Viewing posts tagged Doctor Who

The Circle in the Square (Doctor Who)

(Content note: This post references childhood sexual abuse, the objectifying male gaze, and the repression and processing of traumatic events in general.)

Given that, let’s start with something really abstract.  A symbol, and a pretty basic one as far as symbols go.  A circle, circumscribed by a square.  Simple geometry.  And the Circle in the Square is by no means a hugely important or influential symbol in Western esoterica – it’s minor enough to take some digging to uncover, and what’s uncovered isn’t exactly consistent.  Which, you know, is kind of part and parcel for abstract symbols. 

The first thing that might come to mind is a problem of geometry – “squaring the circle” refers to creating a square of the same area as a given circle, using a finite number of steps with only a compass and a straightedge.  It was eventually mathematically demonstrated to be an impossible problem, which is actually kind of delightful given the subsequent esoteric usages -- for if such fusion is technically impossible, its success is necessarily transcendent, pointing to Ascension. Anyways, in basic symbolism, the Circle represents the infinite, the cyclical, the eternal, totality and perfection.  ...

Creature from the Black Lagoon

Last week we talked about the expression of the Beautiful throughout the history of Doctor Who, and gleaned different kinds of aesthetics employed by the show in the process – from awe at new, strange places… to the banal objectification of women… to an almost ritualized praise of monsters in the modern era.  And it’s this latter sense of beauty that I find most interesting, given how monsters are now used in Doctor Who, especially in the Moffat era.  Because monsters are no longer just villainous plot devices for generating scares.  Quite often they are secret protagonists, and weighted with symbolic value, especially when juxtaposed with our main characters such that they become telling metaphors.  This latter process I call the “monstering” of a character, and of particular interest to me is how Amy Pond becomes consistently monstered during her time on the show.

But what does it mean “to be monstered?”  What does that look like?  And how unique is it to the modern era?  To answer those questions, I’ll step briefly back into the past, to The Android Invasion, aa 4th Doctor story with Sarah Jane in Season 13.  ...

You're a Beautiful Woman, Probably

I’ve been thinking about doing another essay on monstering in Doctor Who, especially with regards to Amy Pond, but it occurs to me that this would really benefit in hindsight of a full survey on the show’s conception of beauty.  Which is to say, I think the process of “monstering” is part and parcel of the modern show’s aesthetics, and what better way to explore those aesthetics than to come to some sort of understanding of the place where the Beautiful stands within it?  Well, there’s probably several other better ways, but when it comes to Amy Pond, I think “beauty” isn’t a bad place to start.  Not because Karen Gillan is classically beautiful, but because the character she plays actually articulates a philosophy of beauty that I find altogether more interesting:

WARRIOR AMY: All those boys chasing me, but it was only ever Rory. Why was that?
AMY: You know when sometimes you meet someone so beautiful, and then you actually talk to them, and five minutes later they're as dull as a brick? Then there's other people, and you meet them and think, “Not bad, they're okay.” And then you get to ...

Sunday Eggs and Bangers

In a very special pocast (albeit one recorded a month ago) Jane and James discuss Steve Thompson's Doctor Who episodes. At length. Now, mind you, this was at midnight over here in the States, and I was well past my bedtime.  Whereas James was bright-eyed and bushy-tailed at 6am over in the UK.  So I would definitely go James's version of the event, because my memory is hazy on the point.  I think I kept talking about death.  Yeah.  That seems likely. 

Grab the episode here.

And feel free to mock us to the high heavens in the comments.  :)

Tricky Dicky, Part 5: By Dissembling

This should be read as, in some ways, a continuation of the previous instalment.

I, that am curtail’d of this fair proportion,
Cheated of feature by dissembling nature,
Deform’d, unfinish’d, sent before my time
Into this breathing world, scarce half made up,
And that so lamely and unfashionable
That dogs bark at me, as I halt by them;
Why, I, in this weak piping time of peace,
Have no delight to pass away the time.

Richard III, I, I

Used as the epigraph to Ben Aaronovitch's novelisation of 'Remembrance of the Daleks'


In Richard III, as I started to talk about last time (in Part 4), Richard draws upon his ‘deformity’ for an identity. As noted in a previous instalment, Richard is a narcissist (hardly an original observation) and a vital part of his narcissism is expressed in his concentration upon what he sees - or spins to us, the audience - as his own physical monstrosity. He concentrates on his physical ‘defects’, talking them up, poetically riffing on them and exaggerating them (if he were as monstrous as he says he is nobody would be able to look at him let alone accept him as colleague or husband) until ...

Let's Kill Hitler Again

Hi all, sorry about the extended time away. Think of it as a winter hiatus, a polar opposite to, say, the summer hiatus preceding Let’s Kill Hitler. Anyways, I'm back!  And I've six thousand words to share.

I just happened to rewatch Series 6 recently with very good friends, so it’s on my mind, esepcially Let's Kill Hitler. It’s one of those episodes that, for me, gets better every time I watch it – it’s very amenable to esoteric exploration, and being so familiar with all its beats, I no longer notice the tonal whiplash and the jarring pace. “Plus, she’s a woman” still sticks out like a sore thumb, but still, that’s a relatively minor complaint compared to all the wonderful stuff going on in this story, and even more so in the context of its production.

For those unfamiliar with the production schedule for Series 6, many of the stories were shot or placed out of order. Black Spot, for example, was repositioned to the first half of the series, switching places with Night Terrors. Let’s Kill Hitler, on the other hand, started production after they’d already filmed ...

Clara Who: The Impossible Narrator

I was not as entranced with Series Nine as I’d hoped, but that may well be due to events in my own life and the kind of work that’s been on my plate this fall. I realize I haven’t written nearly as much about the show as I have in years past. So, this is to kind of rectify that, somewhat, and to encapsulate my thoughts on the series as a whole, and particularly in the context of Clara’s overall arc in the show.

This is in large part inspired by a conversation on Tumblr the last day or two, where Caitlin (abossycontrolfreak) properly tore apart the problematic Claudia Boleyn’s objections to Clara in Series 7. Mind you, there are other dynamics in this interchange involving Claudia’s style of critique, which erases or belittles countering views, and this is really the least of my concerns; both Caitlin and Julia (tillthenexttimedoctor) have effectively addressed this already, imho. At the heart of the mistake, though, was the belief that Clara wasn't properly characterized in Series 7.  But I've seen this a lot.  It has more to do with the storytelling than the stories ...

Genre Competition (Kill the Moon)

…and Zygons.

First, Kill the Moon. No, wait, first, what do I mean by “genre competition” and why in the world would anything like that matter? So let’s go back and review what’s already been established via TARDIS Eruditorum. Most readers here should be familiar with the term “narrative substitution,” which is what happens when we’re toodling along, all genre-savvy and boned up on TV Tropes, and suddenly the rug is pulled out from under us and the story we think we’re watching turns into something else.

Phil coined the phrase in his review of A Good Man Goes to War, where the “male revenge for his hurt woman” story trope is rejected for something quite different – instead, it turns into a story of Grace, which is delivered not by the Doctor, but by River Song. Or we might look at the “epic season finale” of The Pandorica Opens and how the fulfilled narrative collapse is supplanted by a small, intimate story of one family.

What we get in Kill the Moon is something similar, but it is structurally different, not to mention ramped up to 11. Rather than giving us one story, and then substituting ...

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