Author Archives: David McDonald

Galactic Chat – Kaaron Warren

In my latest interview for Galactic Chat, I interview one of Australia’s finest writers – Kaaron Warren. We talk about everything from ghost hunting to baby teeth, and you will get to hear me rendered speechless, a very rare thing indeed!

You can listen to the interview here. For more information about Kaaron’s work her blog can be found here, and you can read a free online story here.

Karron Warren

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‘Tis the Season – for Award Nominations!

Right now, nominations are open for two of the Australian awards in speculative fiction, the Chronos Awards and the Ditmar Awards.

Ditmar Nominations Open

Nominations for the 2014 Australian SF (“Ditmar”) awards are now open and will remain open until one minute before midnight Melbourne time on Sunday, 20th of March, 2014 (ie. 11.59pm, GMT+10). Likewise, postal nominations must be postmarked no later than Sumday, 20th March, 2014.

The current rules, including Award categories can be found at:

http://wiki.sf.org.au/Ditmar_rules

You must include your name with any nomination. Nominations will be accepted only from natural persons active in fandom, or from full or supporting members of Continuum 10, the 2014 Australian National SF Convention. Where a nominator may not be known to the Ditmar subcommittee, the nominator should provide the name of someone known to the subcommittee who can vouch for the nominator’s eligibility.

While online nominations are preferred, nominations can be made in a number of ways:

1. online, via this form:

http://ditmars.sf.org.au/2014/nominations.html

2. via email to ditmars@sf.org.au; or

3. by post to:

Ditmars
6 Florence Road
NEDLANDS WA 6009
AUSTRALIA

So, basically if you are someone who is active in the Aussie spec fic community, you are eligible to nominate. And, you should! Why? Because, even more so than with the international awards, the more people involved in the awards process, from nomination to voting, the greater the legitimacy they possess. I have only been around a few years, but even in that short time I have seen the Ditmars cop what I consider unfair criticism. The more people who participate in the process the less ammunition there is for critics.

A very comprehensive (but by no means exhaustive) list of eligible works can be found here

Also open are the Chronos Awards – the Victorian version of the Ditmars.

The Chronos Awards celebrate excellence in Victorian Science Fiction, and will be presented this year at Continuum 9. Nominations will be accepted now in all categories – just email your nominations to awards@continuum.org.au. For more information about the awards (including categories and key dates) please see the website, or email awards@continuum.org.au with any queries. Nominations close Sunday, 16th of March.

Another very comprehensive (but by no means exhaustive) list of eligible works can be found here and, again, if you are eligible to nominate or vote, please do so! It really does make a difference.

Obviously I have eligible works in both sets of awards, but I don’t expect anyone to nominate, or vote for, me. If you do that’s wonderful, of course! But, you can stop reading here and just take away the core message of this post -nominate and vote the works you believe deserve it! The reason I say this is because the more people who nominate and vote, the more credibility these awards have, which can only be good for the Australian speculative fiction scene as a whole.

However, if you are interested in seeing what I have in the mix then read on:

DITMAR AWARDS

Best Novella or Novelette

“Set Your Face Towards the Darkness”, David McDonald, in Tales of Australia: Great Southern Land, Satalyte Publishing

Best Short Story

“Homecoming”, David McDonald, in ReDeus: Native Lands, Crazy 8 Press.
“In Foreign Fields”, David McDonald, in ReDeus: Beyond Borders, Crazy 8 Press.
“Shadows from the East”, David McDonald in The Shadow of Judex, Black Coat Press.
“The Lesser of Two Evils”, David McDonald in Tales of the Shadowmen 10: Esprit De Corps, Black Coat Press.

Best Fan Publication in any Medium

Galactic Chat Podcast, Sean Wright, Alex Pierce, Helen Stubbs, David McDonald, Mark Webb and Sarah Parker

William Atheling Jr Award for Criticism or Review

David McDonald, Tansy Rayner Roberts and Tehani Wessely for the Reviewing New Who series.

CHRONOS AWARDS

Short Stories

“Homecoming”, David McDonald, in ReDeus: Native Lands, Crazy 8 Press.
“In Foreign Fields”, David McDonald, in ReDeus: Beyond Borders, Crazy 8 Press.
“The Lesser of Two Evils”, David McDonald in Tales of the Shadowmen 10: Esprit De Corps, Black Coat Press.
“Shadows from the East”, David McDonald in The Shadow of Judex, Black Coat Press.
“Set Your Face Towards the Darkness”, David McDonald, in Tales of Australia: Great Southern Land, Satalyte Publishing

2013 Aurealis Awards Finalists Announced

The finalists for this year’s Aurealis Awards have been announced and the quality of the entries is a testament to the strength of the Australian spec fic scene.

Being a judge for two of the categories has given me a whole new appreciation for how difficult a task it can be, and for the sheer amount of amazing work being produced by Australians.

I can’t wait for the ceremony itself, it’s going to be a great night – almost like a minicon. Hope to see you there.

Good luck to all the finalists!

BEST ILLUSTRATED BOOK OR GRAPHIC NOVEL
Savage Bitch by Steve Carter and Antoinette Rydyr (Scar Studios)
Mr Unpronounceable Adventures by Tim Molloy (Milk Shadow Books)
Burger Force by Jackie Ryan (self-published)
Peaceful Tomorrows Volume Two by Shane W Smith (Zetabella Publishing)
The Deep Vol. 2: The Vanishing Island by Tom Taylor and James Brouwer (Gestalt Publishing)

BEST CHILDREN’S BOOK
Kingdom of the Lost, book 2: Cloud Road by Isobelle Carmody (Penguin Group Australia)
Refuge by Jackie French (Harper Collins)
Song for a scarlet runner by Julie Hunt (Allen & Unwin)
The four seasons of Lucy McKenzie by Kirsty Murray (Allen & Unwin)
Rules of Summer by Shaun Tan (Hachette Australia)
Ice Breaker: The Hidden 1 by Lian Tanner (Allen & Unwin)

BEST YOUNG ADULT SHORT FICTION
“Mah Song” by Joanne Anderton (The Bone Chime Song and Other Stories, FableCroft Publishing)
“By Bone-light” by Juliet Marillier (Prickle Moon, Ticonderoga Publications)
“Morning Star” by D.K. Mok (One Small Step, an anthology of discoveries, FableCroft Publishing)
“The Year of Ancient Ghosts” by Kim Wilkins (The Year of Ancient Ghosts, Ticonderoga Publications)

BEST YOUNG ADULT NOVEL
The Big Dry by Tony Davies (Harper Collins)
Hunting by Andrea Host (self-published)
These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner (Allen & Unwin)
Fairytales for Wilde Girls by Allyse Near (Random House Australia)
The Sky So Heavy by Claire Zorn (University of Queensland Press)

BEST HORROR SHORT FICTION
“Fencelines” by Joanne Anderton (The Bone Chime Song and Other Stories, FableCroft Publishing)
“The Sleepover” by Terry Dowling (Exotic Gothic 5, PS Publishing)
“The Home for Broken Dolls” by Kirstyn McDermott (Caution: Contains Small Parts, Twelfth Planet Press)
“The Human Moth” by Kaaron Warren (The Grimscribe’s Puppets, Miskatonic Press)
“The Year of Ancient Ghosts” by Kim Wilkins (The Year of Ancient Ghosts, Ticonderoga Publications)

BEST HORROR NOVEL
The Marching Dead by Lee Battersby (Angry Robot Books)
The First Bird by Greig Beck (Momentum)
Path of Night by Dirk Flinthart (FableCroft Publishing)
Fairytales for Wilde Girls by Allyse Near (Random House Australia)

BEST FANTASY SHORT FICTION
“The Last Stormdancer” by Jay Kristoff (Thomas Dunne Books)
“The Touch of the Taniwha” by Tracie McBride (Fish, Dagan Books)
“Cold, Cold War” by Ian McHugh (Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Scott H Andrews)
“Short Circuit” by Kirstie Olley (Oomph: a little super goes a long way, Crossed Genres)
“The Year of Ancient Ghosts” by Kim Wilkins (The Year of Ancient Ghosts, Ticonderoga Publications)

BEST FANTASY NOVEL
Lexicon by Max Barry (Hachette Australia)
A Crucible of Souls by Mitchell Hogan (self-published)
These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner (Allen & Unwin)
Newt’s Emerald by Garth Nix (Jill Grinberg Literary Management)
Ink Black Magic by Tansy Rayner Roberts (FableCroft Publishing)

BEST SCIENCE FICTION SHORT FICTION
“The Last Tiger” by Joanne Anderton (Daily Science Fiction)
“Mah Song” by Joanne Anderton (The Bone Chime Song and Other Stories, FableCroft Publishing)
“Seven Days in Paris” by Thoraiya Dyer (Asymmetry, Twelfth Planet Press)
“Version 4.3.0.1” by Lucy Stone (Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine #57)
“Air, Water and the Grove” by Kaaron Warren (The Lowest Heaven, Pandemonium Press)

BEST SCIENCE FICTION NOVEL
Lexicon by Max Barry (Hachette)
Trucksong by Andrew Macrae (Twelfth Planet Press)
A Wrong Turn At The Office Of Unmade Lists by Jane Rawson (Transit Lounge)
True Path by Graham Storrs (Momentum)
Rupetta by Nike Sulway (Tartarus Press)

BEST ANTHOLOGY
The Year’s Best Australian Fantasy and Horror 2012 by Liz Grzyb and Talie Helene (Eds), (Ticonderoga Publications)
One Small Step, An Anthology Of Discoveries by Tehani Wessely (Ed) (FableCroft Publishing)
Dreaming Of Djinn by Liz Grzyb (Ed) (Ticonderoga Publications)
The Best Science Fiction And Fantasy Of The Year: Volume Seven by Jonathan Strahan (Ed) (Night Shade Books)
Focus 2012: Highlights Of Australian Short Fiction by Tehani Wessely (Ed) (FableCroft Publishing)

BEST COLLECTION
The Bone Chime Song and Other Stories by Joanne Anderton (FableCroft Publishing)
Asymmetry by Thoraiya Dyer (Twelfth Planet Press)
Caution: Contains Small Parts by Kirstyn McDermott (Twelfth Planet Press)
The Bride Price by Cat Sparks (Ticonderoga Publications)
The Year of Ancient Ghosts by Kim Wilkins (Ticonderoga Publications)

The full press release and details about the awards ceremony can be found here.

Another review of Great Southern Land

Yes, it has been quiet around here. However, life continues apace and I am busily engaged in a  few secret projects that will hopefully be ready to announce soon.

In the meantime, I stumbled across another lovely review of Tales of Australia: Great Southern Land. The reviewer had some great things to say about the anthology, and was particularly kind about my story.

“Set Your Face Toward the Darkness” by David McDonald, told in journal style, also hit the spot for me. It’s a dark gothic story that re-imagines the fate of explorers Burke and Wills. While touching lightly on social commentary about the invasion of the country, the tale also shows the characters’ growing understanding about the natives’ “connection to the spirit of the land”, with descriptions of the harsh terrain emphasising the growing terror and isolation they feel. A great sense of place, well-developed tension and all-round, a good story.

It’s a very nice feeling when someone “gets” your story, and seems to understand what you were trying to achieve. I am new enough to all this to be unused to reading people’s thoughts on my stories, and I am thrilled. You can follow the link above for the full review and read about the other awesome stories in the anthology.

And, if you so desire, you can buy both paper and electronic copies of the anthology here!

GSL Cover

 

 

 

Obligatory New Year’s Post

One moment you are making lists of all the things that you want to achieve by the end of the year, and the next thing you know you are dissecting the Hobbit and setting off party poppers to welcome the New Year.

Looking back over 2013 it was a pretty good year, but I have to admit I didn’t achieve all the things I had hoped. Of course, that just gives me some more goals for this year!

Some of the highlights:

Some of the disappointments:

  • Still haven’t cracked that pro sale
  • Not catching up with New Who in time for the 50th anniversary special
  • Not submitting to all the markets I had planned to through procrastination

So, what does 2014 hold, other than plugging away with the short fiction?

  • Another tie -in anthology which I can’t announce yet
  • A  sci fi novel which already has a few nibbles of interest
  • Revising my completed first draft of another novel (fantasy) with a view towards shopping it around
  • A YA novel in collobaration with a US author
  • Another conversational review series
  • Loncon and hopefully another con in the States!

I’ve come to realisation that the only thing holding me back is me, and that I need to develop a better work ethic and stop procrastinating. While I am setting myself some high expectations, there is no reason why 2014 can’t be an even better year than 2013.

Thanks to everyone who has supported me over the last 12 months and I look forward to celebrating all your successes over the next year. May 2014 be a wonderful year for you all! :-)

The Trophy

The Trophy

A Conversational Journey through New Who – 2010 Christmas Special – A Christmas Carol

David is coming to New Who for the first time, having loved Classic Who as a kid. Tehani is a recent convert, and ploughed through Seasons 1 to 7 (so far) in just a few weeks after becoming addicted thanks to Matt Smith – she’s rewatching to keep up with David! Tansy is the expert in the team, with a history in Doctor Who fandom that goes WAY back, and a passion for Doctor Who that inspires us all.

We are working our way through New Who, using season openers and closers, and Hugo shortlisted episodes, and sometimes a couple of extra episodes we love as our blogging points. Just for fun!

Tansy and Tehani love this season so much we’re making David do more work – we’re changing up our usual plan and reviewing each episode, in sets of two.

Tansy and Tehani love this season so much we’re making David do more work – we’re changing up our usual plan and reviewing each episode, in sets of two.

Merry Christmas to all our readers!

“A Christmas Carol”, 2010 Christmas Special

A Christmas CarolThe Doctor – Matt Smith
Amy Pond – Karen Gillan
Rory Williams – Arthur Darvill
Kazran/Elliot Sardick – Michael Gambon 
Abigail – Katherine Jenkins
Young Kazran – Laurence Belcher
Adult Kazran – Danny Horn

DAVID:
A very interesting Christmas special, as Doctor Who riffs on Dickens. I actually think this is one of the best Christmas specials so far, and certainly the one that takes itself the most seriously (I say this because “End of Time” doesn’t really feel like a Christmas special to me, aside from the original broadcast date which I of course missed). Yes, there are lots of a nice little moments of humour, but this has far more meat to it than the others. It’s very self contained, too, and you can imagine watching this with family members who had never seen Doctor Who, and not having to explain very much – the only vital starting point being that he is a time traveller, which is rather self evident. Because of that It reminded me a little of “The Girl in the Fireplace”, a story that shares some of the same themes – the idea of the Doctor ducking in and out of someone’s life and the way time passes differently from different perspectives.

TANSY:
It’s a great Christmas special – RTD launched the crazy fake snow tradition for the show and I do enjoy his various slightly cynical takes on what constitutes Christmas telly (a grand British tradition that we don’t have here in Australia where the idea of a flagship drama premiering a new episode on Christmas Day is basically unheard of) but I like the Moffat specials more. They feel a lot more genuinely Christmassy and less self conscious. And I do have a soft spot for Victoriana.

More importantly, this is a gorgeously designed alien planet! One of my favourites, in fact. I like all the little worldbuilding details like the flying fish and the way it all feels a bit like it’s an underwater kingdom, with all the tech and architecture resembling old world diving helmets and portholes.

TEHANI:
Very steampunkish! A lot to love, and following a theme of bloody fantastic set pieces for the season!

TANSY:
I even like the flying sharks. Because, how can you not?

TEHANI:
I love flying sharks. Really really want to get me one of these…

DAVID:
We’re helped by a great cast here. For a start, the three incarnations of Kazran are perfectly cast, and each actor puts in a wonderfully convincing performance. It was a bit distracting for the first ten minutes as I tried to work out where I had seen Michael Gambon before, and I may have yelled “Dumbledore!” at the television. I’m curious as to what the reaction to the casting of Katherine Jenkins was, whether to was similar to Kylie Minogue or James Cordern, as I am not sure what her level of fame is. However, whatever preconceptions there might been I thought she was wonderful in this, and she managed to invest Abigail’s character with not only a real sense of joy, but a sense of impending tragedy. It did leave me one question though; given their travels with the Doctor should we classify Abigail and Kazran as companions?

TANSY:
Depends on how you classify companions! There’s a new semi-companion status that really only exists in New Who, which is when characters are guest stars and take the companion role for a single Special – if Christina De Souza is a companion then Abigail and Kazran certainly are! But yes, they are quite solidly part of his life for a long time, they take multiple jaunts in the TARDIS, and it’s interesting how much he basically treats them as Amy and Rory.

(Katherine Jenkins apparently = terribly famous opera singer. I do like the way that they folded her musical talents into the story though I am left with a sense that no one was really expecting her to act in this episode and her part was written accordingly).

TEHANI:
Apparently they didn’t expect her to say yes to the role! And one of the songs is an original for the show…

TANSY:
Yes, the ‘silence will fall’ Christmas carol. As if we didn’t already know those words were quite important for the show’s future…

CarriageDAVID:
This episode does raise an interesting ethical question, though. As much as it was a lot of fun, and it’s impossible to doubt the genuine affection they held for each other, the Doctor essentially manipulates Kazran into caring for him. He doesn’t just change a pivotal event in Kazran’s life, or remove a tragedy that changed who he should have been, he systematically rewrites Kazran’s memories to make the Doctor a central part of his life and it did make a me little uneasy. There is no doubt this is a redemption story, just like Dickens’ Christmas Carol, and Kazran needs to arrive at a point where he makes the right moral choices to fulfill the narrative. But, the difference between Scrooge and Kazran is that Scrooge is shown the error of his ways, realises how nasty he has been and resolves to change, but is still the same person, while Kazran is actually a different person than the original. I don’t know, perhaps I am overthinking it. Or, should we read it that all the Doctor does is reveal memories that Kazran has repressed but were there all along? This time travel stuff is confusing!

TEHANI:
I think it’s pretty clear the Doctor is rewriting Kazran’s past, and while I don’t disagree with your reading of it as a bit uncomfortable, I want to prefer the more positive reading (giving Kazran a chance to be a better man – which is why the Doctor did it, after seeing Kazran not hit the boy).

TANSY:
I agree Tehani that the Doctor only bothered at all because he saw a hint that Kazran was not irredeemable.

This use of time travel as a clever, “benign” weapon (with problematic consent/free will implications) is something that the Doctor has largely not used throughout his history, and that many fans (including a younger Steven Moffat) have evidently craved. This era has given us many examples and will give us many more! The classic example is Moffat’s first piece of Doctor Who television, the Comic Relief skit “The Curse of Fatal Death” in which the Doctor and the Master keep going back in time and bribing the architect to put more and more specific traps into the building to attack each other.

TEHANI:
I wonder what this says about us as a society these days, if it’s a trope only really used in the modern era?

Give me a the child, and the man will be mine.TANSY:
Also, just as “Blink” was based on one of Moffat’s rare Doctor Who short stories, “What I did on my holidays by Sally Sparrow,” I believe this “A Christmas Carol”, as well as quite obviously riffing on the actual A Christmas Carol story, borrows quite heavily from another of his Moffat’s short stories, “Continuity Errors”, in which the Seventh Doctor faces off against a particularly stubborn librarian, and keeps ducking back in time to change aspects of her life in order to make her more amenable to lending him the vitally important book he needs. It’s told from the point of view of the librarian, and shows her memory of reality actually changing as he disappears and re-enters her life.

It’s creepy and manipulative but it’s important to note that the Doctor IS often creepy and manipulative. Sure, he does it in a ‘good’ cause, but his ethics are quite changeable depending on circumstance. The playing with time thing feels like a specifically Moffat thing, but it’s not out of character for the Doctor.

TEHANI:
And it’s only because the character is played by such damnably charismatic actors that we fail to call out that creepy manipulativeness more often!

TANSY:
Yeah, baby. I call this the Tennant Clause. It is kind of funny though that while the Doctor goes to all this trouble to build himself up as someone for Kazran to trust and believe in (which is actually as much the point of the exercise as making him a better person) it’s the wild card of bringing Abigail along that has the most dramatic effect. As usual the Doctor is pretty dense when it comes to the courting habits of Ladieez and Gentlemen.

Abigail’s role is somewhat passive – she’s often treated like a prop rather than a person, and Kazran’s romance with her feels like it’s 90% about him. I would have liked to see more of her input in those annual Christmas dates rather than the idea that she’s being unwrapped from the ice like a parcel every year. And of course the idea of a fatal illness that’s predictable to the point of a death date is a bit on the laughable side. But considering that this is largely based on a Charles Dickens story, we’re lucky to get any speaking roles for women at all, and Abigail is a million times more interesting than Scrooge’s lost love in the original, so I’m not going to complain too loudly.

TEHANI:
Hmmm, though that was a product of its time which means New Who should not have the same problems – Kazran could potentially have been a girl…

doctor-who-christmas-carol-6DAVID:
Like all Moffat’s episodes, the dialogue is wonderful throughout. When you give actors of this calibre something to work with the result is wonderful, hilarious when it is meant to be funny and moving when it is meant to be serious. There are some great throw away lines, too, that manage to stick with you for ages – I have no doubt there were plenty of people checking their cupboards for face spiders long after Christmas had been replaced by Easter eggs in the stores!

But, there is one line in particular that managed to stand out above the others.

“Nobody important? Blimey, that’s amazing. Do you know, in 900 years of time and space, I’ve never met anyone who wasn’t important before.”

To me, that sums up the heart of Doctor Who in a few simple words.

TANSY:
Plus SINGING TO SAVE THE DAY. Why doesn’t this happen in Doctor Who more often? If I don’t get a Peter Capaldi Christmas musical episode at some point in the next four years I’m going to be very upset.

TEHANI:
PETER CAPALDI SINGS?! Has there ever BEEN a full musical Doctor Who episode?! If Buffy and Grey’s Anatomy can do it…

Previous Episodes
“Rose”, S01E01
“Dalek”, S01E06
“Father’s Day”, S01E08
“The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances”, S01E09/10
“Bad Wolf/The Parting of the Ways”, S01E12/13
Season One Report Card – David, Tansy, Tehani
“The Christmas Invasion”, 2005 Christmas Special
“New Earth”, S02E01
“School Reunion”, S02E03
“The Girl in the Fireplace”, S02E04
“Rise of the Cybermen/Age of Steel”, S02E05/06
“Army of Ghosts/Doomsday”, S02E12/13
Season Two Report Card – David, Tansy, Tehani
“Smith and Jones”, S03E01
“The Shakespeare Code/Gridlock”, S03E02/03″
“Human Nature/Family of Blood”. S03E08/09″
“Blink”. S03E10″
“Utopia/The Sound of Drums/Last of the Timelords”, S03E12/13/14
Classic Who Conversation podcast – Spearhead from Space (1970)
Season Three Report CardDavid, Tansy, Tehani
Classic Who Conversation podcast – Genesis of the Daleks (1975)
“Partners in Crime”, S04E01
The Sontaran Stratagem/The Poison Sky, S04E0708
“Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead, S04E0910
Turn Left, S0411
The Stolen Earth/Journey’s End,S04E1213
Season Four Report Card – David, Tansy, Tehani
The Next Doctor / Planet of the Dead / The Waters of Mars
End of Time
The Eleventh Hour. S0501
The Beast Below/Victory of the Daleks,S050203
The Time of Angels/Flesh and Stone,S05E0405
The Vampires of Venice/Amy’s Choice,S050607
The Hungry Earth/Cold Blood,S050809
Vincent and the Doctor/The Lodger,S05E10/11
The Pandorica Opens/The Big Bang,S05E12/13

A Conversational Journey through New Who – S05E12/13 – The Pandorica Opens/The Big Bang

David is coming to New Who for the first time, having loved Classic Who as a kid. Tehani is a recent convert, and ploughed through Seasons 1 to 7 (so far) in just a few weeks after becoming addicted thanks to Matt Smith – she’s rewatching to keep up with David! Tansy is the expert in the team, with a history in Doctor Who fandom that goes WAY back, and a passion for Doctor Who that inspires us all.

We are working our way through New Who, using season openers and closers, and Hugo shortlisted episodes, and sometimes a couple of extra episodes we love as our blogging points. Just for fun!

Tansy and Tehani love this season so much we’re making David do more work – we’re changing up our usual plan and reviewing each episode, in sets of two.

Tansy and Tehani love this season so much we’re making David do more work – we’re changing up our usual plan and reviewing each episode, in sets of two.

“The Pandorica Opens / The Big Bang”
Season five, episodes twelve and thirteen
The Doctor – Matt Smith
Amy Pond – Karen Gillan
Rory Williams – Arthur Darvill
River Song – Alex Kingston

THE PANDORICA OPENS

Never get involved ina  land war in AsiaTANSY:
I always forget quite how much I love “The Pandorica Opens” until I’m watching it. The ‘cold open’ piece before the credits is especially wonderful. It’s fascinating how quickly this new mode and tone of Doctor Who has established itself in only a few months, so that the season finale is able to rely on nostalgia about the Eleventh Doctor and the friends he has made along the way.

TEHANI:
It’s quite amazing how much is packed into that beginning, and how lovely it is to revisit old friends in such a way. And they feel like old friends, even though we’ve really only just met them!

DAVID:
The whole setup of this episode is wonderfully done, not only do we get a refresher on some of the key players of the season, we barely have time to draw breath. River is wonderful, and we see her as this real James Bond type figure, absolutely dashing and fearless. And the reveal of the cliff face and the message was hilarious – It is certainly one way to get someone to return your calls!

TANSY:
The River Song of these episodes is my favourite. This is the point at which we start seeing the Doctor respond to her overtures (if not entirely crossing over into romance on his side) by being genuinely intrigued (rather than just annoyed) by this woman who knows him so well that she will deface one of the wonders of the universe just to get his attention – and of course set up a colossal scam which establishes her as Cleopatra, and him as Caesar. My favourite River quote of this episode (and there are many): “I hate wizards in fairy tales. They always turn out to be him.”

TEHANI:
I love that line. And River too. I also love in these episodes that the Doctor by now just completely expects River to be able to do the things she can, and believes her and works with her, without a blink.

TANSY:
Romans, romans romans! Is it any wonder that it’s this episode specifically that I feel so attached to?

TEHANI:
It’s terribly surprising, given your background… :)

TANSY:
The use of the Roman army in this story just makes my heart sing, and I appreciate especially that as the trap closes in around them, and the Doctor is overwhelmed by the sheer number of aliens fleets in the sky who are personal enemies of his, it’s the Roman army he sings the praises of. This of course leads to a fabulous reveal in the build up to the cliffhanger (people talk a LOT about the cliffhanger from “The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances” but I think this one is the best use of the form in New Who because of the way it’s set up all through the first episode) that the Romans are Autons – and specifically that Rory, our Rory, who has mysteriously returned as a Roman centurion, is made of plastic.

DAVID:
I loved the way that so many of of the historical foes of the Doctor were name checked in the fleet, but I was disappointed that we didn’t get to see more of them. I would love a modern episode featuring the Draconians, they are one of the more intriguing species we’ve come across.

TEHANI:
Picture me looking blankly at you…

DAVID:
As much as I enjoyed the Doctor’s speech as he stood on the altar, I think that they need to be a bit careful that the whole “Remember who I am?” type thing doesn’t just become a get- out-of-jail-free card. Yes the Doctor is pretty awesome, but he is not omnipotent or invulnerable and some of the best stories have been about how he has triumphed against much more powerful foes who have no reason be scared of him. The whole scaring his enemies works as a great scene here, and worked even more with the Atraxi, but I think it could soon get old.

TEHANI:
Oh David, I’m so very sorry. Perhaps maybe you might not want to watch Season 7…

DAVID:
I guess it shows one of the big shifts in the portrayal of the Doctor from Classic to New Who, where he was once relatively insignificant to now being perhaps the most important being in the Universe. There is probably an essay (or a few) in examining how that might be connected to the changed status of the show – from niche to one of the hottest spec fic properties on the planet.

TEHANI:
Go forth and WRITE this thing!

800px-ThePandoricaOpensThis is the beauty of rewatching – I really didn’t understand the first time what was going on. Didn’t catch the Nestene references (and would have gone over my head anyway, I think). This time, though, it made a lot more sense, which was a nice surprise! I think sometimes you need to listen really really carefully to put some things together (and having someone give you the historical references is useful too!). Didn’t stop me loving the episodes first time though – I just like them even more now they make a bit more sense.

DAVID:
I’ve been really surprised about how heavily the Nestenes have featured in New Who. I certainly wouldn’t have picked them to be the first cab off the rank when it came to picking a monster for “Rose”. Saying that, they have generally worked well, and they were particularly effective in this story. Rory’s struggles to overcome his “programming” and his devastation at killing Amy are very poignant.

TANSY:
I think the Nestene/Autons work well as a monster reflecting contemporary issues/iconography – and until plastic becomes irrelevant, they will always represent modernity! The real surprise is how little we saw of them in the old days, as their original appearances in the two Pertwee stories were fabulous, and then never again. They would have been really cool in the Peter Davison era – imagine Tegan facing down killer mannequins. Or Ace blowing them up during the McCoy years!

TEHANI:
I love Tegan…

TANSY:
I love that you love Tegan.

The scene in which Rory and the Doctor meet again and the Doctor just carries on, not realising the significance of Rory’s presence, is one of my favourite Matt Smith and Arthur Darvill scenes of all time. I liked early Rory a lot, especially in “Vampires of Venice”, but this is the point at which the actor and the character levels up, and he has developed his dry, sarcastic responses to the Doctor so nicely while still being utterly vulnerable and earnest.

TEHANI:
Yay for more Rory, and more River!

CybersquidDAVID:
I’m generally not a huge fan of moral relativism, but it was a great concept to see the Doctor’s enemies banding together not through some evil plan, but to try and save the Universe from him. You could understand why for them he might actually be the Bad Guy, and a threat to their existence. After all, he does have a spotty track record!

I have to admit, I did pick the Doctor as the likely contents of the Pandorica from the very start, it wasn’t that subtle. It reminded me of one of the Eighth Doctor Adventures called ”Alien Bodies”…though I won’t spoil it for anyone who hasn’t read it.

The AllianceTHE BIG BANG

TANSY:
This two-parter has an amazing cliffhanger, all the more amazing because the peril at the end of “The Pandorica Opens” isn’t resolved in a single line or moment, but takes a large part of the second episode to resolve. It’s wonderful to see Caitlin Blackwood back as little Amelia in this alternate version of reality where the stars don’t exist, and the museum scenes leading up to the scene of Amy in the Pandorica (including freeze dried Daleks) are full of tension.

TEHANI:
Yet another fantastic set for the show. Actually, some great sets for both episodes, what with the Romans and Stonehenge and all!

TANSY:
I like that the ‘damselling’ of Amy from the end of the last episode only takes up about five minutes or less of the narrative, and that she’s central to the action in this story for most of the episode. I don’t mind a bit of equal opportunity damselling, and given how much Rory has been damselled in this season, five minutes of Amy here and there is okay by me. For balance, you understand.

The image of her sitting in that Pandorica is so powerful.

DAVID:
I loved the scenes in the museum. The Dalek statues looked great, and really conveyed the idea that all the things we were familiar with had passed into myth or been lost in the fog of antiquity. Combined with the idea that stars had become the domain of dreamers (though I was confused whether it was accepted that there had been stars at one point), all these things pointed to a universe that had suddenly become far smaller, and was merely a remnant of what once was.

Rock the DalekTANSY:
My favourite quote from this episode (and there are lots of good ones, many of which have been immortalised in song) is the Doctor’s ‘Come along Ponds’ when he sees big and little Amy together. It’s interesting how epic this story feels considering it has such a small cast for most of the action scenes, just our core four characters running around an empty museum with one Dalek. But the tension is constant, and no sooner are Amy and Rory back together again than everything else is on the line. River is again wonderfully strong in this story, with the hints of that dark edge to her as the Dalek looks her up and starts begging mercy. Wonderful stuff!

DAVID:
For me, the most powerful part of this episode is where Amy is watching the museum video about the mysterious centurion. The idea that Rory has spent almost 2000 thousand years guarding her is simply beautiful, and these two have to be one of the greatest romances in sci fi. There are obviously some dysfunctional elements to their relationship, but overall I find it much more healthy and meaningful than the vast majority if portrayals of love that we see in the media. It actually quite reminds me of Zoe and Wash from Firefly – even down to the faux triangle.

TANSY:
I agree! Amy’s come a long way in this season, from not wanting to admit she has a boyfriend and running away on the eve of her wedding, to embracing Rory as a fellow crew member in the TARDIS, and losing him, and now him coming back to her in such a spectacular way. The wedding at the end is most definitely earned.

TEHANI:
And meeting her family, which of course we only had the aunt of before – while we don’t see them in the same way we see Rose, Martha and Donna’s families of the previous seasons, I love that we do get them established as characters in this episode, not just background set pieces.

TANSY:
I will admit I was pretty over the whole weddings-in-Doctor-Who motif after the RTD era, but I really enjoy this scene in “The Big Bang”. Finally, after seeing Amy isolated and hurting and abandoned for most of the season (and so prickly/defensive before that), we find her happy and surrounded by a real family and friends. Her relationship with Rory, and their happiness, is such a world away from the crackly, hesitant pre-wedding Amy we originally got to know. Though it should be noted, Rory hasn’t changed at all! His effusive call to Amy and their relationship there is very reminiscent of how he called her on his stag night, unaware that she was a lot less sure of their impending marriage than he was.

TEHANI:
Wait, doesn’t she call HIM this time? Which I thought was sweet. Also, when he says “Yes” because he’s scared of her? V. cute.

TANSY:
Yeah, Rory knows his place when it comes to Amy, and while this is played for laughs and quite an old fashioned trope, it suits them both very well.

You’re right that she calls him! And that goes to show that she is an entirely different Amy. How can she not be different, with memories of being raised in a loving family overwriting the Amy who didn’t trust anyone not to abandon her? She is still very much herself in personality, but when it comes to her relationship – yes, this is a different woman. That she is confident and clever enough to stand up in front of everyone she knows and summon her imaginary friend back into existence is one of the character’s most powerful moments and I love everything about it – her performance, her demanding tone, and her reaction to the Doctor turning up in his beautiful suit to dance at her wedding. Like a giraffe.

DAVID:
I did feel a bit bad for Rory, though. Yet again he is upstaged and pushed to one side!

Hello?While Rory could easily be perceived as a “weak” character, I think that this is completely off the mark. One of the things that I admire so much about him is the fact that he is confident enough in who he is and in his love for Amy that he can continue to display such equanamity through everything. Some men would be threatened by having such a strong partner, and wouldn’t be able to handle it, but Rory really does possess such a quiet strength that is reflected in his lack of ego (though, of course, we do see some moments where even he struggles). I think it is a great inversion of the tired trope of the colourful, larger than life male and the supportive, in the background female that we see so often in fictional relationships.

Saying all that, the wedding is lovely and it is the perfect emotional payoff for the wonderful love story we have seen over the course of not just the doubleheader, but the whole season. There are two little throwaway lines that sum up the rightness of this wedding perfectly. One is that the Doctor calls Rory the “boy who waited”, and it is only right the he and the “girl who waited” are now together.

The other is this great exchange:

DOCTOR: Amelia, from now on I shall be leaving the kissing duties to the brand new Mister Pond.
RORY: No, I’m not Mister Pond. That’s not how it works.
DOCTOR: Yeah, it is.
RORY: Yeah, it is.

Yes, that is how it works here!

AwwwwwTANSY:
I like Rory’s general lack of jealousy (except under extreme provocation) because he does trust Amy and he’s confident in their relationship. Also he seems quite pleased to see the Doctor – I like the line “How did we forget the Doctor?” and the way that the Doctor is now no longer presented as a threat to their relationship, but a genuine friend to them both. Love triangle = resolved. Friendship continues. Nice.

TEHANI:
I need to mention the music – I really liked the music in this season, and in these two episodes it’s particularly striking. There have been times I’ve felt it gets in the way of the story, but not here.

TANSY:
I think it’s worth noting that we’ve had the same composer for the entire run of New Who, but he keeps bringing new styles in. It’s particularly striking how distinct the musical style is between the RTD & Moffat era, though it’s the same guy doing it. It feels like he threw everything out at The Eleventh Doctor and started from scratch.

David, I have to ask. The bit with Matt Smith’s jacket, when he goes back through his own timeline. Did you see it coming? Had you spotted the ‘continuity error’? Because there was a major fan discussion that year about whether the jacket was just a jacket, and only a few die-hard paranoiacs actually pushed the theory that it meant something. After this story, of course, EVERY tiny detail of the show, especially anything that looks like a continuity error or a dialogue screw up, has been scrutinised to a ridiculous degree.

Nice Fez! Nice Mop!TEHANI:
Wait, do *I* know about the jacket??

TANSY:
Well, in “Flesh and Stone” when Amy’s abandoned in the forest and can’t open her eyes, the Doctor after being quite careless with her feelings comes back to her suddenly & is really loving and sympathetic and happens to be wearing his jacket again when he had taken it off in that story. He comforts her and tells her to remember what he told her when she was a child. And in “The Big Bang”, we discover it’s because that was him having gone back in time, intersecting with that story from a different direction.

But when we were first watching “Flesh and Stone”, it was a slightly odd moment and a possible continuity error! Because of the jacket.

TEHANI:
Ohhhhh… Nope, didn’t get it at the time at all!

DAVID:
Haha I feel very unperceptive now. I didn’t notice the jacket until it was pointed out. And, it is not like continuity errors are unknown in TV shows! I guess it goes to show that just because you are paranoid doesn’t mean that there is never going to be some hidden conspiracy – after all, even a stopped clock is right twice a day (I thought I’d sneak in a Tegan reference of my own…).

TANSY:
Ha, it’s true! I’m pretty sure I didn’t notice it either first time around, it’s one of those things that being surrounded by fan discussion & podcasts will do for you, though when you watch it again you will certainly notice the shift in tone and the way that the Doctor is so much more kind and nurturing towards Amy.

Buddies!TEHANI:
“The Pandorica Opens/The Big Bang” double was the Hugo winner for the 2010 Awards, beating out “Vincent and the Doctor” and “A Christmas Carol” (as well as the fan-vid “F*ck me, Ray Bradbury” and our own Shaun Tan’s short film The Lost Thing, which won an OSCAR instead!). Do we think the win was deserved?

TANSY:
I definitely think that it deserved the win from a Doctor Who point of view – the only episodes I would put in contention with it are not on that list, as I’d suggest “The Eleventh Hour” as well, and maybe “The Time of Angels/Flesh and Stone” or “The Lodger”. I like that the Hugo results reflected the delight of Who fans about finally getting such a good two part series finale – I think only “Army of Ghosts/Doomsday” can match it as far as quality goes, and that one did far less to pull together the plot of an entire series. I like to think that voting for the series finale is kind of like voting for the whole spectacular season, because this season is the most cohesive of all New Who (and it could certainly be argued, all Doctor Who ever).

DAVID:
Given the other episodes that were nominated I have to agree with Tansy and say that it probably deserved to win from a Doctor Who POV, though I wouldn’t have howled with outrage if “A Christmas Carol” had won either. I am not sure that “Vincent and the Doctor” deserved to be on there as opposed to ones Tansy mentions – I loved “the Lodger”, and thought the Angels ones were excellent.

“F*ck me, Ray Bradbury” was one of those things that was cleverly done and went viral at the time, but I don’t think it is the sort of thing that you’d look back on five years later and say it deserved a Hugo (of course, you could say that about a few things). As for The Lost Thing, I am going to hang my head in shame as I admit I haven’t seen it! So, I can’t comment on whether it deserved to win over the Who double.

TANSY:
You live in Melbourne! You could go to the exhibition at ACMI and watch it there! (sorry, digression. Carry on.)

CreepyDAVID:
I think that New Who has actually been very good at creating cohesive story arcs across whole seasons. The Bad Wolf stuff was peppered right throughout that season, and was obviously thoroughly planned. The only arcs that spring to mind in Classic Who, at least off the top of my head, are the “Key to Time” and the “Trial of a Time Lord” episodes. There is no doubt that New Who is more sophisticated in this regard.

TANSY:
Yes, and maybe the first Tom Baker season with the ‘we are wandering without the TARDIS’ theme, and the ‘Seventh Doctor is being mysterious about Ace’ material, but they simply were not usually organised enough to do such a thing. It’s something that I think is more likely to happen when the producer is also the head writer on the show, a feature of New and definitely not Classic Who, though there were some notable partnerships between producer and script editor. Story arcs were less necessary because it was an episodic show and also because the format already had self-contained stories made up of several episodes. I’d argue that we need story arc more now, not just because audiences expect a higher emotional connection to their SF drama, but also because the seasons are mostly standalone single episodes, and need something to pull them together in lieu of the old ‘story’ format.

TEHANI:
I think it’s a good point you made, about voting for the season as a whole. And everything you said there. It’s a fabulous season!

TANSY:
I do think that Shaun Tan’s The Lost Thing was also pretty damn worthy of a Hugo that year. I suspect he wouldn’t swap his Oscar with Steven Moffat’s Hugo, though…

Previous Episodes
“Rose”, S01E01
“Dalek”, S01E06
“Father’s Day”, S01E08
“The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances”, S01E09/10
“Bad Wolf/The Parting of the Ways”, S01E12/13
Season One Report Card – David, Tansy, Tehani
“The Christmas Invasion”, 2005 Christmas Special
“New Earth”, S02E01
“School Reunion”, S02E03
“The Girl in the Fireplace”, S02E04
“Rise of the Cybermen/Age of Steel”, S02E05/06
“Army of Ghosts/Doomsday”, S02E12/13
Season Two Report Card – David, Tansy, Tehani
“Smith and Jones”, S03E01
“The Shakespeare Code/Gridlock”, S03E02/03″
“Human Nature/Family of Blood”. S03E08/09″
“Blink”. S03E10″
“Utopia/The Sound of Drums/Last of the Timelords”, S03E12/13/14
Classic Who Conversation podcast – Spearhead from Space (1970)
Season Three Report CardDavid, Tansy, Tehani
Classic Who Conversation podcast – Genesis of the Daleks (1975)
“Partners in Crime”, S04E01
The Sontaran Stratagem/The Poison Sky, S04E0708
“Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead, S04E0910
Turn Left, S0411
The Stolen Earth/Journey’s End,S04E1213
Season Four Report Card – David, Tansy, Tehani
The Next Doctor / Planet of the Dead / The Waters of Mars
End of Time
The Eleventh Hour. S0501
The Beast Below/Victory of the Daleks,S050203
The Time of Angels/Flesh and Stone,S05E0405
The Vampires of Venice/Amy’s Choice,S050607
The Hungry Earth/Cold Blood,S050809
Vincent and the Doctor/The Lodger”,S05E10/11

Review of Great Southern Land

I don’t know about other writers, but I really struggle to judge the quality of my own work so I usually just assume it is terrible! So, it has been nice this week to get some great feedback on a couple of stories. It was an especially pleasant surprise to come across a review of Tales of Australia:Great Southern Land by the industrious Aussie reviewer, Sean the Bookonaut. He covers most of the stories in the book, and has some very kind things to say about mine:

The collection finishes on David McDonald’s Set Your Face Towards the Darkness and having read his work before, this story is a bit of a departure from his normal style.  It is written in journal format – the secret journals of explorer John McKinlay, who was sent to find Burke and Wills.  McDonald does a good job of capturing a reserved 19 century style in these entries written to McKinlay’s sweetheart, Jane.  I think the most challenging thing in writing fiction in journal and letter form, is building and maintaining tension and McDonald does this in his interesting mix of alternative history and pop culture horror trope. If you like Australian gothic horror and reading between the lines of historical journals you’ll appreciate Set Your Face Towards the Darkness.

You can read the complete review here.

And, if you want to pickup a copy of the anthology, either directly from the publisher, or from Amazon. At only $4.99 for the ebook you can’t go wrong!

GSL Cover

A Conversational Journey through New Who – S05E10/11 – Vincent and The Doctor/The Lodger

David is coming to New Who for the first time, having loved Classic Who as a kid. Tehani is a recent convert, and ploughed through Seasons 1 to 7 (so far) in just a few weeks after becoming addicted thanks to Matt Smith – she’s rewatching to keep up with David! Tansy is the expert in the team, with a history in Doctor Who fandom that goes WAY back, and a passion for Doctor Who that inspires us all.

We are working our way through New Who, using season openers and closers, and Hugo shortlisted episodes, and sometimes a couple of extra episodes we love as our blogging points. Just for fun!

Tansy and Tehani love this season so much we’re making David do more work – we’re changing up our usual plan and reviewing each episode, in sets of two.

Tansy and Tehani love this season so much we’re making David do more work – we’re changing up our usual plan and reviewing each episode, in sets of two.

VINCENT AND THE DOCTOR
“Vincent and the Doctor”
Season five, episode ten
The Doctor – Matt Smith
Amy Pond – Karen Gillan
Tony Curran – Vincent Van Gogh
Bill Nighy – Doctor Black
Painting

TEHANI:
This is one of my very favourite stories so far. It always ALWAYS makes me cry (sometimes in different places), and I adore it for so many reasons, the guest actors Tony Curran and Bill Nighy being two of them.

TANSY:
I have an innate fondness for this story because of what it did for my daughter. Raeli must have been six or so when she watched it. I hesitated over showing it to her at first because of the darker themes of suicide and depression, but she took to it beautifully, allowing us to have a conversation about mental illness that was very important.

She also fell in love with Vincent’s artwork through this story. I sent her outside at a party once to play with chalks on the concrete and she recreated about four different Van Gogh paintings. With the Doctor Who twist on each, of course. It was a beautiful realisation, and her interest in art progressed from there – I later found her a gorgeous picture book called Vincent’s Colours which pairs lines from his letters to his brother with images of the paintings he is discussing.

TEHANI:
That is lovely Tansy – I think there is a great capacity for this sort of thing in Doctor Who, and when you consider its origins as an educational program, maybe we shouldn’t be surprised! Personally, I have a Doctor Who Van Gogh coffee cup which is just beautiful.

I thought the mental illness aspect was sensitively handled, and it was, for me at least, a believable portrayal. I have seen criticism about the ending, with people unable to understand why Van Gogh would still have committed suicide even knowing the legacy he leaves on the world, but I don’t have that problem. It’s horribly sad, but I also think it’s something that happens when people are gripped by such devastating depression.

TANSY:

I think anyone who can’t understand that ending is pretty naive about how mental illness works!

This story is held up often as one of those great ‘introduction’ stories that stands alone (like “Blink”) and appeals greatly to people with no Doctor Who knowledge, but I also want to comment on how beautifully it contributes to the season arc. Instead of a vague, hinty type of arc like Bad Wolf or Vote Saxon where the significance is only revealed in the finale, this season is paced beautifully with shifts and character developments every few episodes. So it’s broken up into The Amy Adventures, The Amy and Rory Adventures, and here the After Rory Adventures, in which Amy is grieving her loss without remembering it. The friendship she develops with Vincent, which starts out as her usual surface ‘flirting without meaning it’ but becomes much deeper, is really a special thing to watch and the scene in which he asks why she is crying is perfect. Also the bit with the sunflowers always makes me smile.

Sunflowers

DAVID:
I really did enjoy this story, but I have to admit that it didn’t live up to my lofty expectations. When I saw the name of Richard Curtis I was incredibly excited because I have never seen anything he was involved in that I didn’t love and that didn’t move me (combine him and Hugh Grant and I am a mess!) and when Bill Nighy turned up it looked even more promising.

But, I found this to be a very uneven episode. There were some genuinely beautiful moments, and some heart wrenchingly sad ones, but also some parts that just fell a little flat. Fortunately, there is enough gold in here to tip the balance, and the last section is particularly emotional. Bill Nighy is brilliant as he delivers his speech describing Vincent’s achievements and it is hard not to be deeply moved by the raw emotion on display (even if the claim that Van Gogh is the greatest artist in history is extremely contentious). And then Amy’s realisation of the inevitably and weight of history, and her grief at the fact that they couldn’t save Vincent – I really felt for her.

TANSY:
Regardless of the writing aspect of the story, the visual design is extraordinary – the way that the characters actually move through so many set pieces which look like Van Gogh’s paintings and are often shot at specific angles (like the scene in Vincent’s bedroom). The street outside the bar, as well.

DAVID:
Not to mention the Who versions of his paintings! No wonder I have seen them on t-shirts and desktop backgrounds, they are amazing. I agree completely, Tansy, the whole episode is suffused with the look and feel of Van Gogh’s art.

Starry TardisTEHANI:
It’s a gorgeous episode in so many ways, visually and in terms of heart as well; heartwrenching, funny, sad and even a little bit scary. It was actually one of the Hugo Award nominees for 2010, and though it lost out to the season finale, it definitely deserved to be there.

TANSY:
Also, anyone who has issues with the whole invisible giant chicken monster should definitely check out the corresponding episode of The Ood Cast which has a brilliant sketch about the ramifications of leaving a giant invisible monster corpse in a small country church … and of course a fabulous re-rendering of Don McClean’s ‘Vincent.’ [http://theoodcast.com/s02e14/#.Un7lWetSbEU]

Nighy
THE LODGER
“Vincent and the Doctor”
Season five, episode eleven
The Doctor – Matt Smith
Amy Pond – Karen Gillan
James Corden – Craig Owens

The LodgerTANSY:
It’s really odd rewatching this one now because I have just finished listening to the audiobook of James Cordern’s autobiography. His work in Doctor Who is only briefly referenced but I do feel I now have a greater sense of just how famous he was in the UK when he was cast in this episode, and why his presence caused almost as much trepidation and alarm among British fans as Billie Piper (the pop star!) and Kylie (the POP STAR).

Still, no one need have worried! Craig is a brilliant character, and Cordern plays him with so much heart. In fact, this story is all heart. Heart and football. It’s a wonderful showcase for Matt Smith’s Doctor, showing off his alienness and his humanity, and his capacity for friendship. While the Craig-Doctor friendship is the emotional core of the story, and tends to attract a lot of fan love, I don’t see nearly enough credit given to Daisy Haggard as Sophie, who works beautifully off both actors – the Debbie Reynolds to their Kelly-and-O’Connor! (I’ll leave you to figure out which one is Gene Kelly and which is Donald O’Connor).

DAVID:
This is hands down my favourite episode of the season, which is quite an achievement given how much I enjoyed the Angels two parter. This episode is just so much FUN! But, there is also a real emotional core to it. Funnily enough, if you sat me down with no prior knowledge and shown me this and “Vincent and the Doctor” and asked me which one Richard Curtis had written I wouldn’t have hesitated in picking this one.

CordernIt’s interesting you mention the trepidation surrounding Cordern’s casting, Tansy. One of the interesting effects of watching New Who so long after it actually aired is that I have been oblivious to a lot of the things people watching it at the time have experienced, whether waiting so long between episodes or the discussion of the latest rumours and news. As an example, the first I knew of Kylie being in a particular episode was when I watched it and thought, “Hang on – she looks familiar!”

So, I went into this episode with no preconceptions about who I was going to see and how they might play their role. I just sat back and enjoyed! Cordern is perfect in this, but he has an excellent foil in Haggard, who is exactly right for this and, as you say, plays perfect of both Cordern and Smith, who is also quite magnificent.

TEHANI:
I’m with you, David – I felt like I’d seen “Craig” somewhere before when I first watched the episode, but didn’t know anything else about him – happens to me a LOT with Doctor Who guest stars!

TANSY:
He’s also now the voice of Little Charley Bear, which may be more familiar to any parents reading this post…

Fun fact, this story by Gareth Roberts is adapted from an earlier comic strip in which the Tenth Doctor moves in with Mickey. Yes, really! The football stuff (which many assumed was put in due to Smith’s history as a professional footballer in his youth) was an integral part of the original story, and the gag in which Matt Smith tries to use Craig’s toothbrush as a weapon is an inversion of the original joke – where Mickey picks up what he thinks is his own electric toothbrush and accidentally sonics all his teeth out.

TEHANI:
*snort* I love your little pieces of Doctor Who production trivia :)

BFFsTANSY:
I do feel this is a near-perfect Doctor Who story as well as a near-perfect Eleventh Doctor story – my only quibble comes from an authorial blind spot. I don’t find all of the house’s attempts to lure its victims in is remotely credible – in the case of both of the first two victims, the situation seems  straight out of a horror movie. I especially don’t believe that a woman on her own would go into a strange house if she heard a man calling for help without more information – women are simply too attuned to potential dangers. If it was more explicit that the voice was coming from someone very old or a child (as when Sophie is lured up – the only convincing one of these scenes!) then I would find it much easier to believe.

TEHANI:
Agree! You might call triple-zero (or whatever the number is in the UK), but actually go into a house like that? Nuh-uh.

DAVID:
Of course, that is pretty much par for the course with any horror movie ever made, and still not as stupid as the behaviour of the characters in The Walking Dead!

This episode presents a master class in getting your audience to invest in a character. Within five minutes we know everything we need to know about Craig, and we are on his side. Little touches like the way in which he holds Sophie’s keys flesh Craig out more than slabs of dialogue ever could. And, this is one of the few episodes where I was made to feel genuinely concerned about what was going to happen to the characters, I really wanted a happy ending for everyone involved and I was honestly worried that Sophie wasn’t going to survive!

Action ShotTEHANI:
A fairly Amy-lite episode, and her part of the story was very peripheral to what was going on. I agree with what you said before about Sophie’s role, Tansy, but this one was definitely all about the “bromance” in terms of the main players.

TANSY:
It’s lovely seeing the Eleventh Doctor build a friendship from scratch, and the way he drives Craig crazy, creates so many problems for him, and then solves what’s wrong with his life. It really is the essence of bromance – that is, a story about platonic male friendship that is given the same narrative attention that a male-female romance usually gets. The Eleventh Doctor is actually totally channelling Katharine Hepburn from Bringing Up Baby – he’s the madcap chaotic one who breezes into Craig’s life and takes it apart piece by piece.

TEHANI:
I’m a fan of the soccer scene…

TANSY:
OMG the soccer! It’s so charming and also moves forward the characterisation AND the plot of the story. A great scene. I know a lot of people (including me) assumed this was written in specifically because of Matt Smith’s brief history as a pro footballer, but the pub league bit was always in the story from the original comic.

GooooaallllDAVID:
A fair bit of New Who has been about the Doctor’s relationships with female characters, romantic or otherwise, so it is fascinating to see the Doctor learning how to be a bro! It’s definitely a different dynamic than with Mickey, or even Rory, and it’s a whole lot of fun. Perhaps part of that difference comes from the fact that, instead of them coming into the Doctor’s life, this is the Doctor becoming part of Craig’s. I did feel sorry for Craig a few times during the episode, because the Doctor does hog the limelight, but ultimately the Doctor learns as much from Craig as he does from the Doctor – and it is obviously that he does care for Craig’s well being.

TANSY:
I like that Craig is envious of the Doctor, but the Doctor himself displays absolutely no jealousy or even awareness that he might be a romantic threat to Craig and Sophie. It’s a far cry from Nine and Ten’s outright competitiveness with other young men and even implied sexual jealousy around Mickey, Adam, Jack etc. I love the innocence of Eleven, and how he can cause trouble and conflict simply by existing.

Craig’s constant outrage at the Doctor’s weirdness being accepted and embraced by others is quite a fascinating character trait.

DAVID:
Would it be fair to say that this episode has the most Doctor flesh since “Spearhead from Space”?

TANSY:
And no tattoo! Sad. But yes, I appreciate being able to add another Doctorish shower scene to the canon!

Doctor FleshDAVID:
One of the things that I am not a huge fan of, but that you just have to deal with when watching New Who, is that when it comes to the Doctor’s gadgets it is definitely very soft science fiction. The sonic screwdriver may as well be a magic wand, and there a lot of things just thrown together without even paying lip service to any sort of science behind them. But, if you can’t just roll with that you are probably watching the wrong show!

TEHANI:
I like to roll with it :) I might be starting to get a bit picky about some of the handwavium, but you know what? That part of the fun!

TANSY:
I agree with you, David, but it never bothers me. I’m not really a fan of technobabble for the sake of it, and most of the ‘lip service’ science of the Classic Show was rubbish any way. Let us never forget the megabyte modem.

Overall this is a clever story and it’s very nice to see the Doctor playing with characters other than his regular companion. Given how many episodes in this season provide Karen Gillan some fantastic material, I think it’s fine to give Amy a break, and helps refresh us before we leap into the finale.

Having said that, rewatching this story after Season 6 brings a whole new light to Amy’s slight subplot. What exactly is going on in that TARDIS, and could there be someone there we don’t see/remember tossing the TARDIS around like that?

TEHANI:
You mean, something rather quiet? :) We’ll have to wait and see!

TrioPrevious Episodes

“Rose”, S01E01
“Dalek”, S01E06
“Father’s Day”, S01E08
“The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances”, S01E09/10
“Bad Wolf/The Parting of the Ways”, S01E12/13
Season One Report Card – David, Tansy, Tehani
“The Christmas Invasion”, 2005 Christmas Special
“New Earth”, S02E01
“School Reunion”, S02E03
“The Girl in the Fireplace”, S02E04
“Rise of the Cybermen/Age of Steel”, S02E05/06
“Army of Ghosts/Doomsday”, S02E12/13
Season Two Report Card – David, Tansy, Tehani
“Smith and Jones”, S03E01
“The Shakespeare Code/Gridlock”, S03E02/03″
“Human Nature/Family of Blood”. S03E08/09″
“Blink”. S03E10″
“Utopia/The Sound of Drums/Last of the Timelords”, S03E12/13/14
Classic Who Conversation podcast – Spearhead from Space (1970)
Season Three Report CardDavid, Tansy, Tehani
Classic Who Conversation podcast – Genesis of the Daleks (1975)
“Partners in Crime”, S04E01
The Sontaran Stratagem/The Poison Sky, S04E0708
“Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead, S04E0910
Turn Left, S0411
The Stolen Earth/Journey’s End,S04E1213
Season Four Report Card – David, Tansy, Tehani
The Next Doctor / Planet of the Dead / The Waters of Mars
End of Time
The Eleventh Hour. S0501
The Beast Below/Victory of the Daleks,S050203
The Time of Angels/Flesh and Stone,S05E0405
The Vampires of Venice/Amy’s Choice,S050809
The Hungry Earth/Cold Blood.S051011

A Conversational Journey through New Who – S05E08/09 – The Hungry Earth/Cold Blood

David is coming to New Who for the first time, having loved Classic Who as a kid. Tehani is a recent convert, and ploughed through Seasons 1 to 7 (so far) in just a few weeks after becoming addicted thanks to Matt Smith – she’s rewatching to keep up with David! Tansy is the expert in the team, with a history in Doctor Who fandom that goes WAY back, and a passion for Doctor Who that inspires us all.

We are working our way through New Who, using season openers and closers, and Hugo shortlisted episodes, and sometimes a couple of extra episodes we love as our blogging points. Just for fun!

Tansy and Tehani love this season so much we’re making David do more work – we’re changing up our usual plan and reviewing each episode, in sets of two.

Tansy and Tehani love this season so much we’re making David do more work – we’re changing up our usual plan and reviewing each episode, in sets of two.

“The Hungry Earth/Cold Blood”
Season five, episodes eight and nine
The Doctor – Matt Smith
Amy Pond – Karen Gillan
Rory Williams – Arthur Darvill

TEHANI:
Well, I’d completely forgotten what this one was about until Tansy nudged me violently. And so I dove into rewatching with quiet joy, which I can’t talk at all about because of David (hurry up and CATCH UP!) :)

Looking back, I can’t quite tell why I would have forgotten it, because there’s some great stuff here. I have a feeling I confused it in my head with “The Rebel Flesh/The Almost People” from season six, which is silly because I like this loads better…

The Hungry EarthTANSY:
This two parter, and “Cold Blood” in particular, is my least favourite part of the season. There’s a lot to like here – and I do like many aspects, particularly the return and redesign of the Silurians, a lot of the dialogue, and the chilling bookend of Amy and Rory waving to themselves, and then Amy alone after Rory has disappeared. Acting highlights include Meera Syal as Nasreen Chaudry (blatantly auditioning for a run in the TARDIS) and the lovely Stephen Moore as the Silurian leader. Not to mention Neve McIntosh playing two distinct characters excellently beneath what could be quite unforgiving prosthetics.

However…

The character of Ambrose is a big problem for me, largely because she is written and played so harshly that she is a) deeply unlikeable and b) consistently stupid. In fact, there is a term for her role in this story – the stupid ball – which means she is forced by the script to act in a stupid way, in order to make the plot work.

This might be less grating to me if it wasn’t for the fact that the other glaring problem of the story to me is also gendered. I quite like the idea of the military caste of the Silurians being represented by the women and the science/thinky caste being men, BUT what we get in the script is the female Silurians being violent and irrational and the male Silurians being calm, sensible and charming.

TEHANI:
Darn it Tansy, I was so busy being impressed by the way the Silurian society worked I didn’t consider all that…

WarriorsTANSY:
This combined with the violent and irrational Ambrose representing humans is … a bit icky to me. Even worse, the Doctor notes and condemns the irrational violence of Ambrose and the female Silurians, but embraces Dr Malokeh as a brother in science and generally finds him adorable despite the fact that Dr Malokeh has basically been quietly and gently torturing humans in the name of science.

TEHANI:
But not the children! :)

TANSY:
The whole thing leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

TEHANI:
I’m not sure the men looked completely rosy though. Tony does suggest he’d betray humanity if Alaya cures him, and he also suggests dissecting her for defence purposes…

DAVID:
When I was making notes about this story, I wrote:

“Don’t forget Malokeh was dissecting humans!”

Admittedly I spelt his name wrong, but the point remains. He had been dissecting prisoners and, as Tansy points out, he basically gets a free pass from the Doctor.

DissectionTEHANI:
I agree that the Doctor gives him a free pass, but he also gives Ambrose a free pass, despite the fact her actions led to such a terrible outcome (for Rory at least, if not necessarily the Silurians, because I kind of think there was no way almost-present-day society would have accepted them – we can’t even accept each other :( ). He wasn’t nearly so angry at her as I expected, given what happened.

TANSY:
He’s pretty scathing, I thought, and the scene at the end he appears quite contemptuous towards her, making it clear that her job is to make up for what she did by helping her son on his quest to “get humans ready” for the Silurians. So she doesn’t even get to redeem herself directly, either, only through her child!

DAVID:
Something I found interesting about this episode, though, was the many parallels between this story and the first appearance of the Silurians. You have the more moderate leader trying to rein in the younger hot head, the blinkered viewpoints of some of the key humans, the Doctor desperately trying to keep the peace, an accidental death derailing the best efforts of those trying to find common ground between the two species – and, of course, the Doctor enraged by humanity giving into its worst instincts and making his displeasure very clear. Obviously they invert some of the situations, but there are a lot of similarities.

SilurianTANSY:
Yes, I quite like that part. The actual shape of the story I don’t mind at all – even the mining set has a bit of the Pertwee vibe about it. And I haven’t forgotten that the Doctor being patronising about humans and violence and exhibiting double standards depending on how much he likes you is also a carry over from the Classic series.

Likewise, the Silurians here are given a much more complex and inclusive society than the rather dull men in rubber suits from the old days.

TEHANI:
See, I have no idea what you’re talking about! I figured Silurians had appeared in the classic series, because it’s specifically discussed, but I’ve been tricked like that before!

DAVID:
I didn’t really understand the complete redesign of the Silurians, though I do think they looked good, I would have preferred to see an update of the classic design. I did like the subtle dig at the dodgy dating of the species, though!

TEHANI:
I loved the prosthetics! Fantastic makeup and design, that’s for sure.

TANSY:
And a brilliant portrayal by Neve McIntosh as the female Silurians which, cough, will have far greater and more awesome ramifications.

TrappedTEHANI:
Indeed… :) I thought Amy and Rory were both excellent in this too – Amy once more charging into danger and poking her fingers in where she probably shouldn’t, and Rory being completely the “best of humanity” the Doctor is aiming for.

TANSY:
Yep, shame they killed Rory off at this point, he had real potential as a great companion. The scene in the TARDIS with Amy trying and failing to save his memory is one of the most genuinely emotionally excellent moments of Doctor Who. Chilling stuff.

TEHANI:
Yes, a shame Rory is completely dead and gone now. Very sad. But it is absolutely a great scene, agreed.

DAVID:
I thought the scenes where you can see the couple in the distance, and then the changes, particularly effective.

TEHANI:
But completely sad, right? Cos Rory’s dead, don’t you know? I just watched a bunch of Classic Who and it’s quite amazing how quickly they get over the loss of a companion – wonder how quickly Amy and the Doctor will move on…

Trio

Previous Episodes

“Rose”, S01E01
“Dalek”, S01E06
“Father’s Day”, S01E08
“The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances”, S01E09/10
“Bad Wolf/The Parting of the Ways”, S01E12/13
Season One Report Card – David, Tansy, Tehani
“The Christmas Invasion”, 2005 Christmas Special
“New Earth”, S02E01
“School Reunion”, S02E03
“The Girl in the Fireplace”, S02E04
“Rise of the Cybermen/Age of Steel”, S02E05/06
“Army of Ghosts/Doomsday”, S02E12/13
Season Two Report Card – David, Tansy, Tehani
“Smith and Jones”, S03E01
“The Shakespeare Code/Gridlock”, S03E02/03″
“Human Nature/Family of Blood”. S03E08/09″
“Blink”. S03E10″
“Utopia/The Sound of Drums/Last of the Timelords”, S03E12/13/14
Classic Who Conversation podcast – Spearhead from Space (1970)
Season Three Report CardDavid, Tansy, Tehani
Classic Who Conversation podcast – Genesis of the Daleks (1975)
“Partners in Crime”, S04E01
The Sontaran Stratagem/The Poison Sky, S04E0708
“Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead, S04E0910
Turn Left, S0411
The Stolen Earth/Journey’s End,S04E1213
Season Four Report Card – David, Tansy, Tehani
The Next Doctor / Planet of the Dead / The Waters of Mars
End of Time
The Eleventh Hour. S0501
The Beast Below/Victory of the Daleks,S050203
The Time of Angels/Flesh and Stone,S05E0405
The Vampires of Venice/Amy’s Choice,S050809