Doctor Who Review: “Flatline”

“Flatline” was a pretty normal “freaky idea of the week” type of Doctor Who episode, but channeling Flatland. The monsters are two-dimensional. It’s a creative idea, but… meh. Maybe my undying love of Flatland is to blame, but it was kind of disappointing. Episodes (and horror-ish sci-fi movies) like this are always a let-down for me, where you spend the whole story curious about the premise and then you never find out anything about the aliens. I’m left with no idea who they were or what they wanted, so why should I care? What’s the point? It’s just a big shaggy dog story. In this story in particular, there are some cool effects to start with, but then they use a lot of questionable “this is a de-flattener” type science trying to make the concept work, or they just spend a lot of time running away from 2D monsters that have been needlessly rendered as 3D.

The other bit of creativity in this episode is to trap the Doctor away from the action and give Clara his position of leadership. It doesn’t make me like her any more, but it is a clever plot device, and nothing really happened to make me like her less. I’m just annoyed that the Doctor was constantly telling her “You can do it! You’re stronger than you know!” etc. The Clara we were told we had wouldn’t need that kind of a pep talk, she’d just DO it. To be fair, she really is sort of “doing it,” she doesn’t act like she needs constant propping up, it’s just THERE for some reason. Of course, at the end she’s convinced she pulled it off wonderfully and that it doesn’t take any particular skill or fortitude to be the Doctor, which isn’t true. (So, I guess something did happen to make me like her less).

The episode also continues the “Am I a good man” theme by giving Clara the Doctor’s role and effectively letting him watch himself — or at least be forced to listen to what Clara thinks of him. He finally passes judgment — he says she made an exceptional Doctor, but “goodness had nothing to do with it.” I think he’s decided he’s not a good man, and that both worries me and makes me sad.

A few bits and bobs:

  • First, they kept on repeating “listen!” — coincidence? Probably, depending on how well the creators predicted the response to “Listen.”
  • Second, the episode culminates in Twelve’s attempt at an Eleven-style “I am the Doctor and this plane is protected!” speech. A lot of people seemed to love this, so more power to y’all, but it fell totally flat for me. (So to speak). It worked for Eleven, but when Twelve did it, he seemed more lost than ever about who and what he’s supposed to be. (This is a comment about Twelve, not about Capaldi).
  • Third, I echo the observation on Brotherhood of Evil Geeks that the Doctor seems to be “trying out” new companions this season, even with Clara standing right there. He’s done that before, often just before a supporting character dies, but it does seem to keep on happening in this season. Surely he can tell that Clara’s time is running out.

All told, it wasn’t an awful episode. I really enjoyed the creativity involved with the shrinking Tardis, the graffiti artist fooling the 2D beings, and whatnot. I just don’t think it’s the best Who has to offer.

Sunday Summary 10/18 – Coffee style!

I have two blogs to add to my blogroll: Geekritique and Scifi Jubilee. They’re both great pop culture blogs that I’ve been following and interacting with for a while, and really I just thought they were already on the list… Sorry!

Halloween coffee mug

Getting into the Halloween spirit.

I’ve got my coffee and my muffin this morning, and no theme or big event to talk about, so this is a more casual If We Were Having Coffee type of post.

Let’s be realistic, if we were having coffee, we’d end up talking about our blogs a lot to avoid awkward silences. I’d tell you how I’m never sure exactly what I’m doing here, but I like it. I’d tell you how I didn’t have time for more than one essay post last week, but I never have time for all the posts I want to write… I’ll get to that villains post eventually! You don’t even wanna know how long my list of possible posts is getting, but I’ve had this post kicking around for a while called “When is a Villain Not a Villain?” Maybe I’ll get to it this week, but there’s no theme for this week’s posts — the next few weeks will be more typical for me in that regard, with a blend of past/present/future posts. You can expect to see some posts about my research paper this week, though! I haven’t received any feedback on my first draft yet, but over the next couple weeks I’ll be posting some resource reviews, how the first draft went and what I learned, how I chose my subject, and stuff like that. (Discussion of what I learned from my first draft will probably wait until I get some feedback from my authority figures!)

We’d chat about all the things keeping me busy this week instead of blogging. It’s not been “busy” the way I think of it, full of deadlines and more things to do than I have time for, but it’s been a week packed with events. There was a Phi Alpha Theta initiation at school — it’s a history society, our idea of “crazy” is “professors doing dramatic poetry recitations,” so in that sense, things totally got crazy. There was a wizard-themed event at one of the libraries I frequent, which was mostly for little kids, but hey, I share many interests with little kids! These interests include snacks and Frozen, so I had a good time. Then last night I visited Sloss Fright Furnace, one of the local Halloween haunted house thingies. I mentioned last week that I wanted to do that, so, success! I didn’t think it was scary, maybe I’ll try a different place next year, but it was fun!

I’m ready to get back to the text-based life of a recluse, though. Homework and paper revisions are looking pretty good right now, coming up right after I bang out a few novel pages! That’s really exciting but nerve-wracking too. It’s never very easy for me to just jump back in, especially because I know I’m not writing at the top of my game the first couple days back, and it’s a struggle to keep on going when you know for a fact you’re not writing very good stuff. Just have to remind myself it’s temporary, and the only way to do it is do it.

What would you like to chat about if we were having coffee?

My Top 14 Indie Comic Books

My definition of “indie” is extremely loose here: Basically anything that’s not Marvel or DC, including some DC properties. It’s just an easy way for me to distinguish between “Marvel/DC” and “everybody else,” but I’m on the hunt for better terminology if you have any suggestions! 

1) Abadazad by J.M. DeMatteis

A three-volume series designed for middle-grade readers, combining prose with comic-book illustrations. The prose happens in our world, and the (gorgeous) art represents the world of Abadazad…

Out from Boneville cover2) Bone by Jeff Smith

If you like comics, or you WANT to like comics, you’ve gotta at least TRY Bone! It’s cute and funny, but if you read the whole series, it builds into a pretty awesome fantasy epic.

3) Courtney Crumrin by Ted Naifeh

A cute-goth series that achieves both cuteness and gothness. This is another one that seems directed toward middle-grade readers, but is super intense. Several volumes.

4) Daytripper by Gabriel Ba and Fabio Moon

Thanks to Outright Geekery for recommending this one! It takes one man, a Brazilian writer, and shows all the most important days of his life. Unfortunately, he dies on each one. Intrigued? You should be.

5) Get Fuzzy by Darby Conley

This is a newspaper comic strip about a cat. It’s kind of a less-cartoony version of Garfield, maybe? The misanthropic Bucky is paired with a sweet Shar Pei named Satchel to create hilarious shenanigans beloved by cat and dog owners alike. Lots of collections!

6) Grease Monkey by Tim Eldred

A single-volume sci-fi comic, in which aliens have arrived on Earth and “uplifted” gorillas to sentience. (They offered it to the dolphins first, and they said no.) The story follows a human and a gorilla on a defense station above Earth, where they’re mechanics assigned to an all-female squadron of space fighters. Space opera does not get better than this!

Herobear Vol. 1 cover7) Herobear and the Kid by Mike Kunkel

It’s superheroes, it’s Christmas, it’s fantasy about toys coming to life, it is adorable! The first volume is a couple years old now, but there was another series published this year.

8) Hypothetical Lizard by Alan Moore

This is an Alan Moore short story adapted into a graphic novel, set in a brothel that caters to specific magical needs. The viewpoint character has a permanent mask over one side of her face, allowing her to observe but never translate her observations into verbal statements since she’s only seen things with one side of her brain, which allows her to cater to magicians who don’t want their secrets told. It’s everything Alan Moore — philosophical, fantastical, traumatic. (CN: Rapey abusive situation.)

9) I Kill Giants by Joe Kelly and J.M. Ken Niimura

A story about a girl who kills giants. The crying is strong with this one. (CN: Bullying, cancer.)

10) Icon by Dwayne McDuffie

This was a series published by Milestone Comics, a company that was designed to create minority superheroes that’s been folded into DC and is generally being ignored. (Static Shock came from Milestone too!) Icon is kind of black Superman. It’s a fascinating story cancelled after two volumes.

11) The Masterplan by Scott Mills

Another one of my favorite sci-fi comics, one volume. It’s got time travel, mad scientists, all my favorite things!

Owly Vol. 1 cover12) Owly by Andy Runton

An adorable wordless-comic series about a little owl in the forest, kind of a Winnie-the-Pooh type setup. Appropriate for all ages, from little kids up to adults!

13) Sweet Tooth by Jeff Lemire

A six-volume series you’ll find in the “mature” section of the comic shop. It’s a dystopian future following a boy with reindeer attributes — the children born after a certain point all have animal qualities. It takes a supernatural turn later in the series, but it pulls off a stylistically satisfying ending. Kind of a Walking Dead tone here only with more child deaths.

14) We3 by Grant Morrison

This is a slim volume about three cyborg animals — like, real-world animals, not anthropomorphized ones. The crying is strong with this one too, it’s awful. Why do I do this to myself?

My Top 10 DC and Marvel Characters

Just for funsies, here are my top 10 superheroes and supervillains! (It’s only limited to DC and Marvel because I’ve got another list coming…) As with any favorites list, these are entirely subjective, and the explanatory notes are merely veiled iterations of “I just like ‘em.” They’re on this list because when they appear in a story, I go “YES!” and want to read it!

1) Batman

Hey, I had to include Batman! A character of perennial interest, who I believe represents a perfect balance between simplicity of concept and variability of story.

Beta Ray Bill

marvel.wikia.com

2) Beta Ray Bill

This guy was, I believe, the first non-Thor personage to wield Thor’s Hammer for any length of time. He’s basically awesome, but what I really love about him is what I read in the writer’s explanation of him: There was an idea to create someone else worthy of wielding the hammer. The first thought would be another hunky blonde bro, but they chose to go a different route. They made Bill physically monstrous, but a virtuous and honorable person nonetheless.

3) Detective Chimp

Yeah… He is indeed an excellent detective, but he’s on this list because he’s adorable.

4) Lori Lemaris

An obscure love interest of Superman’s, way back in the day. She still appears occasionally in Aquaman-related media, and I feel like she should have her own series. Just sayin’. (Can I spoil a decades-old comic? —- She’s this random girl he meets as Clark Kent, but she turns out to be telepathic… And a mermaid.)

5) Magneto

He’s my go-to example of a villain who really believes his own schtick. He has valid reasons for feeling the way he does, but he never seems to realize that his methods are only making the mutant/human situation worse instead of better.

Pied Piper

villains.wikia.com

6) Pied Piper

A minor Flash villain-turned-antihero. People always talk about Batman’s rogues gallery, but the Flash has some seriously undervalued gems… Pied Piper is also notable as one of the older gay characters in DC, and sometimes I wonder if that’s why he doesn’t get many appearances.

7) Saint Walker

The most-featured Blue Lantern, a bearer of the power of hope! I think he was one of the great successes coming out of the whole spectrum-of-lanterns event (along with Larfleeze, who was a close contender for this list). I feel like Saint Walker gives me the feeling he’s supposed to give people around him, that unwavering commitment to hope and feeling that everything will be okay.

8) Swamp Thing

I’ve never really had the experience of being asked to prove my geekdom,  and sometimes I think that’s because I lead with “Oh, who’s my favorite character? Swamp Thing.” It’s true, though. I mentioned the other day that I came to comics via Alan Moore, so I read his run on Swamp Thing pretty early on, and that led me into my love of Swamp Thing in general.

9) Thanos

Again hearkening back to that post about how I got into comics: After the first Avengers movie came out, with its glimpse of Thanos at the end, I went off and read everything I could get my hands on about the guy. He turned out to be a remarkably compelling character, a bloodthirsty tyrant who does what he does because he’s trying to win Death’s love. They gave a nod to that in the “it would be to court death…” line, but I’ll be interested to see if they keep that as a central part of his character!

10) Wonder Woman

A pretty new addition to my ranks of favorite characters, and almost entirely because of the old Lynda Carter series! (I also mentioned some good comic versions of her in my Strong Female Characters in Comics post.)

Honorable Mention: Alfred Pennyworth

Ah, Alfred, the unflaggingly understated gentleman, without whom I rarely enjoy a Batman story. Seriously, the ones without him are just not as much fun for me. ;)

Alfred Pennyworth

batman.wikia.com

Review: Ms. Marvel #9

If you’ve been waiting for Ms. Marvel to be collected, wait no longer! Ms. Marvel Vol. 1: No Normal is available TODAY. It collects the first arc, issues #1-5, and you’ll save about a dollar an issue if you buy them in the collection. (Captain Marvel Vol. 1, She-Hulk Vol. 1, and Hawkeye Vol. 3 all come out next week!)

Ms. Marvel #9 cover

Back in our monthly release schedule, though, we have Ms. Marvel #9. As usual, it is top-notch. This issue is more action-packed than some of the others, opening in the midst of a giant robot battle, introducing Kamala to Medusa of the Inhumans, and tossing her into another fight with the Inventor’s goons. It moves pretty quickly.

Kamala handled the news about being an Inhuman, i.e. having alien ancestry rather than being a mutant, really well. She’s stunned, but she keeps on going. As she did with Wolverine, she knows her worth and refuses to be sidelined in the fight against the Inventor, even though it was just sort of happening rather than being done to her on purpose, if that makes any sense.

Bruno also gets a chance to shine here. When the giant robot is smashing their school to bits, Bruno runs straight toward danger to help his friends. Then he goes with Kamala to New Attilan and holds his own there as well. And, of course, Lockjaw remains adorably awesome.

Ms. Marvel #9 Lockjaw

I’m not having any trouble following Ms. Marvel as a newcomer, I think G. Willow Wilson is doing a great job of introducing things while simultaneously assuming many readers will have an existing base of knowledge. If you’re curious you can read up on the Inhumans on Wikipedia or wherever, but you don’t have to before enjoying this series. (I was familiar with Lockjaw already from Pet Avengers, but not with the greater existence of the Inhumans).

Newbies Aren’t Ruining Anything: A Comic Book Memoir

On this day in 2008, I read my first comic book. It was Watchmen. 

I’d loved several superhero movies, specifically X-Men and Spiderman — and by “loved,” I mean “was obsessed with beyond all reason.” (My mother will gladly attest to this). My attempts to read real comics hadn’t gone well, though. They were too complicated, and too boring. (I now realize that X-Men comics are notoriously self-referential, and that the black-and-white Essential Spider-Man collections, while entertaining in retrospect, are not actually the best the genre has to offer, but I didn’t know that at the time!)

Watchmen DVD coverI saw the trailer for the Watchmen movie, and thought it looked like something I’d like, but oop! Based on a book! I couldn’t possibly watch it without reading the book first! I figured it was a standalone comic book, so why not give it a try? I had no idea what I was getting in for. It honestly still stands as one of my most intense experiences.

I decided I must like comics after all, it just must not be ongoing superhero comics, the ones that were so complicated and confusing and boring. So, I ate up other kinds of comics: The first volumes of Sandman, the sequel comics to the Angel TV show, V for Vendetta, Bone. I even loved superheroes, like the ones in Watchmen and Astro City. Just not DC and Marvel. Too confusing, too boring.

And then I saw Batman Begins. 

It had been out for several years at that point, and I was vaguely aware of it, but hadn’t ever felt the need to see it. I loved the old Adam West show, though, and I was vaguely aware of Batman as a cultural item in the same way that I knew about Superman despite having never seen him in anything. So, I checked Batman Begins out from the library at some point and watched it.

The details in my memory are sadly vague, except for the part where I became obsessed with Batman beyond all reason. If only there was some other media about Batman I could consume! It was such a shame that I didn’t like superhero comics!

Kingdom Come coverI’ve always worked in libraries, and one afternoon I was bored at work. I have no idea what my reasoning was, but I didn’t have any work to do or I was going to lunch, and I wanted Batman, so I decided to grab Kingdom Come off the shelf and read it. I’ve since given it to other newbies and they were hopelessly confused, but for me, it was serendipitous: Kingdom Come is basically Watchmen with real DC characters instead of stand-ins, and I loved the heck out of it!

At that point, the dam was broken. I went on to read every single DC book in the entire county’s library system, and begged-borrowed-traded-or-bought more, probably in the hundreds. And here I am now, with “comic book nerd” as one of my most dearly-held identities! The Watchmen movie finally came out in March of 2009, and I went to the midnight showing. (It seems like such a long gap that maybe what originally sparked my interest was some kind of teaser or even news article well in advance of the movie). I was less than impressed, but by that point, it didn’t matter at all, because I was a comic book nerd and there was no going back.

It’s not just DC, either, although for a while I said “Okay, I just only like superhero comics from DC…”  but the more Marvel movies that came out, the more Marvel books I tried. I’m still a DC, but I like a lot of Marvel stuff too — even some X-Men comics!

So, this is the point of this post: I wouldn’t be into comics without Batman Begins. Really, I wouldn’t be into comics without that teaser for the Watchmen movie, whatever it was! People in every fandom get upset when a movie or other reboot brings newbies into that fandom. I get that — I put in my time loving Doctor Who and Star Trek, and I don’t always feel like those new fans love the same thing I did. Plus a lot of them drop out of the fandom as soon as that movie series or whatever is over. But that’s okay. New fans bring the energy and the attention and the money that’s needed to make new stuff. Sometimes, like me, they really do plunge into the old stuff too, or sometimes they just stay in the “new stuff” segment of the fandom, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t real fans. New fans are people who had no idea your awesome thing existed, or may even have thought the thing wasn’t much good, but who have seen your thing and said “Yes! I would like to love this thing too!” and that should be celebrated! Maybe if they were more welcome, actually encouraged to explore the fandom, they wouldn’t be so quick to move on. Old fandoms have a treasure trove of awesome stories that newbies don’t know about, and may never know about if nothing sparks their interest. I intensely dislike the new Star Trek movies, but they’re like a big billboard leading potential new friends toward me and the show I do like, and it’s the same for comic book movies.

And with that, I’m off to celebrate my comicaversary!

You tell me: How did you get into comics, or your fandom of choice, and what’s your newbie philosophy?

Doctor Who Review: “Mummy on the Orient Express”

Well, that was disappointing. No, not the episode… the fact that Clara was in it. I never really thought she was GONE, but I was hoping we’d get a week off. Nope. That said, “Mummy on the Orient Express” was still leagues ahead of “Kill the Moon,” and I actually did enjoy it. A pretty typical New Who episode, but done quite competently.

I’m not sure how much else I have to say about this… But I’m sure I’ll think of something:

  • I liked the supporting characters, although I wish there had been more than one woman. Any of those people could’ve been genderbent without hurting the episode, and it might’ve made a few of them more interesting and less typical.
  • I liked the setting. I felt like they used the Twenties and the train well to create a mood and a closed-in space, and those qualities stuck around even after the trappings disappeared.
  • The mummy was creepy. Something about its inexorability, combined with how you KNOW you only have a minute to live, and that’s not nearly long enough to do all the things you realize you wanted to do, but just long enough for you to realize all those things and start to cry.
  • I loved the jelly baby case!
  • I REALLY loved the Doctor’s conversation with himself toward the beginning. He was basically being his own companion in that scene, and doing a way better job of it than Clara!
  • Good god, I just hate Clara so much right now. Even after everything that happened in the last episode, she thinks the Doctor will just come by for dinner sometimes? That this isn’t the last time she’ll see him? Yeah, he’s so obsessed with you he won’t be able to stay away. That’s totally gonna happen. Because it’s all about you.

On that note, I have two burning questions. (Spoiler alert.)

One, who asked who to go on this last hurrah? It’s painfully unclear. I assume Clara called him and he said yes. If it was his idea, I’ll be very unhappy. (If this was clarified in the episode, please tell me — I’m one of those people who can’t always understand their accents.)

Two, the Foretold has been a legend for ages and ages, yeah? And part of the legend is that if you say the right word, it’ll stop? But when the Doctor says the right word, the Foretold disintegrates. Are we to understand that there are many of these leftover soldiers wandering around killing people? Because otherwise, how would anybody know that saying the right word would stop it?

Regarding Clara and Maisie getting out of the locked room, it was locked because Gus wouldn’t open it without executive authorization. I figure when he realized Maisie was the next victim and he needed her in the lab, he gave himself authorization to open the door.

Here’s my final thought, firmly under the spoiler alert: 

I did like Perkins, the engineer guy, but I really thought he was the villain in the final scene. Nope, just being set up for a companion invitation so we can hear AGAIN that being a companion changes people. Oh noooo, not the changing! So dark and edgy! Somebody help!

Actually no. Being a main character on a TV show changes people, because that’s how stories work. The Doctor is involved only in that he changes people into better people. Where did this idea come from that the Doctor changing you is a bad thing? In general, companions walk off the Tardis as more mature, more interesting, more compassionate people than they were when they started, so what’s the big deal? I guess his current companion is a pretty horrible person, but she was always that way.

Can you tell I’m sick of Clara yet?

Sunday Summary 10/12 – Paper Madness, Romance, and Halloween!

My first draft has been successfully turned in! I was shooting for about twelve pages, enough to give everyone an idea of what I’m doing, but I got that far and I just really wanted to have the whole thing done because the first half on its own made zero sense. It was planned to be a certain length and outlined to be that length, so “write twelve pages” turned out to be “write THE FIRST twelve pages,” rather than just a shortened version. So anyway, there was a mad dash to finish it, but now I’m substantially further along in the process than I expected to be right now! We’ll workshop this version on Monday, and then I’ll worry about revisions and the poster presentation.

I was about nine days behind on my reader, but I’m catching up this weekend, so if you see me wandering around liking and commenting on things in weird patterns, that’s why. ;) I’m also trying to catch up on various to-do lists, and I started working on What Dreams again yesterday, although not at full speed since I’ve got a lot of paper stuff left to do.

PICT0021I attended another romance novel signing event yesterday and had a good time. Very friendly fans who were easy to strike up conversations with, and I won a gift basket! There’s a novel from Vivian Arend, a novella from Hailey Edwards, and three-story book from Vivian Arend, Lauren Dane, and Kit Rocha to try out, plus some other goodies. I actually went for Jenn Bennett because I’ve been reading and enjoying her 1920s paranormal romance Grim Shadows — turns out it’s actually the second in her Roaring Twenties series, so I picked up a signed copy of the first one, Bitter Spirits. Yay!

Halloween-themed cool links: The Lobster Dance is doing a month-long Feminist Halloween series with recommendations. Horror tends to be one of those genres that’s very iffy where feminism is concerned, so it’s great to have some good recommendations. Also, Eclectic Alli is having a Masquerade Ball blog hop at the end of the month that looks like a lot of fun!

Personally, I’m hoping I’ll get to visit a haunted house thingamabobber this year, and I’m working on an Eleventh Doctor costume. Can anyone recommend a killer fitted tweed jacket for like… a dollar? No?

Coming Up This Week:

My comicaversary! On Tuesday it will’ve been six years since I read my first comic. You know what this means — another theme week! I can’t guarantee a post EVERY day, but you can expect a comic review or two, my “how I got into comics” story, a listicle about my favorite comic characters or LGBT comic characters or maybe the best comics for newcomers to the genre, and hopefully an essay post about villains (or something). Let me know in the comments if you’re particularly interested in any of those posts, that’ll let me know where to focus. :) Have a great week!

Novel Update #8 – Paused

What Dreams Update

What Dreams and Interesting Carictars have both been on hold most of September while I’ve been working on my research paper. I hate it, but you know how it is. I can multitask, but a novel and a research project both require a kind of permanent attention from me. It’s always got to be in the back of my mind for me to make progress, so I can only do one at a time. (And I just plain haven’t had time for IC.) However, as with last month, I left off WD at a good point where I’m happy with what I wrote and I know what comes next, and I’ve been itching to get to it for weeks. I’m making good progress on the paper and associated tasks, so I should be back up and running during the end of October and/or November.

I’m at 23,375 words, which is actually a bit lower than it was last month — I consolidated a few things.

Supplemental Reading

man who bridged the mist, johnsonI do have a good supplemental reading to recommend — the short story/novelette “The Man Who Bridged the Mist” by Kij Johnson. This was recommended on Speculiction and I found it in the 29th annual The Year’s Best Science Fiction. It’s a long short story about a man who builds a bridge over a river of mist filled with monsters, and how he falls in love during the five-year project, and how it changes lives. I loved it. I was impressed by the characterization — it’s hard to do character-based short stories — and the excellent worldbuilding. We get enough of everything, always, even more than enough, but not enough for us to stop wanting more. Kij Johnson did a great job of incorporating the mechanics and engineering of building a big suspension bridge, and I need to work on those technicalities more. Kij also does a pitch-perfect job of describing a character’s internal life, without just infodumping everything… Showing earlier and later times, showing emotions, showing thoughts the way people actually think them — invested with meaning. That’s the kind of tone I want to keep in mind. Highly recommended!

Doctor Who Review: “Kill the Moon”

Remember how I was increasingly disappointed in “Time Heist”? Remember how I didn’t really like “The Caretaker”? Remember how I don’t trust Steven Moffat to do anything right ever again, ESPECIALLY on Doctor Who? Yeah… I hated “Kill the Moon” with a fiery passion. All my positive opinions are contingent on a good finale, and this extremely negative reaction could also be changed if everything comes together in the end, but right now all my optimism has been, as it were, killed, because this was an awful episode capping off a three-episode decline.

Major spoilers, and my Doctor Who reviews assume you know what I’m talking about. I’m sorry this is super long, I’m just really mad.

Doctor Who Review Kill the Moon

There are some positives, so let’s cover those first:

  • The line “My gram used to put things on Tumblr” made me laugh! It’s just delivered with so much nostalgic amusement for those crazy things our grandparents did. Perfect.
  • At the end of the episode, it came down to three women deciding the fate of the Earth, via happenstance. Happenstance is the right way to do that. Sometimes a group might be all men, sometimes all women, sometimes a mix. It is commented on in the show, but it’s not any big deal. The astronaut, Lundvik, gets the same space suit her two male companions do, and she stays in it the whole time.
  • Courtney, the annoying student from “The Caretaker,” comes along. That’s not the good thing — NO, Courtney, you are NOT SPECIAL. Of course the Doctor shouldn’t have said that to your face, but don’t expect to be treated like you are special when you contribute NOTHING. She wasn’t even really that annoying, it’s not as if stupid impetuousness even happened, much less affected the episode. The episode would literally have been exactly the same if she wasn’t there, only marginally less annoying. What I liked were her motion sickness patches — It kind of recognizes that her throwing up in the Tardis wasn’t a reflection on her as a person, that some people have actual medical issues, but slap on some adaptive technology and they’re good to go.
  • The basic plot would actually be a good episode. The moon is a one-of-a-kind alien creature, but its birth will kill the Earth. Who do we save?

There are time-honored ethical questions embedded in that plot. It’s basically the trolley problem — if a trolley is headed for five people on the track, but you can pull a lever to switch it to a track with only one person on it, what’s the right choice? What if it’s a baby on the other track? In this case, the trolley is headed for all of humanity, but a one-of-a-kind alien infant is being born is on the other track. There are also shades of the violinist analogy, which deals with ethics related to someone whose life is dependent on you. And then there’s also the traditional time travel problem, one that understandably appears on Doctor Who all the time — when is it all right to interfere with the course of history? I really loved the spin they put on that for this episode, highlighting the fact that interfering with history is interfering with people’s choices.

Doctor Who Review Kill the Moon Lundvik

Lundvik

So, here’s the set-up. The Doctor, Clara, Lundvik, and Courtney  are on the moon. They have the power to blow up the moon, i.e. the egg, and have to decide what to do. And the Doctor leaves.

His reasoning is that this is a defining moment in the history of humanity, so it has to be humans who make that choice. This Doctor has been distancing himself from humanity, which is understandable because he’s not human, and I feel like he has a defensible moral position here. The problem is that by leaving Clara there to make the decision, he HAS made the decision himself. He knew she would make the right decision, and he forced her to be the one to make it, wedging her in where actual humanity was actually making the other choice. By placing Clara there, knowing what decision she would make, he effectively made it FOR humanity rather than leaving it up to them. I don’t think he realizes that what he did doesn’t actually make sense.

So, Clara decides not to kill the alien. It hatches and flies away without hurting anyone. The Doctor makes a speech about how for once, humanity looks up and sees something beautiful, and it inspires them to travel the stars. But Ben Herman has the astute analysis here — humanity had already chosen to kill the alien out of fear. They look up and are inspired, but they travel the universe in fear. They go on to hurt countless people across the galaxy, including themselves. I would’ve been happier if the Doctor had made a speech about humanity’s inspiration and brought the astronaut over and SHE decided not to press the button. Or, in the other sequence I was expecting, Clara would ask everyone on Earth to vote and they would vote YES, let it live! And then they’d be ready! It would be a beautiful moment! (Also, I feel compelled to point out that only half the earth was allowed to vote. Clara could only see one side. AND they didn’t actually show us this beautiful thing that’s supposed to be so inspiring, and I kind of resent that.)

Doctor Who Review Kill the Moon Clara

Clara

Right now it sounds like I’m mostly criticizing the Doctor. Really I’m criticizing the writing, and I hope no one thinks I’m taking Clara’s side in the big argument, because Clara can go spit in a tree for all I care. The thing that would make me happiest in all the world would be for the Doctor to take her at her word, and never come back for her ever again. She could just never appear again, and that would be awesome! 

SHE HAS NEVER NOTICED ANYTHING. I was pleased in this season that she had more self-possession and personality and agency, but it has ALWAYS been a problem that she didn’t say yes, and now she’s doing it again. Every time they’ve casually joked about her narcissism, they’ve been right.

She’s not upset that the Doctor did something wrong or is being morally inconsistent, she’s upset that he made her uncomfortable. It’s partly that the Doctor’s not human and refuses to act like it. Well, tough. He’s not here to make people comfortable. Beyond that, he made her deal with something unpleasant — that question about interfering with the past, interfering with choices. He mentions the fact that they had dinner in 1937, but didn’t march off to kill Hitler, and that’s a great example. She didn’t want to think about it at all, she just wants the Doctor to make all her choices so she can keep skipping around being happy.

(Again, the writing doesn’t actually hold up, because World War II really was humans making choices. Many humans, the whole world, making choices moment by moment. This was ONE human, who was completely out of place, making ONE choice AGAINST the will of a majority of humans, so his “letting humanity decide” thing doesn’t work, but again, that’s not her objection at all.) She’s so upset at having to deal with this that she storms out of the Tardis and tells the Doctor not to come back, all the while believing that she has the high ground. She even specifically says “Don’t you dare lump me in with the rest of the humans” or something of that nature. Thanks, Clara. Thanks a lot.

And Clara… OF COURSE the Doctor wouldn’t have casually mentioned if the moon blew up in 2049. Does she really think he would even remember if that happened? There’s an awful lot of history and an awful lot of things the Doctor doesn’t remember at any given time. It’s not like she somehow has a right to know that the moon will explode. It wouldn’t ever come up! Plus it’s pretty clear that he has no idea what’s happening, so he could hardly warn her ahead of time even if it was ever relevant. Just like in “Deep Breath,” when she inexplicably didn’t understand how regeneration works, CLARA HAS NOT BEEN PAYING ATTENTION TO ANYTHING EVER — anything except herself. She does NOT know the Doctor, and if she’s not going to put in any effort to learn, if she’s not going to even try to be affected by the wondrous things she has the privilege of seeing, then I just want her gone. I’m done.

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