Doctor Who Review: The Husbands of River Song

When I first met River in Silence in the Library, (a two-parter which gets better and better with age) little did I know how much I’d come to love the character. I wasn’t sure about a second swan song for River after The Name of The Doctor (which I loved as a character endpoint as well as an episode), but I was cautiously optimistic that the Christmas special would at least give us the joy of the Kingston/Capaldi pairing as well as some bad ass River set pieces. Not only did this episode deliver both in spades, Moffat really did go the whole hog for Christmas and give us an episode which is conceivable to imagine as part of a River Song spin-off with a Doctor guest appearance. The Husbands of River Song managed to be laugh out loud hilarious, beautiful, bittersweet and fluffy all at once and I loved every second, even as I acknowledged it’s a flawed beast.

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The Plague of the Christmas Special

Most people I know acknowledge that the Doctor Who Christmas special is never particularly great. They are weak points of even strong series of New Who. I came to positively loathe them in RTD era Who, and Moffat has been hit and miss with episodes like The Christmas Carol and Last Christmas great, and The Doctor, The Widow and the Wardrobe abysmal. I always go in with minimal expectations so I can be pleasantly surprised when a special goes against type.

This year’s episode got the obligatory Christmas trappings out of the way early with carol singers playing against the backdrop of an alien planet and The Doctor appearing before Matt Lucas in antlers. One bonus of Capaldi’s grouchier Doctor is that he can at least lampoon the contrived Christmas moments. The plot too starts off ridiculous, much lighter than most of Series 9, with River contracting The Doctor (though she doesn’t recognize him as The Doctor) to extract a diamond from King Hydroflax, a war loving maniac. The diamond in the brain plot was very The World is Not Enough and is completely ridiculous. However, at least in this episode it served a purpose by showing the audience what River does in her time away from The Doctor. Though much of this episode is Christmas special silly, it felt earnt in this particular story because of what we see of River and her relationship with The Doctor.

River Gets Bad-Ass

River has always been a pretty damn bad ass character, but this special she gets to be extra bad-ass, marrying the diamond, not the alien to return a prize of archaeological value to the people, showing the audience she has access to a ship home to only people who have committed genocide and having plans layered within plans to a Doctor level degree (no wonder they married). It’s almost a shame in a way that the character name was in the episode title because it ruined her suspense in having River cloaked up towards the start of the episode. The following line, however, let me know I was going to be in for a good time:

River: If either of you use my name again, I’ll remove your organs in alphabetical order.

I have to admit, the first time I watched the episode, I thought Moffat and Kingston had finally fucked up the character when she positively cooed to Hydroflax with sickeningly sweet platitudes, including ‘I fly to you’ and ‘Prepare, master of my life.’ I should have known River would never become that kind of character, but Kudos to the team for making me think it had happened for a good five minutes or so.

Though it was stupid of River to tell her plan to The Doctor within earshot of Hydroflax, it was worth it for her chance to use her own sonic trowel (in an oddly ironic reversal of Eleven getting told “It’s a screwdriver… go build a cabinet or something” by River way back in Series 6) and her assessment of herself as, “archaeologist, murderer, thief.” From this point on I kept snorting with laughter at River’s antics. Who didn’t laugh at the below?

River: I’m your wife.

Hydroflax: You tried to kill me.

River: Don’t change the subject!

River’s spray which created whole new outfits was also awesome and I can’t have been the only person cheering when River told a turncoat waiter, ‘I’m an archaeologist from the future… I dig you up.’

The Doctor’s Relationship with River

This episode also showed us more of the two’s unconventional relationship. Though much of the episode felt like fic filmed, I didn’t care because I was having such a good time watching anyway. I liked that River didn’t recognize The Doctor, as this gave us the chance to see what she does get up to without him. I love the room that the show (and Big Finish) leave for themselves with the reveal that River often steals The Doctor’s TARDIS (He’s never noticed before) and the reveal of a brandy stash that The Doctor didn’t even know existed.

River’s failure to recognize Twelve also allows for great sparring between Kingston and Capaldi and helps the episode to sparkle. I loved Capaldi’s delivery as he fakes surprise at the TARDIS being bigger on the inside (‘My entire understanding of physical space has been transformed’) and River’s quip ‘were you born boring or did you have to work hard at it?’ I was howling with laughter at the Hydroflax auction with Twelve’s frantic improvisation and River’s fake telephone signalling. I also snorted at The Doctor and River’s attempts to one-up each other on the other marriages front as their ship is about to catastrophically crash, with both eventually conceding a draw at Cleopatra. I also liked the below quip which says it all really:

The Doctor: I’ve been doing it longer.

River: I’ve been doing it better.

The conceit also allows us to see events from River’s perspective, and allows the episode to blend the silly with elements of adult darkness and sadness. The scene where River has a tear in her eye over The Doctor’s diary, over her understanding that he was the sort of person who would know when a diary would run out and The Doctor’s observation that ‘he sounds like an awful person’ is quite interesting. When River tries to stall for time with her speech that The Doctor ‘doesn’t go around falling in love with people,’ it reveals a lot about her character to that point. The below speech was impassioned and epic, but note that River always had an escape route, even if no Doctor would have entered the story.

River Song: When you love the Doctor, it’s like loving the stars themselves. You don’t expect a sunset to admire you back. And if I happen to find myself in danger, let me tell you, the Doctor is not stupid enough, or sentimental enough, and he is certainly not in love enough to find himself standing in it with me!

The Doctor’s soft ‘hello sweetie,’ in reply was beautiful in its simplicity and allows us to see how Silence in the Library River came to be.

Closing the River Loop

The Husbands of River Song finally reveals to us how River ends up at the singing towers and the library. The final act of the episode is both bittersweet and a strangely adult ending to the fairy story that began in 2008. Though the restaurant outside the singing towers of Dollirium is essentially Doctor Who’s answer to The Restaurant at the End of the Universe (the comparison brought to mind further with River’s comment that ‘I had this book. History’s Finest Exploding Restaurants. The best food for free. Skip the coffee.’), it allows for a lovely final date for the couple and the line ‘our only available slot is Christmas Day…’ four years in the future. Lucky for The Doctor he has a time machine. It also gives The Doctor an excuse to give River the sonic she sports in her debut two parter.

River: Funny thing is, this means you’ve always known how I was going to die. All the time we’ve been together, you knew I was coming here. The last time I saw you, the real you — the future you, I mean — you turned up on my doorstep, with a new haircut and a suit. You took me to Darillium to see the singing towers. Oh, what a night that was! The towers sang and you cried. You wouldn’t tell me why, but I suppose you knew it was time. My time. Time to come to the Library.

I also liked that Moffat connects the story back to River’s debut in dialogue as well as plot. Moffat loves to mirror and this year’s Christmas special was no exception. Take the below for example:

The Doctor: Are you crying?

River: No. It’s just the wind.

The Doctor: It’s never just the wind.

And:

The Doctor: When the wind stands fair and the night is perfect. When you least expect it, but always when you need it the most – there is a song.

And:

River: You’ll wait until I’ve given up hope. All will be lost, and you’ll do that smug little smile and then you’ll save the day. You always do.

Finally River’s diary sentence from Forest of the Dead makes perfect sense:

River: Everybody knows that everybody dies, but not every day. Some days are special. Some days are so, so blessed. Some days, nobody dies at all. Now and then, every once in a very long while, every day in a million days, when the wind stands fair and the Doctor comes to call, everybody lives.

The final part of the episode is pure fairy tale, but it’s both beautiful and suitably Christmas spirit, perhaps the most any any Christmas special has been since The Christmas Carol.

The Doctor: Times end, River, because they have to. Because there’s no such thing as happy ever after. It’s just a lie we tell ourselves because the truth is so hard.

River Song: No, Doctor, you’re wrong. Happy ever after doesn’t mean forever. It just means time. A little time. But that’s not the sort of thing you could ever understand, is it?

It’s a beautifully sad moment, but luckily, both the audience and River are proven wrong when The Doctor reveals that a night on Dollirium lasts 24 years. Such is the power of the River/Doctor relationship that by the time the episode fades out with:

‘And they lived happily ever after,’ trailing away to simply, ‘happily,’ it feels like Moffat and the episode itself have earnt the indulgence.

The Husbands of River Song: 8/10 inky stars

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2015 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 6,300 times in 2015. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 5 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

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2016 NAFF race – voting open now!

This year I am a NAFF candidate so please consider voting for me 🙂

A conversational life

NAFF 2015

Welcome to the NAFF race for 2016. The National Australian Fan Fund (NAFF) was created to assist fans to travel across Australia to attend the National Science Fiction Convention (Natcon). NAFF assists fans to travel to the Natcon and covers the costs of airfares and accommodation. The Natcon donates a convention membership. This year’s NAFF race is to the 55th Australian Natcon, Contact, which will be held in Brisbane during Easter, 25– 28 March 2016. It is expected that the winner will produce a report of their trip, engage in fundraising to support future NAFF races, and to help administer the NAFF race for the following two years. All Australian fans are eligible to vote.

The voting process contributes to the fundraising so each vote costs $5. You are more than welcome to donate more than this amount! Votes are being collected by: Tehani Wessely and the candidates. For more…

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Suspended in Dusk 2: Open Submission

SIMON DEWAR

SiD 2 Title2

I am pleased to announce, Books of the Dead Press is opening 2 spots for stories in the Suspended in Dusk 2 anthology in an open submission.

Writing Prompts/Examples: 
If you’re curious about what might be suitable I recommend checking out Suspended in Dusk, which is currently only 99 cents on Amazon.  Here.
Show me something that plays on the theme of light/dark (Wendy Hammer did this in the original Suspended in Dusk with her story Negatives) , or don’t… show me a person, people, society on the edge of the proverbial abyss (Chris Limb did this with Ministry of Outrage). Show me a story of someone on the grey fringes of normal society (Karen Runge, Hope is Here!). Show me a person, or people undergoing some kind of change,.. willing or otherwise. Knowing or otherwise (Shane Mckenzie, Fit Camp). Show me something that is brought into the light, but everyone…

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Counting Down to Bond: Top 5 Themes

I am seeing Spectre next Wednesday so thought it was a good time to pick out my favorite Bond themes. I haven’t heard Sam Smith’s theme yet and won’t till I go to the film. My criteria to make top 5 theme are below:

  • It has to sound like a Bond theme
  • Bonus points if it actually relates metaphorically to the Bond film plot
  • Bonus points for experimenting musically or being different from the usual theme

5. You Know My Name by Chris Cornell

I found this theme forgettable the first few times I watched the excellent Casino Royale, but each re-listen it gets better and better. It sounds different to what we expect of a Bond theme, but Chris Cornell’s grungier pop sound suits Craig Bond and suits the push for a more emotionally exposed Bond. I assumed that this song was from Vesper’s perspective, but since seeing Skyfall, I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s from M’s.

Best lyrics:

I’ve seen angels fall from blinding heights
But you yourself are nothing so divine
Just next in line

4. Diamonds are Forever by Shirley Bassey

I know I’m being controversial not even ranking Goldfinger in my top 5, but I find it over-hyped. Yes, it’s good and yes, it started the Bond theme trend, but for my money, I actually prefer Diamonds Are Forever. The lyrics are more literal than usual, but Shirley Bassey belts this one with such power and sensuality, what’s not to love?

Best lyrics:

Diamonds are forever,
They are all I need to please me,
They can stimulate and tease me,
They won’t leave in the night,
I’ve no fear that they might desert me.

3. The World is Not Enough by Garbage

I think that The World Is Not Enough is a much maligned Bond film and it is actually one of my favorites in the franchise. Its Bond theme is excellent: a mix of old and new combined. The brassy sounds of yesteryear are combined with the indie sound of Garbage. Like the Skyfall theme, the lyrics also make a lot more sense and have more power after you watch the film. Elektra is one of the more interesting Bond girls, and the song is from her perspective.

Best lyrics:

There’s no point in living
If you can’t feel alive
We know when to kiss
And we know when to kill
If we can’t have it all
Then nobody will

2. Live and Let Die by Paul McCartney and The Wings

I have never met anyone who doesn’t like this theme. It’s a riotous blend of sounds and key changes and experimentation that shouldn’t work, but does. It sounds like the best of The Beatles. Even in the midst of all of this experimentation, Live and Let Die still sounds like a Bond theme. It had my top spot for years, but then along came Adele.

Best lyrics:

When you were young and your heart was an open book
You used to say live and let live
(You know you did, you know you did you know you did)

1.Skyfall by Adele

I managed to avoid Skyfall till I saw the film in cinemas and damn, it is good. Like the best Bond themes, it sounds better and better with each re-listen and like the best Bond themes, it combines old and new to great effect. When I reviewed Skyfall on my LiveJournal blog, I said this:

Adele’s theme song tells us the movie is about M and her relationship with Bond (though of course we can’t know that till later) and so everything that happens in the film is meant to reflect that, whilst at the same time rebooting Bond as a franchise for the modern world. My brother claims that Adele’s song is also so good because it is so mournful you almost could imagine it spells the end for James Bond as a franchise. Of course it doesn’t, but the point is, with the way the film ends, it very well could be the end just as it is a new beginning. It’s the end of something at any rate. What I loved about Skyfall was how ominous the whole thing was. You knew from almost the very first shot of M, that she was on her way out. You just didn’t know how yet.

Adele’s Skyfall sets the tone for the whole movie: a melancholic eulogy for one of the best character’s in the entire Bond franchise.

Best lyrics:

You may have my number, You can take my name
But you’ll never have my heart

Honourable Mentions: Goldfinger, Nobody Does It Better, Goldeneye and Tomorrow Never Dies

What do you think? Am I right or horribly wrong?

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Doctor Who Review: The Girl Who Died/The Woman Who Lived

Jamie Mathieson! Maisie Williams! Female Who writer! Moniker name titles! Must be a new Moffat style Doctor Who two parter. I enjoyed the first half better than the second half, just as I did last two parter, but there was a lot of interesting stuff to unpick this time around.

Ashildr 

Ashildr joins the show as an ordinary Viking girl: plucky, outspoken, foolish and stubburn. Again, the Moffat theme of power in story also re-surfaced, with Ashildr using her puppets to save her Viking town from alien annihilation.

Ashildr: I’ve always been different. All my life I’ve known that. The girls all thought I was a boy. The boys all said I was just a girl. My head is always full of stories. I know I’m strange. Everyone knows I’m strange. But here I’m loved. You tell me to run, to save my life. I tell you that leaving this place would be death itself.

But Ashildr is more than a repeat of the Amelia Pond prototype. The girl who died became the woman who lived forever and forgot how to feel (just as The Doctor does without a human companion to remind him why emotions matter). Maisie Williams is a brilliant young actress and I enjoyed seeing her have to stretch herself by playing a character who has seen thousands of years pass filled with pain, death and sadness, even if the audience only got the benefit of seven days passing between episodes. Though Maisie didn’t always manage to convince, I think this was mainly down to the script jumping so far ahead and telling us about Ashildr’s immortal life rather than showing it to us across multiple episodes (which wouldn’t have worked as Doctor Who anyway). This was an ambitious two-parter and Ashildr’s gradual loss of humanity could have merited an entire spin-off all on its own.

Where Clara performs The Doctor role, Ashildr is a mirror to The Doctor. They both live untold years and leave too many people behind. Ashildr has lived long enough to know that The Doctor runs away from responsibility (“You left me.” “You seemed fine”) and has casualties he can’t escape the memory of no matter how hard he tries to forget (“How many people have you lost? How many Clara’s?”) Ashildr knows that The Doctor doesn’t like endings, that he leaves people like open pages in books (I wish River could have met Ashildr. Maybe she has?) And The Doctor knows why he can’t travel with Ashildr, despite their similarities in experience.

The Doctor: People like us, we go on too long, we forget what matters… the last thing we need is each other.

It is humanity, those like Sam Swift who faced the hangman’s noose with bad puns and a ready smile, who remind people like Ashildr and The Doctor to care.

The Doctor: People like us, we go on too long. We forget what matters. The last thing we need is each other. We need the mayflies. You see the mayflies, they know more than we do. They know how beautiful and precious life is because it’s fleeting.

Both The Doctor and Ashildr need to be reminded how to feel, how to let the heart bleed, and it is humanity in its messiness which does this. Finally, Ashildr after thinking she doesn’t care, falls off the wagon and wants earth saved, but that doesn’t mean Ashildr is suddenly pro-Doctor. I quite liked this end of episode impasse:

Me: Someone has to look out for the people you abandon. Who better than me? I’ll be the patron saint of the Doctor’s leftovers. While you’re busy protecting this world, I’ll get busy protecting it from you.
The Doctor: So are we enemies now?
Me: Of course not. Enemies are never a problem. It’s your friends you have to watch out for. And, my friend, I’ll be watching out for you.

(This line reminded me of Ros Myers in Spooks actually, and to be honest, Ashildr has pale shadows of Ros.

Ros: Lovers leave, friends annoy and family mess with your head, colleagues are OK.

Damn I miss Ros on my TV. She was fucking bad ass.)

Anyway, small Ashildr questions remain, who told her that The Doctor comes for a battle and runs from the fall-out? Missy or someone else altogether? Will she meet Captain Jack? Will she return to the show as friend or foe?

The Doctor

Aside from The Doctor being reflected in Ashildr, there were a lot of Doctor character moments this two-parter. The first might seem a minor thing, but I enjoyed the little touch. All of The Doctor’s hate violence on principle (except for when it is them using it). Twelve goes a step further by selectively ignoring it. People try to use violence to get him to do something and he simply doesn’t respond. At the start of The Woman Who Lived, he’s more interested in his own theories than he is in the heist. His brain simply doesn’t process words accompanied by violence in this episode.

In more meatier meta, I liked the reminder that The Doctor doesn’t interfere with people or planets unless there are children crying (say what you like about The Beast Below, that was a lovely Amy/Eleven moment). Twelve tells Clara he can’t interfere, can’t make ripples.

The Doctor: I applaud your courage but I deplore your stupidity. And I will mourn your deaths. Which will be terrifying, painful and… without honor.
Ashildr: Stay. You could help us, I know you could.
The Doctor: I told you to run. That’s all the help you’ll need. That’s all the help you’re getting.

And later…

The Doctor: Suppose I saved it—by some miracle. No TARDIS, no sonic. Just one village defeats the Mire. What then? Word gets around. Earth becomes a target of strategic value and the Mire come back. And god knows what else. Ripples into tidal waves until everybody dies.

But then in a nice throwback to Stormageddon, Twelve can understand baby talk and knows that the baby is deathly afraid. He can’t help himself, he has to stay behind and help the Viking village.

Clara: What’s it saying?
The Doctor: She. She’s afraid. Babies sense danger, they have to.
Clara: Tell me.
The Doctor: “Mother, I hear thunder. Mother, I hear shouting. You’re my world but I hear other worlds now. Beyond the unfolding of your smile, is there other kindness? I’m afraid. Will they be kind? The sky is crying now, the fire in the water.” Fire in the water…
Clara: You just decided to stay. The baby stopped crying.

The Doctor refuses to interfere at first because he knows he will make mistakes, cause discrepancies which will cause further misery and land back at his door. The irony is that when The Doctor chooses to ‘save’ Ashildr by granting her immortality, he creates a tidal wave which he cannot control and he runs away, rather than facing his actions (a theme that has surfaced again and again in Moffat Who).

Immortality

By granting Ashildr immortality, The Doctor does more than create a tidal ripple, he also creates a woman in his own image without initially thinking things through. There are some great scenes and lines in The Woman Who Lived which remind us why no man lives forever/why dead men rise up never/why even the weariest river/winds somewhere close to sea. Ashildr’s diaries parallel River’s in the library, but are made sadder by the deaths Ashildr has witnessed and the tears she has shed (the ghost lover got me). The saddest part of all was the plague when Ashildr lost her babies and vowed she would have no more (I cannot suffer the heartache).

The consequence of The Doctor’s interference is immortality, but the cause begins with him. If he had not interfered in people or planets Ashildr would have died peacefully, and not had the pain of living forever. The problem with The Doctor has always been that he doesn’t think.

Me: Do you ever think or care what happens after you’ve flown away? I live in the world you leave behind. Because you abandoned me to it.
The Doctor: Why should I be responsible for you?
Me: You made me immortal.
The Doctor: I saved your life. I didn’t know that your heart would rust because I kept it beating. I didn’t think that your conscience would need renewing, that the well of human kindness would run dry. I just wanted to save a terrified young woman’s life.
Me: You didn’t save my life, Doctor. You trapped me inside it.

Amy and Rory showed us the way it was impossible to adjust to ordinary life after running with The Doctor, River showed us that The Doctor doesn’t do endings, even when he loves someone deeply and Ashildr shows us that The Doctor doesn’t put much thought until it is too late into the people he touches and leaves behind. He is focused on the future. The next horizon and sight to see. The next adventure. Because the past is too painful.

The Doctor: Oh, I like a nice view as much as anyone.
Ashildr: But?
The Doctor: Can’t wait for the next one.
Ashildr: I pity you.
The Doctor: I will mourn for you. I know which one I prefer.

By the end of this rich two-parter, so do we.

The Girl Who Died/The Woman Who Lived: 8/10 inky stars

 

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Doctor Who Review: Under The Lake/Before the Flood

Do you know what I like about this series? Two parters all series because I can review episodes back to back. Otherwise I get too behind with my reviews like last year. But gimme a break guys. This is what happens when I re-write 27 000 words in a week and a half and am winding up an organisation.

Anyway, Doctor Who. My favourite review of this episode was actually from livejournal meta queen, Elisi. ‘Well. There wasn’t any mirroring’ was essentially her response to both parts. And probably mine too. I am so used to Moffat Who mirroring characters against each other and requiring viewers to dig deep into metaphor and theme to get the full mileage out of an episode. Not so this Whitehouse two-parter, which saw the return of old fashioned hide-behind-the-sofa Who and the locked-in-a-confined-space-getting-bumped-off-one-by-one trope. Similar in many ways to The Rebel Flesh/The Almost People, this was proper scary Who.

Clara Who?

Regular readers of this blog know that I am not a big Clara fan, largely because though Jenna Coleman is a good actress, the show doesn’t know what to do with her. Not only has she gone all through The Doctor’s timeline, she’s also taken on the role of Doctor in various Series 8 episodes. Much like the Series 9 two-parter where Clara did little but get locked inside a Dalek by the deranged Missy, Clara has little purpose in this story. I don’t think the show can get much more mileage out of the character.

This two parter brought up the theme of death in relation to both The Doctor and Clara, and I think it is fairly safe to say that there is about to be death for Clara on the horizon, either metaphorical (ala Donna) or physical (ala Jamie).

The Doctor: Listen to me. We all have to face death eventually, be it ours or someone else’s.
Clara: I’m not ready yet. I don’t want to think about that, not yet.
The Doctor: I can’t change what’s already happened. There are rules.
Clara: So break them. And anyway, you owe me. You’ve made yourself essential to me, you’ve given me something else to… to be.  And you can’t do that and then die. It’s not fair.
The Doctor: Clara…
Clara: No. Doctor, I don’t care about your rules or your bloody survivor’s guilt. If you love me in any way, you’ll come back.

Surely this is telegraphing a mile off that Clara is on the out? I liked the little throw back to Dark Water here by the way, with Clara saying chillingly in that episode that she was owed.

We saw in this two parter, too, that Clara is learning some of Twelve’s detached coldness in the face of strategy and split second decisions, especially in the second part of the episode.

Lunn: She said to ask you whether traveling with the Doctor has changed you, and why you always have to put other people’s lives at risk.
Clara: He taught me to do what has to be done.

Did The Doctor teach you that, or did Missy? (Thinks back to the title, The Witch’s Familiar and Missy’s Death in Heaven, ‘I chose her’ and shudder).

Twelve

Not much new to say on Twelve here, other than to say it is clear that in Series 9 Capaldi is much more comfortable in the role and nails the range of emotions his character has to display. There was this nifty little tid bit on Time Lords though:

Fisher King: Time Lords. Cowardly, vain curators who suddenly remembered they had teeth and became the most war-like race in the galaxy. But you—you! You are curious. You’ve seen the words too and can hear them tick inside you. But you are still locked in your history. Still slavishly protecting time. Willing to die rather than change a word of the future.

But seriously, I liked the meta start and end cap to Before The Flood, with The Doctor coming over musical with his electric guitar (and apparently that was actually Capaldi playing over the weekly theme tune) in a repeat of his Medieval band strum in The Magician’s Apprentice. In other news, I also quite enjoyed The Doctor’s social cue cards given to him by Clara (even if this does mean that half the internet is probably now diagnosing The Doctor with an ASD).

Diversity on Who

Diversity in anything is so rare that it is always super exciting when it happens in the mainstream (it shouldn’t be in the 21st century, but here we are) and especially in popular culture. I really enjoyed deaf female leader, Cass, and I thought she was a good actress. I liked that one of her colleagues signed and spoke at the same time, acting as translator and communicator. For some young people especially, it is a reminder that just because you have a disability, it doesn’t mean you are invisible, that you should be invisible, or that you can’t achieve things.

Tell her that you’re always gonna love her

This was an ending of pairings. Lunn and Cass declare their love for each other at episode’s end, Bennett and O’Donnell are out of time and never really admit their love, though deep down they knew it before O’Donnell faced death. It was a little bit too neat, but I did grin when Cass kissed Lunn.

The Fisher King?

For once I agree with Mary Ann Johanson, (I haven’t since circa Series 6 when her hatred of Moffat Who reached such a degree of insanity I gave up on reading her Who write-ups) who asked why The Fisher King was the name given to the alien behind the events of this two parter. A good question. The Fisher King is a reference to Arthurian legend. From Wikipedia:

In Arthurian legend the Fisher King, or the Wounded King, is the last in a long line charged with keeping the Holy Grail. Versions of his story vary widely, but he is always wounded in the legs or groin and incapable of moving on his own. In the Fisher King legends, he becomes impotent and unable to perform his task himself, and he also becomes unable to father or support a next generation to carry on after his death. His kingdom suffers as he does, his impotence affecting the fertility of the land and reducing it to a barren wasteland. All he is able to do is fish in the river near his castle, Corbenic, and wait for someone who might be able to heal him. Healing involves the expectation of the use of magic. Knights travel from many lands to heal the Fisher King, but only the chosen can accomplish the feat.

I am not clear on how The Fisher King’s motive of summoning an armada relates to this legend, and though of course, Whithouse could have just wanted to shout out to legend with a tribute name, it was distracting for me, so used to looking for Moffat Who mirrors.

Ultimately, this two-parter proved to have a great set-up with a less interesting follow-up. It is also one of the more straightforward Who episodes we’ve had in recent years, and that’s fine, but I prefer my stories with layers of meta which take at least three re-watches to dissect. Oh well. I can’t win all of the time.

Under the Lake/Before The Flood: 6/10 inky stars

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