ASSESSING STRESS, AUDIO EDITION: Short Trip – “A Heart on Both Sides”

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. Spoilers after the “read more” tag.

And today, Tibère and Scribbles tackle Big Finish’ latest short trip, following Nyssa at the heart of the Time War. Beware terrorists, and keep on reading.

 

Spoiler-free thoughts

TIBERE: Big Finish has started, of late, to use its Short Trips range (which are, in case you reader are not aware, short thirty-minutes stories with one or two actors) to tackle some New Who themes and characters – we got Ten and Eleven meeting Jago & Litefoot earlier this year, and it happens that today, just as we were starting to write this talk, they announced that Jackie Tyler would star along the Metacrisis Doctor in two stories by Joseph Lidster next year. So, well, we had to get on that train and start reviewing those, hadn’t we? Because seeing how Big Finish tackles and problematizes the New Series, well, that’s kind of our job, I suppose. So here we go, writing about the two Time War stories they are releasing: one with Nyssa this month, and another with Susan in October.

SCRIBBLES: I must admit, I was pretty cynical about the idea. In general, I don’t think third person narration is the strongest angle Big Finish has in its wheelhouse, and I tend to worry that the shorter stories give less space to develop. And while there are a few aspects of this story I’d have liked more time to expand on, it surpasses all expectations and really, really works. It finds some fantastic moments of meaning in juxtaposing its lead characters, all to shine a light on an aspect of the Time War that has generally not been developed despite being a vital piece. It works. Very well.

TIBERE: I think the background BF has in short story anthologies (like the Bernice Summerfield ones they use to release as tie-ins to the audios) really help them to create really short, but effective little stories. A strong concept that doesn’t overstay its welcome and explores some really fascinating thematic ground – really, the interaction of Old and New is something Big Finish tends to do very well (look at Doom Coalition), and this is no exception. It’s a gripping, political, extremely-well written little tale, and I think it’s fair to say it has put newcomer Rob Nisbet (who has so far only penned a Companion Chronicle and this) on our watchlist of writers to watch out for. Strongly recommended (plus, it’s cheap!).

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ASSESSING STRESS, AUDIO EDITION: The New Adventures of Bernice Summerfield, volume IV – Ruler of the Universe

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. Spoilers are tagged accordingly.

And today, Tibère and Scribbles sink into a therapist’s couch to talk about the latest entry in everyone’s favourite time-travelling archelogist’s adventures (well, maybe not if you prefer River).

 

Spoiler-free thoughts:

TIBERE: This … This is interesting. It’s also very good, but above all, it’s interesting. We both love Bernice Summerfield and her audios, and I think it’s fair to say we both have enjoyed the New Adventures range quite a lot (volume I, especially, being one of the best Big Finish releases of all time). But they have had their problems – throwing the Doctor, be it the Seventh Incarnation, or the Unbound, David Warner-played one, wasn’t without certain problems. The focus on Benny’s own personal life, and the struggles she had to face as a single mother and the leader of a vast ragtag bunch of misfits were largely gone, replaced by strong, but much typically Doctor Who-ish narratives (down to the theme song, which has shifted to the Who theme since 2014).

SCRIBBLES: This set is a pretty finely-crafted character arc, and I really have to give a lot of kudos to the fine writing on that. And yet, and I hate to say this, it doesn’t really have all that much Benny in it. This is David Warner’s showcase, and he excels, but it’s hard not to miss the title character, all the same.

TIBERE: I’m probably a bit more positive than you on it – because yes, while it doesn’t change the problems the range has had before and still has, it at least draws attention upon them. The Doctor’s presence is relevant here in a way it wasn’t necessarily before – and the whole set felt like a very pointed, very relevant, and oh so very James Goss-esque interrogation on the relationship between Benny and the Doctor, and between the Classic and modern versions of the show.

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ASSESSING STRESS, AUDIO EDITION: Monthly Range – “Time in Office”

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. Spoilers-free, and then less spoiler-free thoughts follow after the ‘read more’ tag.

And today, Tibère and Scribbles tackle the latest Monthly Range entry, Eddie Robson’s “Time in Office”. Rise, gentlemen and ladies, the council is now in session.

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An Update Post ™: September 2017

Times, they are a-changin’.

Well. Yes, and no. Doctor Who is still good. We still love it. We still want to keep writing about it.

But sometimes, Stuff Happens.

You will have noticed that September was a bit of a hectic month as far as schedules go – certain posts didn’t go up at all, other were delayed, and there wasn’t any regular BF coverage. There are a lot of reasons for that – first, all three of us are students, and well, September is when we get back to our books and libraries and existential dread (the Three Pillars of College, as anyone will tell you), with all the administrative fuckery and other problems that it entails. And then, well, let’s just say some of us have had a very rocky month as far as personal life and mental health go – and not dwell on that.

Hopefully, we’re going to be able to go back to a steadier pace in the coming months – however, Scarves, who recently has been (congratulations to him!) accepted in a teacher formation, is going to step back from the site for a little bit to focus on said studies. Don’t worry, he’s going nowhere (we have his adress and bloodhounds) and should be back in a couple months or so, but in the meantime, he’s going to take a little break.

However, as a compensation, Scribbles has recentely started to work, as you will have noticed, on a big project: a sixteen-parts retrospective of the Big Finish series Doom Coalition, called “Democracy of Chaos”. The first part was uploaded early this morning, and (this is the important bit), the next one will go up next week. That’s right, The Truth Snake is going weekly for a bit!

So, that’s the jist of it, really. Assessing Stress and guest posts will still go up at more-or-less regular intervals; Looking for Telos every week on Tuesday (or at least we’ll try to aim for Tuesday); and Tiberian Thoughts every other week. We have some nice projects lined up for next year, too, but shush. Spoilers.

Thank you all for continuing to read this very silly, very pompous blog!

Sam, Andrew and Kevin

 


Additionally, have a list of the next releases to be reviewed in the Assessing Stress column:

  • Main Range: Time in Office
  • Short Trip: A Heart on Both Sides
  • The New Adventures of Bernice Summerfield: Volume IV – Ruler of the Universe

THE TRUTH SNAKE – Democracy of Chaos (1/16): “The Eleven”

What was Doctor Who in 2016? In the midst of one of the most tumultuous political years in recent history, between Brexit and Donald Trump and all the like, Doctor Who was a ghost. Not until Christmas did it return and make a light and fluffy statement that would define the approach the following year, crafting a safe space of recovery. But in the midst of that devastating year, the Doctor was silent.

However, in the shadows, some remarkable things happened. I have discussed before how perfectly fitting the spinoff series “Class” was at finding a space for Doctor Who in the midst of such a moment of political wounding. But there was one other series that fit distinctly in this moment, bridging the show through a year of chaos for the progressive world to the reparative show of 2017. Big Finish’s Doom Coalition.

This marks the beginning of a sixteen-part series breaking down the sixteen story-long saga released from late 2015 to early 2017, in connection with the current state of the televised show, world politics, and the series’ own internal themes. Each entry is likely to feature full spoilers for not only for the individual story discussed, but the arc as a whole, which was planned from the beginning with reprecussions criss-crossing forwards and backwards across its entirety.

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LOOKING FOR TELOS – “The Sensorites”

τέλος • (télosn (genitive τέλεος or τέλους); third declension

completion, accomplishment, fulfillment, perfection, consummation

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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SCARVES AND CELERY – Crossing the Threshold: Looking Back at “Rose”

He already had, and would go on to, write better episodes of television, but “Rose” is RTD’s greatest ever achievement as a writer. Against all the odds, he successfully relaunched an old cult sci-fi show that hadn’t been regularly on air for 16 years, and according to all industry experts and media commentators, was out of place in the 21st century. To pull the show’s triumphant return off in that context is hugely impressive, and to write an episode that still sparkles in its own way, and carries the promise of further brilliance is no mean feat.

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LOOKING FOR TELOS: “The Aztecs”

τέλος • (télosn (genitive τέλεος or τέλους); third declension

completion, accomplishment, fulfillment, perfection, consummation

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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GUEST POST – Whoniverse, Bring Out Your Dead: Death, resurrection, and the obligations of Doctor Who – Part 4: On the obligations of Who as a family show

by A.L. Belmont

 

With the last two companion departures, a great deal of discussion has sprung up about whether Steven Moffat is justified in apparently killing off companions and resurrecting them within a short time frame. There are a lot of assumptions implicit in the argument against resurrection, so in this article series, I’ll analyze what I think are the five key assumptions.

Parts 1 and 2 of this series treat the death-resurrection combination in the abstract. Part 3 examines the specific cases of Clara and Bill, and part 4 looks at death and resurrection in the context of the show’s ethos. This fourth part evaluates the death-resurrection sequence in the context of Doctor Who as a family show that seeks to impart edifying lessons.

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TIBERIAN THOUGHTS – Goodnight Moon, I want the Sun

Kill the Moon“.

Now that is one hell of a mountain to climb. Not just because it is a key episode in series 8’ arc (and really, in character arcs that expand all the way to series 10 and the end of the Capaldi era). Not just because it is a complicated mess of jumbled thematic throughlines. But also because it is a little bit controversial. Tiny bit. Teensy tiny.

The amount of sheer, vicious hatred that story generated is kind of impressive. With a large chunk of the fandom also praising the episode, it degenerated into a not-so-civil war of rather impressive proportions. I was there, I saw it, it was brutal. Now, things have calmed down a bit. Maybe the broadcast of the possibly even more divisive “Hell Bent” soothed that rift. Then again, the conflict surrounding “Hell Bent” and the one surrounding “Kill the Moon” are very different. “Hell Bent” kickstarted something that is, at its core, nothing more than a war of aesthetics – the tradition, the mythos, the figure of the Doctor, on one side; the reinvention, the feminist subversion, and the problematic role of the companion on the other. Considering the ideological positions of this site, there’s not much point in telling you about which of these aesthetics we consider to be the best one for the show and the one that most accurately represents it, in spite of all the YouTube edgelords protesting that the episode is an unreviewable piece of garbage. But the point is that both sides have a relatively solid position – “solid” is not a synonym of “justified” or “valid”, but at least there are two sides with a couple of big arguments there. The text of the episode is not really the key feature of the discussion – unless you belong to this strange category of people that claim to have understood nothing about the episode while confessing they weren’t paying attention to it.

Kill the Moon” is unique, in that while it was and still is the subject of oh so many debates, nobody seems to be able to agree on whatever the hell it’s about. The battle, here, is very much about the text of the episode, and how to interpret it, and above all, what the fuck that text even is in the first place. That is, if you ignore those dismissing the story on the grounds of its scientific and chronological (within the show’s diegesis) inaccuracy. Which you should, because it’s the most boring argument one person can ever make about Who.

So here we have our question. What is “Kill the Moon” about?

Here’s a possible answer, from someone who loved the episode on first watch, hated it on second, didn’t understand anything on third, and now is back to loving it on fifth.

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