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04 May 2011 @ 11:02 pm
DW 6x01 Astronaut & 6x02 Moon: Those were fun ... wait, what?  
The first time I watched these episodes, I found them fun. The more I think on them, though, the more they bother me.

Generally speaking, sure, all the shootouts and such are entertaining. I have, after all, been trained by late 20th and early 21st century American narratives. As exciting as they are, though, they're not what I'm watching Doctor Who for. I know it's nothing new that the Doctor claims to dislike killing, especially by using guns, but is more than happy to let his companions and associates do the dirty work or to act as the final arbiter of who dies when. It's just so egregious here that it chafes. If he's so very clever, why can't he be clever in finding solutions in which the fewest people possible on all sides die anymore?

Amy/Rory seems much more healthy and functional now. It's charming. So of course we have to get a ludicrous fake triangle with a profoundly stupid resolution. That said, I'm glad that at least Moffat resisted the temptation to draw out this "triangle" for multiple episodes and did resolve it. And Rory's growing to have a personality … and it's a skeptical one that still knows how to work within a team. I like.

Canton is great. I like the way he's mostly unflappable yet enthusiastic, and it's great to see an actual textual queer character for a damn change. Using Mark Sheppard's father as the character's older self is a great touch, and Sheppard's American accent was mostly unexceptional. A couple of his Rs were a bit too soft, and he was scripted one non-American verb form ("How long have Scotland Yard had this?" — Brit flag!), but other than that I had actually forgotten he wasn't American.

I was impressed by the accents in general, really. I know they weren't flawless, but only one was egregiously bad. (Dr. Renfrew. Damn. Once I realized he was attempting some form of Southern accent, I was able to hear what he was aiming for, but it literally took me about five minutes to determine that he wasn't trying for something like "generic fake 'foreigner' with a broken jaw and also drunk" and … no. Just no. That was not actually any Southern US accent, much less "somewhere in Florida". Ow my ears.)

I'm liking River more, mostly, to my surprise and pleasure. I disliked her at first because she was written to be so damn smug. (Yes, so is the Doctor, but the show is about him and he's had time to earn it. (And even then he pushes it, frankly. Ten/Rose smugfest FTL!) And yes, I actually did have trouble liking Jack at first, because of the unearned smug, so no, it's not actually all down to misogyny, ta.) Having her constantly make a joke of the Doctor by being better at everything he does than he is also grates; and no, I don't care that that's allegedly because he taught her. Again, it hasn't been earned in narrative time.

But the more I see her, the more I get to like her. Kingston is doing a nice job with some pretty iffy material. I also like that there was at least less of the "ha ha, she's verbally dismissive and belittling towards you, she must be your wife, hur hur!" crap. Even so, Moffat still needs someone to smack him upside the head with a subtlety bat. Take the scene in which River sets out to pick the lock: One spunky assertion of just how adventurous and risk-taking she is would have been fine, but the scene just went on and on. "Look at me! I'm so spunky and edgy! Love me yet?" Tone it down, sparky. And then the mood-whiplash of River's coming "worse day". It was borderline maudlin with her making text just! how! tragic! it is to move at a different rate than another time traveler. "And the day's coming, when I'll look into that man's eyes ... my Doctor ... and he won't have the faintest idea who I am." We … got that, thanks, we're not dim. But Moffat thinks we are, because after a beat we get, "And I think it's going to kill me." Yes, we know, since that's when you literally die, and OW THESE ANVILS ARE HEAVY AND ALSO PAINFUL OW.

The kiss — barf. Yes, it was fun watching Eleven flail and squirm, but other than that, just barf. Moffat is taking the cheapest way out possible. Because obviously the only way a man and a woman can be close and/or intimate is to be sexual, amirite? Pfft. It's also nonsensical: We're supposed to find it oh! so! tragic! that his first kiss with her is her last … but the only way she can possibly know that is if she knows for a fact that their timelines are literally reversed, with no exceptions (which she suggested in the lock-picking scene), and in that case, they would never ever have any experiences in common during River's diary sessions (as some clever person on the internet has already noted), making them pointless.

I liked Moffat's standalone episodes in the Davies era, a lot, but Series Five taught me that I loathe his unalloyed representations of het relationships, particularly when he tries to wring what he thinks is humor from them.

The opening makes no sense, blatantly. They spend three months putting the Doctor and Canton into a tiny space with the TARDIS, with Amy and Rory "killed" to join them .. and this subterfuge is necessary why? Especially when the Doctor can then just pop over to catch River, making the whole shell game blatantly pointless? This sequence seems to symbolize Moffat to me: A visually impressive and startling plotline for its own sake, with no internal consistency and no depth of character.

Meanwhile, story-wise, it sure would be nice to see something new from Moffat. I mean: the President gets a mysteriously sourceless communication on a common electronic device (the gas-mask child's control of speakers and typewriters; the Atraxi call for Prisoner Zero to surrender or else; the echoes of River's crew and the Vashta Narada over the communicators; the Angels using Bob's neural interface). A creepy figure in a face-obscuring mask is significant (the Vashta Narada taking over the space suits; the gas-mask child; the creature(s) in "The Lodger", with their shadowed faces; the clockwork droids, after a fashion). Romance across differing timelines is Tragic I Tell You Tragic (Mme. de Pompadour; every single River appearance; "A Christmas Carol"). Timey-wimey is used just enough to create the appearance of cleverness, yet inconsistent and nonsensical rules suddenly crop up if they're inconvenient for the plot ("Blink"; Series Five, especially the last three episodes; "A Christmas Carol"). Important information is conveyed by television ("Blink"; the Library, after a fashion) or by self-made but forgotten recordings ("Beast Below" … speaking of seamlessly deleted experiences).

I don't think we quite get to meaningless repetition here, for a change (I don't recall a parallel to "Are you my Mummy?" or "Don't blink" or "Hey! Who turned out the lights?" or "Prisoner Zero has escaped" or the varied "Help me" pleas in "The Lodger" or … I'm pretty sure there are others, but I don't care enough to go looking). I guess that's something? Though the girl's "The spaceman is gonna get me! Help me!" calls are close enough they may just qualify, especially if added to the needlessly repeated "You should kill us all on sight."

And it doesn't matter if nothing makes sense, because we're given just enough of a nonsensical snippet in the form of Eyepatch Lady that a later callback will reveal that it wasn't supposed to make sense! Feh, especially if it gives us another falsified reality (the Library, for both Donna and River's Ghost; Series Five entire, literally, both in itself and theoretically in the universe resulting from its resolution; "Amy's Choice" on top of that even).

I actually wondered if Canton Everett Delaware III (three city names) was so named to try to make "Jefferson Hamilton Adams" (three historical figures) seem unexceptional. Do Brits really have such a quaint view of American naming conventions? Or is this designed to be another potential clue to the season arc?

Then there's the squick factor of the ending (not even counting the whole genocide thing, nor the "let's ignore the child in trouble and gallivant instead!" thing, which are both squick-worthy indeed).

[WARNING: Potential consent trigger in the next paragraph.]

The Doctor's scanner reads Amy as both pregnant and not-pregnant. In an episode in which even recording devices "forget" anything to do with the Silence if not refreshed and people forget if not looking directly at them. Which makes the unwelcome thought enter my head that there is a fetus, only the scanner can only "see" it when directly aimed but "forgets" as its sensor passes back around … after Amy was held, functionally insensate, by the Silence for several days. And the Silence apparently then designed the spacesuit for (or to exploit) the resulting child, indicating a vested interest. DO NOT WANT.

[END WARNING]

Anyway. I actively liked the dynamics of a large group over the whole "Doctor plus one pining female" model. I liked the far-less-abusive, actually affectionate Amy/Rory and Doctor/River relationships (though Doctor/anybody as a sexual relationship concept needs to DIAF, as far as I'm concerned; this Doctor in particular reads as very nicely ace). A textually gay character is fantastic, and Sheppard played the role wonderfully. River is growing on me. But I can't say I loved these episodes, and I don't know that I love this show anymore.

As a postscript, I leave you with someone else's thoughts. I'm not the sort of fan who pays attention to many of the personalities behind the source text, so I don't know who this guy is, and he clearly has an axe to grind (against Moffat, Neil Gaiman, and who knows whom else), but as I read this post, I found myself saying "Yes, exactly" about most of his points — about Lucas and about Moffat. (My only problem with it is the characterization and image of Amy as a blow-up doll; that is just not on. On a less dire note, the white-on-black text gives me eyestrain.) This part is particularly relevant to items I've noted here:
Put in the spotlight, Moffat returns to a stimulus-response kind of thinking. If he does something that works, something that people like, then he does it again. This is how all comedy writers, those who demand an instant reaction from the audience, are primed to think. He once told me that he found writing drama incredibly easy after writing comedy. Therein lies most of the problem. Drama isn't easy, it's just harder to see when you're not doing it properly. If you get comedy wrong, then the audience won't laugh. If you get drama wrong, then... hey! They'll still applaud politely. If your drama passes the time and doesn't frighten the horses, it'll get recommissioned. That doesn't mean it was actually dramatic, or that it hit its target.
… but the whole thing is worth a read, particularly his analysis of the third and fourth of what he takes to be Moffat's four assumptions about Doctor Who. Too long to quote here in any fairness, but so much yes. The little sidebar bits are highly entertaining, too.

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