TIBERIAN THOUGHTS – 2005 Didn’t Kill the Classic Stars: why the Who revival is good, actually

Some words before the article: as you may have noticed, the site hasn’t been update in a while. That’s due to two things: one, the fact that the people managing it, me included, have been insanely busy (I’m moving to another country! it takes time, and brainpower). Two: there are going to be some massive changes in how the site is managed, including columns being drastically altered or disappearing, and some arrivals and departures as far as the team is concerned. Normal service should resume, at worst, in October.

Thank you for the inquiries I have received about the fate of the blog, it is honestly heartwarming to see concern for us! We are, hopefully, not going anywhere, and we hope we’ll be able to provide you with quality content for many years to come.

Now, to the meat of the today’s discussion.


Not everyone can like all of Doctor Who.

I mean, I’m sure there are a select few that are able to embrace every single aspect of that weird, weird show and love them equally; but well, humans being humans, most of us are going to have favourites. It’s life. And there stretches of the show one can have an ideological bone to pick with, obviously – for most people, it’s the Pertwee era and its complicated relationship with the establishment, but really, your mileage may vary, and it’s generally a source for good-spirited and healthy debate.

Less healthy, on the other hand, is an increasingly prevalent trend in certain circles to consider that the 2005 revival is, on some level, fundamentally inferior to the Classics; that it betrays them on some deep, ideological level; or that it is deeply and irredeemably #problematic. That is a very different beast – because it postulates a change in the very way Who is supposed to work for people. You go from a cyclical process of rise and fall, of eras you like and you don’t, of confusing and divisive, but life-giving weirdness; to a linear history that is marked, at some point, by a betrayal of an original text, of an original creed.

Of course, everyone is entitled to an opinion, and no one’s going to be naming names and starting a shit-slinging contest in this corner of the internet. But, well, writing contrarian and altogether overlong analysis about niche point of views is pretty much my raison d’être, so, here we are. Let’s discuss. Continue reading

TIBERIAN THOUGHTS – “I wouldn’t have voted for the President, he’s … orange!”: In Defense of Series 10

A good year after the facts, what remains of series 10?

Well, the fact it went down pretty alright is noticeable. There was still the fair share of moaning one must expect when Doctor Who and Steven Moffat are concerned, but it was a pleasantly uncontroversial run of television. Which is also why it’s criticized – for being, quite simply put, a bit pedestrian. A bunch of competent, solidly put-together stories that don’t really push any boundaries or make the show more interesting – yes, there is “Extremis”, there’s the finale, and there’s Bill, who is a ray of sunshine (even though her characterization is purposefully a lot less layered than Amy or Clara before her), but as a whole, the series is, if not a failure, at least a dispensable appendix stuck to a Moffat era which was pretty much completed in 2015. Which, let’s not yield to the sirens of historical revisionism, it really rather was. You can’t look at the double whammy of “Hell Bent” and “The Husbands of River Song” without sensing the end. “Hell Bent” completes the deconstruction and analysis of the show Moffat carried through his entire run, and “Husbands” is a final moment of reconstruction and catharsis that literally concludes with a big-ass “and they lived happily ever after”. It’s as direct as you can get.

So, well, when you hear someone tell you that series 10 is their favourite Capaldi series, or their favourite Moffat one, it does sometimes feel a bit like someone saying “well, the concert was shit, but that one unfinished track that played during the encore was pretty sweet I guess”. And the idea that it’s basically entirely disposable has been gaining traction in the Discourse-generating circles – some of my own coreligionists on here share it, and maybe most importantly, it’s been enforced by El Sandifer, which basically, in the world of the Who analyst, corresponds to a giant “THIS IS THE ENLIGHTENED INTELLECTUAL CONSENSUS”.

So. Let’s be a pointless contrarian and examine why I think all of this isn’t true, shall we?

 

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GUEST POST – South London Forever: Doctor Who and the Inner City

by Janine Rivers

 

And I don’t know anything,

Except that green is so green

And there’s a special kind of sadness

That only comes with spring.” [1]

south london1

A striking image: England’s capital city, caught in a stranglehold of vegetation.  A forest in the middle of Trafalgar Square, branches entwined in traffic lights, the Houses of Parliament rising out of the woodland in defiance, transformed into some storybook castle.

We hear news reports from the rest of the world; we hear other languages; we see the planet from afar, overrun with green.  But this is not a story about the rest of the planet, as the opening sequence establishes. This is a story about a city. Something has happened to London.

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GUEST POST – Halfway Out Of the Dark, or why “A Christmas Carol” is so damn good

by Jonne Bartelds

 

It’s pretty much impossible to pick the best Doctor Who episode. After all, there’s 50+ years of televised content, not to mention the Expanded Universe, which, like our own actual universe, just keeps on expanding. Then there’s the fact that Doctor Who is so varied, spanning so many different genres, writers, directors, styles. Doctor Who, as a whole, is essentially a whole bunch of different shows, which all attract different kinds of people. So I don’t think you can objectively pick a best episode, and I won’t. What I can do, is make a case for my favourite episode.

Picking a favourite episode is still hard, though. There are so many I love, and which one I love the most tends to shift depending on my mood. But the one I always end up coming back to is A Christmas Carol. It is without a doubt the best Christmas special New Who has had (and with this much smaller pool, I think I can say that objectively). It is the rare episode of Doctor Who that I would actually consider nearly flawless. Everything comes together in such a beautiful way. It is funny and heartbreaking, it is dark and yet full of hope, and it is gorgeous.

The phrase ‘halfway out of the dark’ pops up a few times. Let’s talk about that, because it is really the core essence of this episode.

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TIBERIAN THOUGHTS – Moffarchitecture: Time and Space defined by a Grumpy Scot (#2)

Elevator Trouble

Once we have set up the idea of an imaginary selfscape that one needs to access and modify to reach some sort of transcendence, central in the imagery of the Moffat era, there’s yet another interesting motif that comes up – elevators. There are a lot of elevators in sci-fi, generally speaking, and there are some nice ones in the Davies era, but Moffat’s tend to have a special sort of meaning. I mean, look at the second episode of his era, “The Beast Below”, which, despite some obvious rough edges, very much is an impressively forwards-looking program for his tenure – the pre-credits scene’s tension pretty much entirely rests on a child trapped in an elevator that threatens to plunge him into the depths of a mysterious underworld.

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TIBERIAN THOUGHTS – Moffarchitecture: Time and Space defined by a Grumpy Scot (#1)

What’s interesting about adventures in space and time is that they always will create, eventually, a certain definition of space. Every fictional universe ends up having its own peculiar geography – and I’m not just talking about a political landscape with factions and planets and systems. In the very ways the action and plot proceed, the edges of a system of thought, of a unique architecture, are revealed. Take, I don’t know, Star Trek. The patterns that eventually emerge – down from the ship to a planet, up from a planet to a ship, from a ship to a starbase, up and down the familiar corridors of the vessel – are part of the identity of the show, of its rhythm, just as much as the plot elements, the Borgs or Klingon or whatever.

Who is no exception. Of course, it’s always more complicated with Who – because it’s not so much one show as several equally important visions both following each other and existing concurrently, in a sort of sloppy narrative gangbang. So it’s pretty much necessary, if you want to write a superficial overview of the architectural tropes of the series, to limit yourself to only one of these … areas, I guess, sectors of the Land of Fiction. Let’s do Moffat’s. Because obviously – I’m a fanboy, in case you didn’t get it earlier.

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GUEST POST – All around me are familiar faces: The Return of Old Characters

by Z. P. Moo

 

There’s a lot to be said for bringing back characters from the past to Doctor Who and with rumours of major characters set to return for series eleven it seemed good to take a look at how this has been done by Doctor Who before.

Because while bringing someone back is always good for fanservice purposes and it can work wonders for promotion, this in and of itself is not a good enough reason to do it. If you’ve only got X Character back because you can and only because you can then you probably shouldn’t be doing it. General favourites in this category include but are not limited to Captain Jack Harkness, the Rani, and Jenny. Often Paul McGann’s Eighth Doctor will make an appearance (even though he already came back five years ago).

The way I see it, when it comes to bringing back characters it only needs to be done if there’s a reason this character needs to be in that story or some way their presence enhances the story or themes. Otherwise it risks getting in the way of a show that really should be trying to forge ahead into new territory instead of clinging to a vision of the past that arguably never really existed.

That’s not to say bringing back old characters hasn’t worked. Let’s look at four examples of when the show’s revival has got this right.

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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 (4/4)

PART FOUR: “THE LYING DETECTIVE” AND THE DEATH OF SHERLOCK

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)

PART THREE: LOOK GOOD AND SAY AS LITTLE AS POSSIBLE

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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