A recurrent and to my mind fascinating theme of Peter Harness’s Doctor Who work has been its distinct hostility to democracy. Kill the Moon hinges on the flagrant disregard of the expressed wishes of humanity, while the Zygon two-parter ultimately endorses the existence of unelected guardians who lie to people in order to keep them under control. I should stress, if it’s not obvious, that my fondness for this is not straightforwardly a quasi-neoreactionary rejection of democracy or endorsement of dictatorship - rather it is specifically the extent to which the episodes themselves seem conflicted on this. It’s a bit of grit that complicates the show’s default ethos of liberal centrism - something that extends naturally out of its embrace of rebelliousness and dissent, but that the show usually avoids having to look at head-on.
So it’s not especially a surprise that Harness, writing in the heat of 2016, turns in a script that is more explicitly about the terrible decisions that humanity makes than ever before. This time there is no undemocratic savior to be had. Indeed, there’s not a savior of any kind - the bad decision is taken and the bad guys win. The Doctor’s scheme to stop them is ...
Hello there... bit of a serious Shabcast this time, though there are some laughs along the way.
(EDIT: I forgot to say that I'm joined by James - who really knows about this stuff - and Daniel - who really knows about this stuff in America.)
This episode was prompted by the 'Dementia Tax' story, and became about the crisis in the NHS generally, and also about the horrors of the American system. It was recorded before the 'Dementia Tax' story developed (with Theresa May's humiliating kindasorta u-turn) and also before the attack in Manchester, so it's a bit of a relic... but even so, these are live issues, and a lot of what we say hasn't gone out of date. The NHS is still in crisis, and its still the Tories' fault, but also still tracks back to New Labour. And the American system is still awful, and the few improvements made by Obama may still be about to be destroyed, and we in the UK are still headed in that privatised, profit-driven direction.
I'd appreciate people sharing this about, for propaganda/electioneering purposes. You never know, it might help ...
I'm joined by Jack Graham to talk Extremis. It doesn't so much go off the rails quickly as never actually manage to find the rails in the first place. You can download that here if you're so inclined.
Geordi La Forge, Doctor Crusher and Worf are in the holodeck, reviewing security sensor footage. The ship's internal sensors detected the mysterious humanoid figure who we saw creeping through the engineering deck hallways to the shuttlebay in the teaser at the end of issue one, and now the crew is trying to determine who this person was because that's how they got access to the Scherdat ship in order to place a bomb on its hull. Although the figure was too far away to be captured in full detail, Goerdi, Bev and Worf see enough to make some general observations: Although they look humanoid, the outline of the body is odd and unnatural, particularly around the midsection. This is almost certainly a skinsuit disguise of some kind.
Geordi can pick up thermal signatures from the sensor feed through his VISOR. Although he can't yet get much on the figure itself, he can tell it's carrying a plasma bomb, though it hadn't yet been armed (which explains why the ship's sensors didn't immediately detect it as well). Once the figure enters the shuttlebay, Geordi can get more information because the sensors are more sensitive ...
TROU NORMAND: A palate cleansing drink of apple brandy, sometimes with a small amount of sorbet. Your guess is as good as mine, frankly.
One of the show’s most emphatically memorable murder tableaus - probably the only one to give Eldon Stammetz and his mushroom people a run for their money. It also serves, however, as a case study in the schizoid nature of this season. More than anywhere else in the first season, “Trou Nourmand” demonstrates the degree to which these cases of the week are a charade. The totem pole murders are barely a feature of the episode, squared away with almost comical efficiency midway through the fourth act while the plot focuses instead on Will’s psychological collapse and new developments with Abigail.
BRIAN ZELLER: The world’s sickest jigsaw puzzle.
JIMMY PRICE: Where are the corners? My mom always said start a jigsaw with the corners...
BRIAN ZELLER: I guess the heads are the corners?
BEVERLY KATZ: We’ve got too many corners. Seven graves. Way more heads.
In which Zeller, Price, and Katz demonstrate that the aesthetics of murder tableaus are not their strong suit.
WILL GRAHAM: I planned this moment... This monument with precision. Collected all my raw ...
At its structural root, it’s Moffat doing Doctor Who like it’s Sherlock, which is the sort of thing where when you do it, you know it’s probably time to move on in your career. This, of course, does not mean it’s bad. It’s not even a criticism - more just a reality of Moffat’s set pieces twelve years into his writing for the program. He passed Robert Holmes for most screen minutes of Doctor Who written somewhere around the “sit down and talk” speech in The Zygon Inversion. (Yes, I counted Brain of Morbius for Holmes as well.) His stylistic tics have long since evolved to cliches, blossomed into major themes, and finally twisted into strange self-haunting shadows that echo endlessly off of each imprisoned demon and fractured reality. They become difficult to actually talk about on some level And so approaching them from the standpoint of their dramatic engines becomes productive.
The first thing to note, then, is that Sherlock provides a pretty good narrative shell for Doctor Who to inhabit. The globehopping thriller has always worked for Doctor Who, and the Vatican is a good choice for “who should bring a case to the Doctor.” The double structure ...
When the world is a danger to Doctor Who, does it raise up in rage or does it keep getting stranger?
Today, suffocation has a very specific meaning. In America, you can tell upon which side of the divide someone stands by seeing what their t-shirt tells you about their ability – or otherwise - to respirate. The divide in question is one created by a system of oppression that chokes people. It chokes them figuratively, and then has the brazen impudence to choke them literally as well.
One statement of resistance is the simple proclamation “I can’t breathe”, which derives its power from its ability to inhabit both the metaphor and the brute reality.
Part of the peculiar power of the metaphorical referent is that it expresses a feeling of helplessness as part of a demonstration of strength. Weaponised weakness.
‘Oxygen’ flirts with the SF trope of the post-racial future. The people of the future don’t understand why Bill should face prejudice. They don’t see colour. Except that there is the business with the blue man (played by a white actor, of course, because whiteness is perceived as neutrality, blankness, non-ethnicity, vanilla standard ...
Our guest this week is Shana and our episode this week doesn't suck. What more can you ask for? Well, a link to where you can download it, obviously.