TIBERIAN THOUGHTS – “Sherlock is Garbage and Here’s Why” is Garbage, and Here’s Why: Critical Perspectives on a YouTuber’s reception of Sherlock (4/4)


by William Shaw


It’s all the more infuriating, because Sherlock has offered a much better self-critique than any of its YouTube detractors. Unsurprisingly, it comes in series four. Series four, of course, is the story of Sherlock tearing itself apart, beginning by killing off its best character, and meticulously unravelling everything that made the show unique, eventually collapsing into a nice and simple series of detective yarns too boring to broadcast, a hellish condemnation to single vision and Newton’s sleep.

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TIBERIAN THOUGHTS – “Sherlock is Garbage and Here’s Why” is Garbage, and Here’s Why: Critical Perspectives on a YouTuber’s reception of Sherlock (3/4)


by Samuel Maleski


Sherlock Holmes after all is mostly an attitude and a few dozen lines of unforgettable dialogue

– Raymond Chandler, “The Simple Art of Murder”

Doctor Who and Sherlock Holmes have a surprising number of similarities, when you get down to it. Not just the fact their most recent iterations were both supervised by Steven Moffat. And of course there’s the whole matter of the crossovers between the two, with Big Finish producing some detectives drama of its own, the Virgin New Adventure book “All-Consuming Fire”, later adapted into an audio, or Bernice Summerfield’s “Adventure of the Diogenes Damsel”, where James Cooray Smith has the time-traveler meet Mycroft Holmes and fight an army of Doctor-worshipping clones. No, something simpler – both are far and away from the very simple, chronological life of many cultural franchises, and closer to a vast, out-of-control forest of ideas. I mean, it was the Doyle fandom that first came up with the modern meaning of the term “canon”, until then reserved to Biblical Studies: precisely because, between the Doyle originals, themselves with their share of strange zones of shadows and lapses, and tons of referenced but unseen adventures, and the multiple sequels, prequels, midquels, and rewritings (go rate my Alternate Universe fic where Moriarty is actually a product of Sherlock’s drug-addled mind, it’s called “The Seven Per Cent Solution” and it even has Sigmund Freud!), it became hard to quantify things.

Basically, they’re both clusterfucks.

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Welcome to DoWntime’s not-too-regular column, Assessing Stress. That’s where we assess … stress. Or more accurately, talk and debate about the newest episodes to hit the television screen, the new releases from Big Finish, and all these good things.

And today, we are meeting bears, cat people, new humans and gay trees as Tibère and Scribbles grab their backpacks and explore New Earth. So why don’t grab a bottle of sap (and mind spoilers after the ‘read more’ tag) and follow them!


Spoiler-free thoughts:

TIBERE: Well, this was a breath of fresh air, really. Big Finish is often summed up as being torn between a “odd, ambitious and experimental” poll and a “curating the tradition” one, but they have an entire branch of stories who don’t really fit these categories and instead just focus on being pure raw fun with loveable and precious characters. Jago & Litefoot is the one that springs to mind – and really, this feels a bit like a continuation of it in a way. Not exactly in tone and aesthetics – it’s bigger and brasher and queerer, as adapting Davies demands – but certainly in that it provides that wonderfully easy-listening feel of sliding into a familiar, fun setting. There are good politics, good characters, good representation, and a lot of really absurd ideas. It’s not the greatest thing ever, but it’s a joy to listen to – that’s certainly helped by a really slick and tight production, too. No, really, it’s just a really nice and enjoyable listen. Good stuff.

SCRIBBLES: I think the word for this set is “fun.” It takes the bombast, campy strangeness that Russell T Davies’ alien worlds were known for and fills it with heart and joy, while finding a few places to talk about the importance of diversity along the way. Does the world need “Tales of New Earth?” Probably not. But we’re very fortunate to have it, and I think it’s one of the freshest and most undemandingly enjoyable spinoff series Big Finish has had. I’d recommend it quite highly, and I think it’s something that should be encouraged and supported to continue into further series. It has, for a weird little corner series, shockingly high production value, with some of the finest music Big Finish has ever had, fine ideas, fine new characters, and some truly delightful weirdness to enjoy. And really, I think, no Doctor Who audio to come in 2018 will be able to match the pleasure of a polar bear strapped to a jetpack while the sickest guitar riff ever blares triumphantly.

TIBERE: I mean, if that image fills you with delight–

SCRIBBLES: And unless you’re a soulless, wonderless monster, it should.

TIBERE: –then yeah, you can go buy this set in all good conscience. It’s full of moments like that. Plus, I mean, bears. And otters. And cats. It’s cute. It appeals to the part of my brain that binge-watches cat videos at three in the morning.

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TIBERIAN THOUGHTS – “Sherlock is Garbage and Here’s Why” is Garbage, and Here’s Why: Critical Perspectives on a YouTuber’s reception of Sherlock (2/4)


by Samuel Maleski


We are in front of someone who believes that it’s important to pay attention to the specificities of a piece of media – that it is the content of a text and its unique nature that should drive your analysis, not the pre-set expectations and narratives you bring to it (1). So let’s give him the luxury he denies Steven Moffat and try to see how these videos, and their many problems, fit into the larger context of his oeuvre – and that’s not a mocking word here: after all, why, in theory at least, shouldn’t a YouTube channel have the same intellectual legitimacy as a book or a TV show?

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TIBERIAN THOUGHTS – “Sherlock is Garbage and Here’s Why” is Garbage, and Here’s Why: Critical Perspectives on a YouTuber’s reception of Sherlock (1/4)

To this date, DoWntime’s most-read post is a rant about bad Moffat criticism, written in a few hours as an angry response to a video that really annoyed the hell out of me. It was a very enjoyable experience, although I wouldn’t count the finished product as my finest work, not by a long shot.

There has been several reproaches made to that short piece of analysis, on social media and in the comments of the site, about the unfairness of the criticisms raised against this video – as in it had not been given a proper hearing, so to speak. Well, since the author, YouTuber Hbomberguy, has decided to release a second video about Moffat, this time tackling the supposed failings of “Twice Upon A Time“, it’s as good a day as any to have a good, long think about what apparently has become a mainstream school of thought as far as the Scottish showrunner’s works are concerned.

To help me in this endeavour, I have recruited (a nice word for “dragged, kicking and screaming and forced to watch almost two hours of bad reviews at gunpoint”) DoWntime guest writer and media analyst person extraordinaire William Shaw, who has added two essays to the two I myself penned on the topic. By the way, you should absolutely check out his blog, it’s brilliant.

If you wish to get acquainted with the objects of our rants, let’s also provide in this introduction the links to the two videos in question:

This out of the way, let’s dive right in, shall we?

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LOOKING FOR TELOS – “The Myth Makers”

The Whoniverse is wide, and rich, and crazy.

And sometimes, bits of it go overlooked. There’s no way around it, we, at DoWntime, are children of the New Series. Our cultural sensibilities and our tastes in Who have been shaped by it. And of course, when we’re embarking in the big task of producing Discourse, we naturally tend to tackle recent events, controversies and stories. But that doesn’t mean the twenty-six seasons of Classic Who are undeserving of some in-depth coverage – and what better way to deliver said coverage than to watch it.

ALL of it. In order. Without skipping anything.

We’re looking for our telos, and it starts now.

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ASSESSING STRESS, AUDIO EDITION – Gallifrey: The Time War, volume I

Welcome to DoWntime’s not-too-regular column, Assessing Stress. That’s where we assess … stress. Or more accurately, talk and debate about the newest episodes to hit the television screen, the new releases from Big Finish, and all these good things.

And today, the Senate is in session with Tibère and Scribbles, as we discuss the new Gallifrey audios. Politics, Daleks, debates – and spoilers after the “read more” tag.


Spoiler-free thoughts:

SCRIBBLES: God, this has been in the works a long time, hasn’t it? The Master’s threads here were laid out months ago. Leela’s were dripped in a release a year ago. The new series Daleks turned up in Gallifrey for the first time in series 6 in 2013, paying off previous Dalek stories like 2000’s Apocalypse Elementand, of course, Genesis of the Daleksway back in the seventies. Big Finish has been weaving Gallifrey into the tapestry of the Time War before the Time War was even a thing, and as the new series sketched out its path, this reckoning has become increasingly inevitable. All of which is a lengthy way to say, for a story that’s been so long in the making, it’s not what anyone would have expected. I was not expecting something so angry and modern, entirely connected into the beating heart of the present political world, but that, for me, is the best possible thing it could be and exceeds all expectations. This set isn’t always perfect, but at its highest points, particularly in the closing hour, I think it’s the best Gallifrey has ever been by miles. Never before have the political shenanigans meant so much. That easily excuses the rougher table-setting patches for me, because the things this set has to say really do matter a lot.

TIBERE: I have a lot of complicated feelings about this release, I can’t lie. There are indeed some absolutely fantastic moments of engagement with modern politics, especially in the finale; the mad concepts one expects from a Time War set are there; and it’s always a joy to spend time with these characters. But, at the same time, it really left me cold – maybe because I thought Gallifrey’s last series, “Enemy Lines”, has found a sort of grace note on which to end our journey with this cast (and indeed, as Scott Handcock’s interview in February’s Vortex proves, it was originally supposed to be the finale of the range); maybe simply because Gallifrey isn’t necessarily the range that most appeals to me. It is most definitely an important release, an ambitious one, that tackles big political topics and even bigger Big Canon Events – but, behind all this, I don’t feel like it truly hits the soul and pathos of the War, and of these characters. With that said, with some of the most crucial canon events tackled, and with that ending, I remain very much interested in what Gallifrey has to say and in how it’s going to evolve. I just wish I could be more on board with the tone and specificities of what is admittedly a very fine set from a storytelling perspective.

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GUEST POST – The Wrong Doctor: Perspectives on “The Rebel Flesh” / “The Almost People”

by James Blanchard


The Rebel Flesh” and “The Almost People” – the two-part, 2011 story by Matthew Graham – is one of the strangest, weirdest, most infuriating episodes of Doctor Who I’ve ever watched. Part of me loves it, part of me hates; for all the nicely realised horror elements and moments, the superb visual language, the great performances and rich drawing of Amy, Rory and the Doctor, there’s a plot that’s impossible to follow, a pacing that lurches from action sequence to introspective conversation with nothing in-between, and incoherent motivations abound.

The story is open-ended, ambiguous, and not exactly clean in its execution. It is, then, precisely the kind of story to divide up us Doctor Who fans and leave us in love/hate country. But, despite it’s failings (magically appearing and disappearing sonic screwdrivers have given me a serious headache), I think this story is very much worthwhile talking about. There a few topics I want to touch on, but mostly the interest comes with the Doctor, and how, by the end, it’s hard to shake the feeling we’ve been left travelling with the wrong one.

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Welcome to DoWntime’s not-too-regular column, Assessing Stress. That’s where we assess … stress. Or more accurately, talk and debate about the newest episodes to hit the television screen, the new releases from Big Finish, and all these good things.

And today, Tibère and Scribbles get to tell you about one of their absolute favourite Big Finish ranges. Read it. Failure to comply will result in level 3 punishment. Spoilers after the ‘read more’ tag.


Spoiler-free thoughts:

SCRIBBLES: This is a genuinely excellent set, let’s just get that out of the way, because we’re going to feel repetitive saying that whatever happens. This is just a very good story. It capitalizes on every aesthetic strength Vienna as a range has previously established (and if you’re not familiar with that, go check out spotify right now) while finding new levels of political and emotional depth to thrive in. Retribution mixes the wonderful, twisty mind games of the range with the crime drama that Vienna has been exploring from series 2 and a newfound moral backbone (hot off the heels of the destruction of space capitalism in “Impossibly Glamorous”; seriously, do yourself a favor and listen to all of Vienna, that one has killer corgis, it’s great). This new series hits hard in all the best ways, while never being anything less than a joy to listen to. And what’s more, I think we both agree, it’s the sort of storytelling we need in the present climate. It’s escapist fun with some fantastic, fantastic ideals, and it’s more inclusive than the range has ever been, matching wonderfully with the activism lead actress Chase Masterson has been pursuing in real life. As a series, this is quite possibly the finest Vienna yet, and I would highly recommend this to everyone.

TIBERE: Vienna is one of the best ranges in all of the Big Finish back catalogue. Straight fact for you. And another – it’s also one of their most overlooked, while it offers some superb satire and social commentary through the prism of fun, incredibly intricate and well-plotted adventures starring a cast of strong, likeable female characters. With any luck, the release of this latest installment, which for the first time adopts the format of three-part overall story penned by a single author, Guy Adams, who had already wrote the stand-out episode of series 3 (“Big Society”, or Space Donald Trump vs Living Architecture, haven’t you got it by now, SERIOUSLY, LISTEN TO ALL OF VIENNA), will change things, because holy mother of god, this is some absolutely incredible audio content. The plotting is great, but that was to be expected; the social elements are biting and corrosive, but that was to be expected – no, where this boxset really surprises is in the way it has of taking the relatively simple set-up of Vienna, with its larger-than-life, purposefully stereotypical characters, and giving them a surprising amount of poignancy, complexity and conflict. It’s quite a big shift for the range, but one Adams pulls off incredibly well and naturally. It feels like a natural extension, like lovely, organic growth that allows leads Chase Masterson and Sam Béart to let their (considerable) acting abilities soar. It’s an absolute wonder, and it needs to be recognized as such. Buy it, spread the word, we need more Vienna in the world, because it honestly makes it a better place. There’s not going to be many audio Who stories this year which will top this.

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