Crash log of the Singularity

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Elizabeth Sandifer

Elizabeth Sandifer created Eruditorum Press. She’s not really sure why she did that, and she apologizes for the inconvenience. She currently writes Last War in Albion, a history of the magical war between Alan Moore and Grant Morrison. She used to write TARDIS Eruditorum, a history of Britain told through the lens of a ropey sci-fi series. She also wrote Neoreaction a Basilisk, writes comics these days, and has ADHD so will probably just randomly write some other shit sooner or later. Support Elizabeth on Patreon.

116 Comments

  1. Tobias
    June 1, 2024 @ 12:59 am

    There’s one shot from the POV of a Dot that (for me, anyway) addressed the Toclafane POV in “The Sound of Drums.” I feel like both the Toclafane reveal and the reveal of the twist in this episode both complicate what might be my favorite element of Davies’s take on Doctor Who, which is to say, the emphasis on ordinary people and the heroism that they’re capable of.

    The idea that humanity’s less pleasant aspects can come to the forefront and periodically leave the Doctor devastated is, for me, a really powerful counterpoint to that. And it played like gangbusters at the climax of this episode.

    Reply

  2. Citizen Alan
    June 1, 2024 @ 1:05 am

    I think what I love most about the episode is that we are meant to think that it’s about the “bubble” of social media. But in the end it’s not. Social media as a concept was not the enemy here. Rather, it was the fact that Lindy and all the others (except Ricky, who explicitly stepped outside of his own SM bubble as much as possible) lived in such a bubble of extreme privilege that they could /afford/ to spend their whole lives utterly dependent on technology to tell them how to walk and even when it was time to urinate. Poor people, or even middle class people, generally do not have the luxury of being completely oblivious to their own surroundings and unable to perform the simplest tasks on their own. Frequently during Lindy’s more vapid moments, I was reminded of a Tracy Ullman sketch in which Jacob Rees-Mogg is talking to a reporter about some economic issue over dinner . . . and then his nanny comes out to cut his food up and feed him like he was a toddler.

    The only thing more savage than an entire planet of Kardashians who think they “work” because for two hours a day they do their web-surfing at an office instead of at home is the idea that the Kardashians’ Twitter and Facebook accounts would grow so disgusted with them that the social media devices themselves would try to murder them.

    Actually, I take it back. I think my favorite aspect of the episode is how utterly ineffectual the slugs were! It would be trivially simple to escape or evade them for anyone who wasn’t a clueless 1%er who was too focused on his Zoom meeting to notice a half-ton slug slowly creeping up behind him.

    And how about that Fridge Horror of the Doctor explaining to Lindy that the Dot was murdering people in alphabetical order, thereby unwittingly telling her how to save herself by betraying Ricky.

    Reply

    • Camestros Felapton
      June 1, 2024 @ 1:13 am

      Yes, I liked how the monsters were inherently not very dangerous. They reminded me a bit of the triffids and parts where Lindy was trying to avoid them (after her bubble ran out) of the 80’s BBC Day of the Triffid adaptation (in a good but cheesy way)

      Reply

      • Ross
        June 1, 2024 @ 6:50 pm

        Kinda felt like the monsters looking ridiculous was a flex on RTD’s part. Like, those are some Pixar-level monsters. RTD saying “I will use this Disney Money to give you the most expensive bubble wrap and egg cartons ever committed to film”

        Reply

        • Camestros Felapton
          June 2, 2024 @ 12:52 am

          The Doctor Who universe equivalent of carcinisation – instead of crabs, the universe tends to evolve creatures of the bubble-warp-and-cardboard form but some come with higher production values.

          Reply

          • Ross
            June 2, 2024 @ 1:04 pm

            I can’t recall now whether it was Doctor Who or the Tomorrow People, but Big Finish did an audio where aliens who feed on human fear set up a haunted house, but it doesn’t work because classic horror-movie monsters don’t evoke a parasympathetic fear response in modern people. Then they find out that humans are indeed scared of alien invaders, so they drop their disguises… But since their species looks like bubble wrap and and egg cartons, that doesn’t work either. So they ultimately have to resort to violence, since apparently humans DO experience fear when they are actively being murdered, even if it is by a monster who looks like a trash bag covered in ping-pong balls.

        • Cyrano
          June 2, 2024 @ 2:23 am

          I think it’s actually quite important to the episode that the monsters not being especially impressive. You can’t run the risk that they distract from the “Lindy is the actual monster” arc over the course of the episode.

          Every satire has a misaimed fandom that thinks the people being ruthlessly dunked on are actually the heroes: saying the unsayable, being likeable underdogs or doing what they do for a reason.

          Having the monsters be convincingly scary (and Lindy less pathetically unable to rescue herself) would risk drawing focus from the satire and accidentally heroing her.

          Reply

    • Jacob
      June 1, 2024 @ 1:39 am

      I agree. One of the reasons this episode is because, unlike what many assumed based on the premise, RTD isn’t an old man going after the teens and their Twitters and TikToks. He’s going after the privilege that lets some people live in that world instead of the real one. In my opinion, this is done well, with the episode painting a surprisingly complete portrait of this privilege.

      This is complimented by the episode encouraging some of the audience to examine their own privilege by the way it builds up to the reveal of Finetime’s racism in such obvious but easy to gloss over ways.

      Reply

      • Jacob
        June 1, 2024 @ 1:43 am

        (oops, mistyped)

        *one of the reasons this episode works is because

        Reply

    • Cyrano
      June 2, 2024 @ 2:13 am

      I also like that while it’s absolutely not about kids today and their TikToks, in passing it does absolutely ruthlessly skewer how irritating a strand of TikTok can be.

      Reply

    • Sarah Grace
      June 3, 2024 @ 4:49 pm

      I was relieved that the episode wasn’t ultimately critiquing the “social media bubble”, because what’s depicted in the show, “not being aware of the world” is not my experience of it.

      In Lily Alexander’s video “Can Art Change the World?”, she describes the experience of social media giving us too much information, which might cause feelings of despair, but doesn’t cause the kind of ignorance satirize in this episode, which made me worry the episode’s critique was going to feel more vapid than it ended up being.

      Reply

    • Gareth J
      June 5, 2024 @ 11:54 am

      I agree, the ending in particular really nails the ridiculous vanity of these people. They’re so convinced that the easy privilege of their lives is down to them being inherently good, clever and worthwhile folk that they genuinely believe that they can survive out in the wilderness without help- despite barely being able to eat and toilet on their own!
      RTD makes clear the classism as well as the racism of Finetime. Best episode of the new era by far.

      Reply

  3. Alex B
    June 1, 2024 @ 1:18 am

    The pivot from the promo angle of “social media’s going to kill us all!” to the episode filling in the second part of the premise as “…and we’ll deserve it, too” is absolutely glorious – turned what seemed like it would be a mildly cringe example of a 61-year-old lecturing the kids about the socials into something much stranger and darker. A narrative substitution to rival anything Moffat’s pulled off.

    Reply

    • Ross
      June 1, 2024 @ 5:59 pm

      Oh yes I spent so much of this episode being wrong. Totally thought that Lindy would be the person who dies in the cold open to demonstrate how the monster works. Then spent a lot of time thinking the ai that ran the show was disposing of the underperformed influencers. Even thought Ricky September would do a heel turn on account of being the only character remotely intelligent enough to have an agenda. And nah, the terrible people live, and the deaths are motivated because they are terrible people who deserve to be eaten by isopods (people keep calling them slugs, which, fair, but they have very obviously lobster-like shells.)

      Also can’t help feeling that Big Finish might have tried this story but would have had the Doctor walking away in disgust at the end happy for the failsons to be eaten because they deserve it (also Big Finish totally would have dropped the racism angle and just had them reject his help because he didn’t have enough followers)

      Reply

      • Anthony Bernacchi
        June 2, 2024 @ 11:30 am

        Well, Big Finish wouldn’t have been able to set up the racism angle the same way. They could have done the twist, certainly, but without RTD’s savagely effective game of seeing whether the audience notices before the reveal.

        Reply

  4. Kieran
    June 1, 2024 @ 1:19 am

    Longtime reader, first time commenter. You’re absolutely not out of step with your positive assessment here. This is maybe the first episode that feels like it would have been impossible to make prior to the Disney era, and I’m so glad it exists. It’s like Doctor Who meets the Nosedive episode of Black Mirror. Which is to say, I love it and it slaps. The reveal that Lindy is a uniquely horrible person who also happens to live in a segregationist society was a real what-the-fuck moment that makes sense in hindsight. Still not my favorite episode this season — Devil’s Chord felt like an episode made specifically to my tastes. Great review!

    Reply

  5. Shannon
    June 1, 2024 @ 1:19 am

    I can say that I noticed (to the point of saying it out loud to my husband), “Huh, they’re all white, aren’t they?” close to the very, very beginning. Looking back, I really appreciated the literalness of “eat the rich” to it as well as just the sheer dead-on awfulness of these people. The sad part is that it’s not that far in terms of satire. They easily reminded me of potential great-grandchildren of the people profiled in this piece: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/article/2024/may/25/american-pronatalists-malcolm-and-simone-collins (If you don’t read the article, it’s basically Quiverfull fundamentalists except swap white supremacist Christianity for being a white supremacist tech-bro. Not surprisingly, Elon Musk is one of these folks.)

    Reply

    • Shannon
      June 1, 2024 @ 1:24 am

      As to why create the slugs at all, I think the AI enjoys watching these folks literally stumbling into the slugs to get eaten. It’s not fun to have to zip around to kill them. The disgust aspect of the slugs also mirrors the fact that these folks think everyone is disgusting save them.

      Also, for folks who like the “AI hates everyone” storyline and hasn’t seen The Mitchells Vs. the Machines, it is brilliant and hilarious and gets at some of the same points as this episode (not the racism parts though).

      Reply

      • Citizen Alan
        June 1, 2024 @ 1:32 am

        Did the AI even create the Slugs? I had assumed they were an environmental hazard that the AI realized could be used to kill the Finetimers because they were dumb enough to walk into a monster’s open mouth if instructed to do so.

        Reply

      • Alex B
        June 1, 2024 @ 1:39 am

        Also, the dots don’t seem to be very good at killing- the one we see doesn’t manage to get a kill shot on a woman who only learned to walk five minutes beforehand, and needs an assist from a large metal hook to take Ricky down. Probably better to devise a tool specifically for the job.

        There’s also clearly an emotive element to what the AI’s doing- it hasn’t decided that the Finetimers are inefficient, it’s decided that it hates them and wants them dead. I can see the emotive appeal in systematically picking them off one-by-one with monsters they can trivially avoid with even the slightest bit of gumption.

        Reply

    • Citizen Alan
      June 1, 2024 @ 1:29 am

      “Not surprisingly, Elon Musk is one of these folks.”

      IIRC, that would be the Elon Musk who has 20 or so children, none of whom speak to him, right?

      Reply

      • Shannon
        June 1, 2024 @ 3:00 pm

        Yeeeep. These people want loads of kids but unsurprisingly, seem to be shit parents.

        Reply

  6. Jacob
    June 1, 2024 @ 1:30 am

    Maybe it’s a result of the bubble I’m in, but this episode actually seems generally well received. Of course there are people who don’t like it, no episode will ever have a unanimously positive or negative reception, but most people seem to enjoy it! I’m glad, because I enjoyed it too.

    Reply

  7. Madeline Jones
    June 1, 2024 @ 2:10 am

    I believe Ruby is supposed to recognize Susan Twist as the tea lady from “The Devil’s Chord” even though they only really interacted for a second. When she meets her in “73 Yards” and thinks they’ve met before, you can hear her say “No, but that was a different…”

    Anyway, I don’t think you’re going to be terribly unpopular on this viewpoint, and if you will, that just proves fandom is dumb. I personally think this is such a brilliant deconstruction of the usual “Doctor saves a planet full of awful people and convinces them to be better versions of themselves” formula and my hope is that everyone recognizes this episode for how magnificently it plays with and then cruelly twists your expectations, turning it from a story about social media being in a bubble to about how privileged people are in a bubble, like Citizen Alan said above.

    I didn’t know about the racism and it was definitely a wham to me, especially because (and I don’t think this might’ve been intentional on RTD’s part) after The Devil’s Chord pleasantly did NOT have any moments of the Doctor being treated differently as a Colored man in the 1960’s, I was much less fueled to expect it to come up so bluntly in another episode soon after. Especially in one set in a future society, rather than a historical like most would expect it in.

    Reply

  8. AJ McKenna
    June 1, 2024 @ 2:33 am

    I mean…do the slugs attack the Homeworld? All we see is a picture on a screen, which one imagines the Dots could have hacked. Having anyone who breaks out of their Bubble discover their parents are all dead could just be a backup plan to demoralise the humans further, or even just an extra bit of sadism from the Dots.

    My theory is that the slugs are from outside but they’re more like carnivorous plants than predators – the Dots can let then in but they have to direct the Finetimers to get close enough to them to be eaten. As to why they do this when they could in fact just no-scope headshot their targets anytime they want, maybe that would use up too much energy? Or maybe it’s the sadism again, or maybe – given that their hate is perhaps in part motivated by anger at the Finetimers’ racism, maybe the Dot system finds the idea of them getting killed off by the planet’s indigenous inhabitants poetic irony.

    Of course, if the image Ricky sees is a fake, then maybe the system is also broadcasting fake messages from the planet back up to Homeworld, and the parents will never find out that their Large Adult Children are all dead…

    Reply

    • Citizen Alan
      June 1, 2024 @ 2:23 pm

      I’m kind of toying with the idea that “Homeworld” was just the name given to some other planet that was the gated space community for the 0.1% of the future who wanted their own world free from both non-whites and the non-rich. The remaining 99.9% of the human race will be perfectly fine and probably be better off once the oligarchs all get eaten.

      Reply

      • Larry
        June 4, 2024 @ 9:18 am

        Sort of like the Golgafringans sending their most annoying segments of their society on the “B” Ark from Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy.

        Reply

    • Cyrano
      June 2, 2024 @ 2:07 am

      I don’t see any reason to question the Slugs attacking the other planet. The episode doesn’t question it at all – none of the other rich dimwit racists, which is fair enough. But also the Doctor’s offer is “I’ll find you a new planet” not “I’ll take you back home”.

      I mean, your response is your response but I don’t think the show is trying to communicate anything other than “the slugs have eaten everyone”

      Reply

  9. Kate Orman
    June 1, 2024 @ 3:11 am

    Was there a line about the Dots creating the slugs?

    Because if not… I wonder if they were Morlocks. Someone’s taking out the garbage.

    Reply

    • Mano
      June 1, 2024 @ 12:41 pm

      I think the line was there but it came from the Doctor who was only speculating while sitting outside. So, everything is possible and I really like your idea!

      Maybe the slugs were the original inhabitants of the place, enslaved by the human settlers and fixed with some electronic behaviour control that the Dot then hacked to use them for it’s plan.

      Or maybe they were some biomechanical machines originally created to clean up the place and take out the garbage. Somehow I like the idea of a bunch of privileged jerks being eaten by sentient garbage trucks!

      Reply

  10. Pink tiger
    June 1, 2024 @ 4:31 am

    Loved the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it dig at fast fashion. Lindy brags about her jumper made from recycled material because avoiding waste is sooo important to her, goes on to say that she has several more of the same jumper in barely discernible shades of green, and then a follower immediately jumps in to say “I’m buying 100!”

    I’ll be looking closely for Ricky’s class coding upon rewatch. IIRC the comm unit scene suggested that he was sent by his mummy and daddy like everyone else, but he also gave off different vibes. It wasn’t just that he read books and turned off his bubble – he also is the only one who did anything resembling work, and changing his name implies that his original one wasn’t prestigious enough to hold on to. Also fits with her willingness to turn on him so easily – if you dance for them they’ll act like they worship you, but when the chips are down you’re nothing but a disposable plaything.

    Finally I have NEVER loved Ruby as much as when she did her little hair smooth/flip for Ricky. Even her swoons are swoon-worthy.

    Reply

  11. Kate Orman
    June 1, 2024 @ 5:05 am

    It occurred to me that Lindy’s throwing Ricky under the bus was a typical example of fan behaviour — the 180, and accomplished using lore, too.

    Reply

    • Pink tiger
      June 1, 2024 @ 5:27 am

      This makes sense, although I typically think of such a turn as accompanied by a feeing of deep betrayal (e.g. Dylan going electric, Shakira going pop, any number of Taylor Swift happenings). As I mentioned above, this felt more like a class thing to me, like the rich kid having a summer fling with a local then tossing them aside, or a jester being thrown to the dogs when they cease to amuse.

      Reply

      • Kate Orman
        June 1, 2024 @ 8:13 pm

        Excellent point — poor Ricky does nothing to earn his fate. There’s a similarity, though, in that fans treat their idols like possessions. Ricky is Lily’s status symbol, then a bone to be thrown to the dogs.

        Reply

  12. Pink tiger
    June 1, 2024 @ 5:17 am

    Doctor Pee is a pretty sharp little take on AI, too. All of the current and next-gen systems are still predictive models at their core, and more than one commentator has pointed out that developers’ end goal seems to be a system that predicts your desires and prompts you just before you’re aware of them. Not a far leap to imagine an false belief that the AI is the one who knows what you want better than you yourself.

    Reply

    • Daniel
      June 1, 2024 @ 9:01 am

      I think they don’t have to pee at all, right? Unless I read that wrong. There seems to be some other tech that’s taking care of that.

      Reply

      • Pink tiger
        June 1, 2024 @ 9:13 am

        That’s right! I forgot. There was a lot of detail about resource use in the early parts of the episode that I couldn’t fully put together. More fodder for the rewatch.

        Reply

  13. Kazin
    June 1, 2024 @ 7:53 am

    Well I clearly need to rewatch this episode, because I was so bored and annoyed at the first 90% of the episode, I completely missed the racism point because I was ironically looking at my phone when the key lines are delivered. I didn’t look up until I heard Gatwa getting pissed, and thought it was just because the people on the planet refused to be saved and the Doctor was understandably freaking out about it. I couldn’t even be arsed to rewind at that point.

    I think part of my problem was just how stupid the main character was. Not physically being able to walk without your AI GPS was just too dumb for me to buy into at all (imagine not knowing how to drive your car at all without your GPS on). Which I guess plays into the denouement, but by the time that comes I was so checked out I missed it lmao.

    On rewatch, that ending will have to be incredible to justify the long, annoying crappy parts of the episode to make me even think about dethroning 73 Yards as the best episode of the season, which I honestly kinda doubt it will do.

    Reply

    • Kazin
      June 1, 2024 @ 8:10 am

      Went back and watch the ending, and yeah, it was good, and Gatwa just about sells the whole thing, but the episode was so bad leading up to that moment. Which I guess was the point, these people are insufferable twats. Maybe a full rewatch will make me change my mind, I dunno.

      Reply

    • Alex B
      June 1, 2024 @ 8:21 am

      I mean, we are quite possibly very close to a future where you won’t be able to drive a car without using the car’s internal navigation- once self-driving cars become a mainstream technology, the insurers will make absolutely certain that it’s financially punitive for anyone to drive their own car, and at that point who will bother to learn how to do it?

      Reply

      • Kazin
        June 1, 2024 @ 8:28 am

        Was probably a bad analogy on my part, but not being able to use your legs when you’d been using them to follow directions before still strikes me as super dumb. Like I said, getting lost would be super believable, but not being able to figure out how to put one foot in front of another all of a sudden? It’s no wonder I was on my phone by the end lol

        Reply

        • Pink tiger
          June 1, 2024 @ 8:45 am

          “It’s no wonder I was on my phone by the end lol”

          With all respect to your right to dislike the episode and express that opinion, it is pretty funny that the viewing process you describe (see something unpleasant, characterise it as ‘stupid’ and ‘annoying’, retreat to a more appealing secondary screen, then miss the important bits because you didn’t pay attention until Ncuti Gatwa started shouting) is a pretty accurate summation of the actions taken by the characters of the episode itself…

          Reply

          • Kazin
            June 1, 2024 @ 8:55 am

            Nah, I mean, it’s a fair cop. I figured I’d post about it here knowing I’d probably get made fun of, but it is what literally happened haha

          • Daniel
            June 1, 2024 @ 8:58 am

            lol.

            I mean I get Kazin’s point that spending an episode with an annoying rich tiktok kid, isn’t to everyone’s liking. But that is oversimplifying. For the first ten minutes where you might worry that Russell is just doing a “you kids and your socials” story (see Chibnall and the wifi joke). But, that becomes clear it isn’t what he’s doing as the story develops and I would counter that there is plenty to be engaged by if one chooses to actually watch the story. There is a full emotional journey to go through with Lindy.

        • Pink tiger
          June 1, 2024 @ 8:58 am

          It’s ok, it was probably a low blow…who among us doesn’t fire up the phone when an episode fails to impress?

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          • Kazin
            June 1, 2024 @ 9:12 am

            I’m more bothered by my missing that the episode had all white actors besides Ncuti Gatwa than missing the whole ass point by the end, to be honest haha. But to Daniel’s point, yeah, I think my initial impression was the episode was going for a Chibnall-esque “old man yelling about kids and their socials” and I tuned out accordingly.

          • Ross
            June 1, 2024 @ 5:35 pm

            I will confess to also spending way too long not being able to figure out what it was about the Doctor that made them dislike him so much more than Ruby.

          • Rei Maruwa
            June 9, 2024 @ 4:22 am

            Me. If I didn’t want to watch the episode I would just not watch it. Not intending to offend but the idea of going on a phone in the middle of watching something is intensely baffling to me and always will be, I think – the idea that that’s a universal thing even more so

      • Citizen Alan
        June 1, 2024 @ 11:30 am

        Oh I disagree about that. In fact, I think self-driving cars will never become a mainstream thing precisely because they’re uninsurable. If you are driving your car and, through inadvertence, hit and kill a child who darts out into the street, a jury will (in the absence of recklessness or drugs/alcohol) recognize that it was an accident and you, the human, had a split second to react. If a self-driving car hits a child under the same circumstances, it means that someone programmed that AI (which is only in charge because it can respond more quickly and efficiently than a human) so that it would either be unable to recognize the child or that it would actively choose hitting the child over other options that might wreck the vehicle. Every single traffic accident will turn into a products liability case if not a class action lawsuit.

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        • Julian
          June 1, 2024 @ 6:18 pm

          I think a much better analogy is all the ‘driver-assistive’ technologies – automatic gear box, power steering, adaptive cruise control, lane assist, auto-braking, reversing cameras, auto-parking… if you only learn to drive a car with all this fancy tech that does so much of the driving for you, if you were suddenly thrust into a situation where you had to go without it I can bet there’d be a lot of crashing into stuff too. (Add to that the sheer panic of the situation making it harder to think clearly.)

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          • Kate Orman
            June 1, 2024 @ 7:17 pm

            omg, of course

    • Anton B
      June 1, 2024 @ 12:31 pm

      Oh the irony. Lol

      Reply

    • Przemek
      June 2, 2024 @ 6:12 pm

      Yeah, the people were all so annoying that I stopped caring whether they lived or died long before they were revealed to be racists. And the first 40 minutes were just boring for me.

      Reply

  14. Daniel
    June 1, 2024 @ 8:45 am

    I think people are more motivated to comment their disagreement. The reaction to 73 yards was a complete split at first (maybe even more negative?) and I think, over the week, it’s shifted to mostly positive, but a lot of people just don’t vibe with the not having answers part of the horror in their doccy hoo (I would counter that it does have aboutness – simply the theme of abandonment, seeing Ruby’s internal catastrophising manifest).

    Anyway I say all this as I feel the need to address the balance, given I was diametrically opposed to your view last week, by saying I completely agree with you this week and loved this episode.

    The only thing I’d mark it down for are budget constraints really. Like they only had one physical slug monster and the CGI ones stand out when they aren’t composited very well onto the outdoor scenes.

    Similarly I thought the shortcut of using autocue for Ncuti and Millie’s scenes might have contributed to their performances being a little bit staid during those scenes. I mean they were still good and I’m being harsh because they literally have to be seated. Maybe it was just the lack of their usual (I use this word lightly as we’ve now had 3 episodes where they weren’t able to run through corridors together) physical chemistry and comedy, with being in separate spaces.

    I really appreciate that with an 8-episode count, RTD is making every episode as different and bold as possible. However, flip side, we only have 8 episodes so having 4 out of 5 be oddball episodes (a spectacle, a bottle episode (in style, not budget), a doctor-lite folk horror, and a non-regular led episode) means we haven’t really had time for the aforementioned running through corridors, companion-and-doctor-dynamic focused episodes (Space Babies and TCoRR being the only examples so far).

    I know you like the more detached, ironic late-stage S8 and 9 thing, but, for me, for the same reason I wanted an episode to ground Clara and explain what she’s running from, I am missing the companion settling in time here and – of course – some more time with the RTD Mums!

    Reply

  15. Prandeamus
    June 1, 2024 @ 10:06 am

    I loved it.

    Funny how a lot of people reviewing this are blind to the heavily signposted privilege factor, remarking only on the social media satire and wondering if the racism angle was just hinted at. Like this one. https://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/tv/reviews/doctor-who-dot-and-bubble-bbc-b2553973.html These are pampered rich kids, but there’s a perception filter and some people can’t see it. Gee, I can only speculate why that is. That part is obvious to me and I’m a60 year old w.a.s.p.

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    • Citizen Alan
      June 1, 2024 @ 11:58 am

      My opinion of mainstream journalism is so low at the moment that after reading that article where the author, one Ed Power, completely missed the point of the episode, I actually tried to google him. He’s an Irish journalist who writes exclusively about TV and “culture.” He appears to be in his twenties or early thirties. And while I can’t find anything about his family background, I see he had an article published in the Independent defensively arguing that the term nepo-baby is “reductive.” Since 21st century journalists and especially “culture” writers are, IMO, increasingly “vapid influencers with undeservedly prestigious desk jobs” (assuming they were ever anything else), I would not be surprised that Ed Power has the job he does because Mummy and Daddy Power were rich enough to grease the wheels for him and get him a job where he gets paid six figures to watch TV all day and then write about it (i.e. what Elizabeth does but with less literacy, thought, and the need for a Patreon to help pay the bills).

      Reply

  16. renniejoy
    June 1, 2024 @ 10:48 am

    Ricky September’s “real name” was Coon, wasn’t it?

    Reply

    • Einarr
      June 1, 2024 @ 11:53 am

      Coombes, as per subtitles.

      Reply

      • renniejoy
        June 1, 2024 @ 12:33 pm

        Thank you. 🙂

        Reply

  17. Mano
    June 1, 2024 @ 12:33 pm

    Just showing up here to say that while I was one of the people disagreeing with last weeks review, I totally agree with you here. This had so many dodgy points – and it was glorious! Absurd, funny and then dark and nasty.

    As others have written, it was a good thing this was about privilege in the end and not (only) about social media. (Hate to say that I did not get the all white angle till right at the end.)

    Though even seen only as a critic and social media and relying on devices to a ridiculous degree this hit some buttons for me. Watching the developments in AI and virtual/augmented reality as well as the growth of social media during the past decades I sometimes fear we might end up a bit like the bubble heads in this episode, divorced from reality and unable to deal with everyday tasks and function as human beings.

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  18. tom j jones
    June 1, 2024 @ 2:40 pm

    Towards the end of the episode, I was reminded of that Tom Baker comic strip where he meets some people in a city being pursued by zombies who are trying to reach the outside world – only to reveal that not only do they not make it, but the outside world is a lifeless wasteland. In fact, I was trying so hard to remember what it was called that I almost missed the racism. You know those people are doomed – not that I’d shed as many tears as the Doctor did. I’d wondered how they were going to end it once she’d sacrificed Ricky – I was guessing at her running into one of the monsters at the last moment.

    Thinking about it since, and reading some of the comments, I remembered The Machine Stops from the 60s series Out Of The Unknown (originally published in 1909!) which deals with a society of people that have everything done for them, so much so that they can barely walk … until the technology breaks down – but no monsters.

    Reply

    • Paul Mason
      June 4, 2024 @ 5:14 am

      I had to study The Machine Stops (E.M Forster, I think) for O-Level, and I was also getting big Machine Stops vibes with this episode. Since I’m around the same age as RTD, I would strongly suspect he studied it at O-Level too.

      Reply

  19. James Whitaker
    June 1, 2024 @ 2:56 pm

    Yeah, this was great wasn’t it? And unlike last week, where the threat is so nebulous and vague so as to feel short changed, here the vaguely created threat works – because it’s not about that, it’s about the hideousness of this society of rich kids, the classism, the racism and their sociopathy. Gatwa at the end just scoffing and going back in the Tardis is phenomenal. Great misdirect with Ricky September – you think he’s being set up in one way, only for it to go another. It is weird how barely in this series Gatwa has been, with two stories in a row, but he’s such a commanding presence that they sort of get away with it. Anyway, great to be actually really impressed by a Davies story.

    Reply

  20. Cyrano
    June 1, 2024 @ 3:00 pm

    Hahaha! Yes that was brilliant. Loved the incredible meta-twist of Russell T setting himself up as an old man shouting at the cloud of social media and it all being very off and then it coming into focus as you realise they’re clueless rich kids and coming super into focus as you realise they’re clueless racist rich kids.

    Little details:

    Callie Cook’s performance was so intricate – even after the dot came down, she’s playing someone who’s used to talking through it. All those exaggerated facial expressions, a cultivated ‘Dot voice’. Unnecessarily good.

    Not sure if Ricky September is meant to be quite the same as the racist rich kids – is he lower class, there by virtue of celebrity? Either way, he’s so Doctor coded. Appearing to save Lindy from the monsters, the hand holding, the heroism. September’s not even his name! But he’s the stupid rich kid Doctor. His rebellion is turning the dot off and sitting at home. His wizard computer hacking is just typing in numbers.

    While on the face of it the racism is two minutes at the end, it’s actually threaded through the episode really well. We’ve all pointed out that all the characters are white. But there’s Lindy calling him stupid all the time. Those references to him being disciplined. The subtle distance for him being in the same room as Ruby. It’s not a twist, it’s a culmination.

    Just overjoyed at having this show that can do this the week after 73 yards. What a time. Brilliant.

    Reply

  21. Scurra
    June 1, 2024 @ 5:18 pm

    Yeah, my only real complaint about this one was the need to suddenly turn the “dot” homicidal in order to make the heel turn of the ending work the way it needed to (she needed to regain her sense of entitlement somehow given how it had been carefully whittled away during the story to the point that she was almost becoming sympathetic.)
    I mean, given that the slugs were clearly too slow to be used for that, there had to be something else, but it just jarred so badly for me given how well constructed the story had been up to that point.

    Reply

  22. Christopher Brown
    June 1, 2024 @ 5:36 pm

    This is my favorite RTD-penned episode since “Gridlock” itself. (Discounting Death of the Doctor, which stands alongside It’s A Sin as my favorite thing he’s written overall. Though I have yet to catch up with Cucumber/Banana/Tofu). I imagine there’s going to be plenty of debate on how well the end actually handles the racism and the Doctor’s reaction to the bigots as a black man, but at the very least the show is doing what it needs to and making new mistakes.

    And I loved, loved the pastel aesthetic and production design on display, in dialogue with Doctor Who’s past goofy satires while looking unlike anything the show’s ever done before. With the caveat that I haven’t rewatched any episodes yet, I think I still prefer “Boom” for the Moffat-ness of it all but this is the episode that feels more exciting in terms of opening new paths for the future of the show.

    That said, now that we’ve had Krasko and Finetime demonstrating that white supremacy apparently survives far into space, the next step is obviously to bring some BIPOC writers on board to craft a properly Afro-Futurist human society next season.

    Reply

    • Aaron George
      June 1, 2024 @ 7:29 pm

      What do you like about Death of the Doctor? I watched it a million years ago but I’ve never thought about it since. I’d love to know why I should go back and reassess it.

      Reply

      • Christopher Brown
        June 2, 2024 @ 1:20 am

        Well, let’s see…Lis Sladen is delightful, Katy Manning is delightful, Matt Smith is delightful, the SJA regulars are delightful (all the more important, given how easily they could have been overshadowed), the Shansheeth are delightful, Russell T. Davies knows how to write them in ways that seem effortless and desperately make me wish he’d written more for the show in place of Grth Rbrts, and the plot is a) pointedly tight and streamlined and b) an excuse for a big mushy old classic Who nostalgia-fest that’s grounded in the characters’ emotions and honors where the series is (was) now. What’s not to like? (…I mean, other that the cringey bit where it turns out that the good/bad Graske/Groske are apparently distinguished by skin color, which is clearly something that should have been given a second thought at some point, buuuuuut I don’t think it’s seriously worth dragging the story for…and obviously it sucks that they didn’t have the budget to bring Liz Shaw, the Brigadier et al back, but that’s not the story’s fault.)

        Reply

    • Kate Orman
      June 1, 2024 @ 10:34 pm

      It’s clever of the show to position racism in futuristic slash fantastical slash allegorical settings. If it’s in the historical past, viewers can wave it away — “Things were like that then, it’s all fixed now, and aren’t we good!”.

      Reply

      • Christopher Brown
        June 2, 2024 @ 1:11 am

        Kate, that’s a really good point, and a great approach to take with the first mainline black Doctor, as well. The question, as always with Doctor Who, is “what follows from the conceptual territory we just opened up?”

        (P.S. I finally read Set Piece for the first time last year. I’m someone who’s very picky in regards to how Ace should be handled as a character, and I truly don’t think there was a better way to give her an “official” exit than that. Allow me to add to the three-decade chorus of “well-done”s! 😀 I last reread the lovely Also People in my NA readthrough which means I’m only a few books away from SLEEPY…)

        Reply

      • Kat Sas
        June 3, 2024 @ 9:44 am

        Agreed! You expected (I expected) the Doctor to experience racism in a historical episode. Next week’s Regency episode would be the natural candidate (and Davies is surely banking on that with the order he chose). Rosa and Thin Ice are the obvious antecedents.

        Instead, the big confrontation takes place in the future and on top of that in a story that on the surface doesn’t seem to be about racism. (Of course the clues are there in hindsight, so it was well set up after all, but subtly enough that you don’t totally catch it the first time through.) It shows racism as arbitrary and pointless rather than something you can explain away with historical context. It’s so well-considered.

        Reply

        • Paul Mason
          June 4, 2024 @ 5:23 am

          I’m not sure that racism is portrayed here as arbitrary and pointless. I think the portrayal is consistent with Charles Mills’s concept (The Racial Contract) of it being a political system.

          Reply

  23. John Richards
    June 2, 2024 @ 3:17 am

    I haven’t read all the comments so apologies if this is covered – but if I hadn’t read this review before watching the episode I would never have picked up the racism angle at the end. My husband definitely didn’t, thinking it was something about “outsiders”. Are we just idiots or is this point clearer to a UK/US audience than an Australian one?

    Reply

    • Cyrano
      June 2, 2024 @ 4:01 am

      Voodoo? Contamination? The all-white cast? The raft of subtler points that come into focus in that final scene?

      I don’t know about Australian culture and signifiers but I struggle to see how it could be clearer without being crass.

      Reply

      • John Richards
        June 2, 2024 @ 8:20 am

        It didn’t strike me as any whiter than 73 Yards, to be honest, which I think has a couple of minutes of Ruby’s mum at most (or Devil’s Chord which seemed an all white speaking cast). And last time I heard the word “voodoo” would have been in relation to 1980s band Wall Of Voodoo, it’s a word with no other connection for me. In my experience racists aren’t subtle. So maybe that is a UK thing.

        Reply

        • Cyrano
          June 2, 2024 @ 8:46 am

          But you know what voodoo is? You know what the word means and where it comes from? So you can maybe see the significance of someone recoiling from a black person and saying “that’s voodoo“? Or did you think the word was invented by the band?

          Just to be clear, it’s not like, a catchphrase of racists in the UK that I’m aware of. But it is a very clear for the character to signal “I don’t like your skin”

          Reply

        • Ross
          June 2, 2024 @ 1:30 pm

          “the cast is entirely white” is a clue that would go over better if it hadn’t taken thirty years for the show to have more people of color than can be counted on one’s fingers.

          Reply

          • Einarr
            June 2, 2024 @ 1:36 pm

            People say this, but that’s reading stuff entirely through the lens of the 1960s/70s production teams’ decisions. It is meant to ring alarm bells that no BBC/Bad Wolf/RTD production in 2024 is going to do an all white (guest) cast unless it means something quite specific and pointed.

          • Anthony Bernacchi
            June 2, 2024 @ 1:37 pm

            As Reeycakes points out below, that was all the more reason to do it.

        • Einarr
          June 2, 2024 @ 1:37 pm

          Also Ruby’s gran, and Gwilliam’s campaign lead (the one who tells them about the nuclear codes), and Amol Rajan (interviewing Gwilliam on TV), and one of the men she’s dating in the breakup montage…

          Reply

      • Daniel
        June 2, 2024 @ 8:31 am

        (Some of those subtle points spelled out)
        – The disgust Lindy had for the Doctor that she didn’t have for Ruby.
        – Lindy refers to the Doctpr being disciplined but not Ruby.
        – The microaggression of “I thought that you just looked the same”.
        – Ruby’s reaction when she clocks on at the end is devastating and she clearly is upset for the Doctor from that moment on.
        – The talk of colonising from the FineTime ex-residents.

        There are a lot of little hints that add up to the big picture here. And don’t get me wrong I missed a couple of the hints on first watch too. I reckon that the idea here is if the all-white cast didn’t stand out to you, then it might be worth questioning your own subconscious/
        unconscious bias, to perhaps read up on microaggressions that POC communities in your country face, and to make an effort to be more aware for TV but also in life. I say this because Black fans of the show, at least from what I’ve gathered from the online discourse, seemed to be alert from the start of the episode pretty much.

        Reply

        • Citizen Alan
          June 2, 2024 @ 1:29 pm

          ” The disgust Lindy had for the Doctor that she didn’t have for Ruby.”

          I did not pick up on all that as racism on first viewing but on proof of Lindy being shallow, vapid and stupid. She is still disdainful towards Ruby, but Ruby uses misdirection (“I’m from the company. Ergo talking to me is part of your job.”) and Lindy was still about to sideswipe her until Ruby complimented her top.

          I did pick up on the whiteness of the cast, but only after we learned that these were the children of the 0.1%, so I initially just figured it was selection bias. I mean the number of black fail-children whose parents could afford to send them to Space Ibiza for ten years is probably much smaller than the general population.

          Reply

    • Przemek
      June 2, 2024 @ 5:58 pm

      I did not understand that this episode was about racism at all. I had to ask a friend to explain the twist to me because I just could not understand what that final scene was about.

      I’m a white guy from an extremely white country and all those subtle signifiers of racism just flew over my head. Words like “contamination” or “voodoo” just don’t carry the same connotations for me.

      I didn’t notice the all-white cast because every single piece of media produced in my country has an all-white cast.

      Reply

  24. Reeycakes
    June 2, 2024 @ 3:56 am

    Davies really planting his flag in the ground regarding blind casting, by effectively writing an episode that states that if any future DW episode has an all-white cast without justification, that’s now a failure of storytelling, as it makes your setting no different to Finetime. I think that’s pretty neat.

    Reply

  25. JP
    June 2, 2024 @ 8:06 am

    Ricky is the Doctor we were always told we’d get with US money. A young, hip reboot with similar character notes who turns into an action hero and is killed by social media.

    Reply

  26. Rupert
    June 2, 2024 @ 8:31 am

    I’m embarrassed that i didn’t get it untll the reveal. I think it partially clicked with the guy assuming he would be leader as they set out to dominate the world outside.

    My embarresment is partly because I’ve read Jemisin on the Jetsons. Anyone who says the ending was sprung is telling on themselves.

    https://nkjemisin.com/2013/09/how-long-til-black-future-month/

    Reply

  27. Anton B
    June 2, 2024 @ 8:59 am

    Powerful stuff.

    There’s so much subtlety to be found on the edges of this parable. In a throw-away line we learn that some time in the past an event called ‘The Great Abrogation’ occurred.  ‘Abrogation’ is defined as the repeal or abolition of a law, right, or agreement. So, exactly which laws or rights have been repealed we wonder? We’ll soon get a good idea.

    The character of Ricky September, played by Tom Rhys Harries was well drawn. He turns off his bubble and reads books. He is a creative rather than a worker drone. As such he ironically becomes the stand in, in this all-white utopia, for black culture. Lindy’s shocking betrayal of him was another example of aggressive  privilege.

    Like Brexiteers or MAGA zealots, These idiots would rather take their chances in the wild woods of unknown terrors than be helped by someone outside their narrow  demographic.

    Beyond the main narrative the continuing ‘Fairy Tale Magic’ arc remains intact. What will these incapable children of privilege meet in The Wild Woods? Something nasty one hopes. Themes of child abandonment are lampshaded again and another cameo by Ms Twist, this time as peabrained Lindy’s estranged  mother, presages an imminent reveal I think.

    If it’s not Susan I’ll eat my fez

    Reply

    • Citizen Alan
      June 2, 2024 @ 6:17 pm

      The interesting thing about Ricky September is that /we don’t know/ if he was racist like the rest or not. We all like to think so because he codes a “thoughtful good guy” who reads a lot and heroically and compassionately strives to save Lindy, but he is virtually the only character who /never/ interacts with the Doctor directly.

      Reply

      • Sarah Grace
        June 3, 2024 @ 2:25 pm

        I think he had to die without us learning the answer to that question so that it’s properly horrifying when Lindy gets him killed.

        However, I would have found the episode disingenuous if it tried to make him out as an exception to the colonialist white supremacy everyone else on that planet exhibited.

        Reply

  28. Anthony Bernacchi
    June 2, 2024 @ 11:49 am

    My initial reaction to the episode was extreme frustration and disappointment that we didn’t see the Finetimers all get eaten in the end, but about 30 seconds later I realized that that would have been too easy and wouldn’t have made us sit with the ugliness of the story’s implications in the same way. The Doctor thinks they’re all going to die, but it wouldn’t have been right for RTD to confirm it and imply that the universe is somehow an inherently just place.

    Something no one has commented on is the Finetimers’ ostentatious avoidance of using God’s name as an expletive throughout the episode. Since the ending implies that they’re religious as well as racist, the implication may be that they have a strong taboo against blasphemy. (Oddly, there’s a line where the Doctor seems to be avoiding saying “God” as well, which they don’t usually do in modern Who, making it seem like he knows a little about Finetime’s society but not the big points — that may be a detail RTD left loose in an otherwise exceptionally tight script.)

    I liked “73 Yards” very much, but this is the standout of the season so far, RTD’s best Who script since “Turn Left.”

    Reply

  29. William Shaw
    June 2, 2024 @ 4:14 pm

    Speaking of Late Style, this episode calls back to Davies’ very first Dr Who story; like Mind of the Hodiac, it’s based around a Wind in the Willows reference, with the slugs seeming to come from the “wild woods.”

    “‘Beyond the Wild Wood comes the Wide World,’ said the Rat. ‘And that’s something that doesn’t matter, either to you or me. I’ve never been there, and I’m never going, nor you either, if you’ve got any sense at all. Don’t ever refer to it again, please.’”

    Reply

  30. Przemek
    June 2, 2024 @ 5:48 pm

    This one was mostly just boring for me and the end twist, although clever, didn’t really change the fact that I was bored for most of the runtime. None of the horror moments worked for me and the social media satire aspect just made me roll my eyes – it’s shallow both before you know the twist (those damn teenagers, always on their phones!) and after (the racists are all annoying gits who can’t even walk straight!). I’ll certainly have to rewatch this episode before I’m certain how I feel about it but so far, one of the weaker ones of the season for sure.

    Reply

    • Ross
      June 3, 2024 @ 8:56 am

      This is the obvious downside to doing an episode where the whole point is to make you watch an awful person for forty minutes in order to demonstrate how awful they are. It’s important but not necessarily an enjoyable watch.

      Reply

  31. John G Wood
    June 2, 2024 @ 6:17 pm

    Loved this one too. Although I early on thought, “hm, she has a very White friend group”, I put that down to demographics of economic privilege and didn’t pick up on the signs of more direct racism until it was spoken. At which point I thought both “oh good, this is a great point in the series to address it” and “oh dear, I’ve been a bit privelege blind not to spot the clues”, simultaneously. Some I’d put down to other things, some slid by me completely.

    It’s hard to rank the episodes, because they all have significant flaws amid a mass of good stuff. Any of the last three could be my favourite, depending on which flaws are bothering me least at any particular moment. The series as a whole, though, is shaping up to be greater than the sum of its parts; I just hope RTD can stick the landing.

    Reply

    • John G Wood
      June 2, 2024 @ 6:20 pm

      Also, am I the only one who initially thought we were being given updated Tractators as the monsters?

      Reply

      • Bat Masterson
        June 3, 2024 @ 4:55 am

        John, you are not.

        Reply

      • Corey Klemow
        June 4, 2024 @ 12:36 am

        Am I the only one who thought they might be primitive ancestors of the “Twin Dilemma” Gastropods, just like RTD gave us primitive Macra in “Gridlock”?

        Reply

  32. Mano
    June 3, 2024 @ 4:13 am

    No, you weren’t. Also my first thought when I saw the creatures.

    Tractators invade and the populace is to caught up in their social media bubble to even notice was what I thought we were getting.

    What we got was better than my idea.

    Reply

    • Mano
      June 3, 2024 @ 4:14 am

      …and that should have been a reply to John G Wood above.

      Reply

  33. Matt C
    June 3, 2024 @ 4:15 am

    My music nerd self was delighted that Ricky September’s “big hit” being played throughout the episode was a remake of a crap novelty song from the early 1960s. “Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini” was recorded by Brian Hyland in 1960. Hyland was part of the oft-despised wave of teen idols that proliferated between the decline of the iconic 1950s rockers (Elvis, Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Buddy Holly) and the rise of the Beatles. Remaking his novelty track in an episode set in the distant future, seems to relate thematically with the Devil’s Chord, and helps me forgive Murray Gold for botching the ending music number of that episode.

    While I doubt it was intended by Davies, the use of a song from an oft-despised period in pre-Beatles rock music also plays into the class commentary of the episode. Ace Records, one of the great remaining archival labels, opened the liner notes of the first volume of their Golden Age of American Rock ‘n’ Roll series by speculating that much of the subsequent adulation of 1960s rock and the dismissal of 1950s rock is because 1950s rock was a working class phenomenon aimed at teenagers, whereas 1960s rock had collegiate and middle class pretensions. They include “Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini” on a novelty volume of that series.

    Reply

    • cyril servant
      June 3, 2024 @ 4:30 am

      It should be noted that Murray Gold didn’t make this version of the song, it’s a preexisting version which was a hit in 1990.

      Reply

  34. JohnH
    June 3, 2024 @ 9:29 am

    The most common surname in the UK is Patel. I was waiting for an army of Patel’s to turn up when the Doctor twigged that the monsters were using lists. When they didn’t, the penny dropped.

    Reply

  35. Ross
    June 3, 2024 @ 10:35 am

    One of the clickbaity articles that crossed my feed this weekend claimed that this story was originally pitched for Eleven and Amy, which is interesting. I guess it tracks. As I mentioned before, I could see Big Finish doing a story like this, but they would ignore the racism angle – not just because their medium makes it harder, but because I honestly don’t think they have the social awareness to try. You could do this story with Eleven and Amy, and it would play out basically the same, but the socialites would be rejecting the Doctor because he’s a giant dork. You could do it with Twelve and Bill (or Nine and Rose), and the reason the sociates would be rejecting the Doctor is because he’s old. The mechanics of the story, the logic of the story, they’d all work just fine.

    But the story would have no heart to it and would fail to work. Which is why (provided the clickbait is true; I didn’t actually take the bait) it never made it to production until they had this particular combination of characters.

    Reply

    • Richard Pugree
      June 3, 2024 @ 1:57 pm

      Yeah – obviously it never happened so who knows what it would have ended up being like, but it’s hard to imagine the original pitch (of ‘visible twitter’ or whatever), not just being more straightforwardly the ‘kids these days’ Black Mirror episode that Dot and Bubble misdirects you to think it is at first.

      And it’s easy to see how ‘what if people were literarily walking around in a social media Bubble’ gets suggested, but that’s not actually a story. So it’s really interesting to then see what he goes on to use that set up for here, in a way that could only work now.

      Reply

      • WeslePryce
        June 4, 2024 @ 3:13 pm

        Im not sure if it’s a disagreement about “Dot and Bubble” or “Black Mirror,” but imo Dot and Bubble is like… literally just the same quality and content as a black mirror episode, but the Doctor is there too. I think this is more an issue of people seeing black mirror as “phone bad” show (it is this sometimes, but not always), and then noticing that this episode does slightly more than just “phone bad”—therefore people walk away going “wow Doctor who cleverly did better than Black Mirror.”

        But tbh, this is the exact type of episode Black Mirror would do, and I would argue it’s pretty much just an amalgam of different Black Mirror premises. “Technology is turned against the main character who is initially presented as relatable, but it’s revealed the main character is a fundamentally terrible person” is a textbook black mirror episode (the pedophile one, the child murderer episode, the Jon Hamm ending). “Social media is comically silly but also we fall for it hook line and sinker” is also a classic staple of black mirror. People keep comparing this episode favorably to black mirror by going “oh RTD misleads you by starting with ‘phones bad’ then switching to something else,” but I feel like 50% of Black Mirror episodes pull the exact same trick?

        Idk, maybe it’s just the online circles I’m in that keep doing this. Also note that I’m not really cherishing black mirror or anything, I’m more just indicating that, to my interpretation, this episode is classic late-series-black-mirror fodder.

        Reply

  36. Loz
    June 4, 2024 @ 6:14 am

    For me the story fell apart completely at the point where it turned out the Dots could kill everyone instantly and didn’t. If the script had cut down on quite so much of the Doctor, Ruby and Lindy endlessly shouting the same things at each other for minutes at a time in favour of giving some characterisation to the Dots so that this was then seeking some sort of catharsis through deliberate torture it might have worked but no.

    I can’t remember why but at the start of the episode I went off on a completely different mental track and thought of ‘I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream’ and thought the big reveal would be that everyone was turning into the giant slugs. But making the slugs slowly squelch around a city because your computer AI can do so much but can only work through a residents list in alphabetical order?

    Reply

    • Alex B
      June 4, 2024 @ 9:50 am

      The dots couldn’t kill anyone instantly – it made a real meal of Ricky, needed an assist from a large iron hook to take him down at all, and it outright failed at killing Lindy, a woman who’d literally only learned to walk unassisted ten minutes earlier. We’re not meant to understand the Dots as efficient killing machines in that scene – they can take someone down in a pinch, but they plainly wouldn’t be able to do it as efficiently and neatly as the Hugslugs can.

      Reply

      • Ross
        June 4, 2024 @ 11:59 am

        Note also that the efficacy of the mollusks (They’ve got shells. Can’t bring myself to call them slugs) at removing the population relied on the fact that they were rendered entirely unaware of the fate of those around them BY the dots. Which meant that the dots had to keep doing their job the whole time; if they all stopped projecting the bubbles to go on the attack, they’d be facing an angry, entitled population who, however clumsily, fought back.
        Possibly some of them, on Homeworld at least, even knew how to turn the damned things off.

        Reply

        • WeslePryce
          June 4, 2024 @ 2:51 pm

          If we’re going to get into the weeds of how the plot works for this episode, I would say that the dots are much better off doing a slow conspiracy than a rapid extermination. These are still people capable of intelligence (see Ricky) who made the dots, so the dots could be in genuine danger if they declared outright war on the humans.

          This is sort of the exact opposite of the situation in “smile,” where the sentient robots were so powerful that the humans never actually stood any chance at all.

          Of course, the actual mechanics of the plot are unimportant. This was a fun black mirror monster of the week episode.

          Reply

          • Ross
            June 4, 2024 @ 3:07 pm

            I reckon if the Dots were going to do it directly, they could just straight up tell people to walk off of buildings or into empty elevator shafts or whatever, though that wouldn’t work for this particular story; you’d be in a more traditional science-mystery more focused on why they were doing it. (I spent a good chunk of the story assuming they were being picked off in reverse order of popularity, due to some kind of hyper-optimizing AI trying to maximize profitability. This would have been a much more cliche story than we got, and could have been perfectly fine, but not as interesting as what we got)

  37. WeslePryce
    June 4, 2024 @ 3:04 pm

    If last week was “Doctor Who tried a surreal horror story a la twin peaks,” this one was pretty much “late series Black Mirror but the Doctor is there guiding the lead character.”

    To me, it seems RTD was quite good at channeling late-series black mirror (smooth visuals, good lead performance that is constantly highlighted, a plot twist that makes you reconsider the episode and what its saying). This episode was pretty fun and, as an action-adventure-comedy romp, was effective and watchable. Its commentary a bit muddled and had some mis-steps but was still fun.

    This does strike me as one of the laziest and easiest ways to do the “Gatwa’s doctor experiences racism” plot though. I’m not sure if anyone would want the non-lazy version of this (e.g he actually has to fight racism through the episode as a leading man and assert command in a situation filled with people who despise him), but this clearly is the lazy way. Racism is subtly implied through the episode, then we get big music stings as racism enters the scene as a plot twist. The audience isn’t asked to spend more than 5 minutes thinking about racism, and the episode mostly engaged with it as “yeah the twist is all these annoying people are also extremely racist, feel free to hate them even more.” I think it was quite funny (calling racists vapid pieces of shit won’t ever lose points with me), but this does feel like the least involved way to show the effects of the Doctor’s new identity. It quite reminds me of Shakespeare Code’s approach of “they’re not racist but he does a bunch of ridiculous weird fetishization as a comedy beat” or Thin Ice’s “The Doctor punches a racist for catharsis but then we mostly drop it.” It’s racism without any real consideration of racism, aka the sort of racism plot most often written by white people. Nothing completely wrong with that, but it is a missed opportunity. Maybe a later episode in series 2 can work with that premise, but to be fair, it is debatable if viewers would actually want to watch an episode where the Doctor must fight against genuine racism instead of an abstract outline of it.

    This and Boom being indisputable top episodes of “season 1” so far for me is a really good way of damning with faint praise. I am glad though that the experiment of 73 yards happened, even though I was very disappointed with it.

    Reply

  38. Kaan Vural
    June 6, 2024 @ 3:59 pm

    Absolutely adored this one throughout. Lots I could remark on, but a little detail that absolutely tickled me: while the Finetimers are obviously disgusted by the Doctor’s blackness, they never actually say it out loud. Meaning that a bunch of parents, having just watched this episode, will be forced to explain what racism is to their confused kids who didn’t understand what the problem was.

    Reply

    • kenziie bee
      June 20, 2024 @ 6:06 pm

      this is a beautiful point!! and love that the resulting message for kids winds up being as blunt and simple as “racism is a mark of awful people who won’t listen to our cool hero the Doctor, and who’ll be first up against the gastropods when the revolution comes”. nothing wrong with giving “wow being a bigot is fucking stupid” as a starting point for burgeoning antiracists

      Reply

  39. Eric Rosenfield
    June 12, 2024 @ 7:07 pm

    I think Ruby knows Susan Twist because they’re clearly neighbors.

    Reply

  40. kenziie bee
    June 20, 2024 @ 4:47 pm

    was spoiled on “the twist is RACISM” but i think what i love is that is NOT the twist (nor indeed, the Twist (nor indeed “The Twist at the End” (sorry (i’m addicted to nested parenthetical jokes!!))))

    the twist is that the selfish nepo baby dickhead we’ve been dealing with all episode goes through a redemption arc with her own version of the Doctor that she finds palatable, and then utterly rejects her face-turn and stabs the not-Doctor in the back to save her own selfish hide. That we flip over a rock under a log and have the undercurrent of bigotry we’ve felt all episode fully shown to us just feels like gravy. Horrible, rotten gravy. ugh. I let that analogy get away from me a bit so i’ll just finish by asking: is it bad that since starting HRT ive consistently misread Gridlock as Girldick

    Reply

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