When You're Living Your Life One Day After Another (Fury From the Deep)

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OH MY GOD! I SAW UNDER JAMIE'S KILT!
Hi! So, how was A Good Man Goes to War? I hope it was good. I wrote this post a full week ago, and since I suspect that there are going to be things that it would make sense to point to in A Good Man Goes to War here, I figured I should remind you of that fact. 

It's March 16, 1968, and Israeli novelty blues are still at the top of the charts. It is replaced by Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick, and Tich with "The Legend of Xanadu," which sits oddly on the line between novelty and love song. In week three The Beatles ride in to save us with Lady Madonna, and in week five it's Cliff Richard. Honestly, I'm at a loss - this is not music I'm terribly familiar with. Cliff Richard appears to veer in his career from young rock guy to evangelical Christian. I see lower in the charts things like 1910 Fruitgum Company, which I have never heard of. I look at the cover and think "Ooh, that looks like a nice bit of psychedelia." And it turns out to be bubblegum pop. Let's call that the defining image of these weeks.

In real news, the British Foreign Secretary resigned seemingly over a drunken row with the Prime Minister, the Mai Lai massacre took place, 91 people are injured in a London protest against the Vietnam War, 200 more are arrested. Aer Lingus flight 172 crashes, killing 61. Lyndon Johnson declares he will not seek re-election, which was probably a good idea on paper, though as it turns out, this upcoming US Presidential Election is going to go somewhat badly for the planet. (I am rather more a hippie than an archeologist). Martin Luther King is murdered. Political assassinations in Germany. And, just to wrap off these uneventful six weeks, on the day the final episode of Fury From the Deep is transmitted, Enoch Powell makes the famous Rivers of Blood speech in which he rails against excessive immigration into Great Britain, complains that the British way of life is being destroyed, and warns:
As I look ahead, I am filled with foreboding. Like the Roman, I seem to see "the River Tiber foaming with much blood". That tragic and intractable phenomenon which we watch with horror on the other side of the Atlantic but which there is interwoven with the history and existence of the States itself, is coming upon us here by our own volition and our own neglect. Indeed, it has all but come. In numerical terms, it will be of American proportions long before the end of the century. Only resolute and urgent action will avert it even now. Whether there will be the public will to demand and obtain that action, I do not know. All I know is that to see, and not to speak, would be the great betrayal.
In other words, this is the bit of history that we're talking about when we talk about the turbulence of the 1960s. Except none of this is turbulence. Turbulence suggests the rapid switching back and forth between Summer of Love-esque bits of youth culture and stuff like Enoch Powell. This is, frankly, just a six week stretch of sheer unpleasantness.

While on television, we have that increasingly bone-chilling phrase, a classic Patrick Troughton story. No. That's unfair of me. It's really not that there's anything awful about the stories in this era. It's just that there's rarely anything especially good about them either. Fury From the Deep, I fear, is no exception. I'd summarize the plot, but you know it. The Doctor arrives at LOCATION_OF_BASE to find that the base is being threatened by a DESCRIPTION_OF_MONSTER. Although the base takes a while to trust the Doctor, eventually he is able to save the day. This time, LOCATION_OF_BASE is an offshore natural gas platform, and DESCRIPTION_OF_MONSTER is sentient seaweed.

As with any base under siege, there are plusses and minuses. We get some sense of ordinary people here, including a civilian wife who is unfortunately menaced. There's a strong female character, although she's the stock idiot plot role of the new person in charge who shows up when all the old people in charge have either been possessed by monsters or won over to the Doctor's side so that there's still someone to make sure nobody does anything untoward like actually resolve the plot. Which gets at the larger problem - a base under siege lives or dies on its supporting characters, and these ones are, on the whole, pretty flat.

On the plus side, though, the threat has some scariness this time, with the clearest example yet of the show taking an everyday object and making it dangerous. (This time it's seaweed and stove repairmen that are revealed to be deadly) The lack of any overt monster is nice - instead it's bits of foam and rushing water that are scary, which is a nice touch.

In more childish fun, we also have here a Doctor Who story that is oddly suited towards being a stoner party game, since everyone keeps talking about "the weed" and delivering lines like "someone among us here must be under the control of the weed!" The last episode even aired on 4/20. Better party games in Doctor Who do not exist. (This paragraph of inappropriateness should perhaps be capped off by observing a recurring theme in the Troughton era that appears again here. Just as the Third Doctor is a gadget freak and focuses most of his sciencey bits on gadgetry, Troughton's Doctor usually solves problems via chemistry. In the psychedelic era, when the major drug is the result of chemistry as opposed to horticulture, this is a small but significant clue in where this Doctor's social allegiances lie.)

Staying on the positive side of the ledger, this story is also intriguingly more modern in its storytelling than the rest of season five. This story, you see, marks Victoria's departure from the TARDIS. And for the first time since at least Steven, arguably Vicki or Susan, and really probably just ever, this fact is actually seeded and dealt with through the entire story. Victoria, as this story goes on, gets more and more frustrated and upset about life with the Doctor and the continual mortal peril she's thrust into. Until, in a deliciously clever end twist, it turns out to be Victoria's screaming that is capable of vanquishing the seaweed, which ends up being the final straw for Victoria, who longs for a life in which she is not continually threatened by homicidal plant life, Martians, Cybermen, Daleks, or Yeti.

But the structural maturity here only serves to make the degree to which we do these things better in 2011 clear. Yes, this episode deserves credit for seeding Victoria's departure through the whole story. Also for giving hints that Victoria's screams are what's effective against the weed throughout the story. And for the fact that the Doctor's bit of gadgetry in the start - unscrewing a hatch with some new toy he has called a sonic screwdriver - echoes the solution he'll eventually use to defeat the monster - a sonic attack. All of this is very good.

But it's not enough. Fury From the Deep may show us Victoria's misery a lot, and even have her misery play into the climax, but it's not about her misery. Compare it to the nearest equivalent in the new series - Last of the Time Lords. Last of the Time Lords may be by far the weakest of Davies's season finales, but it goes out of its way to earn Martha's departure at the end. Martha goes through absolute hell, and the whole story revolves around the fact that she has to do this because the Doctor, Jack, and her family are all captured. Every plot development extends from Martha going through awful things, so that when she finally says this is too much and she has to go, we believe it and know why. And yes, it's clumsy and has an awful moment where Dobby the House Doctor metamorphoses into a magical love Jesus through the healing power of Doctor Who fandom, but it's still a better handling of an emotional journey than Fury From the Deep.

But here we get to the bizarre thing. For all of its flaws, The Dark Path is a better story than this. Which is odd, because this is probably the third best story of its season and one of the better Troughton stories overall. And it's not just that I'm burnt out on bases under siege and tired of watching reconstructions. (This is, thankfully, the last story to have no episodes existing. I have exactly eleven more reconstructed episodes to watch, and two of those they animated.) It's that this story, which is ostensibly about putting Victoria through the emotional wringer, does not deal with her nearly as interestingly as The Dark Path, even though that novel ends up being a kind of ridiculous snub of Victoria. Why? Because that novel took the time to make sure multiple plot developments hinged on Victoria's actions. Because there are specific character traits of Victoria's - her upbringing, her father's death - that cause her to make the decisions she makes. Her fate at the end of that book is meaningfully a consequence of her own actions, and had it been the story of her departure, it would have made far more sense than this one did with no changes other than her leaving at the end.

Here, on the other hand, ultimately Victoria is a passive object to whom bad things happen until she gets fed up and leaves. Even the ultimate defeat of the weed does not extend from her actions. She screams into a microphone, and the Doctor solves the problem. Compare to how this would surely be done now, with her getting captured and dragged to the nerve center and is about to have something truly awful happen to her when she lets out a piercing scream and saves the day. Note how in that version of the story, it's Victoria's actions that resolve the story. This shouldn't be a story that also happens to be a bad day for Victoria. It should be a story about Victoria's bad day.

For another comparison, think about the supporting characters of Fury From the Deep and the ones in The Rebel Flesh/The Almost People. In Fury From the Deep, every character is defined almost entirely in terms of how they'll respond to a terrible seaweed crisis. The closest thing to another motivation anyone has is Frank worrying about his wife, and even that mostly only affects how he does or doesn't want to evacuate the base or stop drilling. Whereas in The Rebel Flesh/The Almost People, characters have significant traits that don't in any direct way relate to crisis management. Jimmy has a kid whose birthday it was. Jennifer imagined a stronger, better version of herself growing up. These are traits that define the characters as people instead of crisis management plot devices. And The Rebel Flesh/The Almost People then uses these facets of the characters instead of just their crisis management skills for its plot resolution. The fact that Jimmy is a father and that Jennifer has always imagined a better version of herself both end up shaping how they respond to the crisis in ways that go beyond mere competence, which is all Fury From the Deep ever thinks of its characters in terms of - how good at crisis management are they, and are they going to make the situation worse or better when they act?

And this gets to something I want to point out, both because I've been fairly critical of aspects of the Troughton era here and because I just kind of took McIntee's book to task last Friday. Generally speaking, Doctor Who has consistently improved over time. Yes, there are stories in the 1980s I'm going to be as savage towards as anything we've already talked about. Yes, the TV Movie is one of my least favorite things ever. Yes, there are truly staggeringly bad bits throughout the run, and classics as well.

But by and large, over time, we've gotten better at TV and have learned and mainstreamed more and more interesting techniques in novels. Techniques that were high literary techniques in the 1960s are business as usual in the 1990s, and yeah, that helps the novels a lot. The improvements in editing technology over the course of the series has helped it. But so have better understandings of how to tell television stories. Mass entertainment is much better, in 2011, about grabbing emotional throughlines and making sure they impact the rest of the story than it was in 1997. And 1997 was better than 1968. And so The Dark Path has more mature and interesting storytelling techniques than Fury From the Deep.

Yeah, there's high levels of variation in the short term, but in the long term, an average piece of Doctor Who in a given year is likely to be better than an average piece from five years earlier, and likely to be inferior to one from five years later. That doesn't mean that the Hartnell and Troughton eras aren't amazing, but let's be honest - they need to be watched as historical phenomena. They don't pack nearly the same punch as shows in 2011 that are far worse shows for 2011 than Doctor Who was for the 1960s. None of this is a criticism - I think learning to appreciate and enjoy historical modes of storytelling is a tremendously important skill. I think there's a ton to be learned by seeing how 1960s Doctor Who is good. Because even if later Doctor Who is better, there are still things that are good in 1960s Doctor Who that aren't done again, and there's a lot to be accomplished in looking to old ideas and figuring out how to make them work in new contexts. Matt Smith built a whole portrayal of the Doctor off of 1960s Doctor Who, and it's stunning.

I say all of this because, well, there are stories I don't like and eras I don't like. We're going to hit a big era I'm really just not very fond of soon. And I've been harsh on the Troughton era, aside from my continual point that Troughton is a jaw-droppingly good actor who can make anything compelling. But beyond that, have a look at the lengthy clip of Mr. Oak and Mr. Quill menacing Maggie Harris that survived for this episode. Look at the use of close-ups and cutting to tell the story, and how they create and sustain tension. There's very, very little in the Hartnell era that works that effectively. The Hartnell era needed to kill Sara Kingdom and have a Dalek ultimate weapon to get the kind of menacing atmosphere that Fury From the Deep manages with evil stove repairmen.

It may not be a very ambitious story, but in terms of how it's put together, it grabs the audience and engages them in a way Hartnell-era stories didn't and couldn't. And Pertwee stories will improve on this, and so on and so forth. Whatever wrong turns the show takes, and I'll point out lots of them, this is something we don't reflect upon often enough - by and large, the show really does improve. Some years go downhill from the ones before them, and some are shockingly bad compared to what else was on at the time. But in terms of how it tells its stories, the picture is almost uninterrupted improvement.

But enough of that. Let's go to a positive note. This story is our farewell to Victoria, as I said. No, wait. That came out terribly wrong. Because there's nothing nice about Victoria leaving. She's the most successful female companion the show has had in ages. And we ought to take a moment, as she goes, to praise her.

The thing that is so effective about Victoria compared to the two preceding female companions is, ironically, the thing that makes her least palatable in 2011. No effort is made to have her be an ordinary, viewer identification figure. We talked about some of this in the video blog on The Ice Warriors. Instead of being the eyes through which we see fantastic things, Victoria is instead usually a bit objectified and used as what I have derisively referred to as a peril monkey.

The thing is, and this ties in with my point about Fury From the Deep compared to The Dark Path, it works terribly well. In part because we have such a magnetic lead and in part because we are nearly five years into this Doctor Who thing and thus pretty comfortable with the basic premise, we don't need audience identification figures in quite the same way anymore. And so the female companion has been reverting, over the last few years, into a plot role as opposed to a character role. They're there to get captured and menaced. This is itself a problem and something the show will have an almost continual love-hate relationship with - starting with the next story, it tries to solve it a bit. Two years from now, it's going to succumb to it in a major way. From there on out, it swings back and forth.

But what's crucial about Victoria is that she's actually a companion designed to do what companions do on the show, as opposed to what people wish they did. The decision to cast a well-known former child star as the companion pays dividends, because the show is unrepentant about using close-ups of Watling's face and using her charisma to let her get in nice plucky moments between her imperilments.

Yes, it's frustrating that the female companion is such a peril monkey. And if all of the outrage weren't so painfully obvious, I'd stamp my feet and point out that it sure would be nice if she got as many save-the-day moments as Jamie. Or, you know, any. But here's the thing. Since Barbara left, female companions have tended to be good ideas that get shoehorned into peril monkeying. It's very much been a matter of "take a solid actress and a neat concept for a part, and then have them stand their and get menaced by monsters constantly." And it's been a frustrating waste of talent and an insult to the characters. However much of a male gaze damsel in distress Victoria might be, the fact of the matter is that seeing a character who was actually supposed to be a strong and independent woman like Polly reduced to hot beverage service is considerably more irritating. By starting the companion off as a fairy tale damsel in distress - which is what Whitaker did with her way back in Evil of the Daleks - the show made it so that when she dishes out sassy put downs to sexist men in Tomb of the Cybermen, it counted for something. It was not just, as those rare moments of spunk in Polly were, brief moments where the character worked right. They were moments when the character worked surprisingly well.

This isn't just about lowering expectations. It's about going with the flow. And it was an important switch. Yes, Victoria is, thus far, the companion that feminists should be most frustrated with - a particularly irritating fact for 1967-68. But on the other hand, by learning to do a peril monkey well, the show has made it so that it can begin varying that template and pushing it. I've already written about why Sarah Jane is so effective a companion. But much of what is so effective about Sarah Jane comes from taking the Victoria template and turning the spunkiness up to eleven.

With Victoria, in short, the show stopped trying to have the female companion be the audience's eyes, and instead had the female companion be likable. And that means that future companions can push up against the limits of the role in ways that past ones couldn't. And it is one of the best decisions the show made in its first five years. It's every bit as much of a watershed moment for the series as Patrick Troughton's revamp of the role of the Doctor.

So farewell to Deborah Watling. Basically, you rule.

Comments

Aaron 6 years, 2 months ago

What's frustrating to me is how the Bidmead early 1980s Who, and the early Saward Who are such a step backwards from the storytelling techniques we see done well in Hartnell and Troughton Who. Despite 2011 storytelling generally doing a better job with emotions, and creating emotional throughlines like you said, Hartnell and Troughton Who at least has these from time to time (Victoria here, Ian and Barbara's exit in the Chase). But for some reason Bidmead and JNT decided that it was "science fiction" not a "soap" which meant that Romana gets almost no exit, and characters like Tegan and Nyssa react to things like the TARDIS and regeneration like they're the most normal occurrences they've ever seen. Say what you will about the Sixth Doctor and Peri, but at least Peri reacted to events in a reasonable, emotional way. It's frustrating, because I'd love to give early JNT Who a pass, since it was made in the 80s, except that everything they're doing in it was done better in the 60s. So, despite storytelling getting better each year, it's weird and frustrating how there are such obvious dips in how simplistically stories are told.

Anyways, that rant got way off topic. You really think Utopia/Sound of Drums/Last of the Timelords is the weakest RTD finale? Weaker than Stolen Earth and Doomsday? I mean, I don't like the Dobby doctor anymore than the next guy, but that story strikes me as one of the great triumphs of the RTD era.

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Spikeimar 6 years, 2 months ago

As always this blog remains one of the most thought provoking of the few I actually read these days. I may not always agree with you but I never come away not mulling what's said over in my mind. As Lieutenant George might say in a loud and annoying way "BRAVO!"

Not being as erudite in getting my thoughts down as you forgive me if this wanders a bit.

I think trying to compare 60's (or even 70's and 80's) Who to New Who is a difficult thing to do, if not impossible. The Beeb (and television in general) was such a different animal then, programes were rarely made to enhance drama, or be world changing but were generally made to pass a pleasant half hour before the pubs opened. I can't remember who it was that said the main aim was that there would be 'something' on the screen after the results.
Occasionally the right people would come together and something special would come out of the sausage factory approach and the fact that so much Who remains entertaining is a miracle in itself when compared with much of the rest of tv's output in this era. I'm not saying we should go easy on it but I'd rather have milk in my tea that's gone a bit cheesy than have it with rancid camel's pee in it instead.

Much as I love the Troughton years I think the line from 'Tomb' sums up what's wrong with it when the Doctor says something like "Victoria will have to wear something sensible if she wants to join us on our adventures..." Real people don't generally think their lives are a series of 'adventures', there's a falseness, a 'World Distributors' feel to the characters, they are 'spacemen' on 'adventures'. For whatever faults the Hartnell era had there was a reality to the regulars that this era lacked. Does that make sense?
As for the casual racism, have you seen "Love thy Neighbour"? Spike Milligan's "Q" series etc? Again while it shouldn't be ignored I think Who at this time was no more racist than most of the Beebs output(and far less than a lot of the supposedly more 'with it' ITV channels)

As to why 80's Who seemed to go backwards, well we could learn a thing or two from Gerry Anderson here, his 60's shows were sublime but his 80's out pourings were uniformly terrible mainly because we think of everything as a smooth path, going upwards all the time but of course in reality the people making the shows in the 80's were not the people making the shows in the 60's and had different skills which were sadly sometimes just not as good as their predecessors. JNT staffed the show with almost all new people (and the psychological reasons for that are worth a blog on their own) who had to learn from scratch.

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Who+ 6 years, 2 months ago

Responding to Spikeimar, on the subject of "real people" not "thinking of their lives as adventures" - if I ever get hold of a police box that can take me to any point in time and space, and I at no point think of my life using it as "a series of adventures", then you have my full permission to take out a gun and shoot me.

Extraordinary people *always* think of their lives as a series of adventures. This is a sci-fi adventure serial, not a dour kitchen sink drama in the industrial north of England. And besides, in what sense were Russell T Davies's Doctor-companion pairings not off "having adventures"? I'd say 99% of Doctor Who adventures stem from the TARDIS crew having curiosity and a spirit of adventure; the very rare exceptions being Hartnell trying to get his companions home, and Pertwee being stuck (much against his will!) in a tedious military job on a backwater planet...

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BatmanAoD 6 years, 2 months ago

Aaron--what's wrong with Doomsday? I mean, yes, it has its flaws, but of the 5 RTD finales (including End of Time), I'd say it's the second-best, after the aforementioned End of Time.

Though I agree that Stolen Earth is pretty bad. I feel that Davies' set-ups got better and better and his resolutions weaker and weaker (with the exception of End of Time).

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Aaron 6 years, 2 months ago

I don't know, I don't particularly like the Rose/Tenth Doctor thing for the first thing, and I don't particularly care for Cybermen on the second hand. But mostly I think that there are a lot of things going on in that episode that all don't really connect in any meaningful way. There's the Army of Ghosts, which gets overshadowed by the reveal of Torchwood, which gets overshadowed by the Cybermen vs Daleks fight, which gets overshadowed by the real story of Rose and the Doctor, and how they can't stay together. And none of these plot threads have anything to do with each other, even thematically, they just seemed mashed together because they were good ideas for episodes. I also don't like how the hinted hubris of Rose and the Doctor never actually was signposted as the reason they were broken up, and I don't like how it's really just incidental that Rose falls into the parallel universe when it really should have been something that was integrally related to the Dalek/Cybermen plotline going on. I also think it's one of the worst RTD reset switches in the show. The fight between the forces should be a really big deal, but before we see hardly any of that fight, they all get cleanly swept back into the void. And like Phil is explaining in this post, Rose's emotional state should be a throughline of the entire episode and the thematic link that binds all these pieces together. And it isn't. It's just an incidental ending.

Bad Wold/Parting of the Ways is the best episode of the New Series to me, and I adore the Sound of Drums three parter. I also don't mind End of Time, thought I've only seen it once, and probably need to rewatch it before I can come to a clear conclusion about it. And I despise Stolen Earth because it's manipulative bullshit that tries to trick it's audience into liking it with meaningless gimmicks. While I don't hate Doomsday, I do feel like it's a poorly scripted episode that fails to connect all the important plot threads in any meaningful way. But again, I'm not a huge fan of the Tenth Doctor and Rose, and I really didn't like what Series Two was trying to do artistically at all (except for Girl in the Fireplace and Love and Monsters, which are perfection). As a result, I might be biased, since someone who really did like Rose might find that ending far more heartbreaking than I did.

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Elkins 6 years, 2 months ago

"But mostly I think that there are a lot of things going on in that episode that all don't really connect in any meaningful way."

This is an interesting criticism of Army of Ghosts/Doomsday, and one I find particularly compelling in light of the conversation I had with one of my not-fan housemates just the other night. We saw some Cybermen, and he asked me if we were supposed to know who they were, were they some Old Who monster or something? And we had a dialogue that went a bit like this:

ME: Those are Cybermen. I'm pretty sure you've seen them before. Didn't you see that one where they went into the alternate universe? I could have sworn you watched that episode with me.

HIM: Did I? I don't remember it.

ME: Okay, well --oh, wait. I know you saw Doomsday. They were in that one, too. The season finale with Rose?

HIM: The one where she gets possessed by the TARDIS?

ME: No, no, no, the one the year after that. With Tennant. The one where she winds up trapped in another universe and separated from the Doctor forever and ever -- or anyway, until they brought her back for some cameos a couple of years later. You really don't remember that?

HIM: Of course I remember that! Rose cried her eyes out against a wall. It was heartbreaking.

ME: Right. Well, that one had Cybermen in it.

HIM: It did?

ME: Yeah. They invaded Earth. They looked like ghosts at first? And then they got into a comedic bitch fight with a handful of Daleks.

HIM: Seriously? I remember Billie Piper crying. I don't remember there being ghosts or Daleks or those stupid-looking robot guys--

ME: Cybermen.

HIM: Whatever. I don't remember them being in that episode at all. Are you sure you're thinking of the same story?

So indeed, it would seem that your feeling that those plotlines weren't integrated very well is absolutely borne out in how one casual viewer, at any rate, remembered that episode.

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Spikeimar 6 years, 2 months ago

In response to Who+

No I agree the series is a show about adventures and people having adventures (and given the chance I would have adventures in the TARDIS) but my problem is that real people don't refer to their lives as "a series of adventures"

You wouldn't refer to your last holiday as 'that adventure we had in Spain' or 'remember the adventures of getting the car through it's MOT' (Actually you might say that last one in an ironic way if your car is like mine)

I personally don't like the kitchen sink drama of the Rose era etc but when your characters behave as if they know they are in a sci-fi teatime show then a certain amount of reality (or as real as Doctor Who gets) is lost. That was my complaint. Perhaps I didn't explain it properly.

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The Lord of Ábrocen Landmearca 6 years, 2 months ago

The problem with End of Time is that, other than the beautiful scene with Wilf in the cafe, End of Time PArt 1 is ENTIRELY POINTLESS. Remember when they meet up with the Ood at the beginning, and the Doctor is shocked that something has interfered with their development, they're a hundred years on and way too advanced? or something? Remember how that was important too the plot? Remember their Naismiths and their dastardly scheme to... give the Master some pretty infrastructure to screw around in? And hey, remember how the Doctor notes how strange and significant it is that he and Wilf keep crossing pasts, and that that must mean something? And then it doesn't? At all? End of Time PArt 1, and everything up until the master's sacrifice is all style and no substance, those few beautiful scenes between Wilf and the Doctor notwithstanding. Let's bring Wilf back. He's so amazing.

I don't think any RTD finales past PArting of the Ways end up holding up very well on re-watch, although Journey's End stands out for being particularly awful. Phrases like "Meta-Crisis Doctor" make me weep.

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landru 6 years, 2 months ago

"Last of the Time Lords. Last of the Time Lords may be by far the weakest of Davies's season finales, but it goes out of its way to earn Martha's departure at the end. Martha goes through absolute hell, and the whole story revolves around the fact that she has to do this because the Doctor, Jack, and her family are all captured. Every plot development extends from Martha going through awful things, so that when she finally says this is too much and she has to go, we believe it and know why. And yes, it's clumsy and has an awful moment where Dobby the House Doctor metamorphoses into a magical love Jesus through the healing power of Doctor Who fandom, but it's still a better handling of an emotional journey than Fury From the Deep."

Whereas in real life, the opposite would be true. The story is absurdly about Martha's departure to its own detriment. In fact, the previous 2 brilliant installments Utopia/Sound of Drums was so ruined by this ending that its actually hard to imagine loving them as they went out.

I really am disagreeing with you on this premise the stories should revolve around the companions ... This example (and the ever decreasing quality of modern season finales) seem to prove this.

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Philip Sandifer 6 years, 2 months ago

Oh, I wasn't trying to say that the story should revolve around the companions so much as that the emotional payoff and the spectacle payoff should not be treated as distinct parts of the narrative process. One of the major advances of the new series over the old one has been that the new series doesn't treat emotional catharsis and monsters as separate jobs, but instead sees its mission as being to tell emotional stories about monsters.

But the emotional stories don't need to be about the companions. The Doctor's Wife is a fantastic emotional story about the Doctor. Both Doomsday and Parting of the Ways are ultimately about the relationship between the Doctor and Rose more than they are about Rose's emotional journey. The Doctor slipping the universe-crossing device on Rose's neck without her consent or answering the "coward or killer" question in what is obviously the wrong way out of shame are, I would argue, as important, moreso even, than anything Rose does in either episode.

In fact, I'd go so far as to say that generally speaking, stories in which the Doctor has the primary emotional arc (Girl in the Fireplace, Dalek, The Doctor's Wife) interest me more than ones where the companion does, although there are certainly some companion-centered pieces I adore (Father's Day, The Big Bang, Amy's Choice).

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Jesse 6 years, 2 months ago

I generally like the Davies era, but in pretty much every season of his the final episode is the weakest. The man is good at setting and character but simply cannot write endings (*), a fact he displayed right away in Rose and The End of the World and reminded us at the end of every story arc.

(* Oh, all right. He did give Children of Earth a great wrap-up.)

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Jesse 6 years, 2 months ago

On reflection, actually, the one Davies finale that I don't dislike is Last of the Time Lords. The resolution of the story may be dumb and anticlimactic, but it makes up for it somewhat with (a) the Scissor Sisters sequence at the beginning, one of the best scenes in the history of Who, (b) John Simm in general, and (c) the reveal (or maybe-a-reveal) about the Face of Boe, which made me laugh. In a good way.

No, the weakest Davies finale was The End of Time. What a mess. Thank goodness Moffat came along.

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landru 6 years, 1 month ago

Having just watched the Loose Cannon recon of this I found the story very lacking in all kinds of things that a classic needs. I thought the novelization was very well done, but as a concept I don't really know if I care.

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SK 6 years ago

You know, I'm not sure I can ever think of Victoria the same way after seeing Danger UXB.

It's just... wrong.

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Henry R. Kujawa 5 years ago

Aaron:
"What's frustrating to me is how the Bidmead early 1980s Who, and the early Saward Who are such a step backwards from the storytelling techniques we see done well in Hartnell and Troughton Who."

YEAH. And everything else that came before it.


"for some reason Bidmead and JNT decided that it was "science fiction" not a "soap" which meant that Romana gets almost no exit, and characters like Tegan and Nyssa react to things like the TARDIS and regeneration like they're the most normal occurrences they've ever seen."

Not sure that quite sums it up, as JNT also had so many stories run right into the next, like a soap-opera (or BATMAN's 3rd season) that few stories were allowed to stand on their own. And yet, virtually no character development (until Sylvester & Sophie teamed up).


Spikeimar:
"we could learn a thing or two from Gerry Anderson here, his 60's shows were sublime but his 80's out pourings were uniformly terrible mainly because we think of everything as a smooth path, going upwards all the time but of course in reality the people making the shows in the 80's were not the people making the shows in the 60's and had different skills which were sadly sometimes just not as good as their predecessors."

NOT quite right. Anderson had wonderful writing on FIREBALL XL5 and nearly as good on STINGRAY, but beginning with THUNDERBIRDS, his obsessin with machinery completely over-ruled Sylvia's desire for characterization. She threw her hands up, Gerry "won", and each subsequent show became more mechanical, cold-blooded, "serious", and LESS human. CAPTAIN SCARLET, JOE 90, SECRET SERVICE, UFO, THE PROTECTORS, and, God help us, SPACE: 1999 (the show I used to laugh AT rather than WITH).

And then... Gerry & Sylvia got DIVORCED. And something happened. Because TERRAHAWKS had real "characters" in it, was fun to watch, and in places was actually funny!! The most "human" character on the show, ironically, was "Sergeant-Major Zero", the commander robot who was shaped like a basketball, was in love with Mary Falconer (a dead ringer for Barbara Bain) and delighted in confounding his superior, Doctor Tiger Ninestein (who similarly reminded me of Martin Landau).

And then SPACE PRECINCT was just his masterpiece-- though nobody at the time seemed to realize it. GREAT characters, GREAT writing, GREAT ideas, action, suspence, drama, humor, fabulous music and the best use of "old-fashioned" special effects (miniatures) I've ever seen on a TV show. This thing, in my view, totally blows every late-model STAR TREK revival completely out of the water, and is the only show I can think of where I can honestly say that I love every frame of every episode of.

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Henry R. Kujawa 5 years ago

Aaron:
"someone who really did like Rose might find that ending far more heartbreaking than I did."

As it hyappens, I did, but, I find myself in total agreement with you on that story. It had its best impact on me because I had actually managed the incredible feat of AVOIDING any spoilers in advance, including the stupid ones the Sci-Fi Channel kept running all the damn way thru part 1!!!!! Nice job, guys, BLOW the cliffhanger before your audience has a chance to see it. (I kept shutting off the sound and averting my eyes at every commercial break.) So when THE DALEKS show up at the end of Part 1-- I screamed at the TV-- both in horror, and, in delight!!! For me, they WERE a surprise!

Somehow I never quite liked Rose as a character as much as it seemed I should. My best friend suggests it may have had to do with how badly she treated Mickey. Maybe. But anyway, her departure just seemed contrived. Oh, Billie Piper's leaving, let's find a reason for her to do so, and since things got so emotional, let's make it so she can "NEVER!!!!!" come back!! Hahhahahahahah.

"SCHOOL REUNION", however, did leave me in a very emotional state for 2 whole days. I think I finally "got over" Sarah then. So when we lost Lis, somehow, incredibly, it DIDN'T hurt as much as I'd have thought it would have. (I never saw her spin-off show... dammit.)


Landru:
"the previous 2 brilliant installments Utopia/Sound of Drums was so ruined by this ending that its actually hard to imagine loving them as they went out."

"LAST OF THE TIME LORDS" is so far the last one I've been able to see. And frankly, I DIDN'T care for it. Maybe that's why I haven't quite "missed" the show since then as much as I might have.


So, are you eventually going to tackle "DOWNTIME"?

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ladysugarquill 1 month, 2 weeks ago

Here we are. The one story in the entire Doctor Who that I found MINDBREAKINGLY BORING. The beginning and the end with Victoria are well done, but the rest is 120 minutes of: "go check the rigs" "no" "go check the rigs" "no" *seaweed* *foam* "go check the rigs" "no".

One thing that gets overlooked is that Victoria getting to scared and bailing out was, according to her actress on some DVD extras, always the plan, and was being established since the beginning of the season. Victoria is the first companion *to have an actual arc*. Sadly, it wasn't done too well.

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