GUEST POST – The Power of the Storyteller: the underrated genius of “Sleep No More” and the late Moffat era

by Z. P. Moo

 

I’m a big fan of series nine of revived Doctor Who. That’s not exactly a secret, but I might as well repeat it. So naturally with it making the leap to Netflix UK recently I took the opportunity to revisit it. Not that I hadn’t rewatched it all before a number of times, but any excuse will do!

But there was always one episode which I had found myself skipping over – the ninth episode of the season “Sleep No More” written by Mark Gatiss. However the way Netflix works shows you how far through an episode you’ve got to, and this one sat there staring at me, making me feel guilty that I hadn’t watched it yet. So I gave in and decided to fix that. I was watching Sleep No More for the first time since its initial broadcast.

And what I found was an episode much cleverer than I’d remembered.

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GUEST POST – “The Next Doctor”: a defence and analysis

by Z.P. Moo

 

As Christmas approaches and we await the coming of “Twice Upon A Time and all its various exciting milestones, it seems a good time to look back at one of the previous annual Doctor Who Christmas Specials to see what it has to offer.

I have no shortage of options for which one to go to. The 2017 one will be the thirteenth such special (How fitting!) and that’s before we start counting that one episode from 1965 and a few of the audios. But I thought that maybe I would go to the 2008 effort, titled “The Next Doctor and written by Russell T Davies.

It’s not a very popular episode but I think that’s unfair. I think it’s extremely prophetic of what RTD’s successor Steven Moffat would go on to, with a study of who and what the Doctor is, and it also deserves praise for exploring some very dark and complex themes that fit perfectly in the narrative that the story tells. Not to mention a generally excellent handling of the Cybermen.

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GUEST POST – “Gridlock”: Alone Together

by Ricky Starr

 

Gridlock“, Russell T Davies’ 2007 masterpiece, is nothing short of a masterclass in storytelling, and a powerful examination of humanity at its very core. The episode is often overlooked, but its contemplation of human inter-reliance, as well as the nature of hope and desolation, is deeply stirring and powerfully insightful. Indeed, it is absolutely bursting with ideas- it is arguably one of the most concept-heavy, concept-driven episodes in Doctor Who history, and yet every single idea within it carries resonance and manages to hold court at least briefly in a meaningful way.

The central concept, of course, is the idea of humanity being separated for eternity in cars, and it is the separation that emphasises the reliance of people on others. Within the episode, we see a variety of guest characters separated from others in the same situation, who are also isolated, and separated from society as a whole, which is represented by the over-city. What does this isolation do to a person? To what extent do people rely on contact and indeed order? It is this that RTD considers most blatantly throughout.

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GUEST POST – Whoniverse, Bring Out Your Dead: Death, Resurrection, and the Obligations of Doctor Who – Part One: On the nature and responsibilities of fiction

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. I’ve been following the controversy and find it interesting that the general anti-resurrection argument has shifted from “Moffat should not kill companions” to “If Moffat is going to kill a companion, they need to stay dead.” As one Redditor put it:

“People don’t care that he doesn’t want to kill his characters. People care that he keeps repeatedly killing them, and then bringing them back. Either kill them, or don’t, because what he’s doing right now is cheapening death entirely. It’s difficult to take any kind of death seriously when it’s so easily undone all the time.”

The Redditor also said that Moffat apparently doesn’t really understand these criticisms, and I’m quite sad about that because that means nobody has really mounted an effective counterargument to these (excellent and very valid) points. Not that that’s a problem, necessarily. Maybe this is all just gut feelings in the end, and I have a gut feeling that dead characters do not have to stay dead, but you have a gut feeling that dead characters have to stay dead, and we should all just take a deep breath and get off the Internet. Nonetheless, I’m going to be that person who insists there’s some deep reason behind everything. So let’s get to it.

I’ve noticed a lot of assumptions implicit in the anti-resurrection argument as represented here and elsewhere, so I’d like to dissect what I think are the five main ones. 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 first part asks whether death in fiction has to work like death in real life, and whether resurrection is technologically possible in the Whoniverse.

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GUEST POST: Philosophy is only philosophy in Extremis

by James Blanchard

Steven Moffat’s “Extremis” is one of the few episodes of Doctor Who ever to illicit a physical reaction from me. I spent every minute, of the last ten minutes, saying “oh noooo” as the truth of the story was revealed. I spent another ten minutes just thinking about it afterwards, not because it confused or annoyed me, but rather I was amazed at the sheer amount of philosophical critique and content poured into such a short amount of time.

Extremis” is one of the most overtly philosophical Doctor Who stories ever – in fact, the whole episode acts like a critical timeline of the practice. The story starts in the Vatican, in the ancient, classical world, dealing with classical philosophy of essence and ethics; it ends in the Oval Office, in the modern (or even post-modern) age, with the characters facing the harsh reality of a staggeringly indifferent world. To me, “Extremis” was a fascinating exercise in the use of the Doctor Who universe and its characters to describe how it can be possible to live a good and virtuous life in an ultimately existential universe.

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GUEST POST – What Difference Would One Good Dalek Make?: Clara Oswald and the Daleks

by Ruth Long

How do you get into a Dalek’s head?

Steven Moffat is known for finding new and creative methods of exploring a monster almost as old as Doctor Who itself. The unnerving corruption of the nanocloud, the horrific Dalek sewers, the revelation that their own casing is built to censor and distort the words and intentions of the being inside. But perhaps most intriguing is his use of the Daleks in relation to his characters, and one specific character in particular. In her duration on the show, Clara Oswald has been placed within a Dalek shell no less than three times. On each of these occasions the circumstances have varied greatly, yet there’s something rather fascinating about such an unusual recurring theme, and even more so the curious manner in which it’s consistently framed.

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GUEST POST: Dark Eyes Dissection #2

by Z. P. Moo

After the financial success of the first series of Dark Eyes it was hardly a surprise when Big Finish commissioned a follow-up boxset and so along came the creatively titled Dark Eyes 2. For this release Big Finish went more into the extensive back-catalogue of their Doctor Who stories and brought in a few more familiar elements alongside the 8th Doctor and Molly O’Sullivan.

One of these returning elements is the character of Liv Chenka, played by Nicola Walker, returning from an encounter with the 7th Doctor that was seen in the Monthly Range story Robophobia. Another thing to return to Doctor Who there is the Eminence, a universal gaseous consciousness that the 4th and 6th Doctors had both encountered – the Doctor’s previous confrontation with it had ended with a dormant piece of the creature inside his head (this will be a major plot point later). We also have some giant robots call Viyrans, which had featured in a handful of other releases. But the biggest headline has to be that Alex MacQueen’s Master is back. Following an acclaimed debut in UNIT: Dominion (he’s undoubtedly the highlight of that story), it was only a matter of time before he showed up again and this time we get some context as to where he fits into the timeline of that character. I don’t want to get into review mode here, since I’m aiming to analyse and not review, but he is so damn perfect for the part that whoever decided to cast him should be given an award. Anyone who has seen him in literally anything he’s ever been in would surely have had him pegged as a candidate for playing the role, and he totally delivers.

I’ll save more of my gushing praise for his performance until we get to Eyes of the Master and pretty much everything in Dark Eyes 3, but why do I draw attention to these things now? Because by including them Big Finish give a statement of intent: Dark Eyes 2 is going to be a much bigger story, the stakes are higher, and it’s more connected to the wider canon we’ve created.” One might argue that by your saying this you’ve set yourself up for failure, but we shall see.

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GUEST POST: Dark Eyes Dissection #1

by Z.P. Moo

Dark Eyes, or Dark Eyes 1 as it’s retroactively known, picks up the pieces where the finale to Big Finish’s Eighth Doctor Adventures (EDAs) left off. Where that set ended the Doctor has just lost some friends. Not only have two companions, Lucie and Tamsin, been killed during a fight with the Daleks but also his great-grandson Alex. There are arguments you could make that this is a serious case of fridging and I won’t really bother to argue because that assertion is probably and unfortunately correct. But that’s not really what I’m here to talk about, if you want me to go off on one about why the practise of fridging is bad then you’ll have to wait for my analysis of Dark Eyes 4’s finale, so let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

The cover debuts a new look for this incarnation suggesting he has moved on to a new chapter in his eighth life. Gone are the long flowing hair and the Lord Byron ensemble, in their place come a more practical shorter hairstyle and a leather jacket, the latter of which will be a mainstay for the two incarnations that follow this one. Is that a deliberate choice of foreshadowing? Although the War Doctor was still unknown to us at this point we cannot say the same of the Time War. From his new costume alone we can see that the Doctor is growing closer to what he shall become during the Time War. And there are indeed hints that such a conflict is on the horizon, which we shall see as we go on through the Dark Eyes saga. You could accuse me of reading too much into it, but the point of the new look for the Doctor is clear enough: He’s just learned the hard way that the universe doesn’t play fair and after the tripple-whammie of To The Death he’s had enough. This is where we pick up the story in the opening entry, The Great War.

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