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New Who 5.9: Cold Blood

I couldn't post this last night, because I just could not get onto LJ at any point after Doctor Who ended. So what follows was actually written in Yahoo! Notepad yesterday evening, and lightly edited this morning in order to get the tenses right.

Gosh, well. I think I can only possibly start writing about this with the end first. Because that certainly took us all by surprise, especially after the 'Amy and Rory from the future' scene at the beginning of last week's episode. No wonder Rory got such character development last week, then. It's so that we would feel something when he suddenly died in front of us. And boy howdy, did I. I was literally choking back the tears. I also thought Karen Gillan's reaction as Amy was incredibly moving - especially her fighting against the Doctor and trying to get back out of the TARDIS to Rory. And then her forgetting him, while the Doctor still knows. Oh, I know it was obviously all being laid on thickly with a trowel. But damn, was it done well.

So where the hell does this go now? 26/06/2010 is no longer Amy's wedding day, because she doesn't have anyone to get married to any more - and doesn't even know it. And my earlier suggestion that Rory might be the 'good man' River Song kills is certainly looking pretty leaky now. But then again, we keep getting told that time can be rewritten - indeed, in this episode we were explicitly told that certain decisions create their own timelines, their own realities. It would be quite possible for Rory to return at some point later in the series. I'm sure we haven't heard the last of him, in fact. There is still that engagement ring to prompt questions, and perhaps memories, later on. And of course the Doctor is going to face and deal with the Time Crack, and it may well be that one of the outcomes of that will be that all its effects are undone.

It would certainly seem quite a Moffat-y thing to do to reverse Rory's death at the end of the series, anyway, although personally I hope that he does not. I'm very much of a mind with J.K. Rowling on the matter of fictional deaths. Not only is portraying death as reversible or negotiable, even in a fantastical setting, insensitive and irresponsible (which is basically what JKR has always said). It is also dramatically very unsatisfactory, because it leaves your viewers constantly unsure about how to feel when a character they have come to care about dies - is it real anyway, or not? I feel pretty much like that about Rory now, and it's annoying. Meanwhile, on the matter of the chunk of TARDIS shrapnel, I would just note that we have actually seen the Doctor blow up the TARDIS earlier this season - that's how he brought the Dream Lord's frozen!TARDIS dream-scenario to an end. So maybe inside the crack, every possible reality is true at once, and that explosion really did happen? Just a thought.

Anyway, as for the rest of the story, yes, it did play out much like Three's encounters with our reptilian cousins. As we met more of them, I was pleased to see that the reptiles had been characterised very much as individuals with very different aims and interests, rather than as a generic alien horde - one of the great strengths of The Silurians, and the great weaknesses of Warriors from the Deep. I especially liked the instant love between the Doctor and Malohkeh (the scientist), and am always a sucker for Stephen Moore (here playing the politician, Eldane) in anything. I enjoyed the negotiation scenes, especially in the light that the recent coalition negotiations now cast over the mutual discovery that the humans and reptiles had 'more similarities than differences'. Mind you, on an evening which also saw one of the chief architects of that coalition unceremoniously outed and mercilessly hounded from his cabinet post by a malicious far-right-wing rag out for blood at whatever cost to the nation's actual interests, it felt rather bittersweet as well. I feel rather like the Doctor about humanity in the wake of that - can we not collectively be better than the Telegraph has been today was yesterday?

Um, wandering off topic there... I felt that Matt Smith played the Doctor's reactions to the tensions between the two species very nicely - especially his barely-suppressed anger when he realised what had happened to Alaya, and his later admonition of Ambrose in the churchyard, letting her know in no uncertain terms that she had behaved wrongly, but also recognising that she had learnt from her experiences. Mind you, I was slightly depressed at the way Ambrose's story-line panned out overall. It seemed to boil down to "maternal instincts make people behave stupidly and irrationally". I appreciate that somebody had to be given some plausible reason for killing Alaya, and that I would probably be bitching about women in refrigerators if a man had killed Alaya in vengeance for a woman being snatched by the reptiles (which in fact Rory, who did have that potential motivation, steered admirably clear of). But I just felt it also tapped into the hysterical mother trope (a special, extra-misogynist branch of the more general hysterical woman trope), and I would prefer not to see that being perpetuated by Doctor Who.

Still, on the more feminist-positive side, Meera Syal as Nasreen Chaudhry remained absolutely awesome, yet still human and plausible, throughout. She wasn't at all sure about sharing the planet with reptiles at first, but as she heard the points from the other side, she gradually changed her mind. She also ended the story by making a firm decision about her own future which was entirely in keeping with everything we had learned about her character up to that point. So she can now safely be regarded as one of a long tradition of awesome older female characters in Doctor Who, alongside Professor Amelia Rumford, Mrs. Moore and many others. To me, the Doctor's fond farewell to her was not entirely just about her, but also about the value that all such characters have had in Doctor Who throughout the years.

So, Chris Chibnall may not be the most highly-regarded of Doctor Who writers, and it may well be that without the shock ending (which must surely have been largely Steven Moffat's work), this would have ended up as another largely predictable and forgettable story. But, as it was, it worked for me. Looking forward to yet more historical action next week.

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Comments

( 10 comments — Leave a comment )
rhube
May. 30th, 2010 10:45 am (UTC)
I sort of disagree about the thought of Rory coming back for the same reasons. My reaction to his death was muted because we have already been made aware of the possibility of people coming back who've gone through the crack by the fact that, clearly, the Doctor is going to have to undo it. It also felt dramatically wrong, to me, for Rory to die at this point, so I felt that he had to come back, but there's no guarrantee that he will, so I couldn't properly engage with emotions about his death. I agree that Amy's reaction to it was powerful, though.

And I'm glad I'm not the only one who thought that Ambrose's actions played sadly into an utterly predictable trope about the irrationality of mothers protecting their young. The people I was viewing with seemed unconvinced, but it bothered me last week that it looked like that was where we were going, and it wearied me this week to see something both annoying and utterly predicatable filled out.

Apart from that, I found it a very good episode. I was very pleased that the Silurians and humans are shown finally making peace together - even if they're clearly not at peace in Warriors of the Deep, so one wonders how that relates - possibly just the crack eating events. I do hope they're not just moving to use the crack to do whatever they like regardless of Doctor Who history, that woiuld be dull.
strange_complex
May. 30th, 2010 11:04 am (UTC)
I felt that he had to come back, but there's no guarantee that he will, so I couldn't properly engage with emotions about his death

It sounds to me more like we agree, there. That is a big part of my complaint about creating an paradigm in which death appears negotiable. I can't engage properly with Rory's death, because this is a programme in which people who appeared to be dead have turned out not really to be (e.g. Jack in Bad Wolf, or indeed Rory himself in the Upper Leadworth scenario in Amy's Choice). I'd rather that that wasn't the case, and that death was kept as a real an irreversible thing. If Rory is going to come back later, I'd prefer him just not to be killed off in the first place.
diffrentcolours
May. 30th, 2010 11:13 pm (UTC)
Ambrose's actions were interesting - on one level, she's the same as Restac - a female defending her family.

The fact that she doesn't mean to kill Alaya is, I think, an important distinction from the "hysterical mother" trope. Her motivation is to torture Alaya into reveaing a cure, not to kill her. I think that scene could have been better acted and possibly better shot. Certainly Ambrose going in with Chekov's Taser wasn't great writing. Perhaps if she'd taken it for self-defence without the intent to torture, and been goaded into harming (and inadvertently killing) Alaya, it would have worked better...
strange_complex
May. 31st, 2010 09:12 am (UTC)
The fact that she doesn't mean to kill Alaya is, I think, an important distinction from the "hysterical mother" trope.

Actually, I'd say it plays right into the trope by showing her as both a) wildly emotional and b) incompetent on top of c) dangerous. I think killing Alaya with conscious intent would qualify as a less hysterical action than killing Alaya accidentally because she doesn't really know what she is doing and isn't in control of her own actions or emotions.
diffrentcolours
May. 31st, 2010 09:16 am (UTC)
Hmm. I read that scene as her using reasonable force with the taser for a human, which is fatal to Alaya because of her reptilian biology, rather than her deliberately killing her with the taser in anger.

Sure, it still comes across as not knowing what she's doing, but making assumptions about a humanoid creature based on human physiology isn't that unreasonable...
strange_complex
May. 31st, 2010 10:18 am (UTC)
I'd have to watch the scene again to be sure, but I just saw her as not really having any clue at all about what she was doing. It didn't seem to me as though she was making any very rational judgements, or indeed that she had ever use a taser before.
hollyione
May. 31st, 2010 11:56 am (UTC)
I didn't like the way in which Ambrose was treated either, but I don't think it was all one sided and misogynistic. The Doctor (Matt Smith Doctor) is not perfect and he judged Ambrose for her actions. A different, softer incarnation of the Doctor may have treated her differently and appreciated her motives. I actually thought it was quite an interesting sub plot.
myfirstkitchen
May. 31st, 2010 01:28 pm (UTC)
I've seen (blurry, rubbish) photos that indicate you'll probably be disappointed re: Rory, but then all the crack arc stuff and time will be re-written and Amy's boys stuff also point towards his return and the return of everything else that has been "forgotten".

Chibbers is just rubbish, I'm afraid, I only liked the Moffaty bits and the cast, especially the kid.
surliminal
May. 31st, 2010 10:49 pm (UTC)
I'm afraid i just caught this ep and despite vaguely liking Rory for the last two eps, at least significantly more than Amy, was absolutely unmoved by his death. And really, I will cry at the opening of an envelope as they say. School level acting by both Rory and Amy I thought , to go with an ep where acting, setting and staging generally looked like something from the 70s. (yes I know it was meant to be an homage to Pertwee - but did that have to include the production values of that era??) And then the Doctor SMILES about two minutes later. Really quite a lot. When he has (a) been reponsible for Rory's death by messing around delaying getting them into the TRADIS and (b) is left with the sole burden of remebreing Rory (and doesnlt that in itself neage this posited targedy of never-having-been? why is it AMY who has to remeber him??) I assume the reaction is being softened pending a timey wimey revival of Rory but really, that isn;t a good enough excuse for this.

Wherever the budget for this series is I sincerely hope we're going to see it soon because this has largely looked like a sadly shoddy series. Rather than breaking Americsa big soon even the home audience will start to revive the shaky sets jokes.

Sorry having written all this I'm prob now going to nick it for post of my own!
strange_complex
Jun. 1st, 2010 09:00 am (UTC)
I haven't found it shoddy-looking myself, though I do agree with the many people out there who are saying that this particular two-parter would have benefited enormously from the presence of a few more extras on the drilling facility. I guess a lot of the budget this season has gone on overseas location filming, anyway, so we have seen it already in The Vampires of Venice and will see it again next week in Vincent and the Doctor.
( 10 comments — Leave a comment )

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