Viewing posts tagged steven moffat

Essential Problems and Dialectical Solutions ('Deep Breath' 5)

Many people have already commented on the expansion of Clara's character in 'Deep Breath'.  I think there's something to this... in that Clara now appears to have a character, now that she's been freed from her tedious and contentless mystery-arc.  Those impatient with the right-on critique of Moffat will respond with all sorts of examples of brave, complex things she did in Series 7, and some of those examples will be right, but still... she really did look like a characterless blur across the screen, a sort of jumble of traits, a Rubik's Cube with a face drawn on it.  There's no denying, she looked better in 'Deep Breath'.  It's possible that, as with so much else that seems better about 'Deep Breath', I may just be perceiving an improvement because the episode is largely free from the dominating and infuriating presence of a certain actor who will not be missed at all by me.  But then, such things do make a difference.  One performance in an 'actually existing' production of a written text can change the meaning.

Clara's monologue rebuke to Vastra is part of her ...

Bits and Bobs ('Deep Breath' 4)

It ends with another mysterious woman, another predatory dominatrix older female.  She represents another story arc which we, the viewers, have no possibility of guessing or understanding until the inevitable 'twist' becomes self-evident just before being served up to you on a plate several episodes later than it could've been.

She speaks as if she is one of the audience and saw what we saw.  Like us, she couldn't see if the Doctor persuaded Half-Face to commit suicide or if he pushed him to his death.  Again, a metatextual trick is used as a signifier of the enemy.

Another physical endurance test or test of skill becomes part of the nature of the monster-of-the-week.  The Weeping Angels were based on how long you could go without blinking.  The Sredni Vashtar (or whatever they were called) were based on how long you could go without touching a shadow with your own shadow.  The droids in 'Deep Breath' were based on how long you can hold your breath (a slightly dodgy thing to encourage in the playground possibly).

How much you like all this probably depends on how much you like repetition.

I said ...

The Veil ('Deep Breath' 3)

The veil.  A politically loaded symbol.  It carries all sorts of old semiotic baggage, of course.  Weddings.  Widowhood.  Ladies in Conan Doyle who want to hide their identities (thus it has a trajectory into the figure of Madame Vastra via Victoriana).  In genre TV these days, a woman wearing a veil is likely to be a tragic or vengeful figure, hiding a facial scar of some kind.  (See 'Silence in the Library' / 'Forest of the Dead'.)

The veil is thus something that implies a particular set of social situations for women.  The connection appears to be the concept of separation.  The veil is a boundary between the woman and society.  It creates a space in which she can hide her unsightliness, either disfiguring grief or grievous disfigurement, from those who don't want to have to see it.  The wedding veil is lifted as the woman is taken possession of in the marriage ceremony; thus it is there to emphasize her acceptability by temporarily putting it in doubt.  It is, of course, the symbolic tearing of the hymen.  The man takes possession and breaks through the barrier ...

Das Kapaldi ('Deep Breath' 2)

Okay, so, Capaldi.  Well, he's great, of course.  He's one of the best actors around - I've loved him ever since I saw him as Uncle Rory in The Crow Road.  (Yes, I know, most of you don't even know what I'm talking about.  I may as well mention, at this point, that I've never seen an episode of Skins or Children of Earth.  I've never even seen In The Thick of It, which surprises even me, given that its written by another of my favourite Scotsmen with an Italian surname.  I do, however, have Capaldi reading an audiobook of A Song of Stone.)  So he's a predictably good Doctor... though it is possible that I'm just perceiving him to be so good because...


...of course, Capaldi gets plenty of typically groanworthy and arrogant stuff to say and do.  His Doctor calls Clara "the asking questions one" and an "egomaniac needy gameplayer", plays that horrific trick on her where he pretends ...

Pyramids of London ('Deep Breath' 1)

I've realised who Strax reminds me of: the policeman from 'Allo 'Allo.  But not as good.  That's a cheap shot, but I do have a serious point to make.

Strax, you see, is essentially a funny foreigner.  You know, with his allegedly hilarious misunderstandings and all that stuff.  Moffat evidently imagines that Strax's misunderstandings are a rich and continuing source of humour, since he stops the plot of 'Deep Breath' for a few minutes so that he can (once again) run through all the same Strax jokes he's already done several hundred times in other episodes.  (This, by the way, is another way in which Strax resembles a character from 'Allo 'Allo - he is the same joke, repeated endlessly, over and over again, with the laugh demanded - upon recitation of a well-known catchphrase - from an audience supposedly trained via pavlovian technique.  If you object to my singling out 'Allo 'Allo here then, really, I agree with you.  How about we use Little Britain as our example instead?)

Of course, the funny foreigner - with all the imperial contempt and jingoistic chauvinism that is built in to it - is a very ...

The Perfect Companion

Yes, the female companions of the Moffat era are smart, strong, capable, multi-talented, capable, prone to saving the day, etc.

But this is just the job of the companion.  Even the worst of the classic series companions - Victoria, Dodo, etc - gets to be smart, strong, capable, etc when required.  They don't tend to save the day in the classic series, but they always do what is needed and expected of them.  It's a tautology: the companions do the companion things more or less successfully.  That's not something that's entirely untroubling, but - for good or ill - it's how this works.  In the revived series, a great deal more is expected of the companions.  It's actually worrying just how much is expected of Martha.  But the point is that they all step up because that's what they're in the text to do.  The ones that don't, fail to be companions (i.e. Adam).

You also have to look at what they do and what happens to them on top of their basic role as companion.  Rose rejects the roles of shop worker, daughter, girlfriend ...



News from Elsewhere II: This Time It's Polemical

I've done another guest post for Phil Sandifer's site, here.  He wanted someone to put a case against the Moffat era before he proceeded to post his own thoughts about it.  He asked me to provide and, despite the obvious dangers, I bravely agreed... to attack someone who can't answer back without looking like a massive prick.  Still, I've done it before.  Just never on a site with an actual readership.  The scarier thing is how Phil's own subsequent posts will stamp all over me. 

I've steered well clear of having a go at the man personally, which means I've not engaged with any of his troubling public statements.  I've tried to argue from the texts.

Phil has called my post 'A Case for the Prosecution'.  I'm glad he put "A" rather than "The", because - inevitably - my attempt will disappoint some of the many people who care about this issue, not least because I didn't have time to do much more than cobble together a (relatively) brief overview. 

To me, this ...

The No Man

Well, I watched 'The Snowmen'.

It started badly, with the loner as unhealthy future villain. Watch out for the loners everybody - they're scary.

It briefly picked up with a rather good new title sequence.

Then we got into the mystery section, which was okay. I have serious issues with the idea that the Doctor is now mates with a Silurian and a Sontaran. Both races should hate his guts, the Silurians with good reason.  He's repeatedly failed to do anything but posture some platitudes for these Palestinians of the Who-world.  And then either sit by while his mates kill them, or kill them himself.  And the Sontarans don't work as comedy pratts.  I remember when they were satirical deconstructions of literal-mindedness and militarism, compared archly to medieval chivalric hypocrisy.  Now they're straight men.

But some of the jokes were funnyish, even if they did rely on the idea that it's okay to mock people for being short, looking odd, etc.

The spiral staircase was nice.

But then... Look, it's now clear that this show has no ambition to be anything more than put-down comedy and sentimentality, interspersed with stuff ...

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