The Green One and the Not-Green One (The Crimson Horror)

(47 comments)

I don't know that I'd call it a crimson horror, really. Really, it's
more a rosy horror. Incarnadine horror at best.
It’s May 4th, 2013. Daft Punk have gotten lucky and made it to number one. Calvin Harris, Nelly, Macklemore, and, in a stunning feat of horror, will.i.am and Justin Bieber also chart. In news, James McCormick is jailed for ten years for selling fake bomb detectors, Labour and UKIP do well in local elections, and three more people are arrested over the Boston Marathon bombings. 

On television, meanwhile, The Crimson Horror, which is very possibly the most self-evident pairing of writer and concept in the history of Doctor Who. More than hiring David Whitaker to handle introducing a new Doctor over a backdrop of Daleks, more than giving Paul Cornell the small and personal story in the debut series, more even than giving Malcolm Hulke the giant lizards story, tapping Mark Gatiss to write the Victorian penny dreadful is simply a case of hiring a man to do what he’s good at. 

And correspondingly, in many regards The Crimson Horror is exactly what you’d expect. A ranting villain, a classic Doctor Who plot, broad gags. But as with Cold War, the details on this are all spot on. Yes, you’ve got a standard issue raving lunatic Doctor Who villain, but she’s played by Diana Rigg, whose appetite for scenery is gloriously boundless. (Surely there’s not a single person on the planet who does not love the line “the wrong hands.”) Strax irrevocably hits the “one note joke” point here, yes, but he also has his best gag with “horse, you have failed in your mission,” and to be fair, the bit where Vastra sends him outside because he’s gotten overexcited is, in fact, a new trick for the character, even if it’s basically the last one he ever gets. Neve McIntosh relishes getting to be the Doctor for a large swath of the story. The period stuff all looks great. And there are some lovely directorial flourishes, most notably the grainy film look used for the Doctor’s flashback exposition of how he got captured. 

And, yes, Gatiss deserves some specific praise here. This is not necessarily a story that’s long on logic, but everything moves along gracefully by dint of the fact that all the elements just go well together. And that speaks to a slyly good sense of judgment on Gatiss’s part. There’s no obvious reason why bright red bodies, the eyes of the dead holding images, Diana Rigg ranting, and Victorian finery should magically click together so as to make a coherent story in the absence of any significant plot logic, but they absolutely do. The Crimson Horror was never a contender for season-best, but it was tremendous fun when it aired - much more fun than you’d expect given that it seems like it should be very standard issue.

Indeed, this is the first story of Season 7B to be almost completely unfazed by the passage of more than a year since it aired. This is much as it was in May of 2013 - a story that’s almost ruthlessly straightforward. Part of this is that it’s the one story in Season 7B that you really can’t call the definitive take on its iconography. With The Snowmen just a few months prior and The Name of the Doctor two weeks after, the Victorian caper with the Paternoster Gang is a relatively standard part of this phase of the program’s tricks, and The Crimson Horror in many regards is less a definitive take than it is a solid execution of a formula - what Fury from the Deep is to bases under siege, and The Pyramids of Mars is to long dead foes threatening to return. The Victorian-era story featuring the Paternoster Gang is, if not quite the default mode of Doctor Who in this period, at least very close to it. 

We might fairly ask, however, how it is that a married lesbian inter-species couple and their Sontaran butler became a standard issue component of Doctor Who for a period. Well, no, actually, how is easy enough. Because Vastra, Jenny, and Strax stole every scene of A Good Man Goes to War that they were in, and Moffat has always been abnormally willing to trust the audience’s ability to accept sci-fi concepts. With all three characters having fairly straightforward high concept descriptions and being reasonably funny, it’s not hard to see how they ended up working. 

No, the real question is why Doctor Who suddenly decided to have the bulk of its standing support cast be aliens in Victorian London and not the contemporary Earth people that had previously been standard. Certainly some of it is that there was some real desire for change in this regard. Moffat had, after all, been seriously considering making Clara be a Victorian-era companion. Indeed, in many ways the easiest explanation is simply that the Paternoster Gang was always planned to feature heavily in Season 7B, and that after Clara was changed to no longer be a Victorian-era companion nobody went to change it back. (Although it’s worth stressing that The Crimson Horror was added after Clara was de-Victorianed, which means that it’s not just that the Paternoster Gang was kept around, but that their presence was actively increased.) 

But the appearance of the Maitland children at the end highlights another aspect of this, which is that Clara’s home life has been almost entirely ignored since The Bells of Saint John (and continues to be basically irrelevant until The Time of the Doctor). This is in many ways necessary for the Impossible Girl arc to function - if Clara had too much of a supporting cast, it would be too easy to focus on her instead of getting distracted by the mystery surrounding her. By moving the supporting cast into another time period (one that is, as we noted back in The Snowmen, still very easy to quickly sketch within the context of British television), Moffat gets all the benefits of a standing support cast without actually having them flesh Clara out prematurely and undermine his season-long shell game. 

This also helps explain both why The Crimson Horror exists, and why it breaks from the “definitive take” ethos of the rest of its season. It arguably is the definitive take on “Doctor Who does the penny dreadful,” but given that it invokes both six stories prior and two stories after, it never really gives the sense of being a stand-alone piece. It’s the one where the movie poster approach seems most off (not least because the movie poster plays up Clara and the Doctor while not mentioning the Paternoster Gang). But that’s because it’s not self-contained. Its job is to help establish recurring characters as a basic part of what the series can do, and to give the Paternoster Gang a story where they can function on their own terms, without having to tie in to a big event. In this regard, it’s disappointing that this isn’t the Doctor lite episode that one might have assumed from the setup. It’s fair to point out that most of its innovative ideas come in its first fifteen minutes, and that once he shows up and does his flashback bit, the story becomes considerably more standard issue - although Diana Rigg keeps things going at a nice clip. 

Actually, the bit where the Doctor shows up is worth talking about, simply because if I don’t, someone will bring it up anyway. It is, after all, the sequence during which the Doctor attempts to kiss Jenny, or, if you prefer the description of Moffat’s most adamant critics, the scene where he sexually assaults her. This is the sort of thing that one wants to equivocate on rather a lot. I will admit that I find the description of the scene as “sexual assault” somewhat forced. It’s not, and really I only disclaim this because otherwise some idiot is going to use the lack of disclaimer against me, that aggressively kissing somebody without consent isn’t sexual assault. It is. But here the fact that this is a work of fiction starts to play in and become relevant. There’s much to say about popular culture’s poor depictions of consent, but the spontaneous kiss is such an ingrained part of television and film that it seems more than faintly ridiculous to attempt to get a single moment of a single episode of Doctor Who to bear all or most of the weight of the numerous problems with our narrative shorthands for romance and sexuality. 

Beyond that, it’s not like the kiss is presented as acceptable. Jenny slaps the Doctor for it, in a way that makes it quite clear that this is misbehavior on his part. To describe it as “the Doctor sexually assaults Jenny” is blatantly to pick the most inflammatory phrasing possible, and feels like co-opting the reality of sexual assault for the purposes of scoring cheap points when arguing about television on the Internet. 

But that doesn’t mean that the scene isn’t troubling. And it’s especially troubling in light of Matt Smith’s later improvisation of a sonic screwdriver/erection sight gag when Jenny tears off her period garb to reveal her leather catsuit. The problem is that, especially taken together, they start to give a strong sense that Jenny is sexualized for a male gaze, which is not a great move when dealing with one of the two most prominent lesbian characters in the series’ history. Jenny and Vastra are played for plenty of laughs, but the joke is usually either about foolish people who don’t understand them or about the charming comfort and confidence they have with each other. Here, though, the joke is “aren’t attractive lesbians great.” 

The irony that this should happen in the one Paternoster episode not written by a heterosexual male is, of course, considerable. Although in practice it seems the blame for this mostly goes to Smith (although both Stewart and Metzstein should have, in both cases, resisted Smith’s idea), it’s hard not to note that Gatiss, in six (now seven) Doctor Who stories, has only ever created four major female characters in the supporting cast (Gwyneth, the Wire, Ada, and Mrs. Gillyflower are the only four to get a significant number of lines or scenes), and that Ada is the first one ever to actually survive the episode. So to see the one episode where Gatiss seems particularly interested in writing about half of his species run into problems like this is frustrating, and the fact that people who spend a lot of time being wrong on the Internet have inflated that objection into something far bigger than it deserves to be (and seem intent on mostly blaming Moffat for it) doesn’t actually mean that there isn’t a problem here.

Speaking of things that I pretty much have to mention and make some comment on, there’s also the two lines of Blake’s “Jerusalem” that are sung early in the episode. Very well: given that Parry didn’t set “Jerusalem” to music until 1916, its appearance in an episode set in 1893 is somewhat strange. But then again, that’s probably the sort of thing that happens if you do something like decide to make a poem by William Blake your de facto national anthem. 

This also marks the last time we’re going to talk about Mark Gatiss in the course of TARDIS Eruditorum, and that’s probably worth remarking on, simply because he’s a figure that I’ve given, at various times, something of a rough ride to, and someone I think, on the whole, I’ve probably been a bit too rough on. (Ignoring Nightshade, for instance, was just rude of me.) And, I mean, I’m not going to pretend it’s not understandable why that’s happened. Gatiss is, if not responsible, at least the guy with the writing credit on some spectacularly shit episodes. And there are ways in which Gatiss’s style contributes to that. He’s far from the most ambitious of writers, and if you’re the sort of person who has been writing about Doctor Who 2-3 times a week for the past three years and thinking about it literally every day, that really is a major problem. As I’ve said, after three years of writing TARDIS Eruditorum, there’s nothing I want out of Doctor Who quite so much as something I’ve never seen before, and that’s the last thing Gatiss is likely to serve up. 


And yet for all of that, having watched every single episode of Doctor Who within the last three years, I find myself with a strange respect for Mark Gatiss. There is nobody who has done more in terms of curating the past of Doctor Who than any other writer on the new series. And for Gatiss, that curation goes far beyond just remembering the good episodes, or throwing in continuity references. Gatiss remembers scenes and images - the texture of episodes, rather than their content. As we close in on the end of the 50th Anniversary year, that seems worth remembering and, more to the point, tipping our hat to. Even if his episodes aren’t the most exciting of the bunch, they are the ones that, I think, most thoroughly and truly honor the history of the series. That’s worth more credit than I’ve given him. It really is.

Comments

Froborr 2 years, 10 months ago

Have you described the Impossible Girl arc as a shell game before? Because that's such a perfectly, jaw-droppingly obvious description of it, yet I can't remember seeing it anywhere before this.

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iWill 2 years, 10 months ago

What strikes me as particularly weird about the kiss is that Matt Smith seems to me a person possessed of a reasonable intelligence, such that the idea "I think I'll improvise a kiss with the character established as being in a same sex relationship who has shown absolutely no sexual interest in men in general or my character in particular" would be shot down immediately. Ugh. I really didn't like that bit, and I think Jack Graham was right to pick up on it in his case for the prosecution, even if I get your argument here.
The rest of the episode, though? I remember you describing Scherzo as the most Robert Shearman-y story Robert Shearman has ever done, and I think The Crimson 'Orror can be safely described as the most Mark Gatiss-y story Mark Gatiss has ever done- it consists of a massive, colourful romp through all of Gatiss's obsessions, tics and fetishes, and the result is kind of ridiculously fun. Where Cold War was a bit of a damp squib, The Crimson 'Orror sees Gatiss abandoning all restraint and simply wallowing in self-indeulgence. Which, it turns out, is more entertaining than a rather dull and poorly-lit remake of 'Dalek' set on a submarine (speaking of Robert Shearman...).

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Blueshift 2 years, 10 months ago

I never thought Gatis's episodes were as awful as everyone else seems to think. At the end of the day, he writes fun, excting stories that are often bright and colourful and that kids will like. Often when fans clamour for something dark and gritty they forget that this isn't really what gets the youngsters enthused. He writes fun stuff! And it doesn't swamp the series, it is only one episode a year, nothing wrong with that! Honestly, I think his only duff story was Night Terrors, which suffered from trying to be too serious, and having monsters where the imagery just wasn't that exciting (I seem to remember that in an interview he thought fear of peg dolls was more widespread than it was). Running around a tiny dolls house isn't the worst idea in the world though.


I loved The Crimson Horror. Again, great fun and it was refreshing to have an actual villain for a change. Moffat Who seems to be full of a lot of 'misunderstood monsters', 'inscrutable alien armies' and 'strange situations to unravel' rather than an evil character with an actual plan who the Doctor has to outwit.

I hate how people throw the word 'sexual assault' around with this episode. Yes, it is an inappropriate kiss, but he is chastised for it straight away. I didn't like it, but to bandy about words like that is bordering on a hysterical reaction. If you use 'sexual assault' to define a kiss, then you devalue the word when it is used in conjunction with actual serious crimes. (Much like, I'm afraid, when you repeatedly call Amy being kidnapped 'rape' )

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Blueshift 2 years, 10 months ago

Yes, it is odd to point the blame for that bit squarely at Matt Smith, as if he has the final sign-off on script and filming and finished cut.

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Blueshift 2 years, 10 months ago

>But the appearance of the Maitland children at the end highlights another aspect of this

Oh wow, I forgot about this! That really was a squirmingly awkward scene and seemed to exist for the sole reason of setting up Nightmare in Silver (why they couldn't have found a way to put that in the actual episode is beyond me). It's just so out of place and awkward in its construction and believability.

That said, I can't really think of any other time since the 60s when a non-arc episode has been 'cliffhangered' in such a way into the next normal episode, or am I wrong?

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elvwood 2 years, 10 months ago

I don't think Phil was laying any of the blame for the kiss at Smith's feet, just for the follow-up erection gag (and the accusation of blame also targets the director). And I had more trouble with that gag than the kiss, myself; because the kiss was signaled as inappropriate, but this was then undercut by the screwdriver joke, which does mean that the scene overall ends up objectifying Jenny.

So sexual assault, no; but definitely a sour note in an episode I otherwise thoroughly enjoy.

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Anthony Strand 2 years, 10 months ago

Another Gatiss-related one comes to mind - "The Beast Below" ends with the TARDIS getting a phone call from Winston Churchill.

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Jarl 2 years, 10 months ago

The first half or so of season 5 segues from one episode to the next cleanly and plainly, the practice basically ending with the Vampires of Venice. I was going to add The Almost People as an exception until I noticed the words "non-arc". For a given value of "arc", The Poison Sky ends with the TARDIS dragging Martha along with the Doctor and Donna to meet The Doctor's Daughter, that's gotta count...

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The Lord of Ábrocen Landmearca 2 years, 10 months ago

You seem to have missed noting that this episode is so boring I keep forgetting it exists, but you're usually so observant, doctor, I'll give you a pass.

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Lewis Christian 2 years, 10 months ago

And the way it's written is so 'off' from the rest of the episode - was that a hastily-added Moffat-penned scene? I'd bet so. It ruined the end for me, mainly because the kids just immediately jump to "you're a time traveller, I'm telling!" rather than something more believable like "you been messing on Photoshop, Clara?"

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John Anderson 2 years, 10 months ago

Why would anyone need to detect fake bombs anyway?

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prandeamus 2 years, 10 months ago

As you move towards the end of Eruditorum, Dr. S, (the moment has been prepared for) I'd like to thank you for the gracious positive comments about Gatiss. I see the problems that others have with his work, and he's not my favourite writer either. But your positive and redemptive readings some of the troubling aspects of the programme do you credit.

No, I'm not asking you to like the Toy Celestial Ark ... :)

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jane 2 years, 10 months ago

The kiss makes sense within the context of what the Doctor had just gone through -- and that sense only becomes apparent with what the Doctor says after he gets slapped: "You have no idea how good that feels."

Consider: The Crimson Horror leaves the Doctor completely stiff -- muscles, fingers, and especially the skin, which is completely hard, like a candy shell -- they point this out with the "tapping" of it that's accompanied with a drumbeat-like sound effect.

So, I think the Doctor snogged Jenny knowing full well he'd get slapped. He did it just to remind himself how much better it is to feel pain than nothing at all. I think Smith would have been aware of this, especially given how much he'd been slapped during the course of his run -- it was practically a trope. The point of the scene was never the kiss, but the slap itself.

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jane 2 years, 10 months ago

I loved the Crimson Horror too, but for entirely different reasons -- namely it being loaded with all those alchemical references I'd been jabbering on for years. And the chairs! Love the chairs.

Likewise, those who'd been paying close attention to Clara and had formulated the hypothesis that she had "control issues" were delighted to have that confirmed with her whole "I am the boss" bit in the denouement.

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Lewis Christian 2 years, 10 months ago

This is my favourite episode of 7B - and I never thought I'd be saying that about a Gatiss episode. I never thought my fave ep of a series would've included the Paternosters either! I just found Clara's mystery to be complete naff, I felt Smith was on auto-pilot and I wasn't a fan of the 'all change' (TARDIS, costume, etc), and the blockbuster approach (which seemed to carry on post-Ponds) fell flat for me. This was a relatively low-key romp, something I'd been missing and hoping for (though Bells is equally refreshing and straightforward, and that comes in 2nd place for me).

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liminal fruitbat 2 years, 10 months ago

I hate how people throw the word 'sexual assault' around with this episode. Yes, it is an inappropriate kiss, but he is chastised for it straight away.

I'm not sure how being chastised for it would negate it being sexual assault? I mean, regardless of whether the narrative approves it, it still makes the Doctor someone who kisses someone he knows is not at all into that sort of thing. (Also you may want to avoid using the term "hysterical reaction" in this context.)

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Steven 2 years, 10 months ago

Startling that this was never a contender for best of the series, because it absolutely is the best of the series. I have a few friends who I watch Who with and we were pretty much all in agreement on this point.

This is the episode that tides me over when I have concerns about what Gaitiss-led DW would look like, because if it looks anything like this I would be thrilled.

The TomTom sat-nav joke is an all-time favourite as well, and one of the weirdest gags the show's ever done.

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Leslie Lozada 2 years, 10 months ago

Well, I just assumed at that time that, given that there's been so many monster attacks, baddies running amuck, that time travel has been consider a viable option.

Also, it has been shown repetedtly throughout the new series that children have an open mind, so.. why shouldn't the Maitlans consider it when they see a picture of their nanny and her boyfriend in different time zones?

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unnoun 2 years, 10 months ago

I could have sworn the kiss was also Matt's idea. One the director sort of ran with.

It's the impression I got from the behind-the-scenes video anyway.

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Lewis Christian 2 years, 10 months ago

It's just so rushed, they immediately jump to that decision based on one or two photos (which, as per for the show, are promo pics IIRC), and tacked on. It just feels really forced and fake to me, like they did it at the eleventh hour. I feel it would've been better had they done it for a Nightmare pre-titles sequence.

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elvwood 2 years, 10 months ago

unnoun: "I could have sworn the kiss was also Matt's idea."

Oh, OK - you have more knowledge than I. I'd just assumed it was all Gatiss up until today, and was stating what I thought Phil was saying.

Jane, at the time I also thought the kiss was because he wanted the sensation rather than anything actually sexual (I hadn't considered that he might have been planning on getting a slap as well), but the erection joke made me doubt that interpretation.

I do think kisses and slaps mean a little less on TV than in real life, but whatever the reason it's still not OK. He could simply have asked her to slap him, after all.

(I am reminded on an episode of Spaced where, at various times, Tim and Brian are going home really happy and hug random passers-by. Predictably, this only works out well for one of them...)

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Carey 2 years, 10 months ago

To be fair to Gattis, Nightmare In Silver was originally written to start with the Maitland children finding out about the Doctor, was was excised due to a combination of running time, budget and that it was, if I recall correctly, set at night, which would have affected the availability of the child actors who were only supposed to work for certain hours.

All of which points toward the major flaw in Gaiman's writing for the next episode, but I imagine we'll get to that on Monday.

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David Anderson 2 years, 10 months ago

The kiss on its own reads to me neither as sexual gratification nor as an assertion of power. It reads as the Doctor forgetting which Earth cultures mark friendship by kissing on the mouth. (There have been some. Victorian England wasn't one of them.)
The sonic screwdriver gag on does reflect badly on the kiss.

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David Anderson 2 years, 10 months ago

One of my problems with the episode is that the threat just isn't sufficient to warrant taking the Doctor out of the action. Victorian penny dreadful Bond villains, even ones played by Diana Rigg with lines like 'the wrong hands', are just not far enough out of the Doctor's comfort zone to justify the Bond villain defeating the Doctor.
The last time something similar happened, outside an arc episode, was Blink if I remember correctly. We can accept the Weeping Angels defeating the Doctor, because they're things we haven't seen before and scary enough to justify it, and just as importantly because the rest of the plot has ambitions beyond doing standard genre set pieces well.

While 'the wrong hands' line is on its own rather good, it should have come much earlier - just before the Doctor's capture would be the right place for it. Placed where it is, where it's obvious to the Doctor and everyone else that Mrs Gillyflower's hands are the wrong hands, it feels like the Doctor is just feeding her the line.

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BerserkRL 2 years, 10 months ago

To prevent fake explosions.

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Blueshift 2 years, 10 months ago

Eh, it is good for the Doctor NOT to be all-powerful all the time and only defeated by space gods. The baddie felt like a credible threat to me.

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Jarl 2 years, 10 months ago

It is essentially the same gag we witness when he kisses another incompatibly oriented spouse of a friend, Rory. Of course, in that case it was Rory who looked like he got slapped. I just watched that episode the other day, it's still fresh in my memory, very cute moment.

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Jarl 2 years, 10 months ago

Meant that to be a reply to the above, weird...

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Jarl 2 years, 10 months ago

Thinking about it, it also stands out as a problem with the production of The Doctor's Wife, which we know was intended for Tennant at some point, and he wanted them to rebuild a classic TARDIS interior for it.

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curlyjimsam750 2 years, 10 months ago

There's been something vaguely Victorian about Doctor Who for a long time - going right back to the First Doctor's costume (OK, it's usually described as "Edwardian", but it's basically the same sort of thing). And of course many of the most successful stories in the show's history have had Victorian or Edwardian settings. If the show is going to pick one period other than the present to keep going back to, this is the obvious candidate.

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Matthew Blanchette 2 years, 10 months ago

That kiss, also, was improvised. Matt Smith apparently liked to improvise kissing scenes for his Doctor. *shrugs*

(And, yes, the Doctor kissing Jenny scene was improvised, just to clarify; there's a bit in the Confidential for this episode where he calls out, "Can I kiss her? I HAVE to kiss her!")

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Matthew Blanchette 2 years, 10 months ago

And a swimming pool. Which was also nixed, but not for budgetary reasons, surprisingly.

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Matthew Blanchette 2 years, 10 months ago

Although the closing shot in "The Lodger" of Amy finding the ring leads cleanly dramatically into the TARDIS portion of "The Pandorica Opens" 's opening sequence, even if it is later established in "The Big Bang" that enough time had passed between the two episodes for them to visit Space Florida -- the carry-through, like a sense of continuity, thematic or otherwise, between cuts, is what's important.

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Aylwin 2 years, 10 months ago

Reading the post and the comments, I'm rather surprised, even more than I was reading the discussion when it aired, to see no mention of what the episode was, you know, saying. Also at its being characterised as simply a romp, when, for all the romping going on, it must be the most heartfelt and angry (not to mention spiteful) thing that Gatiss has written for Doctor Who. Is a gay atheist polemic, through the medium of a slight muddled satire on the Christian-capitalist paternalism of the Victorian model village, really not Eruditorium-ish enough to merit any discussion at all? (Tempted to say, maybe even as much as the ethics of a kiss and a knob gag.)

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Aylwin 2 years, 10 months ago

Po-faced perhaps, but I don't think fake bomb detectors are a laughing matter. It's an absurd, beyond-satire kind of story (especially where the sickeningly cynical attitude of the British state is concerned), but not a funny one.

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David Anderson 2 years, 10 months ago

It's not the power level of the antagonists. The Weeping Angels in Blink aren't space gods, and even though the Trickster Brigade are space gods, or led by one, Turn Left wouldn't work if it weren't for the arc.
It's more that if you're going to take the Doctor out of the story, you've got to have a plot with more ambitions beyond competently execute genre tropes we've seen before.

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Steven 2 years, 10 months ago

Victorian model villages weren't necessarily christian-capitalist. a good part of Britain's still-visible socialist traditions can be traced back to places not dissimilar to Sweetville, minus the alien.

Robert Owens' socialist-utopian mill at New Lanark springs to mind.

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Aylwin 2 years, 10 months ago

Indeed, but it wasn't the socialist elements that Gatiss had in his sights (or the capitalist ones, for that matter). Not that he drew an accurate bead on the Christian aspect either, since Sweetville is played like an inward-turning cult commune preparing for an imminent apocalypse (hardly an unknown phenomenon in the real world), when the whole idea of a model village, besides the intrinsic good it could do for its inhabitants, was to inspire by example the reform of wider society, not to cultivate purity through isolation from an irredeemable and doomed world. But that is presumably because the model villages were not the real target, just the conduit for an attack focused on Christianity/religion in general.

Also, Owen's work in New Lanark was pre-Victorian. That's not entirely a pedantic point, given the shift in emphasis from the late Enlightenment/early Romantic atmosphere that shaped Owen and his contemporaries to the religious revival of the Victorian era, and the difference that made to the blend of ideological currents driving efforts at social reform.

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William Silvia 2 years, 10 months ago

You disappoint me. No analysis at all of such an a terrible joke as "Thomas Thomas"?

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David Anderson 2 years, 10 months ago

The Quaker organsations of Cadbury's and Rowntree's (both sweet manufacturers) lacked something by comparison with a properly functioning welfare state. I'm not convinced that our modern society is otherwise in a position to look down upon them.

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Aylwin 2 years, 10 months ago

@William Silva: Well, it's bound to date very quickly (already has? Satnav systems are not really on my radar, so to speak). But it's an arguable point, which is obviously very closely involved in the methodological and thematic preoccupations of this blog, whether the detrimental effects for ongoing reception outside the original transmission context of this loss of ready accessibility over time outweigh the immediate benefits of the sense of imagined community that such self-consciously of-the-moment references create among the audience and between them and the work's creators, and of their capacity to highlight the specificity of their own context to an audience whose natural inclination in experiencing fiction in another setting is to focus on its specificity as "different" while treating their own as an unexamined default, and to highlight the artifice of the fictional construct (though of course whether, and how, that is a good or a bad thing is a whole big subject in itself, and one much discussed here over the years); or the benefits with regard to ongoing reception (on the objective/critical level, whereas the drawbacks are on the subjective/experiential level) of enriching the insights it offers into that context (mind you, one can reasonably argue that it is the unintended, unconscious reflections of specificity that are most revealing of all, but the things that people choose as anchoring something in their own context have their own particular value as indications of how they perceive that context, and in particular how they perceive it with regard to this very matter of its specificity). It's a microcosm of psychochronography. These issues are also an expression of the much wider phenomenon of how the things that are most opaque regarding the general tend to be most revealing regarding the specific and vice versa, as for instance in the way that the mistakes people make in conveying information obscure the message but reveal the messenger. Put a bit of effort in and one could probably work up a metaphorical resonance with Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle.

Also, it took me a bit of time to get the joke, for the reasons aforementioned. And it is terrible, but I think that's at least partly deliberate - it's a groaner. And even a simply bad joke at that point offers some benefit in highlighting by contrast the brilliance of the preceding joke, which for me is by far the best thing in an episode I mostly dislike.

Yes, I know you were taking the piss. But there's usually something to be said.

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ferret 2 years, 10 months ago

I rather liked that scene, but only really for the music at the end - another partial reworking of "I am the Doctor", but it has a particularly exuberant crescendo at the end - lovely!
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-kRSuizlJmc#t=2m8s

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ferret 2 years, 10 months ago

The bell-jar preserved people inside the houses of the model village is sufficiently weird that it's almost a shame it's a throw-away visual. It is the sort of thing I'd love to see in a 60's period-set new TV series of The Avengers which - given this episode and Gatiss' apparent love for Diana Rigg - I could see him showrunning with some considerable success.

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Daru 2 years, 10 months ago

Didn't get time to comment, but did and do think this episode is pretty wonderful - I adore all the weirdness combined with Blake and alchemy. One of the best of 7b for me.

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Katherine Sas 2 years, 10 months ago

Funny that you seem to put this about on the same level as Cold War, whereas I think that is Gatiss at his most bland and this is by far his most fun and inventive episode. Yes, it's doing a penny dreadful but it's so delightfully weird. Nothing standard about what's inside it: Rigg's bonkers performance, the wax people, Mr. Sweet! How can you not love this?! (kissing/screwdriver scene aside)

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William Silvia 2 years, 9 months ago

I actually think my comment was supposed to be a reply to the post, but ended up as a reply to the comment. Oh well.

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papereyes1871 2 years, 3 months ago

As an aside

"Labour and UKIP do well in local elections"

The first lot dropped nearly 10 % on the last time they stood in those seats.

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