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In which she shreds the latest Doctor Who episode (Bells of St John)
New Zealand zebra, NZ
zeborahnz
Obvious spoilers are obvious

Melodramatic opening is melodramatic, derivative of a bunch of Moffat's previous stories (most obviously "Don't blink" and "Who turned out the lights?") and not at all creepy.

Opening credits are... new, again? Maybe not, I never bothered rewatching the last episode.

At this point I was already so bored I turned to Twitter.

In the next scene we're apparently meant to be surprised that a mysterious hermit 'monk' (like the last half-dozen mysterious strangers in town) turns out to be the Doctor. Apparently he's decided that the best way to track down Clara Oswald is — rather than looking her up in a gigantic database somewhere, or even travelling around at random hoping to stumble across her — to sit in a hole in the thirteenth century staring at a portrait of her he painted.

I nearly go back to Twitter but now we get a scene with Clara herself. She's now a nanny in modern-day times (one of her charges is reading a book by Amelia Williams. It takes me half a minute to realise it's a reference to Amy Pond because the writers decided, after seasons pointing out that Rory would totally take her name, that actually no, now she's going to take his) and she's trying to get someone on the phone...

...Which turns out to be the TARDIS phone (whose door of course mentions St John Ambulance). This is a mildly clever explanation for the episode's title except it's never touched on again so I'm not sure what the point is. The Doctor acts like no-one's ever called him on this phone before. Turns out Clara wants tech support to get onto the internet; a "woman in the shop" gave her this number saying it was a helpline. (I like to think it was Sally Sparrow.) The Doctor does the obvious techline troubleshooting because she knows nothing about computers.

(There's a high-larious interlude of the monks asking "Is it evil spirits?" and then crossing themselves when the Doctor says it's a woman. Because women are just like evil spirits, hahahaha oh misogyny you're not even original.)

The Doctor realises who he's talking to when she murmurs the thing she tells him whenever she dies as a mnemonic for the wifi password the family she's working for set up. So... even her catchphrase isn't really hers?

She accidentally attracts the attention of the horror of the week.

The Doctor turns up on her doorstep. Instead of explaining, he keeps banging on the door (which she has sensibly shut in his face) telling her he needs to explain. Seriously, Doctor, explain first; ask to come inside second. If you're less shouty and shovey, women will probably be less instantaneously scared of you.

The Doctor belatedly changes out of his monk's costume into a new suit, complete with bow tie. Now, I've always been in the "Bow ties are cool" camp, but there comes a time when every woman's loyalties reach breaking point, and that time for me is when I discover that the Doctor has made a little shrine of a box for his bow tie. Bow ties are now officially no longer cool.

(I think around here I returned to Twitter for another pick-me-up.)

Clara gets uploaded by the horror of the week. The Doctor bursts in, downloads her again, and carries her up to her bed to recuperate. While she's sleeping it off he puts water, flowers and jammy dodgers next to her bed, which is nice. Then he snoops around her bedroom, opens her journal, and licks a maple leaf from it, which promptly displaces Nicholas Cage perving on the showering woman in City of Angels for Most Unintentionally Creepy Moment In the History of Video Entertainment.

(Later I had an argument on Twitter about this with someone who thinks this behaviour is okay because a) the Doctor's obsessed with her, b) he's a Time Lord/alien, and c) it's only scifi. I used a word that I mostly otherwise reserve for 7.0 magnitude earthquakes, and then I blocked him. If anyone wants to continue the argument, I've got my Baninator right here.)

The Doctor then sets up camp outside her house to guard her, which I guess provides him a remnant of redemption? (The being outside part, I mean.) Then because Stephen Moffat is writing the episode, she spunkily insists on coming out to pseudo-flirt with him and he is awkward about her pseudo-advances. He deduces that while uploaded she learned a bunch about computers because before she couldn't operate one and now she's parroting the same kind of joke about Twitter made by technophobes the world over.

(Incidentally, in this version of herself she looks a lot like an older version of the girl who was stored in the Library. This ups my mental tally of Moffat's creepiness quotient to unprecedented levels.)

The horror of the week chooses this moment to attack. The Doctor yanks Clara into the TARDIS (it's bigger on the inside, yadda yadda), saves the day, jumps to breakfast-time in an unprecedent feat of temporal accuracy, and after an interlude involving a fez and a motorcycle, sets up at a cafe and attempts to track down the horror of the week. Clara tells him to hand her the laptop and get some coffee, she can do it. The Doctor's forgotten that she just learned a bunch about computers while uploaded and mansplains that no, she can't.

Eventually she prevails. While he's getting coffee and stealing food with impunity, the horror of the week (having used the ubiquity of wifi-connected cameras to track him down) controls the people around to gloat at him.

In a really clever bit of social hacking, Clara has tracked down the physical location of the horror of the week by a) getting its employees' photos from their webcams; b) doing facial recognition searches to find their social network accounts; and c) reading their profiles/status updates for their work address.

(Of course there's no conceivable way the plot could have worked if this had been her own talent rather than a skill accidentally technomagically gifted to her by the horror of the week because women don't have talents of their own, especially not involving technology, sheesh, don't be silly!)

She tells the Doctor that she knows the location, except it's actually a robot thing which uploads her. Her face remains when the real Doctor returns to tell him "I don't know where I am" even though three seconds ago she knew exactly what the location was.

Jump cut to the Doctor knowing exactly what the location is even though three minutes ago he didn't have a clue. (I like to think he read it off the screen of her open laptop, but the show doesn't take even a second to admit that he didn't work it out for himself.) He confronts the puppet queen of the horror of the week and when she doesn't back down he reveals that he's actually still at the cafe and she's talking to the robot thing, which uploads her.

Her only way to escape is to order her employees to download everyone, including Clara. While UNIT storms the offices, the puppet queen reports her failure to the season's Big Bad the "Great Intelligence" and on his instructions does a "factory reset" of all the employees, including herself. Thus (as all powerful women must) she gets her comeuppance by being found huddled on the floor asking in a silly little girl voice and even clunkier dialogue where her mummy and daddy are. (The male employees only lose a few mental years and are merely bewildered, which apologists will say is because she was under the GI's influence for longer, but this isn't an excuse. Children can have dignity too, and for her to end as she did is either a) lazy writing or b) misogyny or my personal favourite c) both.)

Meanwhile the Doctor tries to convince Clara to go with him on the grounds that he can return her with precision to this exact time to pick up her responsibilities. Maybe River fixed some TARDIS circuits so that nowadays he can pick a time and place and actually end up there? Clara plays hard to get with an "Ask me tomorrow" and the Doctor is all happily intrigued.




Summary:

The Doctor, having steadily got creepier and creepier over the last year and a half in particular, is now actually creepier than the horror of the week.

Clara Oswald is steadily getting less and less interesting. When we first saw her she was a technowhizz. The next time she was maintaining jobs both as barmaid and as governess. Now she accidentally became a nanny to repay a favour, can't even log onto a wifi network without assistance, and her flirtiness and wanderlust are exactly the same flirtiness and wanderlust as all Moffatt's other female characters. She doesn't even seem to bake souffles anymore.

The horror of the week and large chunks of the plot (not to mention the extra-plot trimmings like the monk gambit and the wardrobe fishing) could have been generated by Mad Libs. It was all so utterly predictable that I stopped watching several times to chat on Twitter and once to watch the last third of an Attenborough documentary about baboons. Baboons are fascinating, but even so when a documentary about baboons is more compelling than a brand new Doctor Who episode, something somewhere has gone terribly terribly wrong.

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I'm afraid I lost interest in Doctor Who a few series back. It sounds like I haven't been missing anything.

I feel season 5 (the first season with Amy and Rory) held together pretty well. In retrospect it contained the seeds of the downward slide (to mix metaphors) that really began in season 6, but standing alone there was more awesome than wince. In season 6, the two were sadly comingled. In season 7 I'm struggling to find much to enjoy at all and mostly watching from habit. Really looking forward to Moffat handing the reins on to someone else.

(Screened comment)
[Responding to comment which I'm about to Baninate.]
I was actually debating about whether or not to bring the Baninator into play because OMG, no, taking the opportunity of someone's unconsciousness to snoop through their private belongings, whether or not you lick them, is not just misunderstanding a "finer point of social interaction". It's a fundamental intrusion of the privacy and boundaries which all species have a right to — and which the Doctor expects for himself.

But on the other hand we know each other pretty well so I thought I'd try just explaining again the obvious fact that when a woman (or man, but people forget more often when it's a woman) is unconscious this doesn't give you the right to violate her or her personal space (which can reasonably include at least the area she was locking you out of before she lost consciousness) except as strictly necessary to save her from aliens (so bursting in to download her back into her body is fine; making her comfortable afterwards is fine; past that you leave her a note and hoof it back out the door).

But then I reached It sounds as though you were pretty determined not to like this episode from the start and <foam, froth, rage>

a) Actually I would desperately love to be able to enjoy Doctor Who again, and in fact I was watching the episode searching for something to enjoy. Alas, I just couldn't find it, and in the meantime the misogyny and clichés kept assaulting me in much the same way as sexual harassment when I'm walking home from the bus-stop. I'm determined to walk there, sure, but I wouldn't mind being able to pretend occasionally that I'm respected as a human being while doing so.

b) Seriously, that's a really cheap rhetorical tactic. I can just as easily say "It sounds as though you were pretty determined not to like my review from the start," and with way more justification: my subject line gave you all possible warning what you were about to read, whereas the DW episode title refers only to the teaser's recycled gag.

(Yes, of course I remember the phone ringing in The Empty Child. That's exactly why it's so stupid that Moffat and the Doctor don't.)

(Screened comment)
[One-sided or not I see no reason not to leave my own comments up.]

Real life *is* the stories we tell about ourselves. It's the major way we continue throughout our lives to learn what society expects of us. We see our heroes (fictional and otherwise) behaving in a certain way, we see the author and the rest of society praising them for it, and we think (consciously or not) "Ah! Everyone thinks the Doctor behaved appropriately, therefore this is an appropriate way for me to behave."

This is not only logical and intuitive but has been proven in study after study to be true: the jokes and stories we tell and hear affect the ways we think and behave. When people in a group laugh at a racist joke, the group tends to become more racist.

I'm not "taking offense" when I watch a hero modelling behaviour that's in many ways just a very PG-rated version of what happened in Steubenville - those perpetrators and that judge and the media and countless others (if you read nothing else I ever link to, read this) who all think and speak and act as if the thing they did wrong, the thing that ruined their "promising" futures, was not that they raped a drunk girl but rather that they let the video get loose on the internet. And this happens all the time. The only unusual thing about Steubenville is that the two boys actually got convicted.

I'm not taking offense at fiction. I'm trying to do something about reality. Because we desperately, desperately need to tell stories that make people realise that doing these things? It's not heroic. It's not wacky funtimes. It's not entertaining. And it's not, ever, for anyone, okay.

[ETA: Now, as was actually pretty clear in my original post, I really don't want to have this conversation. So this time please respect my wishes and don't reply on this topic.]

Edited at 2013-04-04 06:52 am (UTC)

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