Category Archives: Doctor Who

Bill – the Doctor’s New Companion (and an episode review of ‘The Pilot’)

SPOILERS SWEETIE!

Pearl-Mackie-Bill-Potts-Doctor-Who

Pearl Mackie plays Bill Potts, the Doctor’s new Companion.

I like Bill. She is her own woman, and she will NEVER fall in love with the Doctor. She likes him for himself, even when she finds out he is an alien. Pearl Mackie seems to have hit the right note and is off and running as the new Companion. Did you little nod to Ace, in the sense that the Doctor is her Professor? She reminds me of Ace in that she is a fighter, and not a screamer or a whiner.

Throwing the book

There are a few reasons Bill reminds of Ace. When we first meet Ace, she is a waitress. The Seventh Doctor took a special interest in Ace’s education, and Twelve has shown a similar interest in Bill’s education. There was an ongoing rumour that Ace was a lesbian (her relationship with Karra), which an overt part of Bill’s characterization. Ace favoured jackets with patches, and so does Bill. Like Ace, Bill isn’t overawed by the Doctor, with my favourite quote  from this episode being,  “You run like a penguin with its arse on fire.”

Ace

Ace, the Last Companion in the original series.

Bill aside, I was very taken with the Doctor’s study, and the photos on his desk in particular.

Dear, darling River and his granddaughter, Susan, featured prominently on the desk. For me, seeing those photos was a high-point of the episode, as it showed who was still important to this Doctor’s hearts (two photos for two hearts, geddit?). Oh, what I wouldn’t give to have an day or three exploring the contents of that study. What are the books on those shelves? What are the knickknacks – and their significance? Why the stuffed owl? It is an owl or an alien?

 

Bill and Helen

Bill and Heather

I’m sorry if the plot of the episode seems incidental to meeting Bill and seeing the study. It was a basic ‘monster of the week’ story, with several huge plot-holes. What kind of civilised beings use a conscious fuel for their spaceships? And – for a man who knows the universe – how did the Doctor know so little about the fuel (or those aliens)?

Seriously … Daleks? I couldn’t really see any proper reason for the inclusion of the Daleks.

I did sorry for poor Heather. Incidentally, I have found out that William (Bill) Hartnell’s wife was Heather McIntyre. We all know there is never any coincidences in Doctor Who, so I am sure those names were deliberate choices.

A new Doctor Who episode …AT LAST! I hope Nardole gets the chance to do a little more snarking in the next episode. And I want a macaroon dispenser.

Twelve

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Filed under Companion, Doctor Who, Pop Culture, Review, Uncategorized

On the Countdown to the New Doctor Who Episodes!

The Victorian Doctor.

Just over a week to go!

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The Doctor Who Christmas Special 2016

first-look-at-the-doctor-who-christmas-special

Finally! A new Doctor Who episode and it was everything I had hoped for. Be aware, SPOILERS SWEETIE! Please watch the episode before reading this review, or I can’t be held responsible to ruining some great moments.

the-return-of-doctor-mysterio-promo-cast-image

The Christmas episodes are usually in a category by themselves, and The Return of Doctor Mysterio was no exception. I was particularly impressed with the way the writers linked this episode to The Husbands of River Song, and the perfection of the casting choices. And – again – London was in danger of an alien invasion and yet didn’t TURN UP on screen. Instead, the setting was New York.

For a comic book themed episode, New York is the perfect choice. It is an open secret that New York was and is the main inspiration of the Metropolis of the Superman comics. As well, it was the setting for the Watchmen graphic novel written by the famed comics writer, Alan Moore, illustrated by artist, Dave Gibbons, and given life by the colourist, John Higgins. Both these comics heavily influenced the look, the plot, and the story line of  The Return of Doctor Mysterio. 

pk-mysterio-preview

The Ghost, who has Superman’s powers, but his costume resembles a modernistic Batman. In personality, he reminds me of Nite Owl from Watchmen, well meaning and trying to do the right thing. He does have the classic comic book characteristic of unrequited love for Lucy.

My favourite bits were the interaction between the Doctor and Nardole. Matt Lucas is a genius when it comes to making likeable characters out of unpromising material. Nardole, originally as a character, was rather sweet and clueless, but he has grown into a lovely person with a real fondness for the Doctor. His best line: Yes, yes, go save the planet. You always do that when the conversation turns serious. I may be misquoting this, but that is the general gist of Nardole’s comment. He isn’t clueless so much as single minded. As a companion, he is probably the best ever at understanding who the Doctor really is and what his motivations are.

sushi

Lucy, our intrepid girl reporter, is more than the vapid love interest – though she does end up in need of rescue. She is less a damsel, and much more a dragon lady. And she is a single mother, happy to leave her child with a male nanny.  She has the Doctor dancing to her tune by the middle of the episode. 

However, I also enjoyed the Doctor eating sushi while spying on the alien invaders. (As a big fan of sushi myself.) The humour in seeing the Doctor snacking it what should have been a serious and tense moment was physical humour at its best in Doctor Who. There were many moments of both physical humour and witty dialogue, as it should be in a Christmas episode.

This episode did a fine job of deconstructing the stereotype of the comic book superhero, as well as adding a wistful epilogue to the previous Christmas episode. My husband didn’t like this episode, but he didn’t read comic books as a child and doesn’t particularly enjoy graphic novels (Nobody is perfect). As a fan of both comics and Doctor Who, I enjoyed this episode both intellectually and it was satisfying emotionally. You can’t ask for more than that!

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Filed under Alternative Subculture, Comic Book Genre, Doctor Who, Review, The Watchmen, Uncategorized

This Year’s Steampunk Treasure

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This wasn’t my only treasure. I also got a Doctor Who calendar and a Doctor Who TARDIS Teapot to go with my TARDIS lidded mug. I was spoilt (again).

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I’m Small But Mighty: Height and Characterization

I am a short woman. Being short doesn’t stop a woman from being a protagonist nor does it stop her from playing a romantic lead. However, not the same can be said for male characters. You might be intelligent, strong, handsome, but if you are four foot – 1.2m here in Australia – you are unlikely to be the hero. You will be the comic relief, nine times out of ten.
The only protagonist I can think of whose short height wasn’t too much of issue was Stile from Piers Anthony’s Apprentice Adept series. It was recognised, but it didn’t stop him from being the protagonist and winning status and the love of the girl. I’m not counting hobbits  or dwarves in this category, because they are:

  • not human, and generally stick to romance with their own species;
  • both males and females are of equivalent height;
  • even when they are protagonists, they tend to be part of a group.

However, I will make special mention of Emperor Porridge (Emperor Ludens Nimrod Kendrick Cord Longstaff XLI), from Doctor Who, a human being, and defender of humanity and the imperator of known space. His lack of height was a pertinent point in the plot of the episode he was in (Nightmare in Silver), and yet Clara seriously considered his marriage proposal without any humorous asides. Let’s face it, he was attractive, and not because he was emperor … he had a sense of humour and was a sensitive, lonely soul.

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Emperor Porridge from Doctor Who

This still doesn’t overcome the pervasive idea that a hero needs to be tall. You never hear anyone being told they are going to meet a ‘short, dark stranger’. Tall people get taken more seriously. I know for a fact that people tend to think my anger is ‘cute’ rather than ‘scary’, though I am just as angry as my taller female friends.

Being considered ‘short’ affects your overall viewpoint.

small-fat-and-mighty

Art by Kate Beaton from Hark, a vagrant  

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Filed under Characterization, Doctor Who, The Writing Life, Uncategorized, writing, Writing Style

Looping Through a Time Paradox

‘The moving finger writes, and, having writ, moves on’

Omar Khayyám

The concept of the Time Paradox is relatively new (pun alert). It came into prominence with Einstein’s theory of space/time and relativity, and with science fiction writers jumping onto the concept with screams of delight. Time travel had been a SF genre stable since  H G Wells had written ‘The Time Machine’ in 1895, and a new time travel concept was considered a marvellous innovation. The grandfather paradox was described as early as 1931. It didn’t take long for writers to start making stories based on the concept. Among the first of the SF stories dealing with the grandfather paradox was the short story Ancestral Voices by Nathaniel Schachner, published in 1933. It dealt with a time traveller killing his umpteen-times grandfather by mistake … and wiping away the existence 50,000 of his relatives (and himself) at the same time. Time paradoxes have been a favourite subject ever since.

In this post, I want to discuss the implications of time loops, using three of my favourite sources:

  • Terry Pratchett’s YA Discworld novel, I Shall Wear Midnight;
  • Neil Gaiman’s graphic novel The Books of Magic;
  • The Doctor Who episodes, Before the Flood.

 

I_Shall_Wear_Midnight by Terry Pratchett and illustrated bt Paul Kidby

 

I Shall Wear Midnight is  Tiffany Aching book. To start with, I want to point out the two versions of Tiffany on the Paul Kidby cover. This is genius, summing up the major scene in the book without giving any surprises away. Tiffany meets with her older self and so completes a time loop. As the Older Tiffany explains, the meeting goes differently every time it happens, while essentially remaining the same, because of the nature of the Discworld Multiverse. (A similar explanation is given to Samuel Vimes about his time travel in Night Watch.) One one level there is only one meeting in time; but on another level is occurred over and over again, with slightly different versions of the same characters. This version of the time loop means that Tiffany is always working towards the meeting with herself.

 

The Books of Magic bt Neil Gaiman, illustrated by Charles Vess & Co

 

‘It became necessary to destroy the town to save it’, original quote attributed by journalist Peter Arnett to a United States major.

In The Books of Magic, there is a very elegant version of a time loop, based around the character of Mister E. Mister E walks Tim Hunter – destined to be the world’s greatest magician – to the end of Time to see the future of Magic. Mister E had been taught time walking by a blind stranger who was walking backwards in time, At Terminus ( a very cute nod to Douglas Adams), they watch the last few moments before the universe ends. Mister E thinks this is the perfect place to murder young Tim, to ‘protect’ him, and so Mister E attempts to stab or strangle the boy. Tim is rescued by Death of the Endless from Neil Gaiman’s Sandman universe. Death punishes Mister E by making him walk back through the billions of years to his starting point.  It is inferred that the mysterious stranger that taught Mister E to timewalk was none other than this later version of himself, creating a ‘bootstrap’ time paradox, also known as a causal loop.

The Bootstrap Paradox is a theoretical paradox of time travel that occurs when an object or piece of information sent back in time becomes trapped within an infinite cause-effect loop in which the item no longer has a discernible point of origin, and is said to be “uncaused” or “self-created”.  – from the Wikipedia

 

The Doctor Who television series is the best provider for any of this wibbley-wobbley Timey-wimey stuff. This explanation of the Bootstrap Paradox is from Before the Flood episode. Even if the rest of the episode was rubbish (which it wasn’t, and the Fisher King was so scary), this explanation made the whole episode worth it. It helped underline the whole premise of the episode – very clever and fun. It played with the causal time loop like it was a Klein Bottle rather than a closed system, by having the Doctor inform himself of the words necessary to save the day (I don’t want to say too much if you’ve never watched the episode). At the end of the episode, Clara asks the Doctor how he knew what to make his ghost’s hologram say. He informs her that he only knew what he had to do because he found out through her telling him what it was already saying from the future. And so the loop is closed off and allowed to ‘pop’.

Before the Flood

I am a time traveller in the sense that I use historical settings in my writing. But I am tempted to write my own Bootstrap Paradox narrative, simply for the fun of it.

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‘The Other’ as a Characterization Device

The Other is a literary and sociological concept, used to understand the construction of identity. There is an ‘Us’ and there is ‘The Other’; the outsider, the foreigner, the nonconformist, the maverick, and the rebel are usually identified as ‘The Other’. It isn’t a cut-and-dried concept, because Otherness changes with location, time period, and circumstances. My own personal definition of Otherness relates to the underlying Patriarchy of my Australian ‘Western’ culture – the Other is someone who is not white, male, heterosexual, rich/middle class, or human – someone who isn’t ‘normal’.

Ming

Master

In the early decades of the Twentieth century, in the Modern era, someone like Ming the Merciless was ‘The Other’. His East Asian appearance, his name, referencing the Ming dynasty of China, and the name of his planet Mongo, “a contraction of Mongol” (Brian Locke, Racial Stigma on the Hollywood Screen: The Orientalist Buddy Film) all delineate to his foreignness and otherness. This made him a cookie cut-out classic villain of the era; no real motivation was given to his character because being Other was apparently motivation enough.

Tilda Swinton as the White Witch.

My personal favourite example of the female Other is Jadis, the White Witch from Narnia. She is a powerful female and refuses to submit to any authority other than her own. Of course, this makes her completely evil …

In this Postmodern era, society has become more accepting and tolerant of the Other. In the 1960s and 1970s, Doctor Who’s the Master was made to resemble Ming somewhat. Lately, the Master has been quite human looking, John Sim’s Master was given a more in depth backstory. It might be argued that the Doctor has always been a representation of the Other. They are both 3D characterizations, and more understandable and likeable for their rounded personalities.

In the Steampunk genre, Otherness may equate to
• Femininity, and in particular nonconforming women.
• Being ‘Foreign’
• Non-heteronormative sexuality
• Living to the precepts of an Alternative Philosophy to Capitalism
• Not being a human (like a Timelord or Frankenstein’s monster)
• Being poor (or, rarely, extremely rich)
• Being a criminal
• Being under or over educated.

Mustrum Ridcully

Now, we can all think of villains that are examples of these sorts of Otherness. In fact, using Otherness to create a villain is overdone. Otherness can also be used as a virtue when creating characterization. Terry Pratchett was the supreme master of this: Captain Carrot, Granny Weatherwax and Archchancellor Mustrum Ridcully.

 

Captain Carrot Ironfoundersson is a six-foot-tall dwarf (by adoption), and could pretty much be the poster boy for Otherness. He is in a serious relationship with a vegetarian werewolf. He is a policeman who is the opposite of street smart, being kind to a fault, trusting, and believes everyone is good at heart. He is a simple man, but never confuse simple with stupid, because he is also one of the most intelligent characters in the Discworld universe. He is clever enough to hide this, though his close companions have a fair idea of his genius. More criminals have been caught due to Carrot’s apparent naivety than ever by cunning. And before you point out that he is a tall, white man in a position of power … remember that context is everything for defining Otherness.

Yep. Carrot is a redhead, but that isn’t how he earned the name.

 

So, if you are contemplating making your villain one of the Others, recall that this is using a stereotype and lazy writing. Think about how scary a villain might be if he appears completely bland and normal, a razorblade hidden in a slice of bread. How much deeper will be your characterization, and you will give your audience much more to think about.

 

There you go, Erin! A deeper discussion of Otherness.

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Filed under Antagonist, Characterization, Doctor Who, Steampunk, Steampunk Genre, Steampunk Themes, The Other, Uncategorized, writing, Writing Style