SCARVES AND CELERY – Sick of losing people: Unpacking “The Girl Who Died”

The Girl Who Died” remains nothing short of incredible: the dialogue is spot on, in turns hilarious, poetic, pointed, and philosophical. Its exploration of themes surrounding masculinity and warrior culture, gender roles, storytelling, personal identity, and loss are expertly developed; it’s beautifully shot; the characterisation for the leads is spot on; it uses comedy to make serious points, and the final ten minutes are among the best parts of New Who.

Its central trick is much the same as the one “Vincent and the Doctor” employs, telling a seemingly run of the mill Doctor Who monster story/ historical romp that wraps up in 35 minutes because the key beats are so familiar, and use the extra time for a coda that makes the story have a lasting, powerful impact. But this episode does have one major advantage over “Vincent and the Doctor”: it’s written by Jamie Mathieson and Steven Moffat, who have more visible passion for the seemingly generic Doctor Who stories than Richard Curtis, so use this knowledge to craft a historical romp that has been made with a lot of skill and remarkable depth.

Continue reading

SCARVES AND CELERY – “Egggggsssss”: An analysis of “Asylum of the Daleks”

When I last rewatched “Asylum”, I wasn’t expecting to enjoy it as much as I did. But it’s a visible step up from Moffat’s preceding three scripts, as he manages to put together an efficient and skilfully constructed episode, after the hot messes of “Let’s Kill Hitler”, “The Wedding of River Song”, and “The Doctor, the Widow, and the Wardrobe”. “Asylum” isn’t quite Moffat back to his best, but it is a strong episode that dares to try something new, confidently setting out the new style for its season.

Continue reading

SCARVES AND CELERY – “The Image of an Angel”: a thematic dissection of “The Time of Angels/ Flesh and Stone”

Remember early series five? When Matt Smith was all baby faced, we didn’t know who River was yet, and the Moffat era was in its infancy. What an exciting and new time that was. Today, we’re to revisit the story I feel best captures that time in Doctor Who’s history: “The Time of Angels/ Flesh and Stone”, and examine the key themes and concerns animating the story, and the Moffat era as it was just beginning.

Continue reading

SCARVES AND CELERY – “When I was a Child”: “In the Forest of the Night” and “My Neighbour Totoro”

Ghibli movies are generally good to compare to “In the Forest of the Night”, a favourite story of ours here at DoWntime, because like “In the Forest”, they really push their ecological and environmental themes, and usually structure these themes around coming of age stories. So once again, I’m diving into the back catalogue of Ghibli movies, and comparing the delightful “My Neighbour Totoro” to Frank Cottrell Boyce’s season eight story. Today, let’s look at these stories through their approach to the theme of childhood, with a brief look at the way the environmentalist thread in both stories supports that theme.

Continue reading

SCARVES AND CELERY – Extra Post – “Always Mercy”: The Subversion of the “The Killing Joke” and the Power of Compassion in “The Magician’s Apprentice/ The Witch’s Familiar”

To kick off a series of Dalek themed posts that will be posted on the website this week, I’m sharing an edited version of a post that I originally wrote for my personal blog. Original content will be shared in my slot next Friday. – Scarves

“The Magician’s Apprentice/ The Witch’s Familiar” is a marvelous start to series nine. It’s probably the Moffat two-parter I like the least, but it’s still a great story. As in series six, we start a series with a pre established TARDIS team, and no new introductions to make, so Moffat dives in with a big kitchen sink two part story to set up a season that shakes up the current format of a Doctor Who season, this time by giving us a season that is largely comprised of two parters (although this is complex, and we’ll get to why in a couple of posts time). There is a shameless parade of deep continuity, as we get an opening featuring The Shadow Proclamation, the Maldovarium, The Sisterhood of Karn, and UNIT, before diving into a story that focuses on the dynamics between the Doctor, Davros, Clara and Missy, and this may be a little much. But the story makes the continuity work, handling the references in a thoughtful and non-alienating way, and giving us a character focused pair of episodes that get less showy and more thoughtful the further we go towards the story’s climax.

Continue reading

SCARVES AND CELERY – “If this is the end, then so it shall be”: “Hallelujah Money”, “Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind”, and “In the Forest of the Night”

Sometimes, it’s useful to place Doctor Who in a wider cultural landscape, to see how the themes it explores are put to use in other pieces of popular culture. So today, we’re going to look at season eight story “In the Forest of the Night” alongside the proto-Studio Ghibli film “Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind”, and the Gorillaz song, “Hallelujah Money”, and see how the the themes of the three texts intersect and contrast to form an unsettling but powerful commentary on the world we live in today.

Continue reading

SCARVES AND CELERY – Turning People into Things: The Late Moffat Era and Animal Rights

When Sherlock delivers the line “This isn’t torture, this is vivisection. We’re experiencing science from the perspective of lab rats” in “The Final Problem”, I was willing to bet I’d spotted a piece of dialogue scripted by Steven Moffat, even if figuring out who wrote what in a co write is always a tricky job, as a subtle protest for animal rights has bled through a few of his scripts in recent years. The first example of such a line comes in “The Bells of St John”, when Ms Kizlet claims “Nobody loves Cattle more than Burger King“. There is a remarkably similar line in “The Girl Who Died” Jamie Mathieson’s most recent brilliant addition to Doctor Who that nonetheless features a Moffat co-credit: when gloating about his false Valhalla, Odin asks “What is a god but the cattle’s name for farmer? What is heaven but the gilded door of the abattoir?“, a line that, given the similar lines in other scripts where Moffat is the recurring author (even if he is only the sole author of “Bells of St John“), I suspect was written by Moffat, not Mathieson. So let’s examine each line, their context within their respective episodes, and find out what we can learn both about the topic of animal rights, and of what we can learn about the ideas animating Steven Moffat’s era of Doctor Who at large.

Continue reading

SCARVES AND CELERY: Extra Post – On Bill Potts, Sexuality in Doctor Who, and Fandom Reactions

A few days ago, it was recently announced that Bill Potts, the new companion for series 10 of Doctor Who, will be gay. This is, as far as we’re concerned, a very good thing. And plenty of fans, LGBT and straight, agree.

Christel Dee, host of the Doctor Who fan show, tweeted:

“It means so much see someone like me in my favourite TV show. Representation is so important.”

Similarly, tumblr blogger and prominent fan critic Whovian Feminism, had the following response to the news:

“There’s going to be someone on screen like me in Doctor Who that loves women. My heart is going to burst with joy.”

These are just a couple of the many overjoyed reactions that have been seen all across fandom in the last few days. There has, meanwhile, been a more critical strand of response to the news (beyond the inevitable overt homophobia, which really isn’t worth dignifying with a response). It’s not one that I agree with, obviously, but it’s a response that’s worth analyzing, and placing in the context of fandom today, the history of Doctor Who as a show, and the way these things intersect to demonstrate some things worth understanding about sexuality, and the way we as a culture respond to different expressions of sexuality.

Continue reading

SCARVES AND CELERY – “You can’t change nature!”: Race Essentialism, Vegetarianism and a dissection of “The Two Doctors”

“The Two Doctors” is a deeply personal story for its writer, Doctor Who legend Robert Holmes. The previous time he wrote from a really personal perspective: this wasn’t an entirely positive thing: he wrote “The Sun Makers”, a reactionary rant about the evils of taxes. The story itself isn’t necessarily reactionary, certainly Phil Sandifer makes a very convincing argument in favour of it. But in a world where conservative politicians advocate for the reduction of corporation tax to continue lining their own pockets, and the pockets of the corporations that fund them, a story coming from such a place has uncomfortably ugly undertones. It’s a thread of uncomfortable politics that runs through much of the work of Holmes, and that reactionary thread can definitely be explored in the context of “The Two Doctors”, and as such will form a part of this essay. However, this story comes from a very different personal experience: just before time he wrote “The Two Doctors”, Holmes converted to vegetarianism. Writing a story that comes from this experience shows a slightly more tender side to Holmes, one that counterbalances his famed cynicism in a way that I do greatly appreciate. And yet, that reactionary side to the Holmes I mentioned, that’s also there throughout “The Two Doctors”. In many ways, the story is an ideal demonstration of Holmes’s strengths and weaknesses, and unpacking it reveals a lot about both his approach to Doctor Who, and Doctor Who in general, due to Holmes’s massive influence on the show. As such, unpacking the story is what we’re going to do.

Continue reading