Doctor Who Re-Watch: Army of Ghosts

Well, what can I say? As an angst riddled teen I loved this finale. Then I re-watched in my uni years and found the whole thing irritating melodrama. Then, um, Ben and I re-watched and well, I kind of like, enjoyed this first part of the finale. Read on to find out why …

So what went down? Rose and The Doctor greet Jackie in her modern day London estate home, only to find out ghosts have been returning … only the footprints aren’t a boot and bam it’s another threat altogether. Plus bonus aggressive Torchwood (which feels oddly prescient on the topic of make Britain great again given Brexit) and non-Martha Freema Agyeman guest appearance episode.

army of ghosts

The Pre-title Sequence

Ben: “Planet Earth – this is where I was born, and this is where I died.” What a dramatic way to open the first episode of this two-part finale! Although the number of humans who have died off earth you could probably count on one hand so like, Rose you’re not that special. Still, this recap was nice, and really adds to the inevitability of the tragedy about to unfold.

Maureen: Yep, I too was all, hello angstalicious Rose. But also, I love Billie. What an actress! So all is forgiven. But also, the below quote is stupid:

Rose: For the first nineteen years of my life, nothing happened at all. Nothing.

Enough with telling the viewer companions are nothing without The Doctor, RTD!

The Companions

Ben: Jackie was excellent in this season. I love how she’s developed as a character. She’s gone from flirting with The Doctor to stealing a kiss or two off him! And she’s pulling off double denim like the fashion icon she is. Apart from the few moments of ‘oh god she thinks her dead father is back from the dead is she going senile?’ Rose comments, Jackie is incredibly sharp this episode, calling out both The Doctor and Rose on their shenanigans. Rose gets the biggest smackdown, when Jackie says once she’s dead Rose will have nothing to return to earth for. The whole speech she gives describing this future version of Rose losing her humanity was pretty grim. But I get the feeling Rose would be fine with that outcome as long as she had The Doctor. And! Jackie gets to be the companion for a bit!

Ten: When Torchwood comes to write up my history, don’t mention I travelled with her mother.

Maureen: I love the transformation of Jackie Tyler. She started out as such an annoying whore style stereotype. I feel like the second half of this series has upped the characterisation stakes and made the core gang of The Doctor, Rose and Jackie all a lot more understandable in terms of motivation. I also liked the opening with Jackie where we see Rose wearing a back pack like she’s been travelling to another country rather than through space. Rose gifts Jackie a souvenir that tells the weather and Jackie doesn’t care because she’s too busy loving Rose so hard because she’s been worried. This felt like such a realistic little scene to me.

Ben: As to Rose, the Rose we get this episode is Rose at the peak of her companionship with the Doctor. Having not seen any of her run I imagine this is where Sarah Jane Smith was at when she was abandoned by The Doctor. Rose has learnt how to use the TARDIS’s equipment, investigate on her own, and thinks it’ll last forever. To be honest, in this first episode Jackie contributes more than Rose, but this is still an important part of her journey.

Maureen: I was struck by the great chemistry between Rose and The Doctor again. It’s not a ship that always works, but when it does, damn it’s a lot of fun. Billie and David have a lot of chemistry when the script doesn’t weigh them down with stupid jealousy sub-plots! I loved the Ghostbusters moment especially! I also enjoyed Rose having fun with psychic paper and having the whole thing backfire because Torchwood has training y’all. Also, lol at Rose thinking the ghosts could be Gelth related, The Doctor’s look and Rose’s subdued, cheeky smile as she says no.

Ben: Then this episode also introduces Yvonne of the fabulous hair – the leader of Torchwood and a woman who I imagine got on very well with Harriet Jones. Although her talk of British Empires and imperial tonnes was a bit concerning. Still, it’s nice to see a charismatic woman in power. Plus, it does take some nerve to call The Doctor out when he’s in his element, even if it is to tell him he’s gone left when he should have gone right. The Doctor does make some very valid points that you don’t need to poke every anomaly you find with a stick to see what happens, but this does come off as a bit sanctimonious and hypocritical when that’s exactly what The Doctor does on a regular basis.

Maureen: I loved the Torchwood stuff. Great call back to Queen Vic and of course she would have left instructions about The Doctor that were less than flattering! The scene were Yvonne and Torchwood lackeys cheer on The Doctor were so disconcerting and Ten was off-kilter completely. Yvonne was such a powerhouse CEO type, who genuinely believed she was doing the right thing for her country. I hated her morals, but she remained oddly likeable throughout the episode.

Ben: Finally, Mickey returns! I don’t know how he got through to this reality/got through early enough to get a position at Torchwood and work his way up the ranks to be working at what I would guess is one of their higher-level projects. He also felt more like Ricky than Mickey, and of course in his first sentence to Rose he calls her babe. Eww. Also, he barely even looks at Rose! War against the cybermen has changed him, and not necessarily for the better. He’s become like Rachel from Animorphs (which is a bit of an obscure reference these days, I know), a soldier who loves war. Also, how the hell did Mickey hide such a huge gun in what is supposedly such a secure building?

Maureen: I thought the point of Mickey replacing Rickey in the parallel universe was to give him a chance to become that stronger, more confident version of himself. ‘My name is Mickey. Mickey Smith. Defending the earth.’ I didn’t begrudge him his moment of limelight or think too hard about hows and wherefore’s, though I agree the babe was a bit much.

The Doctor

Ben: Another episode where The Doctor’s nowhere to be seen when something starts to go awry on Earth! Maybe Harriet Jones was onto something …

Maureen: Yes, this is why I really dug the Series Three finale back in the day. The Doctor was given some big consequences for his Harriet Jones holier-than-thou-even-tho-I’m-clearly-wrong actions.

Ben: Still, his “a footprint doesn’t look like a boot’ response to Jackie saying the ghosts look human was memorable.

Maureen: I thought it was rather poignant when Jackie describes the smell of her Dad and The Doctor and Rose reveal they can’t smell a thing. She’s wished her father onto the image of the ghost, which is deeply sad to me.

Ben: Anywho, we get some general Doctoring as Ten investigates the ghosts, paired with the usual technobabble. And then we get the debut of both allons-y and the usage of 3D glasses as he discovers the source of the ghosts! Now for a Bad Wolf reference and we’ll have bingo.

Maureen: I very much enjoyed Ten with his allons-y and 3d glasses and huge ass technology to trap ghosts with this episode. Holy shit, he be growing on me!

Ben: The Doctor’s demonstration at Torchwood Tower of what happened to the fabric of reality when the Void Ship came through was impressive, because even though I knew the glass was going to shatter I was still holding on to every word he said. Ten really does have a commanding charisma.

Maureen: I don’t always agree, but this second half of the series, Tennant has been superb. I thought he was pitch perfect in the scene you describe.

Ben: To nobody’s surprise it all goes to hell and there’s nothing The Doctor can do about it because this is part one of a finale. And we end the episode with The Doctor surrounded by cybermen! Not the best position to turn things around from!

The Alien of the Week

Ben: Ghosts! RTD really got the foreshadowing right this week, with the man on the television talking about the ‘military parade’ of ghosts at Westminster. I did love the little scene of Team TARDIS changing through the tv channels with ghost mania taking hold of the planet. I’m not sure how this psychic link is pulling the ghosts through, if they have that link then why the particle accelerators in Torchwood Tower?

Maureen: Damn it, Ben! I didn’t even think that plot hole through to know it was one. Why must you always pick up on these things?

Ben: Speaking of Torchwood Tower, the IM flirting between Not-Martha and Gareth was pretty cringeworthy. It definitely brought back memories of talking to people on MSN Messenger.

Maureen: It was very Renee Zellweger/Hugh Grant in Bridget Jones Diary!

Ben: But the payoff was worth it as we got the reveal of the real alien of the week – the cybermen are back!

Maureen: How cool was the Freema scream as she faced off a cyberman. That must have been so fun to act, and just so iconic too.

Ben: How no one noticed Not-Martha and Gareth were looking like total douchebags with ear pieces in both ears is beyond me. The dramatic music that played every time they did something cybermen related was a bit heavy handed – I kept having to turn my headphones down whenever it played.

Maureen: Ah yes, the beginning of Murry Gold being played up to eleven every time something dramatic is happening because we idiotic audience members won’t know it’s dramatic UNLESS THE MUSIC IS VERY LOUD DUM DUM DUM.

Ben: It’s a bit of a nit-picky point, but I also found the dramatic scene with the levers rather annoying – the idea of having physical levers to activate something is so that if something goes wrong software wise you still have a way of shutting things off. There shouldn’t be a way for the levers to be moving by themselves! But maybe there’s cybermen shenanigans involved in that somehow. Also, Torchwood doesn’t have any armed guards in this room, the room containing their most important project? Or any meaningful fail safes?

Maureen: I didn’t think about this at the time, but maybe it’s a sign of the Torchwood hubris at play. Yvonne and Co. are so cocksure of themselves and their ability to fend off invasions and things going wrong, they figure they don’t need extra security and fail safes because no one could ever get that far.

Ben: Hmm, another thing I don’t understand is the random cut to the tv channels discussing the increase in ghost activity after the cybermen activate the ghost shift. There was a police chief there! Those kind of press conferences don’t just happen instantaneously. And the time it took for the ghosts to appear/manifest as cybermen wasn’t that long a time.

Maureen: Eh, I’m not sure I follow you here. I thought the reason for the news stations and the chief of police was because there was an unusual increase in ghost activity. The police commissioner was on air to reassure the public everything was fine, but then the cybermen attack and it’s obvious things aren’t fine. I kind of enjoyed these scenes and the scenes of cybermen mayhem. If I’d been a little kid, this would have been hide behind my sofa scary!

Ben: And then we have the mysterious sphere in the basement of Torchwood Tower, that gets in your head and doesn’t seem to exist. Of course, The Doctor knows what it is instantly – it’s a Void Ship. A ship that exists outside of time and space. So, kinda like a TARDIS but not. And surprise, surprise, it’s packed full of Daleks! It doesn’t do much this episode but loom threateningly over everyone, but it was a great B-plot.

Maureen: And now Rose, Mickey and random Torchwood lackey are trapped in a sealed room with hundreds of Daleks! How will they escape??? What an old school, classic cliff hanger. Love it.

Ten: It’s not an invasion. It’s too late for that. It’s a victory.

Final Thoughts

Ben: I absolutely loved this episode. I don’t know what else to say beyond what I’ve already written. I’m giving this episode a 9/10.

Maureen: Aside from Mickey’s ‘babe’ moment and The Doctor sniping at Jackie in a rather ageist way, I enjoyed this immensely. Enough that I didn’t notice half of the plot holes Ben has pointed out in this review! I’m giving this 9 outta 10 inky stars too and am mad keen for next week.

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Wollongong Writers Festival Wrap-up

One of the important things about being a writer, is not just churning out the words, re-writes and edits in your dark writer’s cave, but also connecting with other writers and story-tellers to connect with your people, your community. Local writers festivals are a great way to do this and a few weeks back I was lucky enough to volunteer at the Wollongong Writers Festival!

So what did I get up to (beside being a volunteer)? I kicked off my Saturday with a speculative fiction workshop with local horror and urban fantasy author, Alan Baxter.

alan baxter
Author, Alan Baxter, photo credit: Author website

No matter how many workshops I attend I always learn something new, and this time was no exception. I loved Alan’s neat definitions of speculative fiction as fiction that speculates in a way that stretches the reality of our world, stretches using science is science fiction and stretches involving the fantastical, is fantasy with horror able to genre hop in the same way comic fiction does. He also gave us timely reminders about ignoring genre and market and telling the story you want to tell.

I sometimes struggle with narrative drive so found Alan’s tips to check in on pacing, immersion, investment, empathy and tension super helpful, with good pacing leading to tension and tension created through one or more of immersion, investment and empathy. I will definitely be getting future beta readers to tell me when they get bored by my story, when they stop caring about characters and their struggles and if they have empathy for those in the story.

Quote of the workshop to leave you with: Reading equals staring at paper and hallucinating.

Thanks Alan! What an awesome image!!!

I then attended a session on how writers ‘feed themselves’ (because it doesn’t come from the money we make on our art!). It was great to hear about the importance of supportive communities and ways collaboration can lead to better outcomes for more writers. Being a nice, interested person and supporting other people’s work in a genuine way is so key to making sure the literary scene stays vibrant, but also helps you in the long run.

panel talk
Photo credit: Codie Croasdale

Saturday afternoon, I caught up with some fellow Hard Copy alumni and we mooched around a rooftop bar drinking cocktails and mocktails and talking about our various wips.

Sunday was kicked off in the great outdoors behind the Wollongong Art Gallery in the Arts Precinct, with some slam poetry, live music and Hidden Harvest to feed us a brunch of re-purposed bread and jam made from unused fruit. This was such a chill way to spend the morning and left me in a great head space to attend more panels!

hidden harvest
Hidden Harvest all set to get brunch started, photo credit: Wollongong Writers Festival Facebook Page

I started off with a super interesting panel on romance and consent. The all-female panel discussed whether society distrusts romance fiction because it’s overwhelmingly written by women in Australia (95% in fact) and therefore often deals with women as subjects rather than objects and the liberating and challenging way we can write romance when we start with the two golden rules of 1. Make sure characters seek active informed consent at all times and 2. Anything consenting adults do after that is natural. There were also welcome reminders for being mindful of slut-shaming, ageism and the alpha male slipping into a creepy emotionally abusive style relationship with the heroine. These things are pervasive story tropes in our society, but we should think about them and critique them and challenge them in our writing.

I had some great fun in a break seeing a bibliotherapist (a librarian who gives you tailored one on one book rec’s), then ran off to another interesting panel on lived experience of mental illness and telling stories about madness. I loved that the panel covered the importance of thinking about who has the right to tell such stories and that voice matters, that ‘truth’ can be owned by people and claimed back and that stories can be a way of escaping from the DSM medical narrative of mental health experience as a problem to be fixed. Writing poetry and stories becomes a matter of expression, rather than a means to treat the experience of mental illness itself.

By now, I was getting pretty tired, though I managed to fit in one more session right at the end of the festival on writing as a person of colour or from other marginalized groups such as First Nations or Muslim Australians. The panel discussion was full of interesting points on writing genuine experience and getting away from mainstream, often harmful, stereotypes of race, gender or culture which definitely got me thinking about how I consume mainstream TV, film and books and how this can accidentally bleed into my work.

I drove home to collapse in a heap, but what a great weekend! Congrats to all the guest speakers, organisers and volunteers who helped make it all so great. See you next year!

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Doctor Who Re-watch: Fear Her

This is weird. My memory told me Love and Monsters and this episode were the two worst Doctor Who episodes of the RTD era. My memory has lied in a happy accident. Or maybe it’s just I really am not feeling the Thirteenth Doc so the re-watches seem better than they are? I dunno. Either way, this was bad, but not as bad as I remembered.

Pre-title sequence

Ben: This episode started with a feeling of disquiet between the warnings of the old lady, Maeve, and Chloe singing Kookaburra Sits in the Old Gum Tree. Then a kid named Dale gets trapped in a drawing! I wonder how Maeve knew it was about to happen? Plus, it’s pretty clear that Trish knows what’s going on from the beginning and doesn’t know what to do. #mysterious

Maureen: I was too busy being all,’hey didn’t this come out in 2006 and like wasn’t the Olympics in 2012? Was the UK forward planning that much? Damn!’ and ‘what have I seen the actress playing Trish in before’ and ‘why an aussie song? How very specific.’ Ahem. I promise I can be a TV critic! Anyway, I thought the opening had a great sense of horror atmosphere until the cheesy drawing of the kid wearing the Union Jack shirt.

fear her

The Companion

Ben: Maybe it’s because I’ve been watching the current season of Doctor Who and the Thirteenth Doctor and her three companions just don’t have any chemistry to speak of, but I could practically feel the crackling in the air between Rose and the Doctor.

Maureen: OMG BEN I AM SO HAPPY YOU THINK THIS BECAUSE I WAS BEGINNING TO THINK I WAS GOING MAD. But enough current show slamming. I am not the biggest fan of Ten/Rose, but there’s no denying that they’re always better sans Mickey and other quasi companions. If Mickey had never existed on this show, I would have dug these two a lot more. You can just tell that in the scenes where it’s all on Billie and David, they are having a right laugh and it bleeds into every scene. I loved them laughing over hot banana and I even shipped them at the end when they held hands and I never ship these two.

Ben: Plus, her hair and makeup was nice.

Maureen: Superficial. But I cannot deny it. I wrote that in my notebook too. Also, yellow does not Billie Piper suit when the fake tan she embraces.

Ben: I also (to be a broken record) really loved how much Rose got to do this episode. She was the first one to suspect Chloe, not the Doctor. And she was the one who investigated Chloe’s room, and the one who figured out where the Isolus’ ship was! Not only that, but she’s instrumental in restoring the ship to a working order, and guided Chloe and her mum through the attack by nightmare dad. You go Rose! Her and the Doctor have become a great team in the time they’ve been together, but that doesn’t mean she can’t do her own thing if she has to!

Maureen: Yeah, which is why I’ve never understood the show’s obsession with having Rose spout lines about being nothing without The Doctor (but more on that in next week’s episode). Also, nice callback to The Idiot’s Lantern as The Doctor runs off as Rose is mid-sentence … again. My favourite Rose moment was actually the scene in Chloe’s room when she’s all, I’m not gonna open it (the box), I’m not gonna open it, and does only to get attacked by a scribble.

The Doctor

Ben: Ahh yes! It’s been awhile since we’ve had a ‘the Doctor can’t drive the TARDIS’ gag.

Maureen: God, I can’t wait for River Song!

Ben: And then we get the whole ‘Doctor gets lost in his memories and ignores his companion pointing something abnormal out’ chestnut. And then we get the ‘Doctor gets too focused on checking out A Clue™ and gets himself in trouble’ situation. Luckily the psychic paper sorts that out quick.

Maureen: I’m loving these trope names. You missed the whole lonely God trope though, which is surprising, BECAUSE THIS IS ALL OF TEN’S SHTICK.

Ben: The gag with the cat and the back combing was worth a chortle or two. Then we get to the heavy stuff, as the Doctor deduces Chloe is using ionic energy to trap people in her drawings. It’s just a shame that the parallels between the Doctor and the Isolus never really were explored, but they’re both lonely travellers who’ve been travelling the universe for years upon years.

Maureen: Wait. What? I thought they were about as subtle as a sledgehammer. But then, I have like bells going off in my head or something every time there’s even a hint of Ten’s lonely God. I present to you the key last of my kind moment:

Rose: You knew the Isolus was lonely before it told you. How?
Doctor: I know what it is to be alone.

But also, I found this throw away line intriguing.

Rose: Kids can’t have it all their own way.
Ten: They deserve understanding … I had a son once.

From such dialogue whole new series arcs are born. I was way less keen on everything that happened from The TARDIS vanishing. So Rose whispers ‘the magic of love’ to Chloe and somehow that makes the alien leave Chloe, except the leftover alien energy manifests as Chloe’s violent and abusive Dad? What now? Also The Doctor running with the Olympic flame and the onscreen reporter saying he’s a symbol of love and hope can fuck right on off. Leave the love stuff to Moffat. And even then not always.

The Alien of the Week

Ben: The episode’s premise was really interesting to begin with – children vanishing, energy being drained from the street, and the strange smell of ionised air left behind wherever someone vanished. Then we see the kids living in Chloe’s drawings, and the nightmare dad coming to life in her closet. It’s a shame Chloe’s actress was a bit out of her depth as the Isolus and it’s motivations were really quite compelling, plus they set up the parallels between it and Chloe – two lonely kids just managing the best they can in a bad situation. It made a lot of sense that the Isolus is a child, it makes emotional and illogical decisions and can’t be reasoned with. It’s also a shame that the resolution of this episode was rather ridiculous, with the Olympic torch and the power of love reawakening the Isolus’ ship. And then we get the ridiculous spectre of nightmare dad, which really didn’t make sense to me.

Maureen: What Ben said. I also felt like the abusive dad side story and Mum not talking about him could have made for deeper exploration. I wondered at the end with the rushed sugar sweet denouement if this shouldn’t have been a two-parter.

Final Thoughts

Ben: Having an episode set in 2012 being in the not too distant future definitely made me feel old. And in a lot of ways this episode reminded me of The Idiot’s Lantern episode, a good/interesting premise let down by a shocker of an ending. The shoehorning in of the Olympics was a bit awkward too, similar to the Queen’s coronation. Additionally, Chloe’s mum Trish was really the highlight of this episode. She’s an excellent actress portraying a complicated woman. A woman who’s scared of her child, but at the same time trying to protect her. Which unfortunately only helped to highlight how bad Chloe’s acting was. The casual racism at the start of the episode also felt really out of place with the accusation of the black council worker of being behind the vanishing kids, but I guess is now surprisingly realistic in today’s climate. All in all, it was an episode that started off well but then lost it’s way. I’m giving it a 5/10.

Maureen: I’m with Ben as usual. I think you’re right about The Idiot’s Lantern comparisons. With a second script edit and perhaps a second part, this could have been a lot stronger. Given the rushed and cheesy ending and some bad acting at times, I’m giving this 4/10 inky stars. I gave it one star less than Idiot’s Lantern because my attention wondered after the first twenty minutes in a way it didn’t with the latter.

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The Washer Woman’s Favourite by Maureen Flynn (SNEAK PEEK)

The lovely people who have published my horror short story, The Washer Woman’s Favourite, have posted an excerpt at their website. You can read it following the link below. The anthology came out November 24th if you want a book or an ebook 🙂

via The Washer Woman’s Favourite by Maureen Flynn (SNEAK PEEK)

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Doctor Who Re-watch: Love and Monsters

Before I get into this review a quick note on why no episode by episode reviews of Series 11 starring the thirteenth Doctor. Here’s the honest truth: I love Jodie, I don’t mind the visuals or the almost X Files vibe the show has going for it, but alas, I can’t stand how plain dull the writing is. I’ll do an overall series write-up, but not episode by episode. Sorry if people were holding out for it, but I’m not keen on trashing every single episode week after week.

So, we’re up to the infamous Love and Monsters. When this episode first aired, I hated it with a fiery passion. I thought the character drama was boring, Moaning Myrtle was annoying, the comedy misguided and the alien of the week pants. The last part still holds true, but actually, I quite enjoyed this re-watch. Yes, even Shirley Henderson. This episode is deliberately experimental in a way that RTD often wasn’t, pushing the envelope of what an episode could be and establishing the Doctor lite genre. It also served as a pretty nifty metaphor for fandom. I timed where the story jumped the shark and it was at exactly 30 minutes in, so we’re not even talking a lot of bad episode.


The Pre-Title Sequence

Ben: This was a bit of a weird way to start what is admittedly a very weird episode. The first non-Doctor/companion centric episode, in fact! I wonder what David Tennant and Billie Piper did with the time off …

Maureen: Put their feet up, Ben!

Ben: Also, I would have liked the title sequence to have been pushed back a bit, and started right after the Doctor pauses, looks at Elton and says, “Don’t I know you?” But that’s just nit picking on my part.

Maureen: To be honest, I really liked the opening. I usually identify Marc Warren as a guy who plays the seedy villain in hard-hitting dramas or as Teatime in Hogfather so it was nice to see him get to play a socially awkward nice guy and do comedy. Maybe I’m reading too much into the opening, but I thought the Elton chasing after the TARDIS scenes were meant to play on audience expectations. Normally, Marc Warren is a villain so we assume he will be this episode. Except he isn’t. From the beginning there’s a note of farce about the proceedings which establishes this will be a different kind of Who episode (Rose/Ten chasing an alien up and down a corridor with a bucket and Ten talking to the alien like it’s a pet). Also, I kind of like Elton talking to the audience through his video camera. He’s endearing in the same way Rory was.

The Companions Who Never Were

Ben: Elton is a pretty loveable goof with a ~mysterious past~ with the Doctor, having encountered him in his house when he was 4 when a shadow escaped from the Howling Halls and killed his mum. And since then he’s borne witness to a few other of the Doctor’s Earth based adventures, in a nice little call back to seasons past.

Maureen: So many callbacks! The plastic Nestine in Rose, the Slitheen invasion in Aliens of London/WW3 and then the Sycarax invasion of The Christmas Invasion. There’s even references to Torchwood and Bad Wolf. Also, the whole Elton past thing … I wonder if Moffat was inspired a little by it with Amy Pond. Maybe I just see reflections of The Eleventh Hour in everything, but it reminded me.

Ben: I don’t really have much else to say about Elton. He was a relatable lens through which we got to experience this episode, and he was dumb and sweet.

Maureen: He was incredibly likeable. I had a huge grin on my face when he danced around the room to ELO on camera and cracked jokes about being different to Elton John. I also thought his romance with Ursula (until the shitty end) was very sweet in a Richard Curtis kind of way. He was under-confident, awkward, shy and a bit of a coward too, but kind and gentle and good too underneath it all. I’m kind of sad he didn’t get a two-parter.

Ben: Perhaps my favourite scene of the episode was the scene in the laundromat where Elton attempts to make contact with Jackie and finds himself way out of his depth.

Maureen: I liked this Elton scene a lot too, but it wasn’t my favourite. My favourite would be him realising the Doctor conspiracy stuff has made him lose sight of what matters and what’s moral and tells Jackie he’s going to order them both a pizza and watch TV with Jackie, “just mates.” In fact, all of the Jackie Tyler scenes were solid gold.

Ben: Elton’s way of asking out Ursula left something to be desired, but at least he realised his feelings and acted on them finally. There was passion behind that proposition that he and Ursula grab some Chinese.

Maureen: Just quickly on Ursula, I kind of liked her too. She started off so damn awkward (check out the bench scene where she sits at an angle that positions her body away from Elton even as she’s talking to him and her shy little smiles) and then I just love her and LINDA and their little band and then when she loses her temper at Victor. OK, so she wimped out on hurting the alien when she shouldn’t have, but I kind of enjoy Henderson doing mad. She’s just so slight and small, but has this crazy voice. It works for her.

Ben: I also love Elton’s hell of a speech at the end of the episode about how The Doctor brings death and destruction to those in their orbit, which was a nice little bit of foreshadowing of what’s to come in the finale.

Maureen: I liked his final quote too. I’m sure Rose used something similar before. (Any commentators, please feel free to confirm me right or wrong with the particular episode.)

Elton: When you’re a kid, they tell you it’s all … grow up. Get a job. Get married. Get a house. Have a kid, and that’s it. But the truth is, the world is so much stranger than that. It’s so much darker. And so much madder. And so much better.

That’s the kind of hopeful, life affirming Who quote I love!!!

Ben: Jackie Tyler also had some great moments of characterisation this episode. It was really refreshing to see her living her life sans Rose or The Doctor. You get a real glimpse of a lonely mother, forever waiting for her daughter to return to her. It was really humanising, and you see in her a person who just craves company (“I can’t stand the quiet”) and the human touch, just like everyone does.

Maureen: Jackie Tyler has never really worked properly for me as a character. She too often descends into the ‘has been whore’ stereotype women always get lumped in (alongside virgin and crone tropes) and it annoys me. I didn’t understand the point of these Love and Monsters scenes as a teenager, but now I can understand their significance. They show why Jackie tries to fill her life with a string of men. Because she’s so lonely and feels so inadequate and so, so scared.

Ben: Yeah, my heart really broke for her when, after talking to Rose on the phone, she discovers the photo of Rose in Elton’s jacket and she realises Elton is being kind to her not for herself, but because of her connection with The Doctor. And then she gives this amazing speech about how the people who get left behind get hard, because it’s hard to be abandoned. I mean, couldn’t Rose have brought her mum along for an adventure or two? Jackie has a point!

Maureen: God my heart broke when Jackie she used to have a mate called Mickey who used to do all her handy man work.

The Alien of the Week

Ben: The alien this week, Mr Victor the Absorbaloff from planet Clom was, well, he was a choice. I get what they were going for but … he was definitely the weakest part of the episode.

Maureen: Just an FYI, Ben, this alien was designed by a ten year old as part of a Blue Peter competition so the fault doesn’t entirely lie with RTD and co.

Ben: True and I’m not sure what I would have done differently with the alien of the episode to keep the story/ideas they were trying to explore, but I feel like the alien was the result of no one saying no in the writer’s room. And what was the point of the Slitheen reference?

Maureen: I feel like perhaps this should have been a two-parter. There was thirty minutes of set-up and about ten minutes to reveal the alien threat and deal with it. Everything felt rushed and silly in the denouement.

Ben: At least the alien’s motives were sound with him wanting to absorb The Doctor to experience his life and existence through the power of digestion. But why did he only have the faces of the members of LINDA? Were they his first ever victims? I feel like he needed a bit more of a back story, or something.

Maureen: I found it odd that LINDA didn’t get more suspicious with all of their members vanishing one by one on flimsy pretexts and why they didn’t arc up sooner with Victor being so mean. Also, the denouement where The Doctor saves Ursula as a concrete slab to be Elton’s blow job on tap can go die in a fiery hole of sexism. Which is what that writing was.

Fandom Meta

Ben: The whole story of LINDA (that name is so dumb) is something of a metaphor for fandom, with passion for a thing bringing people together.

Maureen: Oiii, Ben. I liked the LINDA name. It was funny.

Ben: LINDA evolves from a conspiracy Doctor group to a community about genuine friendship. People have different reasons for joining LINDA and they go way beyond The Doctor. For Bridget, it was escaping the reality of her missing daughter, for Bliss it was a way to explore her artistic side. For Elton and Ursula, a way to make “proper mates.” And then, it becomes it’s own thing, almost a family of sorts.

Maureen: God, I love LINDA cooking meals and forming a band and listening to Mr Skinner read his novel. That’s my best experiences of fandom right there.

Ben: The arrival of Victor stretches the metaphor a bit, but I interpret him as the embodiment of toxic fandom.

Maureen: I don’t think it’s that much of a stretch. RTD is known for his on the nose satire. Also, for his involvement in Who fandom before becoming show runner.

Ben: With Victor’s arrival, LINDA becomes all work and no play. Gone is the food and the jam sessions, and instead they’ve been put to work hunting The Doctor.

Elton: Better get to work.
Ursula: I’ve never thought of it as work before.

And then one by one LINDA was dispatched as Victor or ‘toxic fandom’ absorbs each and every member bar Elton. The only way toxic fandom endures is by sucking people in to the point where they can’t leave. There’s something to be said about the way that Victor treats the members of LINDA like garbage, and it’s not until they stand up to him that the tides start to change. Each of the members of LINDA was charming in their own way, and I would have loved to have had more time with each of them.

Maureen: I agree. They were all sweet and good and innocent.

Final Thoughts

Ben: I’m not sure if the scene with The Doctor and Rose chasing/being chased by the alien at the start of the episode was supposed to be comedic, but I found it rather dumb. I had this same experience multiple times in the episode, of the tone feeling a bit off. Like when Elton’s computer blew up because the internet was going into meltdown about theories on the spaceship? Was that supposed to be a humorous recreation, or what actually happened? Anyway, I digress. About 70% of the episode was quite good, and then right at the end it completely jumps the shark. Ursula’s fate was particularly egregious. I feel like if they’d had another episode to properly explore the backstories and lives of the members of LINDA, and maybe had another go at the alien/ending they could have ended up with a truly fantastic episode. As it is, I’m going to give it 7/10.

Maureen: I agree with most of what you say, Ben. Sometimes the tone felt wrong and the alien of the week didn’t work given the denouement RTD went with. Also, have I mentioned before how much I loathe Ursula’s fate? Let me go again: it’s really, really, really fucking sexist. But then, for thirty minutes this was a sweet, funny, experimental look at what running into The Doctor does to people and how he brings them together which made me feel warm and fuzzy inside. So I’m also giving this odd beast 7/10 inky stars.

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Conflux 2018 write-up

I love Conflux, Canberra’s annual speculative fiction conference run by the Canberra Speculative Fiction Guild (CSFG). It’s the first writer’s con I went to for one thing. A lot of spec fic writer’s live in or near the ACT for another. They are my people. Still, 2016 and 2017 I didn’t make the conference and was very sad about that so it was awesome making it in 2018.

Signing my short story at the A Hand of Knaves book launch

So what did I get up to? I was on three panels; my usual Doctor Who one, though this time about our new female Doctor as played by Jodie Whittaker, another on fan fic and a third on the art of the short story (which I chaired not being an expert on this by any means). As usual, I found being on panels fun and rewarding and a great way to make new friends! The fan fic session was especially fun.

I went to other people’s sessions on topics such as new ways to fund writing careers (a super interesting session about author subscription options, patreon, kickstarter, and other rewards based platforms), what makes the perfect hero (hint: it depends on who you ask), a super interesting session on LGBTQI in pop culture mediums and how many ways there are for people to get it wrong and how important it is for people to get it right, a session on different story telling mediums and how they can work for audiences (eg. writing choose your own adventure style stories, stories that involve the physical, adventure game writing) and a session on the art of self-publishing and succeeding at self-publishing, which my friend, Dionne Lister, was on.

I also went to two stellar workshops about two totally different things. The first was on querying agents (thanks Sam, Freya and EJ – you guys taught me loads) and a second with Kaaron Warren on building character. Kaaron’s workshop was different from any other workshop I’ve done. We went to local Canberra secondhand shop, The Green Shed, and were told to find and dress in clothing that represented a character we wanted to write about. We had to inhabit the character and know the why of each of our clothing choices. The store owner event switched the lights off while we got under our character’s skins. Every single one of us came up with great stories after this exercise, yet I would never have guessed this strategy would be so effective. You’re a champion, Kaaron! Also, the bus trip back was hilarious thanks to the driver who kept getting us more and more lost till we started to wonder if we were all channeling a new horror story in real life, especially when the navman lost signal unexpectedly and told us so out loud.

Lastly, it wouldn’t have been a Conflux without oodles of books and book launches. Kaaron had a super classy bar launch complete with a cocktail she’d designed to fit her book theme. Back at the Conflux Hotel I accidentally did a Bella Swan and spilled my launch champagne on Rob Porteus’ new writer’s craft book, The Book of Lore (I’m still mortified about this, Rob). Donna Maree Hanson released the next book in her dark Dragon Wine series, and of course there was the book launch of the anthology I am in, A Hand of Knaves. It was awesome to meet people like David Versace and Claire McKenna properly and to make new friends like Louise Pieper. Also, the signing scrum was everything my primary school self had ever dreamed.

So after many catch-ups with friends, much knowledge gained and with 14 books heavier in my bag, it’s till next time Conflux. Sorry to the many panelists and book launchers I couldn’t fit into my whirlwind weekend. You all still rock!

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New short story acceptance!

I’ve been quiet on the blogging front because I’ve been overseas for a month (travelling Iceland, London and Spain. More on this in later posts). On the way overseas, in Heathrow airport in fact, I received an acceptance email for my fantasy/horror short story, The Washer Woman’s Favourite. I’m really fond of this messed up beast of a Venetian story inspired by a wonderful Topdeck tour I did of Italy when I was twenty.

The Washer Woman’s Favourite comes out in the inaugural Aussie Speculative Fiction Anthology November 24th 2018. You can pre-order a copy of the anthology for a mere 99c USD here. If you’re in Melbourne, the book launch is 24th November (details TBA). If you can’t get to Melbourne, the online launch is found on Facebook here. Meanwhile, check out the gorgeous cover art below:


Wow. That’s three short stories I’ve had picked up for anthologies this year. Next year, I can’t wait to try and beat this number 😉

PS: I’ve had a lot of writer news this year, so will blog about Hard Copy and Conflux in coming weeks.

Posted in Genre: Fantasy, Genre: Horror, Genre: Short Story Collection, Personal | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment