Doctor: 'Right then. This isn't going to be big on dignity.'
Aaron Asadi, writing for SciFiNow, made an interesting comment earlier in the week. He stopped short of saying that Doctor Who
had become Americanised, but did proffer the opinion that Russell T. Davies always
wrote with one eye firmly on the USA. According to Asadi, this
manifested itself in 'a tendency to map Who’s journey about classic
American TV tropes: will-they-won’t-they romance; high-octane action;
handsome heroes' and 'humourless sacrifice'. Now, whether you agree with
him or not (and I sympathise to some degree),
since its resurrection, Doctor Who has been a different show. A better show, some would argue—having a broader appeal, almost certainly—but at what cost? Has Doctor Who lost some of its Britishness?
it has, then Steven Moffat went out of his way tonight to remedy that
situation. There was the aptly named Liz 10 (the ass-kicking monarch of
Britain), the UK cruising through space on the back of a giant star
whale (its sectors and blocks named after British counties), and they
even gifted us a couple of well aimed digs at the Scots. In
fact, both of this season's episodes have had that distinctive Classic Who
feel. They've felt smaller, familiar, more intimate, and most importantly, it somehow
feels like the same show I used to watch as a kid. I'm not sure what's
been missing—but it's definitely back!
Tonight's episode was Amy's chance to impress, and
she did so in cracking style by saving everyone with her quick
thinking and instinctive reactions. In the Doctor's case, it wasn't actual
death she saved him from, but it was a death of sorts. He almost
crossed a line. For all his superior alien intellect, he almost ended up
killing a star whale. True, it was the lesser of two evils, but in the
end it was Amy's intuition, and her greater understanding of the Doctor,
which saved the day. She was able to guess the whale's past intentions
by (a) observing how it reacted to the children, and (b) recognising
that its circumstances almost exactly mirrored the Doctor's. Both were
alone in the world, both were the last of their kind, and both had been
spurred on to do great things, despite terrible adversity and personal
loss. Amy knew how the whale would act because she knew how the Doctor
Liz 10—the trashy, gun toting, cape wearing, cockney Queen of
Britain—showed considerably less insight. The poor star whale never
stood a chance—it was captured and subdued before being able to make
its intentions known. Terrified for her people, Liz 10 saw the star
whale as their only hope—a miracle—and grabbed it with both
hands. To be fair, imprisoning the whale was a measure born of
desperation, but to her credit, she did include a method of setting it
free. Unfortunately, the cost of pressing
the 'protest' button was simply too great—so understandably, hardly
anyone ever did.
Liz 10 felt like a pleasing mix of
Little Red Riding Hood, Lara Croft and a 19th century Highwayman (or
woman), but it was hard to sympathize with some of her decisions—particularly her agreeing to feed the 'beast' protesters and people of
limited value. The idea of the populace being able to free the whale did
(as the Doctor suggested) give the impression of democracy in action, but only if the number of protesters topped one percent—otherwise, they
were presumably fed to the beast. Which, suddenly, didn't feel quite
so democratic. And surely poor Timmy didn't deserve to die? Just for
being academically below par? Thankfully, the whale showed more
compassion than the Queen—though not quite enough to stop it scoffing
down the adults. I guess a whale's gotta eat.
I'll be honest, I wasn't expecting the emotional punch at the end. I'll
be the first to admit, Amy's explanation that the whale couldn't bear to
see children cry was a touch on the cheesy side, but it was a sound
piece of reasoning (if a tad simplistic). And when she
hugged the Doctor, and said 'Gotcha' I found myself falling in love with
them all over again. I don't know what it is about this pair, but I adore them. Seriously, I had a tear in my eye at the end of
this episode. That's pretty impressive for two characters I only met
eight days ago.
And at least Amy's earned herself a
last minute reprieve. The Doctor, angry at her for pressing the 'forget' button (despite her doing so to save him from an impossible decision),
was ready to take her home, but by the end of the episode was instead forced
to contemplate his own near blunder, and Amy's part in
preventing it. I though Matt was perfect in those scenes. His initial
reaction was pensive and subdued, then came the gratitude, as he buried
his face into her shoulder and the two of them hugged—disaster firmly
averted. There were some tender moments, too, towards
the end—further evidence (if any were needed), that Smith and Gillan
have a superb on-screen chemistry. And Smith's angry outburst was proof
positive that he's more than capable of handling the angrier, more
ruthless side of the Doctor's occasionally dark personality. He plays
this role with such ease. Nothing about it seems forced, nothing feels
contrived. I love him more with each passing episode.
—The shop behind the tent was called Magpie Electricals—a reference to the TV shop from 'The Idiot's Lantern'.
—How did Liz turn into such a geezerette? She started out so refined, then two hundred and sixty years later, she's all 'I'm the bloody
—I enjoyed the Smilers/Winders more
than the Atraxi/Prisoner Zero. Even their non-demonic faces looked
hideous. And the Smilers were what? Robots?
—The crack in the side of the ship was no doubt there to remind us that there's still a fissure in the skin of the universe.
—Amy still wearing her nightie reminded me of Arthur Dent (of HHGTTG fame), who spent much of his time kitted out in a dressing gown.
—Amy still hasn't told the Doctor she's getting married. Neither has the Doctor answered her parenthood question.
—A couple of Star Wars
franchise homages tonight. Firstly, there was the 'Help us Doctor,
you're our only hope' dialogue. Secondly, the interior of the beast's
mouth looked a little like the Star Wars
trash compactor. And I'll try for a tentative third.... them being
inside the whale's mouth was reminiscent of the Millennium Falcon flying
inside the space slugs mouth in The Empire Strikes Back.
—I wonder why Amy's marital status came up as 'unknown'?
Amy: 'I've been dead for centuries!'
Doctor: 'Oh lovely! You're a cheery one.'
Doctor: 'Oh, this fell out of her pocket when I accidentally bumped into her. It took me four gos.'
Amy: 'What are you gonna do?'
Doctor: 'What I always do. Stay out of trouble. Badly.'
Mandy: 'How do you not know about this? Are you Scottish too?'
Doctor: 'Oh, I'm way worse than Scottish. I can't even see the movie. It won't play for me.'
Amy: 'You look human.'
Doctor: 'No, you look Time Lord. We came first.'
Dcotor: 'Say wheeeee!'
Amy: 'It's a rubbish dump and it's minging!'
Doctor: 'There's nothing broken, there's no sign of concussion, and yes... you are covered in sick.'
Liz 10: 'Lovely hair, Amy. Shame about the sick.'
Liz 10: 'I'm the bloody Queen, mate. Basically – I rule.'
Doctor: 'Nobody talk to me. Nobody human has anything to say to me today!'
Amy: 'If you were really old, and that kind, and the very last of your kind,
you couldn't just stand there and watch children cry.'