16 Things We Learned at New York Comic Con 2016, Part I

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Posted by Kim and Sage

I don’t have any grey hairs yet, so I’m marking the aging process by how tired I get when someone even MENTIONS Comic Con. Some people’s bodies show evidence of long-term damage from playing sports or running a marathon. I want to know about the long-term effects of standing on a cement floor in a pair of Toms for five hours straight.

But New York Comic Con is a tentpole event of our year and endure, we must. Once again, we headed back to the Javits for four full days of fandom fun. (I usually say “nights” too, but we left the after-parties to the kids this year. Your grandmas had to go home to watch their shows.) As ever, NYCC was a learning experience. And we’re here to pass those lessons along to you. –Sage

1. Tapping in Is the Way of the Future

Head Over Feels line selfie NYCC

The principle difference between New York Comic Con and San Diego Comic Con is the fact that they clear their mainstage hall between each panel. (Would that SDCC could figure out a way to clear Hall H between panels, honestly.) For the past two years, NYCC has had a wristband system for their mainstage panels, where each panel had a chute in the queue hall and you would have to pick one to wait in until 10 AM, at which time harried volunteers would then put wristbands on impatient nerds one by one until the panel was capped out. Then, if you wanted to do another panel, you would go into that chute to get another wristband if that panel had not capped out. This system worked because it FORCED you to prioritize your mainstage panels but at the same time it was a sloooooooow process and human error was a big factor. (Notoriously last year, the volunteers gave out wristbands for the Jessica Jones panel to the standby line first, cutting off people who had gotten there much earlier.)

When in line, read fan fic.

When in line, read fan fic.

For NYCC 2016, a new system was implemented. Instead of wristbands, volunteers tapped the RFID chip on the badges, which registered your spot on the panel. Then, when it came time to load people in for panels, you would have to tap your badge to gain admittance into the room. I had some doubts about how this system would work at first, but let me tell you…it worked BEAUTIFULLY. First of all, they started tapping our badges almost as soon as the initial rush got settled into the chutes, allowing the crowds to either go get in the line for the show floor or another mainstage line. Second, you got an email confirmation from the system as soon as your badge was tapped, leaving no room for doubt that you would indeed be attending that panel. Third, it allowed the NYCC app to give constant updates on the status of each panel and whether or not they had capped. (For example, we got buzzed that the Iron Fist panel had capped before we even made it into the queue hall on Saturday morning.) Fourth, it slowed the crush of humanity and the race for good seats when they were loading everyone into the room for the panels because every single person had to have their badge tapped. It was all dignified and organized and dare I say CALM which was refreshing as hell. Well done, NYCC. Four for you.

I also have to give a bonus shout-out to the staff of NYCC for choosing to allow the crowd to be loaded into the Javits Center on Sunday morning MUCH earlier than normal due to inclement weather. A little kindness goes a LONG way, especially on the last day of a long weekend. Snaps. –Kim

2. “Native Stories” Are Maybe Not Ethan Hawke’s Area of Expertise

Ethan Hawke and Greg Ruth NYCC

Our first panel was our most problematic one. Well. Nice to get it out of the way.

For Reality Bites/Before trilogy/Dead Poets reasons, we checked out the panel Ethan Hawke was speaking on, along with artist Greg Ruth. They were talking about a black-and-white graphic novel they collaborated on called Indeh:  A Story of the Apache Wars. The panel was titled “Native Stories.” Guess how many Native people were sitting on the dais. Goose egg.

I haven’t read this book. And both Ruth and Hawke seemed to be passionate about presenting a quintessentially American story from a history that’s shamefully ignored. I won’t make a judgment about who can tell whose stories, though I have many, MANY thoughts about it. What I want to talk about is the collaborators’ responses to serious and frankly obvious questions about strapping on the ol’ cultural blinders. Moderator Abraham Reisman from Vulture introduced the elephant in the room, asking if Ruth and Hawke ever had any qualms about being two white men writing and framing a Native American narrative.

Ethan Hawke and Greg Ruth NYCC

“AS A WHITE GUY…”

You guys. The mental and verbal gymnastics that these men did. It was almost inspiring. Tone-deaf and drowning in privilege, but inspiring. The answer pinged back and forth between Ruth and Hawke and lasted for nearly ten minutes. The conclusion Hawke came to was this: “We’ve given ourselves a harder time for this than anyone.” OH OKAY. Great news, y’all. An artist accused himself of cultural appropriation; thought about it long and hard; and then found himself not guilty. The justice of it all. The ability of white cis straight men to forgive themselves while outside criticism ricochets off them like bullets off Luke friggin’ Cage is truly amazing.

Oh, Hawke mentioned that he’d given the galleys of the book to two of his castmates on The Magnificent Seven: Martin Sensmeier, who grew up in a Tlingit community in Alaska, and Jonathan Joss, who was born in Texas and has Comanche and Apache blood. He told the audience that the actors “and their entire families” had a LOT of feedback for him. And he didn’t volunteer the nature of that feedback, so I’m guessing it wasn’t positive.

Ethan Hawke and Greg Ruth NYCC

That conversation came about when an audience member asked the panelists if they’d spoken with any indigenous people while working on the book. Hawke went on and on about how “inviting too many” people into the creative process “dilutes” it. (???????) The whole first half of the panel was all about how these two poured blood and sweat into this book in their selfless effort to tell this story accurately, but a couple of notes from an ACTUAL Apache would have derailed the whole exercise? And how is handing over a finished copy to the only native folks in your immediate vicinity so they can tell you how great it is comparable to responsible cultural storytelling? I hope they recorded this and reviewed the game tapes of this one later, because GEEZ. –Sage

3. Matt Smith, Jenna Coleman, and Alex Kingston Like Each Other A Whole Lot

Matt Smith Jenna Coleman Alex Kingston panel NYCC

NYCC 2016 was overflowing in riches when it came to Doctor Who. (About time, really. This is our fourth year going and other than a Big Finish panel in 2013 and a Q&A with Arthur Darvill in 2014, Doctor Who has been incredibly absent from NYCC.) Not only did we get a panel with the current TARDIS team (more on that later), we got a nostalgia panel with Matt Smith (The Eleventh Doctor), Jenna Coleman (Clara Oswald, queen of our hearts), and Alex Kingston (River Song). We have had the pleasure of seeing Alex and Jenna on panels at other conventions but we’ve never had the pleasure hearing Matt Smith talk about his time in the TARDIS in person. All three of these cupcakes are great on their own but putting them together on one panel? That is something special, friends. It was such a delight to see the genuine affection they have for each other and the way they played off of each other. That hour FLEW by. –Kim

  • Want a lesson on how tabloid reporting works? Matt quipped that he was on a panel with his wife and his girlfriend and MINUTES later there was an article on Radio Times proclaiming “Matt Smith calls Clara The Doctor’s Girlfriend!!” (They even pulled one of our tweets as proof of this statement, thanks guys!) Never mind that Matt totally said it tongue in cheek.
  • Jenna is fresh off the success of Victoria and Matt made no bones about fawning over his former co-star? “You’re getting a Christmas Special? Bloody Hell!” HE’S SO PROUD OF HER.
  • Matt also has done the math for the character he plays in Netflix’s The Crown and Jenna’s Victoria. “Great-great-great-son-in-law. So TECHNICALLY we could get it on.” Okay, we’re all agreed that everyone was a little bit in love with Jenna, yes? Yes. Moving on.
  • There was a LOT of discussion about Arthur Darvill’s role on Legends of Tomorrow. “To me, he’s always Silly Old Rory with his strange face,” Matt quipped when asked if Arthur was better at playing a Time Lord-esque character than him. Alex added to the brain melting Whovian family tree by factoring in HER role as Sara Lance’s mother on Arrow. “My daughter on Arrow is now on Legends with my father. Technically, Rip is Sara’s grandfather?” THAT MAKES SHIPPING THEM PROBLEMATIC, WHOOPS.

Matt Smith Jenna Coleman Alex Kingston panel NYCC

  • Not seen in any of these pictures: Alex’s IMPRESSIVE statement ring.
  • Alex prefers Capaldi’s TARDIS to Matt’s. I also think she said this to rile Matt up because he was notoriously jealous that she went back to Doctor Who because he’s more than a little possessive of River as Eleven’s person. She also said that Ten’s TARDIS “felt a little like being inside a pumpkin.”
  • Jenna originally auditioned for Mels. “They were never going to cast me as Karen Gillan’s best friend because I’m just too short for her!”
  • Matt was asked when he would be following Karen and David’s lead by joining a Marvel franchise. “My question is…when will they ask me?” SOON PLEASE AND THANK YOU.
  • As tends to be the norm on panels like these, there was a lot of love for Billie Piper and Rose Tyler. Matt picked her as the companion he would have liked to have worked with (“She’s my friend and I like her.”) and Alex told a story of getting smashed with Bills at a bar after they did a convention together. Add that tidbit to the tales John Hurt told of drinking with Billie while they were filming the 50th and you have the person WE most want to party with from the Doctor Who family.
  • “It was amazing…I shit my pants though.” – Matt getting real about shooting the TARDIS arriving in Trafalgar Square for the 50th Anniversary.

Matt Smith Jenna Coleman Alex Kingston panel NYCC

  • Matt commented that some of his favorite scenes he filmed with Jenna were the more domestic scenes between Clara and Eleven. He specifically pointed out the scene in “The Bells of St. John” where Eleven set out a platter of Jammy Dodgers for a sleeping Clara which OUCH. Clara and the Doctor is SO REAL.
  • Drinking often proved the only way to battle the cold Welsh weather…or so Alex claimed when Matt called them out for drinking red wine all while filming “The Time of Angels” and “Flesh and Stone.”
  • Alex is in complete favor of River Song joining forces with Torchwood if the reboot happens. YES PLEASE OH MY GOD.
  • “He’s like a jazz musician. But in space.” – Matt perfectly summing up his interpretation of The Doctor.
  • “I quite like that one with The Devil.” – Matt picking his favorite RTD episode and proving that his taste is exquisite because “The Satan Pit” is FLAWLESS. Fight us.
  • The moderator dared to suggest that Clara was a bad teacher because she missed so much time on her adventures with The Doctor. Jenna shut that shit down IMMEDIATELY, reminding him that Clara’s agreement with The Doctor involved taking her back to the moment she left so she WOULDN’T miss anything in her normal life. Queen.

Matt Smith Jenna Coleman Alex Kingston panel NYCC

  • Doctor Who, at its core, is a show about love. In all forms. So put that in your pipe and smoke it.” – Alex Kingston, gloriously shutting down all the Noromo Whovians.
  • When the panel was asked if anyone ever broke anything on set, both ladies turned and pointed at Matt. “I am Matt and I am clumsy,” he said ruefully. The Drunken Giraffe is a real thing, y’all.
  • Jenna: “I broke the TARDIS on my first day. It was awful.” Matt: “You just broke my heart.” WHY IS HE LIKE THIS?
  • Alex hopped to Matt’s defense when one fan accused him of leaving the show too soon. “Do you KNOW how hard they work the Doctors?” Then she recounted Capaldi’s exhausting schedule while they were filming “The Husbands of River Song” and it made me want to take a nap.
  • “That’s one of my great regrets. That I didn’t get a full season with Jenna.” He also called her “Coleman” at one point, really we’re fine.

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The Top 20 Television Moments of 2015 – Part One

tv-and-life

Posted by Kim and Sage

Another year has passed and again, Head Over Feels has spent most of it parked in front of a screen of some kind. Regrets are for wimps.

Since 2015 began, we’ve been bookmarking all the television events that have made us weep, cheer, and clutch our pearls like the innocent flowers that we are. And as we get ready to welcome all the entertainment 2016 has to offer, the time has come to pay tribute to 20 unforgettable moments from this year in TV.

1) The White Party – Empire

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Empire never does anything small, so I’d figured that Jamal’s eventual coming out wouldn’t be a quiet affair. And yet, how could I have been prepared for his barrier-smashing performance at the label’s annual White Party in “The Lyon’s Roar”? Empire drew praise and jeers in its first season for its portrayal of homophobia in black culture and the unofficial “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy in the mainstream music industry. I’m not qualified to offer comment on the show’s socio-political responsibilities in these areas, but I can tell you about the impact this storyline had on me as an individual viewer.

First of all, the scene is visually stunning, from the mansion setting to the fabulous achromatic costuming. (To Most Handsome Young Man nominee Jussie Smollett, who looks quite delicious, as per usual.) Empire has this great tradition of closing up the distance between musicians and audiences, so that every performance scene looks like a house party instead of a concert. I love that I can hear the guests singing along to the track. I love that I can read the reactions on individual faces when Jamal changes his shitty-ass dad’s lyric to “this the kind of song that makes a man love a man.” I love Jamal’s joyful defiance, and the way he turns directly to Lucious to look him in the face while he stands up and claims his own identity. And Cookie loves it too. The mother/son relationship between these two was the heart of season one to me, and she is incandescent with pride in this scene. Remember that Lucious wrote this song for CookieWith their marriage in the shitter (because Lucious is a GARBAGE PERSON), Jamal gives “You’re So Beautiful” welcome new meaning for the person who never stopped telling him it was okay to be who he was. He gave the world a show. And the world didn’t end. –Sage

2) Peggy and Stan Are in Love – Mad Men

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Never in my wildest dreams did I think that Mad Men would give us such an overtly romantic ending for my queen Peggy Olson. I had ALWAYS shipped Peggy and Stan but I had made my peace that it was never going to happen on the show. No one got to be happy on Mad Men! EVER.  So imagine my surprise and delight when Peggy and Stan finally figured their shit out in “Person to Person”.  I watched the finale in the wee hours of the morning after I came home from a two-show day and I started screaming at 3 AM when Stan confessed his love in the most perfectly Stan and Peggy way…over the phone. Their phone calls were one of the hallmarks of their relationship over the course of the series, so it was only fitting that it happened this way.

Peggy: I mean, I’m going to stay.
Stan: Good, because I didn’t want you to leave.
Peggy: Then why didn’t you just say that?
Stan: Because every time I’m face to face with you, I want to strangle you. And then I miss you when I go away. And I miss you and I call you on the phone and I get the person I want to talk to.
Peggy: That’s not true.
Stan: Yeah, well, I don’t know what it is, but when I’m standing in front of you, I bring out something terrible. I think about how you came into my life and how you drove me crazy and now I– I don’t even know what to do with myself because all I want to do is be with you.
Peggy: What? What did you just say?
Stan: I want to be with you. I’m in love with you.
Peggy: What?
Stan: I love you, Peggy.
Peggy: Oh, my God. That’s what I thought you said.

My heart dropped when it seemed that Peggy was about to reject Stan. Because of course she wasn’t in love with him, right? I mean we all knew she was in love with him, but did SHE? Watching her figure out that she was in love with him was a MARVEL. What a performance by Elisabeth Moss. She goes from disbelief to confusion to sudden realization in a matter of moments and it’s beautiful.

Peggy: I– I– I don’t know what to say. Whew. I feel like I can’t breathe almost. I mean, I don’t even think about you. Uh I mean, I do all the time, because you’re there. (touches her heart) And you’re here. And you make everything okay. You always do. No matter what. I mean, I must be. Because you’re always right. I can’t believe this. I think I’m in love with you, too. I really do. Stan? Are you there? (silence) Stan?

ME: OH NO STAN DID YOU REALLY HANG UP HOW COULD YOU MISS THIS WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS TO ME SHOW? Cue Stan appearing in Peggy’s doorway, out of breath because he SPRINTED to her office as soon as he realized where this was going. Is this Mad Men or my favorite romantic comedy?

Stan: What were you saying?
Peggy: I love you.

All my tears. –Kim

3) The Diner Fight – Agent Carter

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I love that we live in a world where Agent Carter exists. I love that it’s a show run by women and I love Peggy Carter (and Hayley Atwell) for being an icon of femininity and badassery. There are definitely more emotional Agent Carter moments we could have picked for this list. Peggy’s “I know my value” speech was instantly iconic. If you didn’t cry when Peggy laid Steve Rogers to rest by pouring out the vial of his blood on the Brooklyn Bridge, I question your humanity. But we chose the diner fight scene because it’s just so much FUN. It’s stylistically gorgeous, with the bright colors of the diner and the big band music roaring in the background. It’s hilarious with Jarvis bumbling in the background while Peggy singlehandedly takes down all the men. And it just serves as a reminder that Peggy Carter is not to be trifled with. Harrison Ford once said that Indiana Jones wasn’t the BEST fighter but he was the SMARTEST fighter because he used what was around him to serve to his advantage. That is exactly what I see here, especially in the way Peggy uses that plate as the world’s deadliest frisbee. And she does it all in a gorgeous period suit because even when she is kicking ass, Peggy Carter is a LADY above all things. –Kim

4) “You’re a stone cold bitch.” – The Mindy Project

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I have to confess something. I’ve fallen SUPER behind on The Mindy Project.  And the things I have heard about the episodes post-Leo’s birth don’t make me want to catch up anytime soon. But this moment? This is perfection. Dramatic births in unconventional situations is a sitcom staple and Mindy plays the stereotype to the max. There is absolutely no way Danny would have ever been able to get to her on a stalled subway car but we forgive it because we don’t watch television for reality. We watch for the way our hearts swell when Danny makes it just in time for the birth of his son. We watch TV for the way Danny calms a panicked Mindy because NO ONE wants their lady parts exposed on a dirty subway car, much less push a baby out there. I love how Danny knows EXACTLY what to say to her to get her to calm down and believe in herself. He may be an ass some of the time, but he always comes through. That’s why we watch. Who knew that being called a “stone cold bitch” could be the most romantic words in the universe? –Kim

5) Stevie Wonder Carpool Karaoke – The Late Late Show

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Anyone worth hanging out with knows how to properly jam in the car.

Maybe I’ve seen American Graffiti too many times, but isn’t there a beautiful sense of freedom that comes with being behind the wheel of a car? The Late Late Show‘s Carpool Karaoke series leverages the comforting familiarity of the road trip singalong, a “the stars, they’re just like us!” sense of bonding, and host James Corden’s authentic fangirling and driver’s seat chair-dancing. From the very first edition of this sketch (with a totally game Mariah Carey, thank you), it’s been a favorite of our blog and the bit with the most viral traction. Knowing us, you perhaps you expected to see One Direction’s Carpool Karaoke on this list. But even a choreographed performance of morning wood anthem “No Control” couldn’t quite steal the slot from Stevie Wonder. Because he is Stevie Wonder, as James’s wife confirmed firsthand.

A late night host has every opportunity I’ve ever dreamed of to make lasting memories with cool celebrities. But I think even James would admit that it’s going to be real hard to top sitting in a car with Stevie Wonder and listening to him sing “I just called to say James loves you…” to the woman he married. (When James cries, I cry.) The 10+ minute bit includes James and Stevie harmonizing on the artist’s ridiculous catalog (“Superstition,” “Isn’t She Lovely?” and “Signed, Sealed, Delivered”…you know, those hack jobs), but it’s James’s “indulgent” request and his heart-melting reaction that put this Carpool Karaoke on the top of a very entertaining heap. –Sage

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“I don’t think I could ever forget you.” – Doctor Who Recap “Hell Bent”


Doctor Who 
Series 9, Episode 12
“Hell Bent”
Posted by Kim

“A week ago you said to me “Do you believe I’ll never be too far? If you’re lost, just look for me, you’ll find me in the region of the summer stars.” The fact that we can sit right here and say goodbye means we’ve already won. A necessity for apologies between you and me, Baby, there is none.” 

A familiar diner in the middle of the Nevada desert with a familiar tune on the jukebox. A roguishly handsome Scot easily banters with a beautiful English rose. “How did you get out here,” he asks. “Magic,” she replies with a hint of a smile. It’s achingly familiar yet it feels entirely different.  Of course, we know that these two are The Doctor and Clara Oswald…but it seems as if THEY don’t. He strums his ever-present guitar (a new model that had guitar nerds cheering) and the opening notes of what we know as “Clara’s theme” echo through the diner. Her eyes light up ever so slightly, as if she knows this one.

CLARA: Is it a sad song?
DOCTOR: Nothing’s sad till it’s over. Then everything is.
CLARA: What’s it called?
DOCTOR: I think that it’s called Clara.
CLARA: Tell me about her.

Or, as Ood Sigma once told the Tenth Doctor, “This song is ending. But the story never ends.”

Raise your hand if you totally expected “Hell Bent” to open with a sweetly melancholy scene between Twelve and Clara? No one? Good. Doctor Who has been all about keeping us on our toes this season storytelling wise, sometimes with disastrous results (“Sleep No More”, WHY DO YOU PLAN ON DOING A SEQUEL?) but often with thrilling ones (“Heaven Sent”).  Ten years after the Ninth Doctor grabbed Rose Tyler’s hand and told her to run for her life, Doctor Who refuses to (as Sage said in her last recap) rest on its laurels. Steven Moffat, Rachel Talalay, Peter Capaldi, and Jenna Coleman are all at the top of their game right now and it’s been a PLEASURE to watch.  So let’s dive into “Hell Bent”, shall we?

Okay, I know we’re supposed to SUPER CARE that The Doctor has returned to Gallifrey at last. But really, given the weight of everything that happened with Clara, the first 20 minutes of the episode ended up being almost an afterthought.  Thus, here are the three things I learned from the Doctor’s return to Gallifrey…

  1. Gallifrey is basically the space version of Panem. Think about it. You have all those crazy mofos who dress funny in the Urban Capitol and the downtrodden common folk in the rural areas. Guess which side The Doctor relates to? Instead of going directly to the city to tear the high council apart, The Doctor retreats to his barn from “Day of The Doctor” and “Listen”.  He is surrounded and taken care of by the residents of that area. He just wants to eat his soup. He LITERALLY draws a line in the sand when the soldiers from the Capitol show up. (“Get off my planet.”) The Doctor is surrounded by the common folk who may as well be giving the soldiers the Mockingjay signal because The Doctor is the Gallifreyan Katniss Everdeen. “Who does he think he is,” Rassilon sneers. “The man who won the Time War.” DAMN SKIPPY. Even the soldiers sided with him when it came down to it. He’s a WAR HERO and don’t you forget it.
  2. Rassilon has always been and will be a dick. GOOD RIDDANCE.
  3. OH HEY TRANS-REGENERATION IS CANON.

If you read our post on Long Island Who, you’ll recall that Sage and I were on a panel about whether or not there should be a Female Doctor. (There should be.) The contrarian (HA) teenage boy on the panel insisted that one of the reasons against trans-regeneration was the fact that we had never SEEN it on-screen. (Graeme Burk: So what you’re saying is that you would need to ACTUALLY see John Simm regenerate into Michelle Gomez to believe it? CTB: Yes.) IMAGINE MY DELIGHT when we saw the General regenerate into a woman with a FIERCE smoky eye right before my eyes. When the underling who witnessed the regeneration immediately adopted his pronouns as if he were used to seeing this all the time, I CROWED. And when the General admitted that her last body was the only time she had been a man and she was relieved to be “back to normal”, I jumped up and down and pumped my fists as if I were Tom Cruise on Oprah.  THANK YOU Steven Moffat. THANK YOU.  And I hope that kid stopped to think when he saw this episode.  I imagine he probably added this to his list of why we don’t NEED a female Doctor because “Haven’t we be given enough now?” but one can dream. Maybe we’ll know at LI Who next year when we are inevitably on this panel again.

“We had some good times, didn’t we? We had some good tricks up our sleeves. Goodbyes are bittersweet…but it’s not the end. I’ll see your face again.”

WAITRESS!CLARA: Is this a story or did this really happen?
DOCTOR: Every story ever told really happened. Stories are where memories go when they’re forgotten.

So how does Clara Oswald factor into this? After The Doctor banishes Rassilon and the High Council, Ohila from the Sisterhood of Karn (who should have been carting around a bowl of popcorn because she was really only there to watch the show) and The General sit The Doctor down so he can spill what he knows about The Hybrid.

DOCTOR: I’ll need help, obviously.
GENERAL: Gallifrey is at your command.
DOCTOR: Oh, not from you lot. No, you’d cramp my style. Look at your hats. I’m going to need the use of an extraction chamber, to talk to an old friend.

OLD FRIEND. HA. Whatever you say, Doctor. Thus we return to the Trap Street where Clara Oswald stands with her arms outstretched. (Me: DON’T MAKE ME LIVE THROUGH THIS AGAIN.) Time freezes the moment before the Raven hits her chest. A door opens and a hand appears. “This way. I can save you.” It’s VERY “Fires of Pompeii” and I am too fragile for this.

Clara is understandably a little panicked once she enters the extraction chamber. She was about to die and MORE IMPORTANTLY, she was fine with dying. While she is thrilled to see The Doctor and obviously delighted to actually be on Gallifrey (Sage: Even in near-death Clara doesn’t lose her sense of adventure), Clara’s primary response is one of confusion. How is she here? What is The Doctor doing? To Clara’s credit though, her response to the whole “frozen before her final heartbeat” thing is minimal. She’s more concerned, as she’s ALWAYS been, at how this is affecting The Doctor. What OF The Doctor in this moment? Well, The Doctor looks at her like she is the most precious thing in the world that he would do ANYTHING to protect. (In other words, he’s a little crazed but in the best way possible.) “We have extracted you at the very end of your time stream to request your help,” the General says. “Once we’re finished here, you will be returned to your final moments. Your death is an established historical event and cannot be altered. I’m sorry.”  The Doctor’s response to that is basically “Fuck that noise.”  He will not let Clara die a second time, even if that would fracture the entirety of time and space. And despite his protestations, the General KNOWS this. Clara, naturally, is horrified because the LAST thing she wanted was The Doctor to be in this kind of mental place. She grabs his fingers, hoping her touch will stop him because she doesn’t WANT THIS (MY HEART), but The Doctor will not be deterred. He shoots the general (prompting the trans-regeneration, so thanks for that), grabs a human-compatible neural block, and runs away with Clara.  Clearly “Hell Bent” was meant to describe the Doctor’s determination to save his Clara, no matter what the cost.

WAITRESS!CLARA: So what was it, the thing you took?
DOCTOR: There was only one way to keep Clara safe. I had to wipe some of her memory.
WAITRESS!CLARA: Of what?
DOCTOR: Of me.

The Doctor and Clara flee to the Cloisters, which is essentially a rogue’s gallery of The Doctor’s greatest foes (spotted: Weeping Angels, a Cyberman, and a Dalek). It also happens to protect the Matrix Database, a living computer where all Time Lords are uploaded when they die. As The Doctor tells Clara about it, she realizes that the Matrix is how The Doctor was able to escape Gallifrey for the first time. She looks at him with the wisdom of a person who has been gone billions of years without even realizing it. Somehow she KNOWS what she’s been through. “How long has it been for you since you last saw me,” she asks gently. The Doctor brushes off her question as if he is embarrassed for her to know JUST how lost he was without her. Clara, precious Clara, doesn’t let the subject drop. “Tell me what they did to you. Tell me what they did to The Doctor.”

When we watched “Hell Bent” we commented on the time it took for The Doctor to grieve the loss of Clara. Well, it turns out we were wrong. The Doctor wasn’t grieving Clara, he was trying to figure out a way to SAVE her. He led the Time Lords to believe that he had information about the Hybrid so he would have something to bargain with. “What were you bargaining for,” Clara asks, even though in her heart of hearts she knows the answer. “What do you think? You. I had to find a way to save you. I knew it had to be the Time Lords. They cost you your life on Trap Street, Clara, and I was going to make them bring you back. I just had to hang on in there for a bit.”

A LITTLE BIT. OKAY.

By this point, The General and Ohila have shown up, so when The Doctor refuses to divulge exactly how long he was in the confession dial, Clara turns to them. “We think four and a half billion years,” Ohila says solemnly. “He could have left anytime he wanted,” the General adds. Clara’s REACTION to this information though. She looks like she was punched in the stomach. She looks like she wants to strangle The Doctor and cover his face with kisses at the same time. She’s furious with him yet she’s never been more in love with him. “Why? Why would you even do that to yourself?” “I had a duty of care,” The Doctor says simply, almost dazed from the sheer amount of weight that simple admission carries. Being The Doctor though, he can’t deal with too much emotion at one time, he starts to talk about how they need to get to a TARDIS so they can buy themselves more time. But The Doctor’s “duty of care” admission is enough to push Clara from asking The Doctor to stop what he was saying in “Face the Raven” to “People like me and you…we should say things to one another. And I’m going to say them now.”

Of course the camera pans away before Clara starts talking, leaving Clara and The Doctor with their Lost in Translation moment. I mean, we all know what Clara said. She told him how much she loved him, how much he’s meant to her, how she would never trade her time with him for anything in the world. She told him how special he is and that she KNOWS what that four and a half billion years was like for him. I think she also told him to LET GO, that it’s OKAY for him to let go of her. The thing is, I think while Clara knew how The Doctor felt about her, perhaps in that moment she realized that maybe he didn’t know how she felt about HIM. That maybe not knowing is what drove him to fight for four and a half billion years. IT ALWAYS NEEDS SAYING, YOU IDIOTS.  (Also they clearly discussed their getaway plan, but only after all the important stuff was said.)

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“I confess, I am afraid.” – Doctor Who Recap – Heaven Sent

hell of a bird

Doctor Who Series 9, Episode 11
“Heaven Sent”
Posted by Sage

The shepherd’s boy says, “There’s this mountain of pure diamond. It takes an hour to climb it, and an hour to go around it. Every hundred years, a little bird comes. It sharpens its beak on the diamond mountain. And when the entire mountain is chiseled away, the first second of eternity will have passed.

When normals ask you what’s so great about that show with the tall, British guy and the trash can robots and the blue box, what do you usually say? Sometimes I tell them about 53 years of history. Other times I tell them about how the Doctor does what’s right because it’s right, not because he expects any kind of salvation or about a fan culture that transcends every kind of physical and societal border there is. After “Heaven Sent,” I can also tell them that instead of resting on the laurels of international success, Doctor Who is out here serving art, testing the limits of a medium, and showcasing masters at the top of their game.

(And I may Who trash for life, but if you think my praise is guaranteed, please see my pained recap of the dreadful “Sleep No More.”)

I was surprised when it became clear what it means to “Face the Raven” that Steven Moffat would leave the death of Clara Oswald to another writer, and I agree with Kim that first-time Who scribe Sarah Dollard gave the character an exit worthy of her tenure as a companion. As “Heaven Sent” unfolded, I could see why Moffat made the decision he did. Since Twelve was coughed out of the mouth of a displaced dinosaur, he’s benefited from having a showrunner who truly gets the sort of man he is. (Unlike Eleven, unfortunately for all of us.) I love that Moffat stepped in with such a clear, bold concept for the aftermath of the loss of Clara Oswald. And as the best of his scripts do, “Heaven Sent” functioned on a mechanical and an emotional level.

Structurally, all this script had to do was get the Doctor from Ashildr’s trap street to whoever was using her to summon him. The end point of his journey? Gallifrey, as anyone whose been paying attention since the 50th anniversary guessed long ago. But instead of rushing him off to face the Time Lords immediately, “Heaven Sent” allows the Doctor an entire episode to occupy his grief. And not that I get my ya-yas from seeing the man suffer, but Clara Oswald deserves to be well and truly mourned. Especially with a “screwball comedy” of a Christmas special only two episodes away.

“Heaven Sent” picks up almost to the moment that “Face The Raven” leaves off. We don’t know at the end of that episode where the Doctor is immediately heading (and the castle in the trailer looks nothing like what we know of Gallifrey, so), and neither does he. The one thing he does know as he steps off a teleport and into hard, unforgiving stone is that even her last wishes weren’t strong enough to hold the Doctor back from avenging Clara.

If you think because she is dead, I am weak, then you understand very little. If you were any part of killing her, and you’re not afraid, then you understand nothing at all. So, for your own sake, understand this: I am the Doctor. I’m coming to find you, and I will never, ever stop.

Guys, it was right there. The whole time! Rewatch the episode if you haven’t yet, and you’ll see that the last words in this snatch of monologue aren’t the only clue to the Doctor’s medieval imprisonment. The first image, even before his materialization, is a scorched hand burning away in the sand. The newly arrived Doctor bends down and takes a handful of the stuff, letting it spill out through his fingers. The interrogation begins again.

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There’s a running meme on the internets right now involving New Who fans asking Classic Who fans why the Doctor’s own people are the source of such shittiness. “Because the Time Lords are dicks,” is the only cogent answer. And this incarceration has the Time Lord stink all over it. (And let’s be real, it’s the kind of punishment the Doctor would have no trouble dreaming up either. Remember the Family of Blood?) They basically imprison the Doctor inside time. If the Doctor ran because he needed freedom, then what could be worse than locking him inside a never-ending energy loop where he’s doomed to repeat his every action until he tells them what they need to know? I’ll tell you what’s worse: sending him to that place alone. I know the Time Lords didn’t plan to kill Clara, but that certainly worked out for them. Or it would have, if their bond weren’t as strong as it is, even in her death. (“I let Clara Oswald get into my head. Trust me, she never leaves.”) They did take the opportunity to redecorate his quarters, but hanging Clara’s portrait on his wall was another tactical error on their part. Just like Missy, the rest of the Time Lords think of his human companions as the Doctor’s pets. They can’t comprehend how anyone “below” their race could have anything to offer the Doctor besides someone to show off to. (I mean, that’s part of it.) Clara’s likeness is there to taunt the Doctor and to weaken him with grief and guilt. It never occurs to the Time Lords that her memory can do more than that – that what she continues to give to him can be what sustains him. Consider Ten back in “The Shakespeare Code” when the Carrionites toss out a Rose reference to throw him off his game. “Oooh, big mistake,” he says, growing about two inches taller. “Because that name keeps me fighting.”

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“Please, be a little proud of me.” – Doctor Who Recap “Face the Raven”

Doctor Who Series 9, Episode 10
“Face the Raven”

Posted by Kim

When Rose Tyler got stranded in Pete’s World in “Doomsday”, Russell T. Davies commented that it was a direct result of Rose and Ten’s cavalier attitude in “Tooth and Claw”.  Their dalliance with Queen Victoria resulted in the creation of Torchwood and Torchwood was responsible for the events in “Army of Ghosts” and “Doomsday”.  (This is also for the longest time I refused to WATCH Torchwood because I could not forgive them.) Traveling with The Doctor through all of space and time has consequences and you never know when those consequences will come to bite you in the ass. Considering how we’ve been comparing Twelve and Clara to Rose and Ten for the past season and a half, it was only a matter of time before they too would have to face the same consequences that Rose and Ten did.  “Don’t worry, you daft old man. I’m not going anywhere.” HAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA.

Speaking of consequences, when we were at Long Island Who, we attended a panel where we discussed Series 9 so far. Our dear friend Graeme Burk was the moderator and he asked the room to describe Series 9 in one word.  The predominant reaction? CONSEQUENCES. We’ve seen The Doctor come face to face with the consequences of his actions all series, from meeting young Davros on the battlefield to his actions in the future in “Before the Flood” to giving Ashildr an immortal life to the literal “Truth or Consequences” question when he faced the Zygons.  From the get-go, “Face the Raven” sounded ominous, given the fact that we’ve been teased with the death of Clara Oswald ALL SERIES.  Like Rose Tyler before her, we knew that Clara would never leave the Doctor of her own volition.  Only death or a parallel universe would separate them. Well…we’ve done parallel universe already. So. But I’m getting ahead of myself. As much as I just want to talk about the last 15 minutes of “Face the Raven”, Clara Oswald deserves me talking about what brought her to the point of losing her life.

UGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGH.

 
 
“Face the Raven” begins much like “The Girl Who Died” did with The Doctor and Clara stumbling into the TARDIS, giddy from their latest adventure. (Yo, Big Finish, Imma need you to have all of these stories as soon as you get the rights to Twelve and Clara, okay?) The TARDIS phone rings (The Doctor: “Who said you could give out OUR number?” #MARRIED).  It’s our old pal Rigsy from “Flatline” and he’s in a bit of a pickle.  He has no memory of the day before and he has a strange tattoo on the back of his neck.  Clara scolds him for calling, saying she gave him this number for emergencies only and ” butterfly tramp stamp” would have ranked higher on the “I need the Doctor” level over a neck tattoo.  Rigsy says this is no ordinary tattoo. The number on the back of his neck is counting down to something.  Whatever it is, it can’t be good.  That’s enough to get The Doctor and Clara intrigued.

The Doctor and Clara go to Rigsy’s new flat.  A lot has changed since we first met him…mainly the fact that he has created a new human.  Can we take a moment to appreciate how much The Doctor loves babies?  He coos over Rigsy’s baby girl even more than Clara does and I swear to God, the way Peter Capaldi’s face softens as he calls the baby “brilliant” makes me want to punch him in the face because he just won’t let me live in peace.  As much as he wants to take the new human with them, The Doctor knows it will just distract him, so they take Risgy into the TARDIS alone so they can examine the mysterious tattoo. While the Doctor runs a full body scan, Clara examines his phone.  All the data from the past 24 hours has been wiped.  The scan reveals that Rigsy has had contact with Aliens in the past 24 hours.  Why can’t he remember that? He’s been retconned. (CAPTAIN JACK, IS THIS YOUR DOING?) All of the evidence mounts to one conclusion, and it’s one that drives the Doctor to his empathy cards. “There’s no nice way to say you’re about to die,” The Doctor confesses, calling Rigsy by name.  That’s when Rigsy knows he’s in deep shit. “Don’t start using my actual name now. Call me Pudding Brain, call me Local Knowledge. Whatever. Just don’t call me Rigsy,” he pleads. You’re going to save me. You’re a doctor. That’s what you do.” (UGH) They have 526 minutes to find who did this to him before Rigsy dies.  Time to get cracking.

 
The Doctor and Clara surmise that Rigsy must have encountered a Trap Street, which is a street that doesn’t exist unless you KNOW where to look for it.  Basically, they have to find Diagon Alley and they are Muggles.  Super easy.  The TARDIS sails over London, with Clara dangling out the door wearing the sonic sunglasses so she can map the city.  (At LI Who, Janet Fielding revealed that one of her greatest peeves with the new series is when they have the TARDIS door open mid-flight. I can only assume this scene made her want to tear her hair out.)  Clara hoots and hollers as the TARDIS hits turbulence and she dangles out the door, essentially clinging to the door frame with her toes.  (Rigsy: She enjoyed that a little too much. The Doctor: Tell me about it. It’s an ongoing problem.) The whole sequence reminded me of an adrenaline junkie pushing themselves to the very edge of danger because they HAVE to feel that thrill of knowing that any minute things could go horribly wrong.  It’s the thrill of teetering over the edge and being able to pull yourself back just in time.  It’s scary as hell and watching it on the telly had me screaming (and Sage tweeting) “A LITTLE CAUTION PLEASE, CLARA.” because I’ve never quite forgotten that image of Victorian Clara plummeting to her death from the TARDIS.  *Shudder*

Once they retrieve the mapping from the Sonic Sunglasses, our trio takes to the ground searching for the trap street.  (Maybe it was the location or maybe it’s the fact that I’ve been watching so much Torchwood or maybe it’s both, but the entire time they searched for the street, I expected Gwen Cooper to appear on the scene.) The Doctor warns Clara and Rigsy to stop looking at the world as they usually do.  The street will be hidden in plain sight. They will know they are near a trap street when the details surrounding them don’t add up because the misdirection circuit protecting it will scramble their thoughts. (Think how many trap streets could ACTUALLY be out there in the world.) They close in on an area and the Doctor tells Clara to go back to the TARDIS and get all his most annoying stuff (love).  She also grabs Rigsy’s phone, which appears to have finally downloaded data from the day before. When she gives it back to him, he drops it and flashes of his lost day appear.  Boom.  The entrance to the street appears. Why? “Something slipped through the retconned memory. Something that took over your whole mind.” They enter the alley and are greeted by two men (who flash back and forth between men and their actual alien selves) who demand to know their reason for asylum. That’s right, the street is actually an alien refugee camp.  And a very familiar face presides over it, making good on her promise to be the Patron Saint of The Doctor’s leftovers.

 
 
The Doctor doesn’t trust Ashildr, now known as Mayor Me (“I give myself a title for the same reason you do, Doctor. Something to live up to.”), any farther than he can throw her. Why should he? She surveys Clara with interest and you can just SEE there is some sort of madness lurking behind her eyes.  They banter about just how much they have been keeping tabs on each other, but there is an edge to it and the Doctor’s uneasiness is palpable.  “I got you attention,” she quips as The Doctor’s mind immediately goes to the memory of her lurking in the background of Clara’s selfie. “Yes, you did.”  He then tells the Mayor they need her help because someone in this camp is in possession of a Quantum Shade, which is what the tattoo on Rigsy’s neck is tied to.  With a smirk, The Mayor removes her scarf to reveal some new tattoos of her own.  Yep. She is the one who did this to Rigsy. She claims that he committed a crime so she had to sentence him.  She shrugs saying she gave him enough time to go home and say goodbye to his family, but it’s all a load of bullshit considering that she pumped him full of amnesia drug so he didn’t even KNOW he should be saying goodbye to his BABY DAUGHTER AND PARTNER. (Seriously, The Mayor can fuck right the fuck off.) The Mayor says the same retconning will happen to them when they leave (as it does to all intruders, in order to protect the safety of the street), so the Doctor says that she might as well fill them in on what happened to necessitate a death sentence.  He ALSO demands a personal guarantee from the Mayor that no harm will come to Clara.  She agrees that no harm will come to Clara and that her protection is absolute.  That is so so so so important and dictates most of Clara’s actions later.

All of the refugees (revealed to be a Sontaran, a Silurian, a Cyberman, and an Ood. Among others) sneer at Rigsy and call him a murderer.  The Mayor says they have very strict rules against violence on this street. If you break them, you MUST be punished. There is no room for grace.  Rigsy is accused of killing a beloved member of the street, a Janus who fled there with her son. She had been knocked to the ground and Rigsy was found over her body.  In order to protect the peace, The Mayor swiftly sentenced Rigsy.  Clara refuses to believe that he did it, which means the only option is that one of the other aliens did and set him up.  In the square, an old man and his wife approach the Mayor. He also has a neck tattoo and the countdown is nearing its end.  “I only took it to save her,” he pleads.  Much like Jean Valjean, this man stole medical supplies to save his wife, also a punishment that merits death apparently. “I can remove the chronolock,” The Mayor tells the assembled street. “But I won’t. Our rules keep us safe.”  The wife begs her husband to give it to her, but he refuses, saying he did all of this to SAVE her.  The Mayor takes a breath and closes her eyes.  The tattoos leave her neck and become smoke.  A raven in a nearby cage does the same.  This is the Quantum Shade, and once it binds itself to a victim there is no turning back. “You could flee across all of time and all of the universe, it would still find you,” The Doctor explains, disgust apparent in his voice. The old man flees, running through the street trying to escape his fate.  There is no escaping it though.  The Raven slams into the Old Man’s chest, he exhales black smoke and falls to the ground.  The tattoos return to the Mayor’s neck.  This is the fate that awaits Rigsy in forty-one minutes.  “I have no wish to harm your friend if he is innocent, Doctor. Question anyone. Examine the body. But it’s not me you need to convince of Rigsy’s innocence. It’s them.”

 
 
Clinging to that small grain of hope, The Doctor and Clara split up, playing Good Cop and Bad Cop, in order to gather as much information as possible.  (Me at the TV: STAY TOGETHER FOR THE LOVE OF GOD.)  Clara stays with Rigsy and she overhears him on the phone talking to his partner Jen and their daughter, who is crying. “I’m doing my best to get home to you guys,” Rigsy says, putting on the bravest face possible. This triggers something in Clara. Rigsy has PEOPLE.  He has a family who depends on him. A daughter who could be losing her chance to know her father. It’s such a stark contrast to Clara’s life. Sure, she has the family we haven’t seen since “Dark Water”, but other than that, Clara is alone, save for the Doctor. She has nothing that ties her to this world. There is no possible way she’ll allow Rigsy to leave his family.  IMPORTANT POINT NUMBER TWO.  Clara asks The Mayor’s main assistant, Rump, what the wife meant when she begged her husband to give it to her.  It turns out there are two ways to survive a Quantum Shade: the master can remove the choronlock (which she has proven she won’t do) OR it can be given to someone else. The catch? “It has to be taken willingly. The death’s already locked in. You can pass it on, but you can’t cheat it.”  And thus, Clara hatches a plan and my heart drops into my stomach. She will take the chronolock from Rigsy. Willingly. Better her life to be at risk than a young father’s.  Plus…The Doctor will figure out a way to save her.  He always does, right?

CLARA: Weren’t you listening? I’m under the Mayor’s personal protection. And it’s absolute, apparently. Look, she controls the Raven, so I will never have to face it. This is clever.
RIGSY: But this is putting you in danger.
CLARA: No, this is us talking the opposition into their own trap. This is Doctor 101. We’re buying time. We get all of the aliens on our side in the next half an hour, and then we reveal I’ve got the chronolock, not you, and boom! We buy ourselves more time to find the real killer.
RIGSY: The Doctor would never let you do this.
CLARA: Doctor 102. Never tell anyone your actual plan. He’ll have a tantrum when he finds out. And then, when we confront Ashildr, she’ll want to take the chronolock off just to shut him up. What happens if you don’t go home tonight to Jen and Lucy, eh? If you never go home? You really want your little girl growing up without a father just because he wouldn’t take a risk? You trusted us to save you, so trust us.

Oh, Clara Clara Clara. The thing that HURTS me is that her logic is SO SOUND and her heart is in the right place. She doesn’t even THINK about the danger she is putting herself in because she and the Doctor have had SO MANY wins together. She never considers the option that it could all go wrong.  It’s stupid and brave and oh so clever all at the same time.  She touches the back of Rigsy’s neck and the chronolock transfers to her neck and I yell at the TV because now it’s CLARA’S life that is on the clock.  I understand her need for the element of surprise but the fact that she didn’t let the Doctor in on her plan made me NUTS. Why why why why why.

Meanwhile, The Doctor is questioning The Mayor’s other assistant, Kabel, who drops some very important knowledge. “Your friend, acting like he was all scared of us, calling for a doctor.”  This immediately makes The Doctor question just exactly what’s going on here. He demands to know if Rigsy was calling for A doctor or THE Doctor. “You find yourself accused of murder on a strange alien street in the middle of London. Only they’ve taken your phone, so you beg the woman in charge to call me instead. She knew you and I were friends. So why’d she lie? Unless she had something to hide.” Oh, shit.

Long story short, the whole thing was never about Rigsy.  It was all about the Mayor getting the Doctor to come to the trap street.  They realize that the Janus isn’t dead but being held in a stasis pod (and her son is actually a daughter but I’ve rambled on enough already).  There is a keyhole that can free her from the pod and the only option available is for the Doctor to use his TARDIS key, which he does, despite Clara’s protestations.  “This girl needs her mother,” he says, shoving his key into the box.  If there’s one thing the Doctor has proven he will always be a sucker for, it’s family.  (He and Clara have that in common, being rootless themselves.)  The minute The Doctor unlocks the machine, a silver bracelet clamps on to his wrist and The Mayor grins triumphantly.  WHAT THE FUCK IS GOING ON HERE?

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“Sleep claims us in the end.” – Doctor Who Recap – Sleep No More

rasmussen doctor who

Doctor Who Series 9, Episode 9
“Sleep No More”
Posted by Sage

I’m sorry, Rasmussen, but no. “Sleep No More” won’t be added to my list of surefire Doctor Who conversion episodes. It’s not an episode to hook a pre-Whovian. It’s not even an episode in which a crazed fan like myself can find much to love. I embargoed my own opinion until after my second watch of the episode, and that viewing simply confirmed what I suspected on my first: “Sleep No More” is inelegant, toothless, and an irksome waste of our last weeks with the Doctor and Clara. It breaks my heart to feel this way about a Mark Gatiss episode when the man has given me so much. I’ll never forget “The Sign Of Three,” Mark. Not the meat dagger or the waltz lessons or the stag party. We’ll always have “clueing for looks,” you and me.

And I feel a little used, I gotta say. Because “Sleep No More” could have been great. Unfortunately, the plotting and pacing were such that I don’t feel that a traditional recap structure even makes sense. And regardless, that’s not the way that I can come at this one. Festivus is just around the corner anyway. Thus, an airing of the grievances is timely. So, I present to you, my four major complaints about “Sleep No More.” If you don’t have anything nice to say about subpar episodes of Doctor Who, come sit next to me.

1. Found Footage Can Suck A Dick

I really hate that I can see the origin of this idea in the way that it was shot. The gimmick of the episode being presented in all “found footage” was so obvious and transparent that I was immediately questioning where the rescue crew’s “helmet cam” feeds were really coming from. I’ve never seen a Paranormal Activity film, but I have seen other horror movies that tried to copycat and then twist the device. It’s happened so often in the last 10 or so years that any savvy viewer is bound to be looking for the twist: who’s filming, who’s watching, and why. There’s always an attempted rug-pull and it never has the desired impact. At least for me.

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I want to believe that Doctor Who has enough momentum in the tenth year of the reboot to ignore trendy techniques in the name of just telling the story. Especially one that’s so clearly on its last legs. Also, I’m not getting any younger and found footage makes me dizzy. I don’t want to suffer through my TV.

2. The Villain Was Weak Sauce

sand

We haven’t had the monster romp yet this season. (The Zygons so don’t count.) And the monster romp is a perfectly welcome departure from the mythological arc of any series of Doctor Who. I can get down with the silliest ones – never forget that I am and forever will be a “Love And Monsters” defender – but the “Sleep No More” story left much more sensible ideas on the table. As the Doctor and Clara wander a dead space station orbiting Neptune in Earth’s 38th century, they happen upon a rescue squad from a moon called Triton who are there to find out why the base went dark and what happened to the operational staff. The whole group end up being pursued by giant, dull-yellow dust monsters with gaping mouths, no visible eyes and a hunger for humans. Certainly, these creatures are responsible for the disappearance of the other crew. The audience makes the connection between the Sandmen and the experimental sleep pods on the base before even the Doctor does. The only thing I should know before the Doctor does is who or what has a crush on him. Also frustrating is that the purpose of the station itself was never adequately explained. I assume that the Morpheus pods were being “tested” there, since Rasmussen was dogged in his attempts to unleash the Morpheus signal on Triton. Of course, the reveal of his plans in the final act negates the only information we have been given. Why were there multiple Morpheus pods if the pods themselves were unnecessary? If Rasmussen only needed to blast the signal into universe to spread the seed, then why did he need the rescue crew to nap inside the machines? And when did they even do it? I’m getting ahead of myself and the plot holes are piling up like my laundry. BACK TO THE MONSTERS.

Sleep is my reason for being. Sleep, chunky peanut butter, and Harry Styles. I only leave my bed in the morning because I know it will feel like actual sweet heaven to return to it at night. I agree with the Doctor: “Sleep isn’t just a function. It’s blessed.”

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I never feel less human than when I’m running on inadequate sleep. Everything falls apart. My motor skills slow; my control over my emotions disappears completely. I eat poorly, and I can kiss any thoughts of productivity goodbye until after I put a dent in the debt. Sleep deprivation is linked to weight gain, depression, memory loss, and even some cancers. It played a role in the disaster at Three Mile Island, the Exxon Valdez spill, and countless other accidents. The danger is already there. It is built in to our bodies. Now, I liked the idea that even if the “chemical benefits” of sleep could be distilled and distributed (or “colonized,” as Chopra says) that the loss of the act of sleeping would still harm humanity. Let’s do that. Let’s talk about how maximizing productivity doesn’t make us gods. Let’s talk about how surgically removing the restorative process that keeps us alive would turn us into something different than what we are. (The Doctor: “A HYBR-” Me: “NO.”) So we’ve got this product (almost always a dirty word in Doctor Who) that strips humans of an under-appreciated but vital part of their design. Would it not follow then that the malevolent force to be reckoned with would build on the very real consequences of denying a body sleep? YOU KNOW IT WOULD. But instead: sleep gunk monsters.

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Sleep gunk is hella gross, okay. But it’s also so satisfying when you get to wipe away the build-up you get from a nice long weekend snooze – the kind where you don’t have set an alarm. Sleep gunk is evidence of a night well spent. Isn’t that a good thing? Not in this story. Any interesting points brought up by Chopra’s objections that could be neatly linked to a critique of 21st century industry and the lionization of workaholics are gone as soon as the Doctor identifies the organic matter than makes up the beasts. SLEEP GUNK MONSTERS. Could no one at the BBC put a stop to this?

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“Keep the secrets, keep the peace.” – Doctor Who Recap

Doctor Who Series 9, Episode 8
“The Zygon Inversion” 

Posted by Kim

All I have to say is thank GOD this episode was kinder to me than the last Peter Harness penned episode I had to recap was. Everyone pour one out for not having to talk about thinly veiled abortion metaphors!

There is a beauty and a frustration (from a recapping standpoint) in the way Series 9 is being presented as six two-parters. It allows the stories to BREATHE but at the same time it’s hard to judge one half without seeing how the story resolves itself. So when the “Zygon Invasion” left me a bit cold, I told myself we were not done with this story yet.  Everything hinged on the resolution.  And boy…what a resolution we got.  These two episodes are truly meant to flow into each other and “Invasion” will benefit from a Netflix binge right into “Inversion”.  I find “Invasion” to be a bit clunky, and I probably always will.  But everything about it was set up for the gloriousness of “Inversion”, so I can forgive its flaws for the most part.  I still don’t think it needed the whole UNIT soldier confronting his Zygon Mum business.  Not when we could have been spending time with Bonnie/Zygella.  ANYWAY.  Sage recapped “Invasion” beautifully, expressing all of her qualms with it.  Now I get to recap what will be one of THE defining episodes of Peter Capaldi’s tenure as The Doctor.  Let’s get to it, shall we?

“The Zygon Inversion” rewinds a little bit, as we flash to Clara’s consciousness waking up in her Zygon pod.  This whole opening reminded me very much of “Last Christmas” (remember how that episode is real?) with Clara in a familiar environment that juuuuuuuust this side of off kilter to where she knows it isn’t real (how creepy was that black toothpaste though?).  Unlike “Last Christmas”, Clara fights against this environment immediately.  She hears the Doctor on the phone with Bonnie, as their consciousness are tied.  She turns on the TV and is able to see from Bonnie’s vantage point (I LOVED that).  She sees Bonnie aiming her bazooka at The Doctor’s plane and she manages to make Bonnie move, causing the missile to swerve off course, missing The Doctor’s big plane.  Bonnie will not be deterred though.  Despite Clara’s efforts to control her body telepathically, Bonnie’s will is stronger. She gets off a second shot and this time, the missile hits the plane. Kaboom. So long, Doctor.  Bonnie walks off triumphantly, a smirk on her flawless red lips.  She’s running things now.

Being that this is Doctor Who though, The Doctor and Osgood escape thanks to the emergency parachutes (The Doctor’s being a Union Jack one because it’s camouflage in England).  They land on a beach (thankfully NOT the location used for Bad Wolf Bay because that would be too much for me) no worse for the wear, other than Osgood’s spectacles being snapped in two.  The Doctor hands her the sonic sunglasses (because they are prescription, natch) and warns her not to look at his browser history (because he was in the middle of a particularly smutty fan fiction? Head canon accepted).  Osgood comments that Sonic Sunglasses are “a bit pointless, like a visual hearing aid” because Steven Moffat KNEW that a faction of the fandom would hate the sonic specs and he can never pass up an opportunity to bite his thumb at fanboys.

 

 

Back to the matters at hand, Osgood ponders why Zygon!Clara hesitiated when it came to killing The Doctor.  If it were her, she would have killed the Doctor immediately, not even giving him the chance to speak (“Thanks.”).  But the Zygon hesitated.  Osgood ponders that since the Zygon had Clara’s memory print, she would know not to let the Doctor speak, that he gets all heroic and dangerously convincing when he speaks.  I would argue that Bonnie having Clara’s memory print is EXACTLY why she hesitated, even without us seeing Real!Clara trying to stop her. Why? BECAUSE THE DOCTOR IS THE LAST PERSON SHE WOULD EVER KILL.  We’ve been hit on the head with that concept over and over this series, so much that I am terrified that we’re going to be faced with it in the finale.  Why else would this be a recurring theme? Ugh. I hate everything.

In last week’s recap, Sage shared her annoyance that Osgood, an ordinary girl who was a stand-in for the fans, had been turned into one of Steven Moffat’s extraordinary mysteries.  I share this annoyance becauseit’s not about The Doctor meeting extraordinary people or people he needs to solve/debunk.  It’s about ordinary people finding the strength within themselves to rise to extraordinary circumstances and it’s been a concept Moffat has missed since he took over the series.  Anyway, extraordinary girl though she may be, the one thing that hasn’t changed about Osgood is her HEART and her capacity to empathize.  “You’ve gone quiet because I’ve mentioned Clara,” she says.  “You think she might be dead.”  Osgood KNOWS what it’s like to lose half of herself, having lost her “sister” (I keep wanting to say “seestra” but wrong show!).  She knows that The Doctor sees Clara as an extension of himself, that she’s as essential to him as his limbs are, as the very air that he breathes.  “Are you okay?” she asks and I HURT because she’s so concerned about his emotional well-being.  “I’m still in the hope phase,” The Doctor replies. “How’s that going?” “Hell. Please talk about something else.” This is your obligatory reminder that THIS Doctor is going to be devastated at the loss of his companion and won’t be someone who takes a new one easily.  Sure, he often asks people like Osgood to come along with him but that’s BECAUSE he still has Clara.  Without her, I’m afraid he’s going to be way less willing to open up his hearts again.  I’d like to freeze time please and thank you.

In her Dream State, Clara analyzes the footage of the plane explosion.  Her little smirk when she sees the parachutes gives me LIFE.  She takes advantage of her connection with Bonnie to make her text The Doctor without her counterpart even realizing it.  The Doctor’s phone goes off and when he SEES that he has an incoming message from Clara, he passes the phone off to Osgood because he CANNOT BEAR that this is probably Bonnie taunting him.  BABY.  Osgood reads the message, which says “I’m awake.” The Doctor initially brushes this off as Bonnie rubbing her victory in his face, but Osgood takes it at face value.  “Never really met Clara,” she says. “Pretty strong, yeah?” “She was amazing.” NOPE.  I can’t take The Doctor without hope.  “No. Not was. IS,” Osgood urges.  She deduces that Clara is fighting back in her pod.  “She’s trying to take control, piece by piece.”  Bless her.  “How’s that hope phase now?” “Worse than ever.”

Meanwhile, Bonnie continues going about her evil plan.  She forces a human Zygon to reveal his true self against his will. Between Sleepy Hollow and this episode, it was a banner week for DISGUSTING make-up because that transition is horrifying. “I’m going to set you free,” Bonnie smirks, but what she’s really doing is trying to strike fear in humanity because she KNOWS that the first human instinct is to fight back against something or someone who is foreign and they don’t understand. So we’re still sticking to that slightly heavy-handed metaphor then. Good to know. She makes her way to the UNIT headquarters to retrieve the Osgood box.  She passes by a mirror, where she sees real Clara for the briefest of moments.  At Headquarters, she doesn’t find the box but a laptop.  She queues up a video where the Osgoods reveal that they lied about the location of the box because really…would they be so obvious.  They urge the viewer to stop looking.  “There’s a reason it’s called the Osgood Box. Haven’t you guessed?”  Bonnie throws a temper tantrum and destroys the laptop, which is my exact instinct whenever I am met with the spinning beach ball of doom.

Doctor John Disco, clinging to the glimmer of hope, facetimes Bonnie.  He tries to get a handle on her plan (“You don’t invade planets without having a plan. That’s why they’re called planets, to remind you to plan it.” BLESS HIS DAD HUMOR.) even though she claims she doesn’t have one.  He also calls her Zygella, which marks the second time this series he calls a villain by their actual name instead of the name they chose for themselves.  I find that SO interesting because of this moment from “Day of the Doctor”…

CLARA: Look at you. The three of you. The warrior, the hero, and you.
DOCTOR: And what am I?
CLARA: Have you really forgotten?
DOCTOR: Yes. Maybe, yes.
CLARA: We’ve got enough warriors. Any old idiot can be a hero.
DOCTOR: Then what do I do?
CLARA: What you’ve always done. Be a doctor. You told me the name you chose was a promise.

The Doctor knows more than anyone that we are defined by the choices we make as opposed to the circumstances we are given. So why did he refuse to call Ashildr “Me”? Why does he call Bonnie Zygella?  At first I was going to say he does this because he wants them to remember who they are but that goes against the whole philosophy of CHOICE.  And if there is one thing the Doctor believes in, it’s the power of choice. So I don’t have an answer to this.  I just think it’s interesting and something to ponder.

Using her connection to Bonnie, Clara manages to WINK at The Doctor to signal to him that he can’t give up hope on her and he realizes that she can communicate with him nonverbally.  He gets Clara to confirm where she is and then takes the chance to warn Clara not to let Bonnie into her memories.  It is a very intentional move, one that he points out to Osgood when she calls him out on that.  “The mind of Clara Oswald…she’ll never find her way out,” he says with a dazzling grin.  Can we discuss how much The Doctor loves Clara’s MIND? This is too much for me to deal with.

 

 

Bonnie does exactly what The Doctor intended her to do: she immediately goes to Clara’s pod and demands an audience with her counterpart.  Thus, Jenna Coleman gets her chance to do her best Tatiana Maslany and act opposite herself.  I love how Jenna Coleman differentiated between the two, making Bonnie’s voice clipped and her posture severe as if Bonnie can’t quite figure out how to really BE Clara.  At first, Clara is emboldened by the Doctor’s orders that she can’t let Bonnie in.  She’s cocky and self-assured and full-on Doctor!Clara as she taunts Bonnie that this connection between them works two ways.  It’s very reminiscent of “Deep Breath” where she tells Half-Face man to go ahead and kill her.  She’s not afraid of calling Bonnie’s bluff because that’s exactly what it is.  She knows she has something Bonnie needs and as long as she does, she is safe.  Also, she would rather die than betray the Doctor, so there’s that.  What Clara doesn’t count on is that, despite being a brilliant liar, her heart is linked with Bonnie’s.  “The one thing we can never do is lie to each other.” Clara visibly deflates, all her bravado gone. Now there is only fear. Clara tries to give roundabout answers to all of the questions, but that’s the problem with playing “Truth or Consequences” with yourself…Bonnie knows exactly what is going on and Clara is forced to tell the truth.  The Osgood box is in the Black Archive, and the Osgoods, The Doctor, and Clara are the only ones with access to it.  All Bonnie needs to do is just show up because the door is keyed to each of their body prints.  “You can’t give me access because I have access already.”  Clara warns Bonnie that this is a war she can’t win.  What’s worse is that Bonnie knows that she doesn’t have the right to speak for all of Zygonkind…but she’s so laser focused in regards to her own desires that she doesn’t care.  She’s appointed herself to decide what’s right for the rest of her people, damn the consequences, damn what they all claim to want.  She knows better.  “It’s time we stopped giving them a choice.”  Sounds like how political leaders decide whether or not they want to go to war, doesn’t it? (YA BURNT.) Clara warns Bonnie that when she finds the Osgood Box, she will want to speak to her again. “Why is it called an Osgood Box?”  I don’t know, show, but clearly you’re trying to tell us something.

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“It’s not paranoia if it’s real.” – Doctor Who Recap

kill the traitors

Doctor Who Series 9, Episode 7
“The Zygon Invasion”

Posted by Sage

Okay, Doctor Who. Quit mucking about.

I was promised Clara Oswald, full-tilt TARDIS-crazy, taking in all of time and space with the Doctor. There are precious few episodes left before Jenna Coleman’s departure (not-so-friendly reminder that we actually don’t know when that will be), and she’s sending Twelve’s calls straight to her voicemail? I understand that it might not always be practical for the Doctor and Clara to fight the monsters together, but I actually groaned when he instructed his companion to stay and defend her country while he jetted off to the alien-controlled village in Turmezistan in “The Zygon Invasion.” I’m a Doctor Who fan, so I’m a pro at ignoring plot holes. But no one has bothered to explain to me why Clara is maintaining her life on Earth when all the pre-season press previewed exactly the opposite. Worse still, the Clara we spend most of “The Zygon Invasion” with wasn’t actually Clara at all but Bonnie, the high command of the rebellious Zygon splinter group. HEAVY SIGH. At least she’s hot.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Osgood is alive. Kind of.

my sister

The episode opened with a flashback to the 50th anniversary special, and Ten and Eleven joining sass-forces to persuade human-Kate and Zygon-Kate into establishing a peace treaty between their species. “The key to perfect negotiation?” Eleven asks. “Not knowing what side you’re on,” Ten answers. Boys, just taking a minute to let you know: I love the new guy, but I still miss you all the time. xoxo, Sage.

Anyhoo, the crux of the peace treaty is secrecy. 20 million Zygons are distributed around the world, with the promise that they’ll stay under cover in their human form. Operation Double is on a need-to-know basis, even within UNIT. And our Osgood is the embodiment of the spirit of the treaty. The Master destroyed Osgood in the Series 9 finale because she was jealous that the Doctor admired her. Her “return” proves Osgood to be even more brave than we or the Doctor imagined. She volunteered to share a “live-link” with her Zygon double, and the result was an entirely symbiotic relationship that left the surviving Osgood “mad with grief” after her “sister’s” death.

As pleased as I am to have Osgood back on screen and sharing the President Of The World’s personal plane, I feel cheated by the circumstances. Osgood became a fan favorite after her very first scene in the 50th, because she was – and Moffat claims is still – a stand-in for the audience. The UNIT scientist was an out-and-proud Doctor fangirl, who charmed the man himself with her brilliance and courage. She always asked the right questions, never hesitated to put herself in danger if it could serve the greater good, and confidently donned the Doctor’s favorite accessories in his presence. Bow ties are cool, and there was no shame in Osgood’s game. Now, she’s another victim of Moffat’s “extraordinary woman” habit, as if we ever needed her to be more than just a really smart, cool human who the Doctor could count on.

The Osgoods explain the treaty in a video that they recorded in case of an emergency, whether that’s one of their deaths or what they call “the nightmare scenario” – the end of the human/Zygon ceasefire. They have a large cube on the table between them that they call “The Osgood Box.” The Doctor left it with them after hands were shaken on the agreement. What’s in it is still up for debate, but it’s powerful enough that the rebels want it bad. Bonnie has possession of The Osgood Box at the end of this episode. We can rule out it containing a weapon (at least in the traditional sense) because the Doctor doesn’t just hand over WMDs to people who already have too much firepower for his liking. In fact, he’s more likely to confiscate those WMDs like the neighbor whose yard became a graveyard of your old frisbees and softballs. (“I keep it now!”)

dna dna 2
There’s an outside chance that the box could contain Z67; if it came down to choosing, the Doctor would always pick humans over Zygons. (He’s snogged more humans, anyway.) But that’s counter to his pacifist agenda, and besides, what would the Zygons do with a weapon that only kills their own? High command has already achieved dominance over the less radical factions. The Zygon-v-Zygon battle is over. It’s the Zygon-v-human war that’s about to begin.

I used the word “species” above, but I’m sure you noticed that the Osgoods use a different qualifier to describe Zygons and people. “Every race,” they say, is capable of the best and the worst. Because this is a Peter Harness episode; and if “Kill The Moon” taught us anything, it’s that you should be wearing a hard hat to guard against clunky symbolism. “Their shape-changing abilities should not be considered a weapon,” they continue, which basically means, don’t be afraid of people who are different than you. In the words of Cher’s debate teacher Mr. Hall, “Tolerance is always a good lesson, even when it comes out of nowhere.” But the racial undertones of “The Zygon Invasion” quickly take a confusing turn when the conflict escalates. If this story is about the dangers and the injustice of forced assimilation, then who’s in the wrong? Was the Doctor wrong for encouraging the humans and Zygons to choose peace over conflict? Are the rebel Zygons wrong to want to “live as ourselves”? Not every Doctor Who story draws a clear line between good and evil, but let’s face it: the rebel Zygons are seen manipulating human fears with no remorse and zapping quite a lot of people dead. I don’t know why a writer would want to force a metaphor so zealously that simply can’t be resolved in a way that isn’t problematic. Ugh, my head hurts. Can I talk about the planets now?

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Living Osgood interrupts the Doctor’s “Amazing Grace” guitar solo (Let Me Live, Peter Capaldi, Part 3/?) to alert him to the Zygon crisis. And because Clara won’t answer her damn mobile (EVER SINCE I LEFT THE CITY YOU), Doctor Disco is left alone to address the UNIT-recognized Zygon High Command. Under the treaty, they’re two primary school girls named Jemima and Claudette; the Doctor doesn’t need to see their true shape to know it. (“It’s a splendid way to conceal your blobbiness. But let’s not pretend: you two are very blobby.”) The girls reject the Doctor’s offer of help for dealing with the rogue Zygons, claiming that their race are part of their own jurisdiction. And look: the racial parallel gets weird and uncomfortable again, because these two are eventually destroyed by their own, and, in this case, should have allowed an outside entity who doesn’t share their experience to police them. *headdesk*

jemma

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