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New Who 4.9, Forest of the Dead


Just two things to say:

1. So Evangelista can be either pretty and dumb, or ugly and bright? Because those are the two choices women have, apparently. Fuck that.

2. River Song's death scene was moving and poignant, and, despite my reservations last week, it really made me like her. What a pity it then had to be completely ruined by the WTF-everyone-goes-to-heaven scene.


3. Actually, make that three things. At the end of this story, the biggest library in the Universe is a no-go zone; a deadly place where no-one should set foot. And meanwhile, River Song is expected to live on in happiness in a computer-generated virtual world. Just - every level of NO.



( 58 comments — Leave a comment )
(Deleted comment)
Jun. 7th, 2008 07:38 pm (UTC)
Overall, it was fine, and actually I thought Donna's storyline in it was pretty good. But between them, the things I've complained about above just made me so angry (especially the bit about Evangelista) that they completely tainted the rest of the episode for me.
Jun. 7th, 2008 07:33 pm (UTC)
3. You didn't watch Confidential, then?
Jun. 7th, 2008 07:36 pm (UTC)
I did, and I guess what you're referring to is Moffat at the end saying how great it is that she effectively free to roam the library for all eternity. That bit was playing just as I added in that edit, actually. But Donna's experience of that virtual reality was a lot more like a TV show than eternity in a library - so I'm afraid I didn't buy what he was saying. It still looked a lot like books were losing out to more passive forms of entertainment to me.
(no subject) - myfirstkitchen - Jun. 7th, 2008 07:38 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - strange_complex - Jun. 7th, 2008 07:42 pm (UTC) - Expand
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(no subject) - moral_vacuum - Jun. 9th, 2008 09:32 pm (UTC) - Expand
Here via <lj user=who_daily> - sakenichi - Jun. 8th, 2008 02:12 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Here via <lj user=who_daily> - davesangel - Jun. 8th, 2008 11:43 pm (UTC) - Expand
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Jun. 7th, 2008 07:46 pm (UTC)
Bits of it I found quite moving but bits really annoyed me too, like why did the Doctor get to save River but Donna missed seeing her perfect man in the library again, them not appearing to bother about staying out of shadows en route to the hard drive, also Mr Pops thought the gravity platform bit was a bit bollocks and convenient*.

Completely agree about Evangelista too, though I did think in her black lace victoriana she'd fit right in at Whitby.

*there are some who would argue that all of Dr Who is a bit bollocks and convenient ;-)
Jun. 7th, 2008 07:56 pm (UTC)
Yes, poor Donna! Though I guess it had to happen, because if she actually had found that guy, that would have been the end of her wandering around with the Doctor, wouldn't it? I'd like to hope she will find him in the final episode, and go off and have her perfect life with him... but I kinda doubt it, given the way New Who likes to go for the angst. Martha already had her happy ending - and I don't think that's going to happen two seasons in a row.
(no subject) - moral_vacuum - Jun. 9th, 2008 09:26 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jun. 7th, 2008 08:19 pm (UTC)
1. That may be the way that Evangelista has rationalised the errors, but I didn't see that being presented as a choice.

2. Doctor will never see her again, and it's the end of her life in the real world, so it's still fairly poignant. True, white outfits weren't subtle; I prefered Donna's jim-jams. The "saved you and sent you to heaven" can be seen as yet another Christ allegory.

3. To be fair, the biggest library in the Universe is a no-go zone at the *start* of the episode, and at the end retains its real purpose which is somewhere for the little girl to live. Just now she has a woman reading a new book of stories to her. In that respect it's a shame it's Her Off ER* rather than Donna's grandad, as Bernard Cribbins was ace on Jackanory.

Someone should tell Google that storing all the world's information in one place leads to the breeding of evil - which almost directly contradicts last week's Confidential "books is good" montage.

*I am vaguely aware that Alex Kingston may have other things on her CV but I'd be hard pressed to name them.
Jun. 7th, 2008 08:30 pm (UTC)
1. I didn't really mean the episode was presenting that as a choice for the character. Rather, I mean those are apparently the two options in Steven Moffat's head: that women can either be intelligent or sexually attractive, but not both.

2. Again, I still say it would be even more poignant if she'd just stayed dead in the ordinary sense. I get very annoyed by fantasy stories of any kind which present death as negotiable, or in some sense less brutal and final than it actually is - and the ending here just really triggered that switch in me.

3. True about the start of the story. But then again, before that, it was a functioning library, full of people enjoying its books and accessing its information, as well as a home for the little girl. I'd have liked the Doctor to reinstate that.
(no subject) - paulgregory - Jun. 7th, 2008 09:00 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - strange_complex - Jun. 7th, 2008 10:06 pm (UTC) - Expand
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(no subject) - strange_complex - Jun. 9th, 2008 11:58 am (UTC) - Expand
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(no subject) - captainlucy - Jun. 7th, 2008 11:24 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jun. 7th, 2008 08:47 pm (UTC)
Thing that hacked me off? If constructs and real "saved" people can share the same virtual world, and the saved people can be rewritten back into the library, why couldn't the people saved by Cal via the neural green-lighty thing also be rewritten? Because their energy signatures were gone? Rubbish.

I'm really quite disappointed in how this two-parter was polished off, especially after how top-notch last week's was.
Jun. 7th, 2008 10:11 pm (UTC)
Yeah, that seemed a bit of a cop-out, didn't it? One minute, Evangelista was a remnant of a signal caught in the library computer, distorted both physically and mentally, and the next, she, River and their companions were perfectly whole, though still virtual. It just didn't really make any sense.
(no subject) - dakegra - Jun. 7th, 2008 10:23 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jun. 7th, 2008 10:59 pm (UTC)
2. River Song's death scene was moving and poignant, and, despite my reservations last week, it really made me like her. What a pity it then had to be completely ruined by the WTF-everyone-goes-to-heaven scene.

I still think of her as nothing other than smug and HUGELY annoying, and with no redeeming features whatsoever...certainly not enough to make the viewer think that yes, this is the woman with whom the Doctor spends his last/most 'important' moments (ie, the 'name' thing). I thought that this week's episode was just terrible, even worse than last week's (this includes several aspects connected to your very valid point 3 in this LJ update), and I thought that the 'badness level' of last week would be hard to top. Sadly I was wrong...and this makes me even more afraid for the future of the series under the direction of Moffatt.
Jun. 8th, 2008 10:13 am (UTC)
Yeah, it is sadly disappointing stuff from someone who is about to take over at the top. He certainly has plenty of interesting ideas, but then he drops in such idiotic characterisations that it really undermines everything else he's achieved.

It's funny - I didn't really know why at the time, but when the news broke about him taking over from RTD, I found myself commenting on a friends' journal that I hoped he wouldn't turn out to be like Tacitus' assessment of the emperor Galba - eminently capable of ruling until he actually did it. I'm getting more and more worried that this may in fact be the case - though I'm still very keen to be proved wrong.
Jun. 8th, 2008 01:49 pm (UTC)
Stupid Live Journal Eating my comments....

RE number 1. I think you've got a classic counter example to the idea that woman can only be pretty or clever - never both in the episode. River Song is both very pretty and very clever.

Equally it's there is no suggestion that being deformed makes her clever. They both have the same route cause - the fact that she's 'saved' incorrectly. Plus - Ugly really underplays what happens to her - she's deformed.

Regarding number 2 - I thought the whole "nobody dies" thing was really rather to samey to the end of the "empty child" stuff. And I hope it does not single a moffet desire not to kill the bit parts...... THat would get annoying.....

Personally - I loved it - and still consider this season Who
a) not to have had a stinker and
b) to now have at least 1 brillant story.

Jun. 8th, 2008 01:53 pm (UTC)
Oh and well I remember.....

I sort of assumed River Song knew his name - because the doctor had told her when they got married......
(no subject) - rosaguestlist - Jun. 8th, 2008 02:24 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - moral_vacuum - Jun. 9th, 2008 09:29 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jun. 9th, 2008 09:41 pm (UTC)
I missed the implication of point 1 in the story... River song was both gorgeous and intelligent after all.

2: Agree.

3: Well, I guess the library aspect would be more symbolic with such an advanced civilisation books as repositories of actual knowledge would be merely a curiousity. However, I certainly take your point that it's hard to imagine River Song as we saw her being happy in some bubble reality (some people yes) but I guess it is better than death.
Jun. 9th, 2008 10:02 pm (UTC)
When you were talking about "pretty and dumb, or ugly and bright" did you mean the line where she said that she had insight because she was both brilliant and unloved? I thought that was a rather good line myself. She didn't suggest that being unloved had to be anything to do with physical attractiveness and she didn't suggest that it only applied to women.
(no subject) - strange_complex - Jun. 9th, 2008 10:12 pm (UTC) - Expand
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Jun. 9th, 2008 10:39 pm (UTC)
*So Evangelista can be either pretty and dumb, or ugly and bright*?

Yes, those appear to be the choices her life has given her, sad to say.

*Because those are the two choices women have, apparently.*

NOOO. She is a character not a paradigm!!

I am very irritated with some of the negative response to this episode. Maybe I'm just Wisconned out..
Jun. 29th, 2008 05:16 pm (UTC)
Watched this today. Enjoyed it (with reservations), and also very much enjoyed reading through everybody else's reactions in the comments here.

Personally, in our house, we like Steven Moffatt episodes (it's going with the mob, but Blink is definitely my favourite episode). They're usually well-written and populated with interesting characters and arresting concepts. Probably the thing that bothers me most about him is that he subscribes to the old 'hide behind the sofa' school of Doctor Who stories. While those are definitely a key part of the canon, I'm also a big fan of those lighter episodes, like last week's Agatha Christie one, and I worry that under his direction, we'll get less of those breaks and instead have a series that's one big convoluted mass of intelligence, with the inevitable conclusion of disappearing up its own smug arse.

However, I shall wait and see if that actually happens before prophesying doom and gloom!

I didn't like River Song either. The immediate association I made with her was the Time Traveller's Wife. Ever read that? It's a fantastic story, about a man condemned to involuntary time travel and his wife who first met him as a little girl, whereas he first met her in their early twenties. The wife in that story was a redhead too.

But Claire, the time traveller's wife, was a flesh and blood creation with her own life apart from the tragedy of loving a time-traveller. River, as you said, basically came across as smug. And that was because revealing anything about who she was constituted 'spoilers'. In theory, that's an interesting idea, but it makes for very hard characterisation, and River just didn't have any beyond the checklist of 'intelligent', 'charismatic' (I do think Alex Kingston did a good job with an underwritten character), 'brave', 'compassionate'. There's a difference between positive traits and an actual personal connection that the viewer can make.

Because of the Time Traveller's Wife connection, I did assume that River was his wife. There were numerous implications of this, particularly the old married couple reference (although considering the running gag between Doctor and Donna, perhaps we shouldn't read too much into that...). However, I don't think that's why he would tell her his name. The way she apologised after revealing that she knew it was very cryptic, and not at all in keeping with a wedding day reference! So it's up in the air. I devoutly hope that if she does show up again, she doesn't turn out to be his wife. I'm sick and tired of the doctor falling in love.

(continued below due to comment character limit)
Jun. 29th, 2008 05:16 pm (UTC)
In contrast, I quite liked Miss Evangelista. I'm a sucker for female characters who are presented as stupid, because I'm so tired of your generic strong, intelligent (and 'feisty'!) female character, which is becoming as much a stereotype as the underwritten damsel in distress. I think our society has a bad habit of equating intelligence with self-worth, which is little different from placing such value on looks. The first episode Evangelista who is aware of her foolishness and how that means she is ostracised by the rest of the crew made me very interested in her and in her potential storyline. I was gutted when she became the first body.

This episode brought her back, but did nothing with her. She lost her looks (which had always been deliberately cheap in an 80s teenager sort of way) and gained 'intelligence', apparently because her IQ had a misplaced decimal point. Right. Intelligence is so much more than an IQ number, and personality is even more than that. I'd rather have seen a still stupid Evangelista miserably aware of what was wrong and how she was even more ostracised than before as the only person in this world who wasn't under an illusion. She went from a potentially 3D character to one reduced to a sliding scale of prettiness and intelligence. Plus, like River, she got cursed to live forever in that fantasy world. Personally speaking, I think I'd have preferred death.

While we're on characterisation, what about Lux? Cardboard cut-out villain with last minute redemption that leaves you wondering what the crap is supposed to be going on in his brain. He was as underwritten as any of the women.

I still love Donna as a doctor's companion. Having an older female has done wonders for the series, and I think that it was very interesting that she still craves the nuclear family life on some level, above that of travelling with the doctor.

As for the whole books as evil thing, I hadn't thought about it, but now that you've pointed it out, I quite like it. Books are rather sanctified in this day and age. I always love reading old stories written a century or so ago where characters cluck disapprovingly about children spending too much time with their noses in books! Really, what makes a book any better than a video game or TV show? It's just a different medium with its own pros and cons.

Don't get me wrong. I adore books, always have. And I love working in text (which is probably why I took to Latin and Greek far better than I did living, spoken languages). But it's nice to see a modern story where books are not presented as the saving grace of society. I'm not a big believer in violence being caused by tv shows and computer games, so I'm certainly not going to fret that this one (two part) episode is going to turn kids off reading.

I'm still freaked out by the virtual world with the fake children being a cheery alternative to death though. But I should note that the little girl in the computer was fantastic. Very well-cast.
( 58 comments — Leave a comment )

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