Spyfall Part Two Review
And lo, the “It has been __ episodes since we transmitted a complete piece of shit” board in Chibnall’s office ticks upwards to 3 without unduly threatening to actually be good. Spyfall is much like “End of Days” and “Exit Wounds” in this regard—not so much competent as non-incompetent, television stitched together by someone who has seen enough of it to know where all the pieces are supposed to go, but who has at best a hazy understanding of why they go where they do or what their purpose is.
As with a lot of things that work this way—I made the same comparison last episode, but J.J. Abrams really is an obvious example—this results in a story that is mostly about whatever previous text the writer pinned up on their bulletin board as the model they’re going to emulate. Just like last week pinched set pieces from The Sontaran Stratagem/The Poison Sky and Army of Ghosts, this week we do Last of the Time Lords/The Sound of Drums and The Big Bang. Which, hey, nice to actually see Moffat get pilfered instead of undone. But on a broader scale, Chibnall’s main idea here seems to be nostalgia for the Davies era. On one level, fair enough. Last of the Time Lords was 13 years ago. That’s plenty of elapsed time for a nostalgia tour. On the other, the idea of Doctor Who during the Key to Time era slavishly recreating The War Machines would have felt jarring, and that’s roughly what’s happening here. It’s not that the statute of limitations on repeating this stuff has expired, it’s just that when the show has gone for an emphatic remake of past glories like this it’s never been a good thing—think Planet of the Daleks, Destiny of the Daleks, Arc of Infinity, or Attack of the Cybermen. Regardless of how good the stories are—and in no case has the answer been “very,” it’s just not a good sign for the show’s conceptual health when it’s being used as a vehicle for self-imitation. And yet here we are: a blithely homicidal Master, a destroyed Gallifrey, and secrets from Gallifrey’s ancient past.
I should stress that the problem here is imitation, not reference. This isn’t The Three Doctors or Remembrance of the Daleks or Hell Bent, remixing the past into something strange and new. This is a cynical feeling calculation—the show was a big pop culture hit during the Davies era, so if we do things exactly like they did then we’ll magically summon the audience back. Hey, we’ll even put the non-consensual mind wipes back in. As I’m writing this the overnights aren’t in yet, but one sincerely doubts this is going to work.
And yet, as mentioned, badness isn’t the problem this is having. In some ways this is a pity. Plenty of really bad Doctor Who is at least interesting, This is not that. The closest thing it has to a point—social media is bad—is lousy for all the same reasons the “oh no we actually have to talk” gag in Resolution was—a condescending “get off my lawn” whinge. This one is at least based in substance—social media privacy is a serious issue that could absolutely sustain a Doctor Who story. But this isn’t that. There’s less explanation of why the Kasavin’s scheme requires social media’s vast data collection than there is of how exactly human DNA is a storage medium. It’s just a moral delivered by Lenny Henry in a pointless villain monologue to a bunch of people who have bafflingly little reaction to what’s happening. Past that, the bits of iconography shuffle about, gamely arranging themselves into shapes that look vaguely like they did when this show had an actual writer running it.
As ever, the best moments are odd details, generally not ones that seem especially planned or thought through. Barton’s murder of his mother is underdeveloped and possibly better for it, a villain taking a few minutes out of his day to settle an arbitrary grudge. Ada Lovelace and Noor Inayat Khan are pleasantly random touches. “A grenade for your home” is actually funny. Grant’s laser shoes are far from my cup of tea, but pleasantly barmy.
Time to hand it over to the freelancers and hope they can make this exercise vaguely worthwhile.
- Some stunning moral dubiousness from the Doctor, who casually hands a POC over to the SS and wishes someone good luck a year before they die in Dachau. But hey, at least she’s a pacifist.
- I feel like I should have something to say about the Timeless Child, but mostly I’m at “god I hope it’s not just some Omelas bullshit where Rassilon was really mean to a kid once.
- Actually, the notion that there’s some exploitation or cruelty at the heart of the Time Lords’ dominance is a potentially good one with things to say about imperialism and the notion of dominion. Chibnall will of course whiff this utterly because his politics are a liberalism so incoherent it makes J.K. Rowling look good, but hey.
- Hard to see destroying Gallifrey again as anything good though. At this point there’s starting to be an ugly narrative gravity in both directions, so that the planet will just get nuked and rebuilt repeatedly whenever a showrunner feels lazy.
- Chibnall’s anxious relationship with the Moffat era deepens with a continuity botch that moves Gallifrey from the end of the universe to a bubble universe. One wonders if Chibnall has simply never seen Hell Bent.
- Absolutely no acknowledgment of Missy or her redemption arc. A Logopolis reference and a Three Doctors callback (which I actually enjoyed terribly), but no room to even acknowledge the Master’s character arc. Not even a cringey gender joke.
- Dhawan’s performance… does not really improve, settling on cranky murderousness and a lot of leering. He’s constrained by the writing, which doesn’t have anything for the character to do besides be campy and murderous, but the sense of comedown from Michelle Gomez’s triumph of a performance is extremely sharp.
- At least next week is Ed Hime, who turned in one of Series 11’s actually good episodes. Here’s hoping he goes two for two.
- Dalek Eruditorum will run on Fridays while Doctor Who is airing. I’ve got a few more Boys in Their Dresses essays too, which will drop midweek sometime.
- Spyfall Part One
- Spyfall Part Two
January 6, 2020 @ 3:40 am
I’d say that Ada Lovelace and Noor Inayat Khan were probably the best things about the episode. It was unexpected how it went from a silly Bond pastiche to suddenly exploring different facets of history and bringing Ada Lovelace into World War II. I would have actually loved it if Ada and Noor became the new companions.
It also had some surprisingly relevant dialogue. “Do the fascists ever win?” “Never.” Sure, it might seem like it’s trying to copy from the Blitz scenes from “The Doctor Dances,” but I don’t care.
January 6, 2020 @ 10:03 am
“Do the fascists ever win?”
[Lenny Henry’s character walks away casually, his empire intact.]
January 6, 2020 @ 12:34 pm
Plus the reason fascists will never win is British intelligence officers.
(And more generally, diversity. Which is good, but the modern fascists are able to and understand the usefulness of looking at least a little bit diverse too.)
January 6, 2020 @ 4:21 pm
“Do the fascists ever win?”
“Never. Not while there’s people like you. And people like me, who let the bad guys simply walk away, but sometimes watch them angrily as they go”.
January 8, 2020 @ 2:29 am
I mean, technically, he isn’t a fascist, just someone who wanted to turn most of humanity into USB drives.
January 9, 2020 @ 3:32 pm
A reasonable entrepreneur, then.
You’re right, of course, but I was mostly being sarcastic about this Doctor’s dismissive attitude towards bad guys in general.
January 6, 2020 @ 4:58 am
this week we do Last of the Time Lords/The Sound of Drums and The Big Bang
And a little bit of Blink.
January 6, 2020 @ 5:18 am
Yeah, this doesn’t sound like a show I have any interest in watching. I’m happy to be able to read your thoughts though!
January 6, 2020 @ 8:50 am
Though definitely problematic in all the ways you describe, to me these two episodes feel the most like Doctor Who episodes of all the Chibnall entries. I think he’s starting to learn how the show works. With steady feedback from a good script editor, we may be ready to consider producing one of his episodes for real.
Though I think Ada Lovelace was not used well (my friend commented that she should have been the focus of her own episode; I was angry that in real life she was a friggin’ genius but Chibnall has her saying things like “I don’t understand the words you are using” – the words were “portal” and “universe”, come on), there was one really great thing Chibnall did. As much as we may not like the mind wipe on general principle, this was the first time I can think of that a person from history gets to actually do something without help from The Doctor. The typical historical personage interaction involves the Doctor being the inspiration for that person’s greatness (the Marty McFly inspiring Chuck Berry situation), but here we’re left with Ada honestly continuing on with her brilliant self.
If only Chibnall had actually written her as brilliant. Oh, and if Babbage also had his memory wiped. He’s going to remember stuff and talk to Ada about it. But again – a good script editor will patch that up right as rain.
January 6, 2020 @ 9:38 am
I actually enjoyed it a lot and more than the first part. It got me very emotional in parts.
But think about it: this two parter opener and the finale are bound to have exciting stuff that distracts from bad writing. And they’re the only episodes Chibnall wrote! So surely we are safe from his most serious shittery.
I wonder if maybe the Timeless Child is not a specific person. Maybe Timeless Child-hood is a period that the Time Lords have to go through during training. Maybe the only way they can regenerate is if a version of their child selves in kept, Timeless, forever in some place, being drained of the “growth” energy that gets turned into regeneration energy.
If that is true, then my post-doc research project will just write itself.
In practice, humans are already Timeless Children. It’s called neoteny. The child-like plasticity we converse even as adults is akin to regeneration, in a way.
I published an article about how neoteny plays in Oedipus Rex: https://www.euppublishing.com/doi/abs/10.3366/olr.2019.0282
January 6, 2020 @ 9:56 am
Is Chris Chibnall pouring old RTD scripts into a Markov Bot script generator? Might as well be.
Also, in this story (in which the Doctor is happily working for the British foreign office, presumably at a time with either Boris Johnson or Dominic Raab is in charge of it) comes the rather unpleasant, Brexity line:
DOCTOR: “The Master is masquerading as a German soldier – a new low even for him!”
January 9, 2020 @ 10:47 am
I know, right? It’s like the Toclafane never happened! (Unless the Doctor thinks that’s less bad than being a German soldier for reasons.)
January 6, 2020 @ 10:10 am
I’m not really sure what is meant by erasing Moffat in this context, doesn’t every show runner do the same, cribbing bits of the previous era they liked and ignoring the rest?
As for the master not referring to Misi, It’s not particularly unusual for a character like the master I suppose they could invent some technobabble explanation as to how the master survived but I don’t think that’d be particularly interesting or entertaining, and anyway old Doctor Who very rarely referred back to itself like the new series does.
I actually enjoyed the change of pace, I feel like Doctor Who has become to continuity laden over the last few years, moffat tried to change that in series 10 but it didn’t quite work what with him bringing back the master and the cybermen and the Daleks.
January 6, 2020 @ 11:11 am
In terms of Doctor Who, RTD and Moffat were concerned with pushing the show forward, getting it to do new things, finding out what it could do. If Moffat cribbed from the previous era (and indeed, himself), it was to do something new with it, or push it further.
Chibnall doesn’t seem particularly concerned with that. He’s cast a female doctor (although it was Moffat who established that Time Lords could change gender). If Chibnall has innovated anything, it’s that modern Doctor Who can be right-wing and anglo-centric (authoritarian power structures should remain unchallenged, refugees are evil, German soldiers are nasty, etc.). This might be accidental. It’s hard to tell.
January 6, 2020 @ 5:12 pm
Unfortunately, he didn’t erase all of Moffatt but instead brought back his most annoying quirk — the continual use of timey-wimey as a deus ex machina to get out of impossible situations. The companions only survived the airplane because at the end, they reminded the Doctor to go back and give them the means to do so.
January 6, 2020 @ 12:12 pm
I feel like the idea that whatever secret the Master uncovered sent him into this genocidal rage is supposed to be the explanation of where Missy’s redemption arc went to.
January 6, 2020 @ 10:22 pm
I would agree! If absolutely anything in the episode suggested that.
January 6, 2020 @ 12:54 pm
I think he’s getting worse and worse. Mind-raping someone to save their life may be wrong, but at least it’s an understandable kind of wrong. Having the Doctor mind-rape people because that’s what the sci-fi rules say, not even bothering to set up an actual time paradox or anything? That’s just astonishing.
I know nothing about Ada Lovelace beyond the fact that she was the first person to envisage what we’d recognise today as a computer program. But that’s enough to be certain that, if she found herself in the future and there was fighting going on, she wouldn’t somehow wonder if the future was “just war”, she’d merely correctly understand that war happening from time to time isn’t something that’s changed here. Chibnall just wants to put that line in there, who cares if it makes sense for the character or not. It’s just all broken. In a meeting between the Doctor and the Master, it’s the Doctor who has the underhanded intentions. (Not surprising on the Doctor’s side, but what is the Master doing?) It’s just hard to even think of it as a story when things like this are liable to happen whenever.
January 6, 2020 @ 5:17 pm
I could forgive the Doctor mindwiping Ada because of her unique (for timey wimey purposes) position in history that would have been jeopardized if she’d had all that extra knowledge of future technology. I was more bothered by her casual disregard for the fact that Noor was a year away from dying horribly in a concentration camp.
“Good luck!” Seriously, Doc?!?
January 8, 2020 @ 12:23 am
What else could Chibnall have written ? The Doctor couldn’t save her and could really do anything to help her.
What was the logic for even using her as a character (and no doubt mangling her real personality) except that she was a muslim, a women and a war hero. It’s rather pathetic. It would be better to write a story set in WW2 France that involved her and the resistance unit(s) she supported as an SOE agent.
January 9, 2020 @ 3:39 pm
If you knew someboedy is going to die, saying “good luck” makes no sense. She could’ve simply said “goodbye” with a sad smile. That would’ve worked a lot better.
I agree that her character could’ve (and should’ve) been better used, but for me there’s educational value in using her character at all. She was an interesting and historically important person who deserves to be better known. I, for one, have never heard about her before this episode. And now I do.
January 9, 2020 @ 3:40 pm
And that first sentence should read “know somebody”. Sigh.
January 6, 2020 @ 1:32 pm
Did anyone else think the kneel scene really played up the sexual ideas of the name Master? Or have I just been thinking about Fleabag too much recently?
Also, to a certain extent I found there to be an interesting idea in presenting this Master as learning the hard way how much more difficult his life is as a person of colour. He can’t just parade about owning the place.
77 years of being chased around the globe though does make it seem that Chibnell is following Moffat in building in gaps for BBC Books to exploit. Or fan-fiction if you want to be more charitable.
January 6, 2020 @ 1:41 pm
Actually more than anything, that part just made me think of the Master having to spend centuries crawling out of the sewers in Curse of Fatal Death…
January 6, 2020 @ 1:59 pm
Yeah, that kneeling bit was bafflingly erotic. And almost certainly unintentional.
“He can’t just parade about owning the place.”
And yet that’s exactly what he does in this episode with a perception filter. And I suspect he’ll just keep doing that.
“77 years of being chased around the globe”
That was, hands down, the weirdest bit of Moffat-pilfering in the entire episode. Because that was basically the “Master falls into the sewers and spends years getting back up” joke from “The Curse of Fatal Death”. Seriously, Chibnall, what the actual fuck?
January 6, 2020 @ 3:02 pm
If anything, I at least think it helps against the “shifty foreigner” danger. The Master isn’t a shifty foreigner. He’s still acting like a white dude.
I’m still quite unsure that the episode should have dressed Sacha Dhawan in a Nazi uniform for so much of it. That felt like such loaded iconography that the story wasn’t going to engage with.
January 6, 2020 @ 4:50 pm
Yeah I definitely thought during that scene that I wouldn’t even know where to begin unpacking the Gordian Knot of semiotics that is an Inglourious Basterds pastiche where two white ladies hide under the floorboards from a South Asian man in a Gestapo Death’s Head. And I don’t think I want to try
January 6, 2020 @ 5:59 pm
I don’t entirely disagree, but one of said ladies was very definitely not white.
January 6, 2020 @ 6:55 pm
Jodie Whittaker and Sylvie Briggs are both white, though? It’s Aurore Marion playing Noor Inayat Khan – who wasn’t under the floorboards but sat on the chair – who isn’t.
January 7, 2020 @ 8:53 am
My mistake, you’re quite right. I’d got muddled as to who was where in that scene.
January 6, 2020 @ 2:24 pm
The sexual ideas of the name “Master” were explored (as far as they could be, in tea-time family drama) in Sound of Drums/Last of the Time Lords. As was the notion of Saxon telling his subjects to kneel (or making them eat from dog bowls, etc.).
If Chibnall was trying to put any sexual tension in his scene, then it didn’t really go anywhere, or add up to anything (beyond reminding some people of Fleabag).
January 6, 2020 @ 3:12 pm
Just weird that one of the biggest shows on television at the moment had the lead being told to kneel in a dark, Victorian church in one of the most erotic scenes of the decade.
Then Doctor Who does it later without realising that this is in. Maybe it was written before Series 2 of Fleabag came out, but still.
Especially after The Sound of Drums and Last of the Time Lords did bring the sexual stuff up. I’d forgotten that.
January 6, 2020 @ 5:08 pm
Ironically, the sexual aspects of “The Master” were there from the start if only in subtext. Terrance Dicks named the character the Master, but writers quickly realized that the Doctor couldn’t use his name in casual direct conversation without sounding submissive. So for years you got these weird constructions where he would show up but the Doctor would never just say “Hello again, Master.” Instead, he’d turn to a companion and say “this is my old enemy who likes to be called the Master” and then go out of his way /not/ to call him that. The scenes in Utopia and Sound of Drums where Ten called him Master were unsettling precisely because it was something he hardly ever did in the classic series.
January 6, 2020 @ 11:53 pm
January 10, 2020 @ 8:04 am
“Master of What”?
January 6, 2020 @ 1:38 pm
Maybe it was a bad sign that Gareth Roberts’ name shows up in the credits…
January 6, 2020 @ 5:43 pm
it does? where? in what capacity?
January 6, 2020 @ 6:01 pm
Seriously, the credited location manager really is “Gareth Roberts”, but it appears to be another man entirely and not THAT Gareth Roberts.
January 6, 2020 @ 2:12 pm
I’m quite glad that the Master’s heel turn was left vague, as it leaves space for my personal headcanon: that the Master was still broadly on the side of good* when he arrived on Earth and infiltrated MI6 to help him locate the Doctor, but over the years he was corrupted by his proximity to the British corridors of power.
*give or take his burning Gallifrey and murdering the real O.
January 6, 2020 @ 2:18 pm
Oh and as for the Timeless Child, isn’t this basically the same as the Hybrid from S9, only without the self-awareness to realise that it’s a meaningless idea good only for a red-herring McGuffin?
January 6, 2020 @ 4:02 pm
I still don’t understand why the TC was mentioned at the start of the last series and never again. (Or did I miss a reference?) It would be like some random character in Twin Dilemma talking about peeling the onion and then never mentioning it again.
January 6, 2020 @ 2:32 pm
That went downhill fast. Still entertaining and nicely shot, but so empty and incoherent. Okay, Chibnall has learned that Doctor Who works better when you smash some genres, ideas and time periods together. He still has no earthly idea why or how it works, but at least he’s trying. That’s about the highest praise I can muster. The companions still barely exist and have nothing interesting to say to each other, the Master was very weak and I’m pretty sure we will never see the human villain again, because when has Chibnall ever made the villain pay for their crimes? Not to mention the Doctor praising being a pacifist in the middle of World War II. What the actuall hell? I guess shooting Nazis makes you as bad as them then?
The thematic connections were so weak in this episode. I guess being the wireless operator vaguely connects Noor Inayat Khan to the idea of social media, but on the other hand, nothing connects her to Ada Lovelace apart from the fact that they’re both smart, important women. And, of course, while Khan fits the theme of spies, Lovelace really doesn’t. And what’s the thematic connection between the Master, the Nazis, the spies, the Victorian era and Gallifrey? Is it imperialism? It’s just all so jumbled and arbitrary.
But the biggest offender for me was the Master’s TARDIS. How does an Australian house connect thematically to anything else in either of these episodes?
(And on a related note, what happened to it? Does the Doctor still have it? And if not, why the fuck not? Did she just park it somewhere and left? I bet she did).
January 6, 2020 @ 4:00 pm
Haven’t watched any of the new series yet, leaving it until after I’ve caught up with the glut of television recorded over Christmas. I have long since given up worrying about spoilers. But I’ve seen a few twitter comments likening Spyfall to Remembrance, in the sense that it will herald the start of a new season of higher quality that a previously unloved season. Frankly, it sounds like the triumph of hope over experience. I guess the next week or so will tell.
January 6, 2020 @ 8:37 pm
I’m not too competent with DW timeline; is it possible for Dhawan Master to have happened pre-Missy? Missy was just as much a complete psychopath before her redemption, so it seems more logical to go from Dhawan Master to Gomez Missy rather than the other way around. Is that possible?
January 6, 2020 @ 10:24 pm
So far, I think so. And it would fit much better than him being the one after Missy – when he mentioned seeing Gallifrey destroyed in a bubble universe, I was sure he was referring to the time he went back to the Time War with Rassilon in “The End of Time”. But no, he destroyed it again on his own, because that’s good storytelling.
January 6, 2020 @ 11:36 pm
Not extremely. Traditionally Gallifrey’s present coincides with the Master and the Doctor’s presents, barring time paradoxes, so if the destroyed Gallifrey that the Spy Master just escaped from is also the Gallifrey the Thirteenth Doctor immediately lands onto, it would appear they’re contemporaries.
January 7, 2020 @ 8:30 am
For me, there were two terrific moments in this episode, one of which was a ROFL I now can’t remember (extreme old age) and when the evil DNA plan was revealed — it was chilling, and bizarrely plausible, and hell, even Vardan-ish, if you think back to Paul Cornell’s “No Future”.
DNA is essentially just a long string of letters like “TTGACA”, just those four letters, so you can encode data in DNA, just as you can encode it on a hard drive as a long string of 1s and 0s. So in theory you could overwrite all the DNA in a human cell with your own code, and use the cell’s natural mechanisms to read and edit the data. Presumably the Kasavins transmitted themselves into our dimension as data, giving them a stable form. The problem is that rewriting all the DNA in a human body will kill its owner stone dead, much in the same way that blasting them with radiation, shredding their DNA, will. So I got all excited about a real SF idea for a minute, but then I realised the Kasavins are basically stuck on a bunch of rotting thumb drives. (Or are they preserving the bodies somehow while living a virtual life? Who can say.)
Speaking of “No Future”, I got a New Adventures vibe from this episode — I think it was all the colliding time periods. I wonder if this story would have been better as a book? The reason the DNA plan falls apart is the same reason poor Noor’s demise goes unmentioned; the writer just didn’t think things through. When you have 75000 words to bang out you do a lot of fleshing out. (Mention Noor’s impending death. Mention the need to keep history straight, whatever the cost. Apologise to Noor. That was easy, where’s my cheque?)
I liked Sacha. It’s very much Simm, but you can see him thinking about how to deliver every syllable. (If he was wearing a sort of facial disguise, which the Doctor switches off, how will the Nasties recognise him?)
I hope the Timeless Child was split into three parts and the Master and the Doctor are two of them.
January 7, 2020 @ 9:00 am
As I mention in my other comment, the thing with the facial filter is appalling. It basically means that the Doctor has just straight up handed a person of colour into the Nazis.
January 7, 2020 @ 9:31 pm
Well, she’d just framed him for being an Allied double-agent, so it’s not like actually being an Aryan would have improved his situation. He’s a mass murderer with a death toll canonically worse than Hitler, so I really don’t think him being a POC should warrant special treatment.
But the issue is moot, because the Doctor turned the Master over to Nazis. Which is roughly on par with turning Hannibal Lector over to a troop of Girl Scouts. His escape was a foregone conclusion, and it’s possible that the Doctor’s action led to the deaths of significantly more Nazis than would have otherwise occurred.
January 8, 2020 @ 7:36 pm
Why did he, as a person of colour, side with the Nazis, then? Had it coming.
January 7, 2020 @ 12:24 pm
Oh my word. It’s always a surprise to find oneself talking to an influential “Doctor Who” writer over the Internet… but ever such a wonderful one!
You typed: “If he was wearing a sort of facial disguise, which the Doctor switches off, how will the Nasties recognise him?”. I think I have an answer for that one. He only put on the facial filter to take control of the Nazi platoons; he wasn’t wearing it earlier in the episode, let alone when he first made his deal with the Kasaavin.
Also, while your way of handling the matter with Noor would of course already have been lightyears ahead of what we got, it wouldn’t fix the whole issue. We’ve seen the Doctor trick out “fixed points in time” in the new series, even (especially!) ones about people dying. The Eleventh Doctor being shot at Lake Silencio by the Impossible Astronaut is the obvious example. What’s stopping the Doctor from having the Teselecta robot pose as Noor and get shot in its place, exactly?
(Obviously, from a real-life perspective, using naff sci-fi wizardry to negate the real-life death of a holocaust victim would be a horrible idea. But the question necessarily raises itself in-universe as soon as you have the new series Doctor come across a person who historically died a tragic death, is the thing.)
January 7, 2020 @ 10:46 pm
I can’t help having the feeling that Mr Chibnall did not read to the end of Noor’s Wikipedia page.
January 9, 2020 @ 3:50 pm
He did. They filmed a scene showing her death at Dachau (!), but fortunately it got cut.
January 9, 2020 @ 11:26 pm
January 8, 2020 @ 7:39 pm
I assumed that the Master’s perception filter did not give him different facial features – simply made his skin look white. So when the Nazis saw him as he was, they felt even more betrayed as they thought he had been using some kind of trick to look whiter, but they definitely recognised him. So it wasn’t like “Who are you?” but “Why the hell are you brown now?”
January 8, 2020 @ 7:47 pm
I assumed it was simpler than that. The perception filter simply made the Nazis ignore the fact that he was POC. Every other time perception filters have been mentioned (Sound of Drums, Time of the Angels), it just causes people to overlook things that should be immediately obvious .
January 8, 2020 @ 8:42 pm
As far as I know, the first reference to a perception filter was in Everything Changes, in Torchwood.
January 7, 2020 @ 1:19 pm
I think there are parts of DNA which don’t really have an effect. Using only them reduces your capacity, of course, but that’s only a problem if you insist on being gratuitously villainous and using humans. There’s over ten times as much earthworm biomass in the world as human, presumably this means a similar increase in DNA amounts. Or bacteria. Given how small each bacteria cell is, I suspect they have a far greater ratio of DNA to overall mass than animal cells have. Maybe his industry could have just built a gigantic bacteria tank somewhere in a desert.
I wonder if humans have more DNA in their gut flora than they do in their animal cells?
January 7, 2020 @ 10:37 pm
Maybe a whole alien civilisation is quietly chugging away in nematode worms or something. (Cf Greg Egan’s “Wang’s Carpets”.)
January 8, 2020 @ 7:44 pm
Yes, it is usually called non-coding DNA, but sometimes also “junk DNA”.
It was believed for many years that humans had more genes in their genome than other organisms, but after they finished sequencing everything they found out it’s actually quite similar.
So maybe Barton is just a piece of shit, because it’s clearly that it would be easier to just convert cows into data storage rather than humans.
January 8, 2020 @ 7:49 pm
The problem with converting cows is that it still leaves you with 7 billions humans who are now saying “hey! what the hell are you doing with our cows?!?” Since conquest of the planet was part of the scheme, leaving the sentient inhabitants around would obviously have been counter productive.
January 7, 2020 @ 1:48 pm
I’ve always thought that the New Adventures are surprisingly good touchstone for a lot of Chibnall’s writing. “The Ghost Monument”, what with it’s groups of cyberpunks competing against each other across a desolate alien wasteland in search of a mythical prize, certainly felt to me like it’d fit in well next to books like “The Highest Science” or “The Pit”. To a lesser extent, “The Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos” seemed to come from the same aesthetic as well. Glad I’m not the only one who’s seen this influence in various parts of the Chibnall era.
January 8, 2020 @ 4:00 am
“The Ghost Monument” certainly was about as good as “The Pit” — that is to say, not any good at all, and pointless.
I wonder if I still have all those early New Adventures in a box somewhere. I certainly hope I have Kate’s and Paul Cornell’s anyway. Most of the rest, eh.
January 8, 2020 @ 5:28 am
Except somehow, I don’t think any Mad Larry-type will come along a decade later and reuse a bunch of concepts from Ghost Monument, only better.
January 7, 2020 @ 4:49 pm
My guess is that it wasn’t a facial disguise so much as a “Someone else’s problem” field like in Douglas Adams. So the Nazi troops go from seeing him as their superior not to be questioned to “Why were we taking orders from this guy again?” Or that’s my headcannon to how all these supposedly simple psychic tricks work.
Not sure if that helps.
Also, looking it up, the bombing raids were done by the Allies and it feels a little disingenuous to have it all implied to be Nazis. Really, I enjoyed the episode and the DNA stuff, and the weird kinky bit with the Master, but the stuff in Paris felt a little bit too glib given the scale of what it was about.
January 7, 2020 @ 10:43 pm
I didn’t know about the Allied bombing raids, so I got confused by that bit — thanks for clearing it up.
I think you have to be right about the Master’s “disguise”. Now I have stuck in my head the idea of a dubious comedy sketch where there’s this old Jewish guy in yarmulke and tallis and the Nazis keep thinking there’s something significant about him, but they can’t figure it out.
January 9, 2020 @ 1:44 pm
Cheers. The episode was one more scene away from that sort of sketch anyway.
I had to research the bombing raids because they seemed so off. One quick Google later, it turns out Allied forces bombed the poor and industrial sections of Paris, leaving the old historical areas mostly untouched. As such, the image of the Eiffel Tower surrounded by debris in the episode is mostly wrong, as is the implied scale of it.
One of those things that an episode set in Paris could address, but when it is about a third of the second part of a story, it goes by the wayside. Honestly, I think that Noor should have been cut, and the focus be on Ada. It’s got a more direct link to computing, and the Doctor can ship the Master off to Australia if she really wants to 😉 (Hope that joke isn’t too presumptive)
January 9, 2020 @ 11:29 pm
Noor could easily have supported her own story! Although, as interesting and moving as that could be, another historical hagiography might be difficult to sit through.
The Master can come down under — I’ll show him my slashfic.
January 8, 2020 @ 7:35 pm
It’s not very clear, though, whether the Kasaavin want to download THEMSELVES into DNA code or if they just have a lot of data they collected as spies that they need to save.
Also, it’s clear that Barton used 7% of his DNA exactly the way you described, right? He literally inserted some code. Talk about a back-up! And it’s also very evangelist tech bro. My guess is that he saved the code that will trigger cyber-conversion. That’s almost exactly what crazy tech bros who are into post-humanism want anyway. And it will create an opportunity to provide bodies for the Kasaavin.
January 8, 2020 @ 11:26 pm
Under normal circumstances one might expect this to be developed by future episodes.
January 7, 2020 @ 8:58 am
The more I’ve thought about it, the more utterly abominable it seems to me that this episode has a sequence where the Doctor gleefully shouts “Ha ha! Now they’ll see you’re brown!” at a Person of Colour, before literally handing him over to the actual literal Nazis. Even if it is The Master, it’s still utterly horrific.
This is possibly the worst thing the show has ever done.
January 7, 2020 @ 12:43 pm
And that’s following the crass line of “The Master is masquerading as a German soldier – a new low, even for him”. She could have said Nazi, or SS, that would have been fine. But no, she said German.
Coupled with the appalling aftermath you mention, it can only lead me to conclude that DW is in the hands of an utter moron or worse, and outright racist.
January 8, 2020 @ 7:47 pm
There are many people of colour right now siding with fascists and Nazis. We even have a word for them in Brazil. They even walk around with Nazi armbands. So, yes, if a Nazi army actually shows up again, I hope they’re the first to go.
January 8, 2020 @ 7:26 pm
Interesting article in The Guardian pointing out what we have known for some time: that Chibnall Who, rather than being “woke” or “too PC”, is actually quite reactionary.
But to be honest, I didn’t mind the Doctor’s weaponising the Master’s race. Probably because 13 has been so bland and non-confrontational that I just enjoyed her being risque.
January 8, 2020 @ 7:54 pm
I made the comment elsewhere at the end of last season that DW under Chibnall isn’t PC at all. Rather, it’s a reactionary conservative’s take on what PC is because he thinks being PC is part of his job description but he’s no bloody good at it.
Thus, we got a female Doctor, but she’s ineffectual and silly. Meanwhile, all the great dramatic scenes go to the two male companions who spend the season bonding over their shared grief over the woman who got fridged in the season premiere. And that was before we got to the ep that came out /in favor/ of Amazon’s employment practices.
January 8, 2020 @ 11:38 pm
I could forgive much if the Doctor was not ineffectual and silly. But she is. You could remove her from most stories without substantially changing the plot. This is Writing 101 stuff and a bloody waste of Jodie Whittaker.
January 8, 2020 @ 11:40 pm
PS “Doctor Who is more offensive than ever” is a hilarious headline.