Vanished Even To His Shadow (The Vampires of Venice)

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What do you mean Girls Aloud are "on hiatus"?
It’s May 8th, 2010. Roll Deep are at number one with “Good Times,” with Taio Cruz, Usher, Plan B, and Timbaland also charting. In news, the bombing in Mogadishu is widely blamed on Al Qaeda, protests begin in Greece against austerity measures, and the general election takes place, with results described in a Pop Between Realities post at the start of the Smith era, although the actual formation of a government does not take place this week.

Meanwhile, on television, Toby Whithouse’s The Vampires of Venice. The decision to bring back Toby Whithouse was, in many ways, obvious. He had experience with Doctor Who, but had by this point distinguished himself with Being Human and shown that he could more broadly handle genre-based character drama. But there’s a second and subtler reason at play here, which is that in many ways Whithouse has been brought back to write the same story he did last time. School Reunion was one of the better notes of the 2006 season, but one if its main purposes was to rehabilitate Mickey such that he would serve as a functioning companion instead of the buffoon he was initially portrayed as.

In many straightforward regards, The Vampires of Venice is visibly designed to serve the same purpose. It is the “reintroduce Rory” episode, and, more to the point, the one in which he becomes a regular companion. And Rory served many of the same purposes in The Eleventh Hour that Mickey did way back in Rose - he’s the good but slightly inadequate guy that the new companion leaves in favor of a life of adventure. In that story he’s nobody’s favorite character, and this is by design. His role is to be replaced by the Doctor. And so when he does come back in The Vampires of Venice, the audience’s reaction is necessarily one of slight hostility. He is, after all, a third wheel on our brand new TARDIS team that we’ve been set up to love over the past five episodes. 

Another way of putting this, then, is that the series has so far led us to, if not root for Amy to abandon her wedding and run off in the TARDIS, at least to fail to have any strong feelings that she should go back and marry Rory. It is, at this point in the narrative, more or less impossible to have those feelings: Rory isn’t developed enough as a character to motivate them. And since marrying Rory is explicitly set up as a threat to the fun adventures in time and space, the audience has been carefully positioned to be relatively hostile to the idea. This is not ironclad, of course - surely there exist people who sided with Rory from the start. But the series has been constructed so as to give the sense (without actually having said much of anything about it) that it is on Team Doctor, to borrow another text’s milieu. Doubly so because Series Five’s conscious reiteration of much of the Davies-era structure makes it easy to simplistically read Rory as the new Mickey, and thus to define the character primarily through his inadequacy. 

And here we get to the big difference between School Reunion and The Vampires of Venice, which is that Mickey never actually transcends that characterization. Davies really does conclude that Mickey isn’t good enough for Rose, instead giving her the half-human Doctor to grow old with while Mickey gets written out alongside Martha in the most awkward bit of the whole “Doctor’s reward” sequence in The End of Time. Even though he gets to travel on the TARDIS and gets to show up and save the day with a really big gun in Army of Ghosts, Mickey is always the also-ran character.

Rory, on the other hand, is yet another feint on the part of Moffat - a case where the audience is carefully allowed to fall into one set of expectations only to have the story turn out to be something different. With the benefit of hindsight we know that Rory is in fact every bit as major a character as Amy, and that the resolution of this problem is, in practice, not that he’s an also-ran. But the series has carefully kept us from realizing that up to this point. And, crucially, this isn’t actually the episode that’s going to reverse things - there’s an entire second feint to be had about Rory before we finally circle around to the resolution. So Whithouse is left with the interesting challenge of writing an episode that is in a large part about Rory, but that nevertheless remains suspended in the ambiguity between Rory-as-Mickey and Rory-as-Pond. 

The trick that Whithouse subtly hits on is the decision to have the Doctor be consciously on Rory’s side in this. Once the Doctor recognizes that Amy is in part using the fairy tale adventure to run away from a sense of responsibility and adulthood, he becomes proactive in attempting to fix this. Without overstressing the point, The Vampires of Venice stays manifestly on Rory’s side, and puts the Doctor there as well. There’s a really elegant balance here. Amy retains agency throughout the story, thus avoiding any sense that this is a story about two men deciding her fate. But nevertheless, the story is driven forward in a large part because the Doctor wants to make Amy and Rory’s relationship work. 

But for all that these scenes are scattered carefully throughout the episode, they’re not the focus. Instead Whithouse writes to the brief of penning a jumping on point that would serve as a sort of standard issue Doctor Who, using Rory to introduce all the tropes. By stressing Rory’s inexperience in contrast with Amy and the Doctor’s familiarity with the life of adventuring, this ends up being done primarily through comedy. Rory bumbles his way through the plot, exposing “standard” Doctor Who in contrast by tacitly highlighting what a proper Doctor Who story would do.

This requires, in the background, an enormously proper Doctor Who story. Which in this case is taken to mean a story built on the “take a location and put a type of monster in it” model. But there’s been some care with this. 16th century Venice immediately reinforces the “fairy tale” aesthetic, and the use of vampires furthers it. The sense of storybook adventure is strong here. This is very much the program showing its most standard repertoire. But everything is done particularly well. The decision to film in Croatia pays off handsomely here - the episode looks absolutely gorgeous and drips with a texture that elevates the entire thing.

What this means is that even though the apparent substance of the script - the actual vampires in Venice - are fairly thin, the whole thing comes off fairly well. The ending is a bit rough - there are four separate denouements lasting nearly fifteen minutes, and the rush to wrap everything up makes this one of the new series stories with the highest body counts - the only two credited characters to survive are the inspector who lets the Doctor into Venice and Carlo the steward. But the messiness of the ending only exists because the story puts so much effort into having a lot going on. Inasmuch as the ending is overloaded, it’s because the preceding thirty minutes do such a good job of constantly throwing new things into the mix that it manages to keep things moving. 

The result feels slender in many ways, though this is not necessarily a bad thing, especially after the previous episode’s rather massive pile of arc plot. The biggest problem is that it’s not quite clear why this story would serve as a jumping on point for anyone. There’s nothing here that seems particularly likely to hook people who haven’t been watching - it’s not anchored by a major guest star or some instantly recognizable monster. It’s in the same slot as the Series One soft relaunch, but that was Dalek, a story with obvious ability to draw in new viewers. This, however, is not a story along those lines. 

Instead, then, it really does serve as a platform for the characters to show their stuff. Moffat has said that he suspected the “burst out of the cake” scene would be where people would finally accept Smith as the Doctor, and though that proved ludicrously pessimistic, it does capture much of what this version of the Doctor can do that others can’t. It’s not just that Smith has exquisitely good comic timing, although he does, but that he plays the Doctor with a charming awkwardness that nobody has quite brought to the part before. Similarly, his scene with the vampires and the mirror is absolutely marvelous (and rightly extracted for trailers and clips) because of the physicality he brings to the part. It’s a genuinely new take on the Doctor - one in which the mercurial swiftness of his mind is physically performed and transmuted into bodily movement. It’s not that the lines Whithouse writes for that scene are terribly unusual - they all could be performed by Tennant. But Tennant would just have a big grin on his face and do it much like the “Blood control!” bit from The Christmas Invasion. Where Tennant’s Doctor was always a discrete set of decisions based on Tennant’s ability to cram a lot of clear acting decisions into a short time, Smith’s Doctor instead just sort of burbles out activity, not so much seeming to be constantly making decisions as constantly acting and reacting without differentiation. 

Karen Gillan, on the other hand, is also settling effectively into her role. The story is very invested in maintaining Amy’s sense of agency - note that it’s consciously her decision to risk infiltrating the Calvierri school, and that the episode deliberately ends with a gag about how the Doctor and Rory are “her boys.” This is important - as noted, this is in one sense an episode in which Rory and the Doctor spend an awful lot of time debating Amy’s future behind her back and making decisions on her behalf. This isn’t in and of itself unreasonable in the context of the episode - there’s plenty of good Rory/Amy scenes as well where they come to terms with their new life, and moving to have the Doctor and Rory clear the air quickly largely defuses a lot of worst plots that would come down the line. But it’s nevertheless an episode that could marginalize Amy as “the girl one” in a cast that is now majority male. It falls to Gillan, then, to have the presence and poise to keep Amy as a force in her own right and as a character with agency. Gillan, for her part, is extremely good at this. Part of it is a physical contrast with Smith. Where Smith’s Doctor is all motion and blur, Gillan is almost always physically anchored in a shot. She’s extremely good at simply holding a compelling and dynamic pose. (She is, and this is a strange thing to say but nevertheless vital, very possibly the best actress Doctor Who has ever had at handling directions like “pretend there’s an earthquake and fall down.”) The result is a character who never appears to be anything other than wholly in control of herself, such that she can be in the background of a scene and still feel like a major part of it. There’s a line of criticism that suggests that Amy’s character can be reduced to merely being “feisty,” but it is in practice so much more than that - Amy, as played by Gillan, is nearly impossible to push to the margins. Even when she’s being tied to a chair and left to scream and have her blood drained, she’s imperious. She manages to play “delirious and having her blood drained” so as to retain Amy’s agency.

And then there is Arthur Darvill, in many ways making his true debut here. His abilities are subtler, but nevertheless tremendous. First and foremost is a supreme sense of comic timing. Darvill is cast as the straight man for this episode, and plays it with aplomb. His scene broomfighting with Francesco is an absolute masterclass in which he manages to look ridiculous and out of his depth in a gloriously deliberate way. Every single time the script requires a joke about how Rory is rubbish at this he manages to sell it completely. But this obscures the way in which he can push the character in other directions. The vein of steel underlying his challenge to the Doctor to promise that Amy will be OK is fantastic, and he manages to elevate the otherwise banal “you make people want to impress you” bit into something interesting by recognizing that the scene is not, in fact, about making an ethical critique of the Doctor but is instead about Rory having gotten to the point where he’s willing to say that to the Doctor in the first place. His quiet glee at having been deemed good enough to be invited along for more adventures at the end is absolutely wonderful. The depths of Rory’s character aren’t clear yet, and Darvill’s performance never invites the audience’s investment in quite the same way that Smith and Gillan’s energetic “we are the lead characters” vamping does. Nevertheless, what we have here is an episode that is largely about quietly and subtly beginning to set up Rory’s transition from a Mickey clone to the third lead character of the Moffat era, and Darvill’s performance shows an incredibly nuanced awareness of exactly how that transition has to work. He plays the comic role perfectly, but with a considered depth to the character that absolutely makes the episode.

So after a big, dramatic, and possibly overly epic two-parter we get a bit of fluff that exists as a showcase of what the series can do. The answer is look pretty, be exciting, be full of ideas, and have three great lead characters. As a piece to transition into what we might think of as Act Two of the first series, it does the job while remaining interesting. 


We ought return briefly to Whithouse, just as ground-laying for the possibility that he’s an author with a much bigger role to play in Doctor Who in years to come. This is not his best script - it’s workmanlike in many ways. But he was given a workmanlike job. This isn’t meant to be flashy - it’s meant to be a story about a date gone very weird that demonstrates the show at its most basic. It’s not an easy or fun brief, and Whithouse fills it out with a script that’s better than it has to be. In many ways the obvious point of comparison is Victory of the Daleks, the series’ previous attempt at a comfort food story. Put in that context, Whithouse’s virtues as a writer become clear. 

Comments

Alex Antonijevic 3 years, 6 months ago

I liked that the Doctor seems to have recognised what went wrong with Rose and Mickey and is definitely taking steps to stop that from happening again.

I do love the scene where the Doctor is trying to wow Rory with the TARDIS, but he's completely unphased about it and even seems to understand the concepts of it straight away. It's certainly a different take on the character seeing the TARDIS for the first time.

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mengu 3 years, 6 months ago

"one of its main purposes was to rehabilitate Mickey such that he would serve as a functioning companion instead of the buffoon he was initially portrayed as."

Is the episode you mean is Aliens of London/World War Three, the first time Mickey earns the Doctor's respect and saves the world? Or perhaps The Christmas Invasion, in which he hacks the computing system of the British space agency just to get some news and defends the four of them while Rose is busy whispering "help me" in the Doctor's ear? (I don't like Christmas Invasion much.) Surely you don't mean the episode where he's called a dog and only accepted because "I could do with a laugh". (I don't like School Reunion at all.)

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Seeing_I 3 years, 6 months ago

Yes, it's refreshing to finally have characters in Doctor Who who, like nearly everyone in the Western world, are at least passingly familiar with science fiction. In this case, it's comedy gold and the Doctor's reaction is priceless.

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Lewis Christian 3 years, 6 months ago

One of my favourite stories, one of the best of Series 5 and yet another great essay :)

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Adam Riggio 3 years, 6 months ago

Really, this season should have shown me what I only figured out was Moffat's game plan by the end of the Clara arc. He establishes a viewer's expectations about how a series would develop, then undercuts them such that the different approach to the program was visible all the time.

Even though The Eleventh Hour had many relatively superficial differences from a Davies-era opener and the first half of this season from the typical Davies structure (the cinematography, Smith and Gillan's performances and interactions), it appeared to follow the same basic template. The first thing that shocked me was the major role the crack played in Forest of the Dead: I thought the cracks were being set up for series of brief cameos throughout the season (like Bad Wolf) whose nature would be revealed in the finale. But here we have the crack coming to dominate an entire story, such that it literally provides the resolution as all the Angels are tricked into falling inside it. And this appears in only the fifth episode of the season!

Rory was set up in The Eleventh Hour to play precisely into how we had come to expect the new Doctor Who to work, given the repetitious nature of the Davies seasons. You're right in that he was tagged as the new Mickey, the hapless dolt who Amy abandoned for the sake of adventure. But seeing all three of them interact as the combined leads on the show in Vampires of Venice made me wish Arthur Darvill would have his name in the opening credits immediately. The reveal of the crack in Forest of the Dead demonstrated that Moffat was subverting my expectations of how the season's storyline would play out, and watching Rory seamlessly integrate into the TARDIS crew (and actively improve the cast dynamic) now demonstrated that he was out to subvert my expectations of how the Doctor-Companion relationship would work. Really, for the first time since the Davison era on television, it was now a system of Doctor-Companions.

Mind you, at the time, I thought Moffat was out to subvert only the basic structure of the Davies era and the expectations his patterns and habits led us into. I had no idea at the time that subversion of audience expectations would basically define his entire technique. The only problem I really have with it is that I'm not sure where anyone can go from here. After Moffat leaves as showrunner, which he will eventually, his replacement will automatically appear less intelligent than he is simply because that new person would occasionally have to play some storylines straight.

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Seeing_I 3 years, 6 months ago

This episode always seemed like less than the sum of its parts to me, but was enjoyable nevertheless. Certainly, as Dr. Phil rightly points out, a much better "comfort food" episode than the utterly and infuriatingly inept Victory of the Daleks. I would MUCH rather see Whithouse take the show-runner's seat than Gatiss.

The Croatian locations are gorgeous, yes - Portmeirion, eat your heart out!
Anybody else think that the vampire creatures looked a bit like Koquillion?

One odd thing - at the end, the Queen Vampire takes off her robes before plunging into the canal - but we saw earlier that the clothing was part of their transformation, and by implication part of their bodies. Eh?

"Moffat has said that he suspected the “burst out of the cake” scene would be where people would finally accept Smith as the Doctor, and though that proved ludicrously pessimistic"

Oh, lordy, yes. I was sold on him during the "Next Doctor" special, when he did that twiddly thing with his fingers.

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Jordan Murphy 3 years, 6 months ago

Great stuff on Arthur Darvill and Rory. After seeing his gradual transformation from nervous (apparent) loser in The Eleventh Hour to confident badass in A Good Man Goes to War, he might be my favorite new series companion. And the team of he, Amy and Matt Smith's Doctor come just behind Sarah Jane, Harry and Tom Baker as my favorite all-time Tardis crew.

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Daibhid C 3 years, 6 months ago

surely there exist people who sided with Rory from the start.

I was one of them, mostly because I was thinking "No, not another Mickey. Please don't do that to a character again." I think it's reasonable to suggest that those of us on Rory's side were more surprised when the series turned out to agree with us than anyone else.

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Galadriel 3 years, 6 months ago

I hadn't seen any of Mickey when I first watched this episode, so I had no particular expectations for Rory. I now find myself in the same position with Danny for next season--and not wanting him to be Mickey or Rory, but just himself.

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Alan 3 years, 6 months ago

The big difference between Mickey and Rory, IMO, is this: Mickey's reaction to the Doctor (at least at the start) was "You're an alien thing! And you've stolen my girlfriend!" Rory's reaction was more like "You've put the woman I love through emotional hell by dropping in and out of her life since she was a little girl! And now you're recklessly endangering her life by taking her on 'adventures'!" Mickey's default emotion was jealousy. Rory was somewhat jealous but more importantly was genuinely appalled at the dangerous lifestyle the Doctor was leading Amy into.

And the bit about "you make people want to impress you" was riveting. Jackie made similar complaints but it was limited to her fears for her underage daughter. Rory was, to the best of my recollection, the first person to make a serious argument that enticing people to travel with the Doctor into dangerous situations was per se irresponsible of the Doctor. Anorak that I am, I've often thought that Rory's comments about how dangerous the Doctor himself could be to his companions were things Tegan should have said to the Fifth Doctor after Adric died.

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Alan 3 years, 6 months ago

And speaking of my anorak tendencies, am I the only one disappointed that the "vampires" turned out to be alien fish-people? I've always considered State of Decay to be one of the iconic Baker stories, in large part because of its hints at an ancient war between the Time Lords and the Great Vampires, Lovecraftian horrors each one of which could devour a planet whole and who lived on in race memories about vampires on a thousand worlds millions of years after their demise. But no, just ... fish-people.

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Leslie Lozada 3 years, 6 months ago

I was sold on him when He almost hit Big Ben.

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Leslie Lozada 3 years, 6 months ago

I haven't seen Mickey either. In fact, I thought that Rory was only going to be in the first one. But now, we know that aside from appearing in three series, he almost completed the Hero's journey

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jane 3 years, 6 months ago

I like that this is called a "standard" episode, because a lot of what it's doing underneath the hood is pretty much "standard" for the era.

First, of course, there's the use of monsters as metaphors for the underlying psychological issues facing the characters. Amy, for example, is running away from adulthood, and specifically the prospect of getting married. This in turn informs the kind of machinations of the monsters -- namely, converting women into brides. When Amy is forced into "the Chair" (hmm) she's threatened with becoming a monster herself, and specifically a monster-bride.

The Doctor is also faced with one of his internal demons -- being the last of his kind. His monster-mirror in this respect is Signora Calvierri (who, interestingly, has the first name of "Rosanna") and her quest to save her people from extinction. Once again, there's a bit with a Chair going on here, as both Rosanna and the Doctor sit upon her throne, which turns out to be a bit of alien technology that can transform the world.

In a nice bit of inversion, we also get Rory's issue addressed, namely his insecurity. He ends up in a fight with Francesco, but while Rory is brave enough to fight, he's not a warrior; he fights with a broom, the same tool he used to bar the doors in Eleventh Hour. Instead, Rory becomes the "damsel in distress" and has to be saved by Amy, who uses a mirror to destroy the monster.

(cont...)

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jane 3 years, 6 months ago

Which brings me to the other "standard" aspect of this episode, which is its inclusion of the all the repeating motifs and symbols that have been accruing this season. There's the mirror, of course, not just in Amy's compact, but when the Doctor first encounters the deadly brides, who all chant The Question: "Who are you?" Not only does this highlight the question of identity, one of the era's themes and of which the mirror is a symbol, it's also an underlying psychological concern of the Doctor's, the question of his name.

Then there's the ongoing preoccupation with Water and Fish. In Venice it's almost like the Water represents the subconscious, where all those monstrous grooms reside, and the danger of Rosanna (the Doctor's monster) is to remake the world as a place for monsters. And because water is a reflective surface, the trip to Venice helps Amy and Rory reflect on the nature of their relationship.

Added to this water imagery is a lot of reference to fire -- this is the basic alchemical union. Rosanna threatens to submerge Venice, but the threat is made by saying, "Let's fill the sky with fire!" Likewise, vampire blood "rages through you like fire." Guido destroys the vampire brides with Fire, and Amy kills Francesco with sunlight. The resolution to the alchemical imbalance of elements out of control is for the Doctor to scale the Clock Tower, the "world tree" of this episode. The alchemical themes are reflected in costume choices that continue to play with Red and Blue -- both Amy and Rory share these colors, while the Doctor's bowtie in Series Five alternates between the two, depending on the nature of the story.

I've talked about The Chair before -- in The Library the Chair is part of the ascensions of both River and Miss Evangelista, and in The Next Doctor it's explicitly tied to the ascension of Miss Hartigan. Here we see it used for the "false" ascensions of both Amy and Rosanna's plan to remake the world. But there's another one, often overlooked: the Doctor's sling, hanging below the TARDIS console, where he gives his "go back" speech that reminded me ever so much of LOST: "Oh, the life out there, it dazzles. I mean, it blinds you to the things that are important. I've seen it devour relationships and plans. It's meant to do that. Because for one person to have seen all that, to taste the glory and then go back, it will tear you apart." All of which sounds very much like an Ascension experience.

Finally, there's the invocation of Memory. Rosanna asks the Doctor to "remember" her and her race, while the execution of Isabella is done "in memory of the children lost to the silence." And sure enough, this story continues to advance the long arc of the Silence and the Cracks, which will reach a climax in the Big Bang, a climax that hinges on preserving a "memory" of the Universe, as well as a "memory" of the Doctor.

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Bennett 3 years, 6 months ago

My moment was the look he gave when he popped out of his regeneration, which I suppose is pretty much the look he gives in the "burst out of the cake" scene: a mixture of bewilderment, curiosity, awkwardness and enthusiasm.

Perhaps Steven Moffat considered the cake scene to be the defining point of Matt Smith's Doctor because it's one of the earliest scenes that is almost impossible to picture with another Doctor in his place.

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Triturus 3 years, 6 months ago

I don't know why, but him shouting "AND STAY OUT!!" to a piece of bacon did it for me. There was also the "Nobody human has anything to say to me today" line from TBB. Those two moments epitomise for me the comedic and dark elements of Matt Smith's doctor which he was so adept at juxtaposing.

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Triturus 3 years, 6 months ago

I'm still waiting for someone in a zombie film to have heard of zombies. People in vampire films know what zombies are, and people in zombie films know all about vampires, but never the twain shall meet.

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BerserkRL 3 years, 6 months ago

This will be revisited when Clara also frustrates the Doctor's expectations (though in a completely different way) as to what her first words will be on seeing the TARDIS interior.

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Aylwin 3 years, 6 months ago

He had me at "Oh..."

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David Anderson 3 years, 6 months ago

One notes that both the Doctor and Rosanna have a death-wish. The Doctor's is rather more under control than Rosanna's. But really the zygons would have something to say about sending all your painfully converted brides out to kill the wisecracking Time Lord and his allies; and the Master would dismiss it as plain stupid.
Phil notes that the Doctor and Rory have conversations about Amy behind her back. What I think supports his reading of it is that the direction and scene shifting makes it clear that they're having that conversation while they should be rescuing Amy. Instead Isabella, whom they're trying (and failing) to rescue does the job.

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Leslie Lozada 3 years, 6 months ago

He had me at that comment about dressing up as The Doctor

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ferret 3 years, 6 months ago

Shaun of the Dead (which my not count as it's a comedy) shows a pre-awareness of Zombies, but rejects allowing the fiction to inform their reality because "it's ridiculous":
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FqNQbdD3kLw

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ferret 3 years, 6 months ago

The delivery of "Carrots? Are you insane?" had me charmed, but I assumed everything in Eleventh Hour was post-regenerative wackiness we wouldn't be seeing so much of again.

So I didn't realise I was 'sold' until The Beast Below, when the Doctor lays down the rules:

"An important thing. In fact, Thing One. We are observers only. That's the one rule I've always stuck to in all my travels. I never get involved in the affairs of other peoples or planets"

...and then immediately pops outside and starts getting involved, keeping the same scatterbrained mania from Eleventh Hour:

"Sorry. Checking all the water in this area. There's an escaped fish. Where was I?"

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ferret 3 years, 6 months ago

His outburst in "The Girl who Waited" against the Doctor's recklessness in not doing even the slightest research into the times and places he visits was a great continuation of this, especially in that it didn't seem like Rory's character had not progressed but instead that he had discovered new depths to the Doctors recklessness.

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UrsulaL 3 years, 6 months ago

It is interesting to see that while we're setup, initially, to see Rory as a bit rubbish and Mickey-like, in retrospect he's proactive and companion-worthy from the beginning.

In "The Eleventh Hour" we're set up to see a rivalry between Rory and Jeff. But while Jeff has to be pushed by the Doctor to be active in the story, Rory is ahead of it. Before even meeting the Doctor, Rory has recognized the problem of the coma patients and collected the photographs the Doctor would later need. Rory recognizes the Doctor quickly. And, notably, he's the one that Amy has designated as Doctor-worthy, having him play-act adventures with the Doctor for her when they were children.

We also see Rory paired with Amy, as they deal with the hospital problems together. And they run after the Doctor together when the Doctor gets the message that the TARDIS is ready to go. The Doctor doesn't just leave behind Amy, he leaves behind Rory, as well.

When Rory finally joins them, he's upset. But it is interesting to note how he is upset. Knowing that the Doctor and the TARDIS are real, Rory has spent the intervening years studying. If the Doctor came back, Rory was planning to be ready to go. He's used logic and science to make sense of Amy's childhood stories, so that he can explain the TARDIS's "bigger on the inside."

Rory is upset that Amy ran away on the night before their wedding. He's specifically upset that she ran away with the Doctor, whom he's afraid might be a rival.

But I suspect that he is also upset that Amy ran away without thinking of him. Why didn't she tell the Doctor that Rory would like to travel to? Why didn't she suggest that the brilliant fellow who had figured out the coma patients might also be a good companion?

And while Rory calls the Doctor on his recklessness, he doesn't hesitate to travel with him. Rory's desire is to make travel with the Doctor better by making it more thoughtful, safer, and exploring genuine mysteries, not blundering taking easily avoidable risks.

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jane 3 years, 6 months ago

I've been meaning to say this for a while -- it's so good to see you around here! I kind of miss our little Long Game over at GB (but I really don't miss GB) so it's a real treat to see your take on things again.

:)

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Alex Antonijevic 3 years, 6 months ago

"And while Rory calls the Doctor on his recklessness, he doesn't hesitate to travel with him. Rory's desire is to make travel with the Doctor better by making it more thoughtful, safer, and exploring genuine mysteries, not blundering taking easily avoidable risks."

I like how this point comes back in The Girl Who Waited, where Rory is at the point where he's had enough, and of course in the episode after that, the Doctor drops them off.

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Ben 3 years, 6 months ago

I'm also on the anti-"School Reunion" side. Not only does Mickey get screwed in it, but it's a distillation of all that was wrong with the Rose Tyler era. Davies wants her to be your favorite companion, which is all well and good. What's not good is that the character knows she's supposed to be special, which makes her act selfish and entitled. Worse, she drags Sarah Jane down with her.

The good news is that Moffat comes in the next week with "The Girl in the Fireplace", which shows a much improved version of both Rose and Mickey.

The even better news is that Moffat saw something in Whithouse and brought him back. Whithouse is in his element here, and turns in a highly enjoyable episode. Then the next series he turns in what may be my favorite 45 minutes of nuWho.

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Matthew Blanchette 3 years, 6 months ago

...there was a crack in "Forest of the Dead"? Surely you mean "Flesh and Stone"? :-/

And, anyhow, what nobody seems to be mentioning is how Rory was originally introduced to us -- not as Mickey 2.0, but as a seeming supporting character in a scene that brought us more knowledge about Prisoner Zero. His then reappearing during the "wibbly sun" scene and being properly introduced as Amy's boyfriend, rather than merely as Dr. Ramsden's one-scene foil, was an early reveal that this character was more important than first seemingly presented... and it built from there.

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Nicholas Tosoni 3 years, 6 months ago

To add to that, Ursula: Jeff is the macho lead you'd *think* would be Amy's boyfriend, with Mike Rutherford--sorry, *Rory*--as the dogged nice guy who pines after this unattainable girl.

And then...whoops, sorry, that's not the case! Jeff is...well, he's a bit one-dimensional; turns out Rory's a lot more capable in his own way than TV grammar would have us believe.

"...more thoughtful, safer, and exploring genuine mysteries, not blundering taking easily avoidable risks."

--Oddly enough, that's one of the complaints I've read on Gallifrey Base about Series 5, 6, 7, and 8. Now I understand why so many people decry New Who as "too safe:" Rory's words have hit a sore spot, and he knows it's true.

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UrsulaL 3 years, 6 months ago

Does Rory pine? He seems a bit more assertive than that.

When Amy tries to downgrade their relationship to "sort of a friend" he asserts that he's her "boyfriend." Rory hasn't been pining for Amy, she's already his girlfriend. Which contrasts nicely with the Doctor's admonition to Jeff to "get a girlfriend."

Which of the two has acted on his desire, and which is pining?

Flash forward two years, and it is the night before Amy's wedding to Rory. He hasn't spent those two years pining for a woman he considers unattainable, he's spent those two years successfully developing a relationship with the woman he cares for.

It's also worth noting that Amy asks if they can be back before morning (when she's to marry Rory) before she agrees to travel with the Doctor. It slides past the audience, but Amy makes getting to her wedding to Rory a condition of running away with the Doctor, just like Clara makes getting back home so she can take care of her responsibilities a condition of traveling with the Doctor. (Something I only just realized a moment ago.)

And Amy takes the Doctor home to show him her wedding dress and explain that she's marrying Rory before she tries to seduce the Doctor.

At that point in her life, Amy is quite emotionally damaged, (from the disappearance of her parents and the negligence of her aunt) and she isn't good at expressing her emotional needs.

So she tells the Doctor with reckless and irresponsible actions, rather than careful words "you're making me choose between traveling with you and marrying the man I love. I don't want to have to choose."

This leads the Doctor to realize (as Amy intended, perhaps subconsciously) that his offer to run away isn't an innocent one. The Doctor routinely expects people, particularly women, to choose travel with him over everything else in their lives. And he does so in a way that really devalues the ordinary things of a woman's life.

With Rose, the Doctor learned that it is not right to expect a young woman to abandon her parents. That relationship matters.

With Martha, the Doctor learned that it is not right to expect a young woman to abandon her goals and her desire for romance.

With Donna, the Doctor learned that it isn't right to expect a young woman to abandon her extended family, such as grandparents (Wilf).

With Amy, the Doctor learned that it isn't right to expect a young woman to abandon a wanted marriage, the love of a spouse, the chance to grow into mature adulthood.

With Clara, the Doctor learns that all of the things that are important in a young woman's life are important, and that the right thing to do is to be someone who adds wonderful things to the lives of others, not forcing others to choose between all the wonderful things of life and the wonderful things of TARDIS travel.

Which is one heck of a journey, taking fifty years/centuries, from being someone who had no value for the stuff of human life, and who would casually kidnap humans for his own convenience, without even thinking of what he's doing to others.

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David Anderson 3 years, 6 months ago

I'm not quite so sold on the wackiness as other people. (When Troughton or Tom Baker or McCoy are being wacky there's usually some satirical edge to it. Smith can be just wacky.) On the other hand, the line 'we are observers only. That's the one rule I've always stuck to in all my travels,' would probably have sold me on the Moffat-era as a whole if the madman with a box line hadn't already.

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UrsulaL 3 years, 6 months ago

Nicholas -

Properly done, Rory's advice for caution shouldn't make for less interesting stories (not that the Doctor pays much attention, anyways.) If anything, it should make for better stories, as Rory doesn't let the Doctor get away with being stupid, and the writers can't use the Doctor being stupid or reckless as a way to put the characters in danger, and have to come up with other, more creative ideas.

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encyclops 3 years, 6 months ago

Knowing that the Doctor and the TARDIS are real, Rory has spent the intervening years studying.

He really is his father's son, isn't he? It's adorable.

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encyclops 3 years, 6 months ago

Oddly enough, that's one of the complaints I've read on Gallifrey Base about Series 5, 6, 7, and 8

...how are people already complaining about the plots of series 8? Are there more spoilers out than I thought?

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Triturus 3 years, 6 months ago

This is Gallifrey Base we're talking about. It's only the constant fear that the show is in imminent danger of cancellation because it now has kissing in it that stops them from slagging off series 9 to infinity.

"It won't be as good as it used to have will be."

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quislibet 3 years, 6 months ago

That's been my reaction, mutatis mutandis, for every post-State-of-Decay vampire-like creature on the show (or at the very least, Anne Reid's character in "Smith and Jones" should have been a haemovored version of her nurse in "The Curse of Fenric").

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Nicholas Tosoni 3 years, 6 months ago

@ Encyclops

...Did I really say "Series 8?" *facepalm* I miscounted there somewhere! For some reason I thought Capaldi was going to be "Series 9!"

Forgive me; I turned 27 just last week. I'm bound to start misremembering things soon enough. :o

@ UrsulaL:

Do bear in mind that I'm not slagging off the quality of the stories, but pointing out that it's a possibility that the Doctor tries to avoid. Now, in the New era, it's steadily eating away at him. Series 5, 6, and 7.1 carry the message, "Clean up your act, Doctor." And...he does, more or less.

Also, I never said that Rory himself pined. I said that WE, the audience, would EXPECT him to be so in a normal series. That he doesn't do so defies our expectations, and it's a pretty brave move.

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UrsulaL 3 years, 6 months ago

@ Nicholas:

Yeah. For these three companions, there seems to be a level of deliberate unreliable narration going on. We see them through the Doctor's eyes, and think they are one thing, but if you observe their behavior on-screen, they're something else.

Rory is, in the Doctor's eyes, a wimp, not worthy of his beloved Little Amelia, and sort of dull. But if you ignore the Doctor, you see that Rory is clever and observant, ready for adventure, and not one to take nonsense from anyone.

The same happens with Clara. In the Doctor's eyes, she's a mystery to be solved. But if you look at Modern Clara from when we first meet her (in Bells), she's intelligent, responsible, mature, educated, good with kids even in difficult circumstances, etc.

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encyclops 3 years, 6 months ago

I never quite got the impression the Doctor's views of either of them were THAT uncharitable. Even from the start I remember him being rather nicer to Rory than he ever was to Mickey.

As for Clara: one thing that I don't think we've talked about with regard to this "he sees her as a mystery" party line is that this is a woman who died on his watch the last time he saw her (and the last two times he talked to her, whether he knows it or not yet). Look at the way he treats her in "Bells," taking care of things around the house, sitting vigil outside in case of monsters, tucking her into bed with a plateful of jammy dodgers nearby (a helpful bite taken from one in case she's not sure whether they're really self-destruct buttons). This woman isn't just a mystery -- she's someone he desperately does not want to lose again. He's failed her before and now he has a chance not to let her die. I think that's a very important wrinkle in this situation that for some reason we don't talk about.

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Daru 3 years, 6 months ago

"surely there exist people who sided with Rory from the start. But the series has been constructed so as to give the sense (without actually having said much of anything about it)"

From the start I really felt with Rory. I have gone back and re-watched the Eleventh Hour numerous times and when I see Rory's scenes (especially the hospital one where he works it all out & gets disregarded) I never see the "useless" Mickey, but a confident aware and capable man. It's just that some people just seem to refuse to listen to him. Doesn't seem to stop him thinking what he thinks.

That “burst out of the cake” scene was gold for me (was already sold on Matt easily) and worked so beautifully with the timing and moment of silence and not real danger before bursting into the credits. Lovely.

"It’s a genuinely new take on the Doctor - one in which the mercurial swiftness of his mind is physically performed and transmuted into bodily movement."

THIS is what I adore about Matt's performance - the fact the he allows the mercury of the Doctor to flow through him and work through his body.

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jonathan inge 3 years, 6 months ago

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jonathan inge 3 years, 6 months ago

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Author 3 years, 6 months ago

I love your comments on Rory and how they incorporated him into the narrative by more effective, like subtler ways than they did with Mickey. Kudos.

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Author 3 years, 6 months ago

Yes, exactly how I felt about Rory and the Doctor bursting out of the cake, too.

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Author 3 years, 6 months ago

Hmm, yeah, the story plot and secondary characters do suffer as the series/main characters' plot take center stage with tent-pole moments.

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Author 3 years, 6 months ago

encyclops, yes, I absolutely do agree with you, and in The Rings of Akhetan, when they first arrive in that market, the Doctor really hovers over Clara at the start, guiding and protecting her.

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Author 3 years, 6 months ago

Oh, I love your comments, Ursulal! Especially the one that started this comment thread, indicating how Rory wanted to be and was companion material from the start and the one about the Doctor learning to respect the needs/desires of the women that he is traveling with. Kudos. (By extension, would such an idea extend to his male companions as well? Considering the new era especially, although I do wonder about classic era male companions as well.)

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Author 3 years, 6 months ago

In memory of the children lost to the silence...such as River. In Venice. Very, very interesting, I love your ideas.

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Author 3 years, 6 months ago

Man...maybe someday, they will go back to The Great Vampires. Although, by implication, the idea that there are 'Great Vampires' is that there are lesser vampires out there, such as these fish aliens and the nurse in Smith and Jones.

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Author 3 years, 6 months ago

Oh, man...I really wish the classic era had been better at addressing these important character/emotional issues in their stories.

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Author 3 years, 6 months ago

I really hope they do a good job with Danny Pink, too, although I do worry/wonder what sort of a character will he be. Will he be like Rory, or could he turn out to be more of a foil for the Doctor? I'm sort of concerned/wondering if something might go wrong between Danny and the Doctor, and Danny might be Turlough or something like that.

Adam was sort of a Turlough companion, but they abandoned him when he did something wrong, and Captain Jack Harkness started off as a trickster before he amended/reformed his ways and they forgave/saved him. And River was definitely a Turlough companion--in her timeline, she really did start of being sort of evil, a trickster planted amidst the Doctor and his friends to trap him, but she was manipulated/forced into this position by the big bad and then she changed when confronted with an alternative future and saved the Doctor. And Tasha Lem as a Dalek was Turlough, too.

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Author 3 years, 6 months ago

Haha, on Pontmerion and Koquillion. Hmm, interesting thing about the clothes, but maybe she wanted to differentiate herself more from the other fish aliens. She adopted/realized that human clothing is not the same as the human body, and so chose to wear real clothing with only the flesh changing. More of a hassle to change when she has to don on real human clothing as well, but maybe she likes to comport herself in a different fashion.

Ah, yes, when was I sold on the Eleventh Doctor? Well, there was a preview clip, I think, that they aired before the Eleventh Hour, when Eleven first meets Amy and he's talking to her and smacks into a tree, falling down. I also loved those commercials where Amy and the Doctor were lying on the grass, looking up at the stars, before they fell through the time vortex together--those were awesome!

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Author 3 years, 6 months ago

I love your comment as well. The subversion tactic is really marvelous, and Moffat executes it with such aplomb.

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Author 3 years, 6 months ago

Yeah, both Mickey and Sarah Jane Smith got terrible treatments in the RTD era in their first few appearances before they were redeemed/changed as the actors, despite the terrible parts/characteristics they were stuck with, really showcased their stuff, and eventually, RTD brought back Sarah Jane Smith to be the lead actress in a spinoff and Mickey got a mildly fair send-off, although he wasn't the action hero or leading man he could have been.

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Daru 3 years, 6 months ago

Thanks! I do think that this is a stunning moment of comic genius.

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