously, as the city was falling into chaos, descended into systematic brutalisation. A bunch of people, maybe 4000 – “General Bigeard’s shrimps”, as they were called – were thrown off helicopters and into the Mediterranean, their feet having been encased in concrete beforehand.  To hide the torture, you understand – can’t have brutalised bodies just be found by the media, that would look bad. Loads of people were just arrested and carried to very cozy little villas to be “interrogated”: not just locals or revolutionaries; if you were a white intellectual with communist sympathies, leaning a bit too far to the left, or a bit too pacifist, chances are you’d be questioned as well, by both soldiers and General De Gaulle’s informal, secret police services. One of the people working there was called Jean-Marie Le Pen; he later became the leader of France’s mainstream far-right party, which is still headed by his daughter Marine today.

In Paris, demonstrations were organised in support of Algeria’s independence. In 1961, the most important of those was repressed by chief of police and former Nazi collaborator Maurice Papon – his men and a number of far-right militias killing possibly up to 300 people, shot, beaten to death, or thrown in the waters of the Seine.

Of course, I don’t know what the man saw of all these things. I just know what he did when he returned home. Continue reading

BIT OF ADRENALINE, DASH OF OUTRAGE: Our Thoughts on “Demons of the Punjab”

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

Marquis (@BloodyMarquis on Twitter) is a writer, blogger, and occasionally wishes he was a heavy drinker. He writes about anime and cartoons for the website Animation Revelation. His favourite Doctor is a toss up between Sylvester McCoy and Matt Smith.

Mark Laherty (@MarkLoafers on Twitter) is a media critic who can usually be found on Virtual Citizens. He is not married, has no children, and does not live in Surrey. His favourite Doctor is Clara Oswald.

Header picture by Esterath (@finlay_hs)

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TIBERIAN THOUGHTS – Sheffield Steel, or a Subjective Look at the Thirteenth Doctor #5: “The Tsuranga Conundrum”

“May the saints of all the stars and constellations bring you home, as they guide you out of the dark and into the light, on this voyage and the next, and all the journeys still to come, for now and evermore.”

First thing first, there’s the complicated authorship question.

The Tsuranga Conundrum” is a Schrödingerian script, in that it’s both by Chris Chibnall and not by Chris Chibnall. As Doctor Who Magazine will tell you, it was originally supposed to be the work of guest writer Tim Price, still credited as the creator of the Pting, who subsequently dropped out, hence a slot having to be filled, probably quite late in the production calendar. While it’s hard to ascertain anything with certainty at the moment, this certainly feels like a casualty of the harsh contingencies of moviemaking – cue a cast that feels too big, with characters severed from their original purpose and left hanging about (here, the android, rather amazingly pointless), and a messy, confusing visual grammar. It’s very “Nightmare in Silver” that way – although, it doesn’t feel like a blunder of the same scale, which does speak rather highly of the skills of Chibnall and his team: there will be problems and issues on all TV sets, and, as damage control jobs go, this is honestly quite solid.

There, we encounter a bit of a dilemma. Ironically, a conundrum much like the one the characters face. This right here has a ton of issues – mostly technical, but not only. And it’s not nitpicking to point that out, because, through accumulation, the little things add up and form static that actively deters from the enjoyment of a non-negligible chunk of the audience. There’s a lot to be written about the failures of the visual storytelling here, especially regarding the use of space: a ton of shots just feel like they’re mostly made of white walls between which the characters wobble and oscillate, with no clear hierarchy of information; there’s no points of focus, with parasitic information everywhere (so many control screens!); the characters are framed in deeply artificial ways when they’re supposed to have naturalistic banter, which leaves a chunk of the cast struggling performance-wise.

But that’s only one aspect of it – and, with Chibnall pushing the scales towards a more serialized version of Who, it may not be the worst thing in the world. Direction problems are only an issue for the fifty minutes of the episode: if the story manages to do build enough thematic structures and meanings to connect to the rest of the series, then it can pretty much be shrugged off as the weaker part of a stronger whole instead of standing shamefully in a corner, a big dunce cap on the head. It’s an approach I happen to personally favor – so, let’s take it as a patient in dire need of a little redemptive reading, and see what we can administer.

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BIT OF ADRENALINE, DASH OF OUTRAGE: Our Thoughts on “The Tsuranga Conundrum”

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

Elizabeth Edwards (@twoesonename on Twitter) is an aspiring writer and singer, currently spending her days chipping away at her first novel and writing one-act plays, in between various loads of homework. She’d really rather not pick between the Eleventh and Twelve Doctors, as she loves them both dearly, so she’d probably say her favourite Doctor was Moffat’s Doctor (best part being you can include Clara under that broad definition).

Arthur Lockridge (@strikingtwelve1 on Twitter) is a writer (as yet unpublished, but watch this space), couch-surfer, and occasional voice actor. Under a different pseudonym, he is the Twelfth Doctor. His favourite Doctor is Peter Capaldi.

Header picture by Esterath (@finlay_hs)

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TIBERIAN THOUGTS – Sheffield Steel, or a Subjective Look at the Thirteenth Doctor #4: “Arachnids in the UK”

In its fourth hour, series 11 of Doctor Who is taking a bit of a turn.

It’s subtle, but it’s there – the first three stories, with their impeccable present/future/past rhythm, were very much establishing a vision. Now, we are pushing the themes deeper. Not that you’d necessarily notice it – more than any of the previous entries this year, this is a spin around a familiar genre. A nice sweet satirical monster runaround. And yet …

There’s still something odd, haunting the margins of the story. If Moffat was about making statements, Chibnall is proving to be a writer who finds purpose in incompleteness – the Doctor, in finding her vocation as someone who helps the little people from their own level, their own perspective, also loses the ability to wrap things in a neat little bow. Spiders still crawl under the surface of Sheffield. The Trump-like businessman figure waltzes off unharmed.

Of course, one can look at that and go “Chibnall is a mediocre writer who can’t tie a plot together to save his life”. And well, that’s their prerogative – and one that’s hard to disprove: I don’t personally know the guy. However, when faced with the choice of seeing something as meaningful or just arbitrary, I’m inclined to always go with the former, not just because it makes the internet less of a toxic wasteland, but also because it’s plain more interesting.

… Also, there’s the fact the episode mostly turns out to be about that.

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GUEST POST – Enlightenment of the Daleks: a Theory of their History

by James Blanchard

 

“Temmosus: We’ve changed over the centuries. Why shouldn’t they? The once famous warrior race of Thals are now farmers.

Dyoni: But the Daleks were teachers, weren’t they, Temmosus?

Temmosus: And philosophers.

Ganatus: Perhaps they are the warriors now.”[1]

In Dialectic of Enlightenment, Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno (building on Hegel) posit that the earliest humans realised themselves as individuals, or separate selves from the rest of the world, when confronted with nature. The tree or mountain or waterfall becomes the Other, the thing which the Self realises it separate from. But more than that, the encounter with nature is awful and terrifying, for nature holds absolute power over the early human; it can grant them favour or destroy them entirely. For that reason, the worship of nature and the association of ancient gods with natural forces is common in ancient societies – the forces of life and death are transformed into gods and demons.[2]

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BIT OF ADRENALINE, DASH OF OUTRAGE – Our Thoughts on “Arachnids in the UK”

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

Anouk Van Rossum (@vranouk on Twitter) is a bookseller with a vested interest in queer representation in media. When not reading, she can be found writing, or talking about Doctor Who to anyone who will listen. Her favourite Doctor is either Paul McGann or Peter Capaldi.  Don’t make her choose, it’s too difficult.

Emma Jones (@milkwithginseng on Twitter) is an aspiring artist and writer. She first gained attention for her article on transgender themes in Doctor Who for the Time Ladies blog. Since then she has written various thinkpieces and reviews of the show and appeared on the Galactic Yo-Yo podcast. Her favourite Doctor is Jodie Whittaker.

Header picture by Esterath (@finlay_hs)

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TIBERIAN THOUGHTS – Sheffield Steel, or a Subjective Look at the Thirteenth Doctor #3: “Rosa”

Indispensable preface – this is written by a clueless white person. With that out of the way …

 

History is a matter of narratives.

There’s no such thing as an objective historical progression from point A to point B – history is framed by stories, by people interpreting the data and shaping it into a form that makes sense. And this is not something you can opt out of. You were born with privilege? Well, like Graham in this story, even if you “don’t want to be part of this”, tough luck. You’re born in a certain country? You’re going to have to deal with you belonging to this country, and to its historical weight and legacy. Your skin is a certain colour? Good luck escaping the baggage there – because people’s understanding of history is based on sometimes very crude constructs: if you’re a black person of Senegalese origin living in France, for instance, chances are Rosa Parks’ actions had a really rather limited effect on you and your family; but people will still put your existence, and the historical facts of your existence, in relation to her, because symbols are easier to understand – and by extension, you yourself are going to have to try and understand how she fits with your personal history and life.

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BIT OF ADRENALINE, DASH OF OUTRAGE – Our Thoughts on “Rosa”

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

Zoe Lance (@SJANeverending on Twitter) is a fan-fic writer extraordinaire, best known for her work on The Sarah Jane Adventures and the creation of The Never Ending Universe, a collaborative offshoot of the Doctor Who universe.  Her favourite Doctor is Matt Smith.

Ruth Long (@UndiscoveredAdv on Twitter) is a writer, amateur graphic designer, and animal lover, best-known as the co-lead writer of Clara Oswald: The Untold Adventures, a fan-written project following the character of Clara after the events of Hell Bent.  You can also catch her on the odd Who podcast, writing meta, or waffling about this, that, or the other on forums.  Her favourite Doctor is Peter Capaldi (and if she’s being really cheeky, Jenna Coleman).

Header picture by Esterath (@finlay_hs)

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