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.” 
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
by Michelle Coats
(This is a copy of a letter that was handed to Steven Moffat at the Target books signing at London Forbidden Planet)
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.
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.
PART TWO: THE AESTHETICS OF THE BOMBERMAN
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?
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?