Tag Archives: Tansy Rayner Roberts

A Conversational Journey through New Who – S04E01 – Partners in Crime

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 6 (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’re also joined today by guest viewer Lynne M. Thomas, co-editor of the Hugo-winning book Chicks Dig Time Lords and co-creator of the new Doctor Who podcast Verity! Lynne gives Tansy a run for her money when it comes to Doctor Who expertise and we welcome her to our review!

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!

“Partners in Crime” – S04E01
The Doctor – David Tennant
Donna Noble – Catherine Tate

DAVID:
So, obviously the big news with this episode is the return of Donna, and I for one was thrilled. I really enjoyed her character in this episode, more so than in “The Runaway Bride”, to be honest. She seemed to have a bit more depth to her this time around, and I quite liked the idea of her as the enterprising journalist, sneaking around and gathering information.

TEHANI:
I love Donna so much! She’s brash and ditzy but really smart and deeply passionate and grounded, under the ditz and show! I’ve rewatched this episode a bunch of times though, and still keep seeing Donna’s desperate search for aliens as just that – a bit desperate, as if she’s realised what she let go when she chose not to go with the Doctor, and will do anything to get it back. Not from a romantic or lost (potential) love point of view or anything, but it’s just, well, desperate! It’s one of the sour notes of this episode for me, but there’s so much else I loved 🙂 Particularly – DONNA’S BACK!

LYNNE:
I love this episode like pie. The dynamic between the Doctor and Donna, particularly in the scenes where they are miming across the room at each other, reminds me of the best screwball comedies from the 30s and 40s.

Both Tennant and Tate’s performances are pitch perfect, down to Tennant’s obvious discomfort with the young lady at Adipose Industries giving him her phone number, and Tate’s acting the first time she claps eyes on an adipose for herself, which is a splendid mix of disbelief, triumph, and moderated fear because the things are so darned cute. All of which she is likely doing as she reacts to a tennis ball on a stick off camera.

4-01-Partners-In-Crime-the-doctor-and-donna-doctordonna-23023464-1600-900

DAVID:
To me, Donna comes across as very single minded and determined when she has set a goal, and this is comes across really well in this episode. The only thing that I struggled with was that in between seeing her in “The Runaway Bride” and in this episode I have been watching her in The Office – a very different role!

But, yes, Tate has an incredible talent for physical comedy (all comedy, really), and the scene’s with her and Tennant are hilarious. Sometimes RTD’s scripts try for comedy and fall a little short, but in the two T’s he has the perfect tools for the job.

TANSY:
Ooh I have been meaning to watch that season of The Office, purely for her. Does it matter I haven’t watched the previous seasons?
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Classic Who Conversation – Genesis of the Daleks

After a bit of a hiatus, here’s another podcast! Tansy, Tehani and I had lots of fun talking about perhaps my favourite Classic Doctor Episode of all time, Genesis of the Daleks.

I must apologise for the sound quality, I hate listening to myself in most circumstances but I sound like I am doing a second rate Davros impersonation here! It’s partly Skype, but mostly that I need to get a decent microphone. Suggestions are welcome. 🙂

We cover a lot of ground in a hour, and I hope that you enjoy.

Genesis_of_the_Daleks

Geek Tribalism and Sexism

In one of those terribly entertaining cases of foot-in-mouth that makes the internet both amusing and depressing, Tony Harris recently made some comments about female cosplayers and fake geeks that, quite rightly, caused the wrath of the web to descend upon him.

You can find two great articles here and here that either address the specific comments, or the wider issues that they spring from, and they sum it up far better than I ever could. But, there were a couple of thoughts that sprang to mind after reading the various conversations that have been sparked by this furore. I think there are actually two factors at play here.

Geek Tribalism

One of the problems is that many geeks take a perverse pride in being part of a minority, whether perceived or real. I’d suggest that there are a lot of people whose interests weren’t exactly considered cool at high school and peer group pressure and bullying created a sort of bunker mentality that endures long after school is done with. If you are getting victimised as a teenager and feel on the outer, it is only natural to form a group of your own where you can feel like you belong, and look down on those who aren’t part of group as meatheads or jocks or less intelligent so you can feel superior to the “cool crowd”. While it is natural, that doesn’t mean it is healthy, especially when you are still feeling the same way when you are in your forties.

It is hard for many geeks to accept that in many ways we have won the culture wars. Superhero movies or science fiction and fantasy based tv shows are no longer the domain of one social demographic, they are becoming increasingly acceptable in “mainstream” society, which means an influx of new fans. For some people this is threatening, when your identity is defined by being the most devoted or knowledgeable fan of a particular franchise there can be resentment of people you see as newbies coming along and suddenly claiming to be fans of “your” interest.

It’s no different than when people loved a band for years while they were below the radar getting frustrated when the band hits the charts and all of a sudden they have to share them with people they see as simply jumping on the bandwagon. I know people who will stop listening to a particular artist when they go “mainstream”, or see the new fans as “poseurs” and treat them with scorn – so it is certainly not limited to spec fic fandom! But, I think that feeling of being on the outer makes it worse, and create a more poisonous type of resentment.

I can think of two areas of my fandom where there has been a huge change in the makeup of the fanbase. The first is the fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin. Since I got involved in the fan group of these books over a decade ago, their popularity has steadily grown and the recent HBO adaptation has meant that the books are suddenly part of mainstream conversation and extremely well known.

The second is Doctor Who. Since the relaunch, and especially over the past few years, Doctor Who is perceived very differently. When I was growing up it was a bit of a laughing stock, definitely not something you were quick to share with others. Now it seems too have become rather cool, I see lots of t shirts out and about and it is even going to feature at the Proms!

As a long term fan you can look at these things and get upset about people “trespassing” on to your sphere of interest, whether it speaking contemptuously of “floobs” (people who have only seen HBO’s series and not read ASOAIF) or disparaging those who hopped on the New Who bandwagon and how they don’t get the heritage of Doctor Who, or you can be excited that something you love is getting the recognition it deserves,

As I said to Neil Gaiman when we were chatting at a party (sorry, couldn’t resist haha), I was really excited by how well attended all the Doctor Who panels I was on at Chicon were, and how there were so many tween and teens there saying that they were happy to wear their Doctor Who tshirt to school and that it didn’t make them a target of mockery. As I pointed, when I was at school that would have gotten me beaten up – and I am not exaggerating, though I am sure that is an extreme case.

I am thrilled that when people at work ask me what I did on a Sydney trip and I say that I hung out with friends from a George R.R. Martin fan group they know who George R.R. Martin is! I love seeing people on planes reading his books and being able to have a conversation about it – if they want one, of course lol

Where is the logic in being upset about being marginalised and mocked for so long, but then not welcoming the fact that all of a sudden there are suddenly lots more people who share your interests and loves, and having common ground to make more friends? As a fan I want as many people as possible to know about the things I am interested in, there is not a finite amount of enjoyment to go around that is diminished by every new person that comes along. Instead, it truly is the more the merrier, the more fans there are the more vibrant a community we can build.

Geek Sexism

While that tribalism is a bit sad and I don’t agree with it, it is understandable to a degree. But, as has been pointed out, there is an even darker side to this whole issue, and that is the double standards applied to males and females when it comes to true fans. I don’t really feel qualified to talk too much about this, and Foz and Tansy have both done a far better job than I could of addressing it, all I can talk is from my own experience. There is a great line in Tansy’s post where she says:

(Frankly in the case of many female superheroes, the concept behind the character can actually be a whole lot more empowering than the reality of the stories featuring that character.)

I am sure this is true, and I am not arguing against or even using it to prove my next point. But, it made me think of the fact that for me that it applies to the majority of comic book characters. I am a huge Superman fan, but I have read maybe three or four comic of the thousands of character arcs that have been created for him. I much prefer the prose books I have read, or Smallville, or the DCAU series. Could I tell you what happened in Action Comics #234, what the hell happened with Red and Blue? And, I think I am a hardcore Whovian but I am only about half way through New Who and I’ve never listened to any Big Finish productions.

Given all that, if you had to guess, how many times do you think I have had my credentials as a fan questioned, or my right to be on as many panels on the subjects as I have challenged? If you said zero, you would be spot on. It is hard not to think that my gender has a huge amount to do with that. And that is just not right – why should female fans have a bigger burden of proof placed on their shoulders?

I do think that a lot of this comes from the fact there is a percentage of male geeks see the opposite sex as the enemy. After a life time of slights and rejections, real or imagined, sometimes people veil hurt and vulnerability under a layer of contempt and misogyny. The way they treat women is a projection of the insecurity and self loathing they feel, after all, it is much easier to blame someone else than take ownership yourself. Rather than run risk of being rejected, they would rather be on the offensive, the only way they can feel safe is by trying to put themselves in a position of power by denigrating others.

Saying that, while you might see why they would act that way, it doesn’t make it acceptable. Like people who were bullied becoming bullies, I have never seen why you would not treat people the way you would wish to be treated yourself, if you’ve been marginalised why would you not want to be inclusive? And, treating the object of your desire in such a fashion seems rather counter-productive, it’s unlikely to make them want to spend time in your company! It’s amazing how effective treating someone like a human being, equally deserving of their own interests and opinions, is in building friendships. Funny that.

As for the treatment of female cosplayers, I think that Foz hits the nail on the head when she says:

Can we just take a moment to appreciate the fact that a straight white male comics artist – that is, a professional member of a fraternity whose members frequently get froth-mouthed with rage at the VERY SUGGESTION that maybe, just MAYBE, consistently drawing female heroes in skintight, skimpy clothes, viscerally sexualised poses and impossible bodily contortions MIGHT JUST BE a little bit sexist and demeaning – is now saying women who dress as those selfsame characters are slutty? Like, do we not see the contradiction, here? How is it fine to rabidly defend the hypersexualised portrayal of comic book heroines as being no big deal, aesthetically justified, representative of their characters, traditional and all that jazz, but then start body- and slut-shaming actual, real live women who choose to cosplay those outfits? If the costumes themselves had no overt sexual component, or if such a component was present, but ultimately benign – as most comics apologists tend to argue – then the idea that actual women could dress that way specifically to prey on the sexual sensibilities of men who like those characters should be fundamentally ludicrous, regardless of the depth and breadth of their personal comics knowledge.

Seriously, angry comic guys: you cannot have it both ways. You cannot say that female comic heroines aren’t hypersexualised, and then claim that, merely by donning their costumes, real live women are sexualising themselves, and that their primary motive for doing so must therefore be to mess with you. No. THEY’RE DRESSING THE WAY YOU INSIST ON WOMEN DRESSING, AND THEN YOU’RE SHAMING THEM FOR IT.

As a male there are lots of characters I could choose to dress up as whose bodies are not accentuated by their costumes. But, if I chose to dress up as Superman, in skin tight lycra and my underwear wantonly exposed on the outside, am I trying to entrap the innocent women around me? If you think so, you obviously haven’t seen me in lycra! What I am doing is emulating a character I admire by faithfully reproducing their outfit. The difference is, I can do it without being called a slut.

That aside, so what if women do dress up in deliberately sexy costumes? What right does anyone have to tell them that makes them less than genuine fans? Personally, there are things about cosplay that do make me uncomfortable at times, some of it does seem over sexualised and there sometimes seems to be  an unhealthy exhibitionist/voyeur dynamic going on (in a minority of cases). But that’s not their problem, that’s probably mine. Just like other things that I personally can’t get into, like the SCA or filking or LARPing, I take a live and let live approach. If dressing up in costumes makes people happy and enables them to build a community and to enjoy whatever their fandom is, who am I to stand in their way? Life is unhappy enough without curtailing people’s happiness unnecessarily and forcing your tastes on them. If it doesn’t hurt anyone else, people should be able to express their fandom the way they want without having to prove its worth to people who have elected themselves the arbiters of geekdom.

The reason why I love fandom is because my experiences of it have been of inclusivity and enthusiasm and tolerance. I want everyone to have that same experience regardless of gender or orientation or race or whatever. People like Tony Harris don’t speak for me, but I think it important that those disagree with those attitudes speak up or nothing will change.

AWWC 2012 – The Creature Court Trilogy

Disclaimer: Aussie Spec Fic is a very small world, so in most cases I know the writers whose books I am reviewing. And, these will all most likely be very positive reviews, as I find it very hard to get motivated to go to the trouble of writing a review for a book that didn’t excite me. So, while you won’t get an impartial review, you will get the reasons why I loved a particular book, and why I genuinely believe it’s worth your time. This review was written as part of the Australian Women Writer’s Challenge, to find out more go here.

“She almost missed the sight of a naked youth falling out of the sky. He was long and lean and muscled … He was also completely off his face.”

A war is being fought in the skies over the city of Aufleur. No one sees the battles. No one knows how close they come to destruction every time the sun sets.

During daylight, all is well, but when nox falls and the sky turns bright, someone has to step up and lead the Creature Court into battle.

Twelve years ago, Garnet kissed Velody and stole her magic. Five years ago, he betrayed Ashiol, and took his powers by force. But now the Creature Court is at a crossroads … they need a Power and Majesty who won’t give up or lose themselves in madness …

I was a bit annoyed with myself after reading Power and Majesty, the first book in the Creature Court Trilogy. After all, I had promised myself that I wasn’t going to get sucked into another fantasy series that wasn’t finished. There is only so much waiting for the next book to come out a man can take! I had only picked up Power and Majesty because at Swancon 2011 everyone had been talking about it and it had won the Ditmar. So, I thought I should check it out and, as it turned out, I devoured it on the plane flight back to Melbourne. Fortunately, I didn’t have to wait long for the second book because at that point I was completely hooked. But, then there was agony of waiting for the final book to come out so that I could get some closure on one of the most addictive trilogies I’ve read in a long time….

It’s hard to classify the Creature Court trilogy, dark fantasy might be pretty close, but it has elements from all sorts of styles, from historical fiction to steampunk. I’d say that it is the perfect for people wanting a break from Epic fantasy, but that might give you the impression that it is light reading or lightweight which couldn’t be further from the truth. The author manages to pack in a vast range of ideas and a twisting, turning plot without ever putting the brakes on what is a cracking story. I read at least one of the volumes in a sitting, and all of them were incredibly hard to put down.

While some of the world’s features appear to be adapted from parts of our own history, it is not simply a thin veneer of fantasy polish whacked over a real world setting, the author has created a complex and convincing world, with its own customs and history. Unlike some fantasy worlds, the pieces fit together in a believable fashion and you can easily imagine the characters acting the way they do and the society working the way it does. But, there is also a disquieting sense of something not quite right about the daylight world and the sense that something is going on beneath – a feeling that is borne out as the story develops.

The characters are more than just the usual fantasy tropes, and each of them has a believable set of motivations that drive their actions and the story, rather than simply being ciphers. Over the course of the series it is hard not develop sympathy for even the nastiest of characters, and as someone who has little patience for moral ambiguity it is a mark of the author’s skill that I invested so deeply in all the characters and empathising with the nastiest of people. Immoral acts are not excused or consequences waived, but we are constantly given a convincing insight into why people act the way they do that is a nice change from the simplistic black and white that we find in too much fantasy. There is a rich back story that is gradually and skilfully revealed, throwing light on the way the characters interact and showing how the past impacts on the present. Velody especially is one of the best realised fantasy characters I have come across in a long time.

One of the things I admired most about this trilogy is that it serves as an example of how to tackle themes of gender and orientation.  It doesn’t pretend that sexism doesn’t exist, in fact gender roles play a huge part in the plot as the constraints that exist on women in this society and the way various characters attempt to transcend them are explored in depth. And it was refreshing to see how sexual orientation was treated, not in stereotypes or as the sole defining characteristic of a character, but simply as a part of the fabric of life and relationships throughout the story. But, there is never a sense of preaching, like everything else all these things serve the story and add to its resonance. As a writer, it’s given me something to aspire to.

The Creature Court trilogy is probably not for the prudish, being completely drenched in every bodily fluid you can possibly imagine, but even this is done in a way that only adds to the story. The air of rich sensuality which permeates the way characters interact with one another creates a hedonistic atmosphere, something which makes perfect sense as you read on. If you a little sheltered like me you might be tiny bit shocked at times, but there is nothing gratuitous, certainly nothing more graphic than many of the other fantasy titles in the bestseller list.

Despite the depth of the themes explored, the Creature Court trilogy is above all an entertaining and captivating read that deserves all the accolades it and awards it has received. I’m not going to say it is the best Australian fantasy trilogy I’ve read, it doesn’t need that qualifier, it’s one of the best I have read full stop. I read it at a canter the first time through, desperate to find out what happened and actually caught unaware by the ending, an ending that ties it all together very neatly and resolves the story perfectly (though I was very unhappy with the author for a while there for reasons that have nothing to do with the quality of the writing!!). I’ve since gone back and reread a number of times, enjoying it even more. If you are looking for a fantasy trilogy of the highest calibre to tide you over until the next volume in whatever ongoing series you are reading is released, then you can’t go past this magnificent story.

Australian Women Writers 2012 Reading and Reviewing Challenge

A Conversational Journey through New Who – Season Three Report Card

See David’s S2 Report Card, Tansy’s S2 Report Card and Tehani’s S2 Report Card through the clickies! (See our Season One Report Cards here)

SEASON THREE REPORT CARD – David

The Doctor: David Tennant

While there were a few not so great episodes in this season, there were also some exceptional ones that gave Tennant a chance to really shine. With someone as charismatic as Tennant there is always the temptation to just play himself, amplified, but instead we had plenty of chances to see the full range of his acting ability.

This is the season where I think he is really at home in the role as the Doctor and while the first season was about him finding his feet, this one is about him making his mark. Yes, there are some clunkers of episodes, there are also some of the best writing and acting we have seen so far.

The Companions:

Martha Jones: Freema Agyeman

I love Martha as a companion, but too often she gets shortchanged. Instead of focussing on her intellect and the way she, as much as any human can, interacts with with Doctor as somewhat of an equal, we had far too many scenes where they play up the romantic angle. It’s not just my own aversion to this speaking here, I really do think it was to the detriment of her character.

I hated the idea of her being set up as somehow competing with Rose, to me Martha deserves to be judged on her own merits. The episodes where she is left simply to be Martha are excellent and wanted to see more. I thought Freema was stellar in Human Nature and the way Martha brings a modern perspective to different times was handled perfectly. I wish they had made more of her travels in the season finale, that was perhaps my favourite bit about it, the way that she achieved so much and kept the flame burning while the Doctor was house elfing around.

Recurring Characters:

Captain Jack Harkness: John Barrowman

I much preferred this Jack to the one we had seen earlier. I thought there was more depth to his character, as if he had matured a bit (can I use matured and Jack in the same breath?) after all the things he had seen and the way he had changed. The idea of a man who couldn’t die was very clever, as was the way it was used as a plot device, but I wasn’t convinced by the Face of Boe payoff.

As I have probably said way too many times, I love the Doctor/male companion/female companion dynamic and I thought that Martha and Jack were a much better pairing than Jack and Rose.

The Master: John Simm

I think I will be in the minority here, but John Simm’s Master didn’t grab me at all. He seemed to be trying to compete with Tennant, and it didn’t come off as much as I am sure he would have hoped. There were some nicely chilling moments, but I would have been more than happy to see Derek Jacobi as the Master for the whole of the character’s appearance.

Saying that, I loved the reappearance of the Master, another example of how this incarnation of the show is very much a continuation of Classic Who and that its heritage hasn’t simply been thrown out. I hope he makes another appearance!

Martha’s family: Adjoa Andoh (mother Francine), Trevor Laird (father Clive (divorced from Francine)), Gugu Mbatha-Raw (sister Tish), and Reggie Yates (brother Leo).

I liked seeing the way Martha’s family influenced her life and impacted on her actions, and I thought it was generally pretty believable. I thought, though, that they made Francine very hard to sympathise with. While Jackie sometimes did things that I couldn’t agree with, she was a very likeable and sympathetic character, and you could always see that she was acting out a genuine desire to protect Rose. Francine, however, came across as a bit nasty.

What is your favourite episode of this season?

Hands down – Human Nature/Family of Blood. I really enjoyed Blink, but if it had been up to me Human Nature/Family of Blood would have gotten the Hugo. This was Doctor Who, and television, at its best. It touched on a number of complex issues without taking the easy option, it was deeply emotional without being heavy handed and it featured some amazing guest performances. I was really moved by this episode, and full of admiration for the complexity of what they managed to pack into two episodes.

It gave us a whole new look at the Doctor as a character and elevated Tennant in my eyes as an actor, and he was brilliantly supported by Freema and the guests. The villains were as creepy as it gets, plus it was set in an era that fascinates me. It lived up to the billing in that it looked at love and war and human nature – what more can you ask for?

Least favourite episode?

I didn’t think it was as bad as everyone else seemed to, but The Lazarus Experiment was definitely the weakest of the episodes.

Favourite guest performance?

It’s hard to split Jessica Hynes as Joan Redfern and Carey Mulligan as Sally Sparrow, while Derek Jacobi was perfect. I am going to, under protest, pick Jessica Hynes because she was a big part of why my favourite episode to date was so amazing.

Describe this season in one word!

Rollercoaster

Grade: B+

A Conversational Journey through New Who – Voyage of the Damned (S03 Christmas Special)

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 6 (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’re also joined today by guest viewer Joanne Anderton, who is also discovering New Who for the first time! We’re working our way through New Who, using season openers and closers, and Hugo shortlisted episodes, as our blogging points. Just for fun!

Last time we looked at the Season 3 finale and now we move on to:

“VOYAGE OF THE DAMNED”
Christmas Special 2007.
The Doctor – David Tennant
Astrid Peth – Kylie Minogue

TANSY:
Before we get started, can I just ask – have you both watched “Time Crash,” the Children in Need special which takes place between the farewell of Martha and the collision of the TARDIS with the Titanic?

TEHANI:
I have! But I went and watched it again to remember. So cute seeing Tennant fanboy over Peter Davison (er Moffett – that’s not confusing at ALL).

DAVID:

I hadn’t, but I have now! I wish I had watched it first, because it makes the start of “Voyage of the Damned” a little more understandable. I know it is one of those things that if you aren’t a fan would make very little sense at all and would seem very self indulgent, but I LOVED it. My strongest memories of Doctor Who are Baker and then Davison and it brought back a lot of memories.

I really enjoyed the little jokes about aging and the obviously heartfelt bit at the end, and Tennant was clearly thrilled and a little awed to be working with Davison. It’s great to know that he is a fan at heart too, and so are the writers. I’ve really appreciated that New Who hasn’t just thrown out or tried to disown Classic Who and this is a great example of how most of the people in the new show wanted to be involved because they loved the old show.


On to Voyage! For me, this is probably the strongest of the Christmas specials so far. I have to admit, for a moment I was thinking that is was actually set on the real Titanic, and then I started to notice all the odd little features of the setting and twigged. In my defense, I was distracted when I caught of a glimpse of someone and thought, “OMG, is that Kylie?!”

TANSY:
I’ve had mixed feelings about “Voyage of the Damned” in the past but on this rewatch was interested to see how technically good it is – so tightly plotted, and cleverly put together. Things that are vital later are telegraphed early on, such as the forklift, or the undercurrent about cyborgs being seen as an underclass (though they can get married now!) I think it’s held up very well, and I would agree it’s the best of the Christmas specials though I still *like* “Runaway Bride” more, purely because of Donna.

TEHANI:
I even think there’s some telegraphing of things to come in season four, which was impressive. But agree, it’s well put together!

TANSY:
And yes, Kylie! It was such a big deal when this came out, and casting Kylie Minogue was almost a parody of extravagant casting – a sign that the show was big, bigger than we had ever imagined it would be. She even posed with a Dalek, though unlike Katy Manning, she kept her hot-pants on. But despite the evident stunt-casting, I think her performance works really well – she brings a wistful sweetness to Astrid, and I like the depth she gives to the character, which as written could have been played by someone half Kylie’s age.

David … did you REALLY not know Kylie was in this? How had you possibly remained unspoiled about that?

DAVID:
I’ve tried very hard to avoid spoilers, which has been rather difficult! Obviously there are a few things that I can’t help but know about, like that there is someone called River Song in the future and that Neil Gaiman wrote an episode, but I have managed not to pick up too many details. Imagine how tough it was sitting on two Doctor panels at Worldcon!

So, I probably heard that Kylie was in an episode at some point, but I would have just let it go in one ear and out the other, and definitely wouldn’t have remembered which episode it was exactly.

TEHANI:
I just did about my fourth rewatch of this episode, and think that this is probably the strongest acting I’ve ever seen from Kylie. Still a little cringey at times, but I think that was more about the instant Doctor-adoration than the Aussie-ness of her performance! Solid!

TANSY:
I love that in the last year you’ve gone from someone who’d never watched the show to someone who has watched some episodes FOUR times!

TEHANI:
Instant fangirl, just add Doctor! 🙂


DAVID:
The cast in general is very strong, quite a few actors who, even if you can’t put a name on them straight away, you know that you have seen them before. Clive Swift will always have a special place in my heart and Geoffrey Palmer is excellent as the doomed Captain. And, it’s good to see that they’ve kept up up the Christmas Special tradition of a villain who relished the chance to chew up the scenery (and a few other traditions I am sure we will come to later!). George Costigan appears to channelling Doctor Evil at some point!

TANSY:
Yes there are some great parts and casting choices considering that it is basically a disaster movie with a limited time for each of the roles to shine. I love that they got in someone with Geoffrey Palmer’s track record to play what amounted to a couple of scenes, but didn’t he sell those scenes gorgeously?

TEHANI:
I adore Geoffrey Palmer! He’s a fantastic actor and it was really cool to see him in this.

Tansy, you’ll have known this of course, but I have just been surprised by the Doctor Who connections of many of the cast, listed in the Wikipedia entry for the episode:

Clive Swift and Geoffrey Palmer have had previous roles in the classic series. Swift portrayed Jobel in Revelation of the Daleks, while Palmer played Undersecretary Masters in Doctor Who and the Silurians, and an administrator in The Mutants. Jessica Martin had played Mags in The Greatest Show in the Galaxy. In addition, Bernard Cribbins played Tom Campbell in Daleks’ Invasion Earth: 2150 A.D., the second Doctor Who feature-film adaptation starring Peter Cushing as well as Arnold Korns in the audio play Horror of Glam Rock.

And of course, we’ll see more of Bernard Cribbins later (no spoilers David!).

TANSY:
I knew about Bernard Cribbins and Geoffrey Palmer (if you want to see a young Cribbins, the two Peter Cushing Dalek movies make great family viewing fare for Saturday afternoons, and the DVD release for them was super cheap)! I remember Jessica Martin as Mags too but had forgotten she was in this in the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it role of the Queen’s voice. I had no idea about Clive Swift, probably because I haven’t watched “Revelation of the Daleks” for 15 years or more – it was one of the few stories they didn’t include in the big ABC rescreening of classic stories in the three years before New Who began.

The casting choice that leaps out at me is young Russell Tovey, who is even more famous now than he was starting to be back then, thanks to Being Human and other prominent roles. This was the first thing I ever saw him in and the first time I’d even heard of him, but he is adorable as the baby-faced and steadfast midshipman Alonso Frame.

DAVID:
I thought Kylie was wonderful in this, but it seems the Doctor only has to look at someone before they want to jump on the TARDIS! Not that the Doctor can talk, his loneliness is very apparent in how eager he is to replace Martha. One can’t help but wonder how much fun it might have been had Mr Copper become the new companion, but that was never on the cards. Shame.

TANSY:
Ha yes, the Doctor totally gave Mr Copper the brush off, didn’t he? Funny how he tends to only encourage the young, hot ladies for the most part… I do like the Astrid-Doctor relationship, and the fact that she obviously has saucy designs on him (love the crack where he says she should see him in the morning and she is TOTALLY up for that), even though it is the third companion who has fancied the pants off him (thank goodness for Donna!)

But I also like how much of a story we get to Astrid, through only a few telling details. Her longing to travel and her wonder at walking the “alien” streets of London is very touching, and you get the sense that she would have been a very good companion in the classic sense. While she has nothing else in common with Ace, I was reminded of her with the set up of the waitress who ends up waiting tables no matter how exotic the location she travels to…

Oooh and another tidbit – there were huge rumours ahead of time about what Astrid’s role would be, because her name is an anagram of TARDIS. But that was a total red herring.

TEHANI:
This is what I love best about these reviews with you two – all the little tidbits (even when they were red herrings)! 🙂

DAVID:
The rest of the characters are all very well realised (if quite stereotypical), from the oily rich man to the midshipman whose sense of duty shines through. I particularly loved the Van Hoffs and was devastated when they died. There is a very high body count in this episode actually! The whole secondary characters dying in noble self sacrifice is very Classic Who, seemed to happen almost every episode.

TANSY:
From what I have heard, disaster movies are actually a big TV tradition in the UK, and so this was constructed with that in mind. It’s the first time (except maybe for 1996) that Doctor Who has really felt like an action movie rather than a TV show. And of course the high body count goes along with that – bumping everyone off one by one.

I really liked the Van Hoffs too – I wince at the ‘comedy of fat’ elements that I think go too far, but it’s pretty clear that everyone who mocks them is an ass. They’re a great example of a sweet, loving couple. It’s a sign of how great their relationship is that Morvin laughs his head off when Foon confesses her terrible secret. And oh – you really feel for her when he falls, and later when she sacrifices herself in such a heroic fashion, and you know that it’s because she doesn’t want to be without him.

TEHANI:
After multiple watchings, I thought the “comedy of fat” elements were actually quite well done – like you said, anyone who mocks is obviously an ass, and the way the Van Hoffs handle the mockage is great. Just my thoughts though 🙂

TANSY:
Ha yes I agree with you after this viewing but I think in the past I was wincing too much to notice – and Russell T Davies does have something of a habit of writing fat characters that are figures of fun.

Bannakaffalata was a lovely alien addition to the crew of survivors – I like how many of these characters had a comic dimension to them, balanced out with the horror and drama of what’s happening to them.

TEHANI:
Back to David’s point about the high body count: for some reason, I had it in my head that midshipman Alonso also bit the dust at the end of the episode, until I rewatched again today. There’s so many people who die, it just must have stuck that he did too!

As an aside, the Doctor’s glee at being able to say, “Allons y Alonso!” was just delightful.

TANSY:
He totally seems marked to die, doesn’t he? I had a similar experience with the movie American Graffiti, where I misremembered the ending for years and was deeply upset at the death of a character in a car crash … and then later watched it and discovered that he came out of it just fine!

The Allons y Alonso line actually really confused me the first time I heard it, I think because “Allons y” had not registered with me as a true Doctor catchphrase – he’d only used it a few times before this special, maybe only once – and I’d forgotten about it. Now of course, it makes sense! I think I was annoyed at it originally as a blatantly tacked-on catchphrase, but as with many things Whoish, familiarity and nostalgia has swept away the irritation.

I have to say one of my favourite bits of this whole episode is the Bernard Cribbins cameo, and the whole reference back to the previous two Christmases and why everyone in London has evacuated. It’s just brilliant! I enjoy these details that show how the stories we have watched have changed the perception of the world around them in these high media days. I also like the Doctor trying to defend Christmas from Mr Copper’s slanders, only to break and admit, “What am I saying, my Christmases are always like this.”

DAVID:
The idea that all these alien invasions have consequences has been touched upon quite a bit in New Who, from the Christmas invasions to the alien museum, and it is an idea that I like. Once things go public, it makes sense that these things would change the perceptions and worldviews of the average person. It doesn’t seem credible that they would just exist in isolation, or be so easily covered up. I’ve also liked the little nods to the idea that there would be groups that might notice the Doctor cropping up throughout history and build conspiracy theories around it, as well.

TANSY:
The Christmas (disaster) special was something that we got entirely from New Who rather than Classic, and to me really sums up the RTD era as a whole – I love how quickly and easily it formed a tradition, and one which we take completely for granted. Not sure that we really needed the running joke about pretendy snow, though – yes they always make it snow in Christmas movies, and yes it never snows in London at Christmas but I seem to recall around about the time this special was released that they DID have a massive cold snap, and London had snow at Christmas. Time to retire the joke, Russell T…

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 – DavidTansyTehani
“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

A Conversational Journey through New Who – Spearhead from Space!

As we prepare to start on the next season of Doctor Who in our conversational review series, we thought we would do something different and check an episode of Classic Who. We made a list of epsiodes worth looking at, and Tansy suggested “Spearhead from Space”. There were a number of reasons it seemed a great start, it is the first appearance of Jon Pertwee as the Doctor, was intended as a mini reboot of the series and, very importantly, features Caroline John as Liz Shaw (some of you may be aware that, sadly, she passed away this year).

And, to make it even more different, we decided to try our hand at podcasting! This was my first experience, and rather nerve wracking, but we got through it. I am not game to listen to my babbling, so you will have to let me know how I went.

We had a lot of fun, and hopefully you will enjoy listening as much as we enjoyed making it. You can listen from the Podbean site, or download in iTunes (search The Book Nut or “Doctor Who in Conversation”). A big thanks to Andrew Finch for producing it for us!

A Conversational Journey through New Who – S03E12/13/14 – Utopia/The Sound of Drums/Last of the Timelords

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 6 (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’re also joined today by guest viewer Joanne Anderton, who is also discovering New Who for the first time! We’re working our way through New Who, using season openers and closers, and Hugo shortlisted episodes, as our blogging points. Just for fun!

Last time we looked at Blink, and now we move on to:

“Utopia / The Sound of Drums / Last of the Timelords”
The Doctor – David Tennant
Martha Jones – Freema Agyeman
Captain Jack Harkness – John Barrowman
Professor Yana – Derek Jacobi
The Master – John Simm

TEHANI:
So, this feels like a bit of a cheat really, but the finale of season three is actually three linked episodes, so that’s how we’ll review them!

First up, JACK IS BACK! Woo! I had forgotten that he and the Doctor actually have a conversation about why the Doctor deserted Jack after he was killed and made immortal. In fact, there’s a lot I’d forgotten about the conversations in “Utopia” – there’s actually some quite revealing things said, which are important to both hindsight and for setting up what’s ahead, which was pretty cool second time around.

TANSY
I am watching this live with Tehani in my living room! Sorry, David. Obviously you need to come visit us too.

DAVID:
Haha maybe next time we need to skype or something.

TANSY:
That would be great fun, though only one step away from podcasting…

My honey is lecturing us on how far away the heat death of the universe will be, and suggesting that the Doctor has got his sums wrong. Surely not!
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A Conversational Journey through New Who – S03E10 – Blink

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 6 (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’re also joined today by guest viewer Joanne Anderton, who is also discovering New Who for the first time! We’re working our way through New Who, using season openers and closers, and Hugo shortlisted episodes, as our blogging points. Just for fun!

We would like to thank everyone who nominated our “New Who in Conversation” series for the William Atheling Jr Award – it’s a great honour to be on the ballot! Voting for the annual Ditmar Awards (which the Atheling is included in) is open to all members of Swancon 36 (2011 Natcon – Perth) and Craftinomicon (2012 Natcon – Melbourne), and can be done online.

Last time we looked at Human Nature and The Family of Blood, and now we move on to:

“Blink” – Season three, Episode Ten
Sally Sparrow – Carey Mulligan
The Doctor – David Tennant
Martha Jones – Freema Agyeman

 

TEHANI:
We move straight from the excellence that is “Human Nature / The Family of Blood” into the completely different, but equally amazing, “Blink”. And I want to say it straight up – Sally Sparrow ROCKS. Carey Mulligan, who plays Sparrow, absolutely owns this episode – it’s pretty amazing, for a one off appearance.

She shares very little screen time with the Doctor, as this is a “Doctor-lite” episode, and I wonder if this lets us really embrace her – she IS the focus of the episode. While the Doctor is there, making things happen, he’s not THERE, onscreen, with his dazzling charisma – it’s all about Sally – ordinary Sally thrown into the strangest of events – who really gets the job done. I LOVE her!

Favourite line: “I’m clever, and I’m listening. And don’t patronise me, because people have died and I’m not happy.” Go Sally – Doctor smackdown!

And two episodes in a row we have a gorgeous, strong woman finding the Doctor, and passing him up. Poor Matron Redfern in the preceding episodes really had a hard job of it, but Sally did it splendidly – she recognised the Doctor for who and what he is, and it made her choice easy.

TANSY:
I think Sally Sparrow is the character most requested to return as a companion – and as Carey Mulligan’s star rises in Hollywood it becomes less and less likely. She is playing Daisy in the new Great Gatsby movie opposite Leo DiCaprio!!

TEHANI:
Even more than Sophia Myles?? Wow, impressive!

DAVID:
Yes, Sally really is the star of this episode. She has some wonderful lines, and we see the whole range of human emotion in yet another stellar guest appearance. How moving was the scene in the hospital, or how cutting was the “We just run a shop together”? I love the line you mentioned, Tehani, but my personal favourite – “Sad is happy for deep people.” Carey Mulligan has a great screen presence, and I can see why people wanted Sally Sparrow to return. But, as I will no doubt talk about further, I think Sally makes the right decision in the end.

TANSY:
I do love Mulligan in this; her performance is fantastic and it’s one of my favourite Moffat scripts, not for the scary parts so much as the excellent banter, and the economy of words. Nearly every line is packed cleverly with so much character as well as driving the plot forward.

Sally is a wonderful example of someone who can be heroic without necessarily being violent or special. Though she is of course, clever!

I wondered watching this whether they could actually do a whole season (or mini-season) of Doctor Who stories that do exactly this, that show a one off character and their experience with the Doctor from their own point of view rather than that of the Doctor or an Official Companion. Would it work if this was the formula rather than an occasional experience?

TEHANI:
Do we love the Doctor too much to appreciate Doctor-lite episodes for a full season? 🙂

TANSY:
They wouldn’t have to be Doctor-lite! Just putting the point of view in the hands of new characters instead of a continuing companion. It could be argued of course that they did this in 2009, but I don’t want to spoil David so I’ll shut up now…

JO:
Don’t spoil for me either, thank you very much! 🙂
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A Conversational Journey through New Who – S03E08/09 – Human Nature/The Family of 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 6 (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’re going to work our way through New Who, using season openers and closers, and Hugo shortlisted episodes, as our blogging points. Just for fun!

We would like to thank everyone who nominated our “New Who in Conversation” series for the William Atheling Jr Award – it’s a great honour to be on the ballot! Voting for the annual Ditmar Awards (which the Atheling is included in) is open to all members of Swancon 36 (2011 Natcon – Perth) and Craftinomicon (2012 Natcon – Melbourne), and can be done online.

Last time we looked at “The Shakespeare Code“ and “Gridlock”, and now we move on to:

“Human Nature” and “The Family of Blood” – Season Three, Episodes Eight and Nine
The Doctor – David Tennant
Martha Jones – Freema Agyeman


TEHANI:
Before we wriggle on to some of the best eps yet, a quick look at those we’ve skipped…
“Daleks in Manhattan / Evolution of the Daleks” – over the top, quite offensively horrible in some places, and really not at all engaging. Oh, and another “last Daleks eva” storyline, with the Cult of Skaro back again. I pretty much skimmed this on the rewatch and didn’t feel I’d missed anything at all. In fact, I wish I hadn’t bothered at all and never reminded myself of the horrible pig-men. And I REALLY wish this hadn’t been dragged out to two episodes – perhaps in one it would have been a bit better. I think I know what it was aiming to say, but for me, it was definitely a low of New Who.

DAVID:
Wow, you really didn’t like it! I actually quite enjoyed it, and my inner romantic was very happy that Laszlo and Tallulah ended up together at the end. My only real issue, and I am afraid that it really did bug me, was the way that the human hybrid version of Dalek Sec talked, it was atrocious.

TANSY:
I think this is one of my long-term least favourite, and nothing much has changed! The concept of the Daleks in 1930s New York is brilliant, and I liked the idea that they are the only reason the Empire State Building got built, but there isn’t much for me to love here.
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