Steven Moffat loves childhood fears. He’s mined them for some of nuWho’s most effective villains: Something lurking in the dark (the Vashta Nerada), a threat waiting to pounce the moment you look away (the Weeping Angels), and now, the monster under your bed. These creatures tap into the intense, pervasive fears so many experience as children and like its predecessors, “Listen” is hugely successful drawing from this well. It also takes a common and, when explored, curious habit and exploits it for significant dramatic potential: why do people talk to themselves when no one’s around? Both ideas have been explored by Moffat to some extent already (“The Girl in the Fireplace”, the Silence), and so here he puts them together, hoping that between the two, there’s enough new material to make the story work.
Due to Labor Day weekend, a number of series took the week off, giving us a lighter show list for once. First we kick things off with a little reality talk (SYTYCD’s Performance Finale) and the comedies, including a preview ofThe League’s new premiere. Then we look at some genre and drama, including Doctor Who and another strong episode of Masters of Sex. Afterward, we break down the upcoming slate of new fall series and make our picks for what we’re planning to watch each day.
Our Week in Reality and Comedy (6:25-16:43): SYTYCD Performance Finale, Preview The League premiere,Garfunkel and Oates, Married, You’re the Worst
Our Week in Genre and Drama (17:39-36:28): The Strain, Intruders, Doctor Who, Outlander, The Honourable Woman, Masters of Sex
2014 Fall TV Preview (37:10-end)
Dalek stories are tricky. As monsters, they’re one trick ponies, but they’re also iconic and massively popular, so they’re trotted out every season or so for the Doctor to face*. They’re the Doctor’s oldest enemy (the First Doctorfaced off with them in his second story), and frankly, the series ran out of new ways to use them a very long time ago. In season one of NuWho, Robert Shearman revitalized the creatures with his fantastic script for “Dalek”, but since season two, their appearances have mostly been a series of diminishing returns, with the creative and visually interesting “Asylum of the Daleks” a welcome exception. “Into the Dalek” on the whole succeeds and is certainly the best Dalek story in quite a while, topping “Asylum” thanks to that episode’s dreadful and contrived (though well-acted) Amy/Rory conflict, but in the end it falls prey to the same struggle that has plagued Dalek stories for years: Doctor Who is unwilling to change the Daleks, and so has nothing new to say about them or the Doctor’s relationship with them.
Doctor Who, Ep. 8.01, “Deep Breath”: Two steps forward, one step This week, on Doctor Who: The Doctor’s Scottish? Also, a dinosaur spontaneously combusts, and Clara has a Marcus Aurelius pinup
With each regeneration comes a new Doctor Who, a new opportunity for the series to start fresh and reexamine its priorities. Post-regeneration stories are somewhat of a mixed bag, with the Second and Eleventh Doctors’ debuts among their best ever episodes and the Six and Seventh’s among their worst. The casting of noted ClassicWho fan Peter Capaldi as the Doctor, bucking NuWho’s trend of casting younger and younger with each regeneration, offers showrunner Steven Moffat and co. the chance to take a hard left and redefine the character and series in a significant way, but unfortunately, rather than showing viewers who this new Doctor is, “Deep Breath” spends most of its time telling them who he isn’t.
One of television’s most disappointingly resilient punchlines is the post-assault feminine slap. You’ve seen it before. A man, worked up into a lather for some reason or another, makes advances on a woman, pulling her into a kiss. If it’s requited, congratulations: It’s time for a new chapter in the show’s will-they-won’t-they drama. If it’s not, often you can count on two things happening. The woman, once out of the passionate embrace, will pull back her hand, slap the man, perhaps make some kind of a harrumphing noise, turn on her heels, and stalk off, her body language screaming, “The impudence!”. The man will put his hand up to his face where he’s been slapped, massage the area, and respond with either confusion or some combination of, “I guess I deserved that” and “Worth it!”. This is supposed to be funny. And maybe it was, back in the ‘70s, when such moments were common on shows likeM*A*S*H (Did a doctor leave the 4077th without some form of sexual advance towards Hot Lips?). But at this point, any comedic power this ploy ever had has long since vanished.
Technically speaking, “pilot” was not a term used in British television at the time Doctor Who was commissioned and the version of “An Unearthly Child” that aired was not the first one shot. There were adjustments to the characters, especially the Doctor, who was made to be less cruel (at one point he called Susan a “stupid child”), as well as the technical side of the production. The episode benefited from this tinkering, however, and Doctor Who was born.
Doctor Who is a fascinating series that embraces change and creativity like no other. Each era of the show, be it defined by its Doctor or producer, has its own identity, point of view, and particular strengths and weaknesses. Unlike the fantastic 50th Anniversary special, which was far more concerned with the entire modern series, “The Time of the Doctor” crystallizes the recent Matt Smith/Steven Moffat era and highlights its characteristics incredibly well. Fans of the recent seasons will undoubtedly love “The Time of the Doctor”. Those of us less enthused with them are far more likely to be left cold.
There are many things to like about this Christmas special. Matt Smith and Jenna Coleman are once again on top form, doing their best with the material given them. Orla Brady, so memorable to fans of Fringe as Elizabeth Bishop, is a welcome addition to the mix and there are enough Christmassy touches to thematically tie “The Time of the Doctor” to its airdate without it becoming bogged down, as has been a problem in the past. There are a couple particularly nice moments between the Doctor and Clara on the TARDIS, Peter Capaldi looks like he’ll be fun, and the Eleventh Doctor’s final speech speaks well to the long history of the series and of the character himself.
We’re still celebrating the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who here on Sound on Sight with part two of our very own MMORPG, (that’s a Massive & Magnificent Online Remarkable Podcast Gathering) a series of podcasts with ten of our favourite Whovians. Our companions for today as we continue our Ultimate and Definitive Companion Countdown are The Examiner’s resident Whovian, Heather Maloney and author Neil Perryman.
Regular followers are probably aware that we here are at Sound on Sight are more than a little fond of an obscureBritish science fiction program that celebrated an anniversary of some kind last weekend. Anniversaries are always an excellent time to reflect upon and celebrate a show’s history and the lead up to last Saturday’s “The Day of the Doctor” saw the entire Whoniverse coming together to share their thoughts on everything from their favourite episodes, most beloved eras, and of course, “their” Doctor. I just love that a top ten list can be the beginning of a good conversation or a great fight, and I find that the most heat, and some of the best light, is generated when Whovians start talking about their favourite Companions. A Companion is more than just our surrogate, they’re a gateway and guide to the series who helps us find our own way through the barking mad universe that is Doctor Who. It’s no wonder then that our attachments to them are passionate, personal, and gloriously partisan, especially when we try to educate normally well-informed Whovians who disagree with us on just how wrong they are.
Profile of Doctor Who allies the Jones family- Francine, Clive, and Tish
Profile of Doctor Who ally Kate Stewart
Profile of Doctor Who Companion Clara Oswald