Monday, November 10, 2014

Doctor Who: Death in Heaven Part II

Well, that was that. Looking over some of the other reviews and reactions of the fandom, I'm rather bemused at the huge discrepancy between how Death in Heaven was received. Long-time Doctor Who blogger Paul Sandifer loved it; the commentators on Previously TV hated it. 

Personally, I was a little underwhelmed, but like I've been saying all along – I have no real personal investment in Doctor Who at this stage. It's a shame, as I could watch season one to five back-to-back for days on end, but there's been something missing – either in the show or in me – throughout the past three seasons that leaves me completely uninterested in re-watching.

Strangely enough, the connotation that sprung to mind when watching this, was the terrible movie-within-a-movie in Bowfinger called Chubby Rain. This low-budget sci-fi nonsense had aliens fall to Earth by hiding themselves in raindrops – thus the name, chubby rain.

Yeah, that's really the most profound statement I can make about this episode. I'm sitting here, twiddling my thumbs, trying to think of something insightful to share, but am coming up empty. So I'm afraid I'm going to have to resort to bullet points.

* Clara insisting that "Clara Oswald does not exist!" was all over the previews for this episode, and was ultimately just her casually buying time. The only real purpose it served was as a comparison to Osgood attempting a similar tactic with the Master later, only her name isn't in the opening credits so she failed.

* So, that's it for Danny? I didn't dislike the guy, but I was hardly invested in him either, so his heroic sacrifice was met with a hearty shrug from me. Does this mean that Clara is already pregnant, or will future Oswald Pink from Listen never exist?

* Michelle Gomez was the high-light, though it's funny to think she wasn't particularly popular in the lead-up to this finale. At least, not from what I was seeing. But here she embodied the Master to perfection: the over-the-top yet casual delight in her own cruelty, her twisted obsession with the Doctor and her need to make him see the similarities between them, and her theatrical physicality (if you haven't seen her as Sue White in Green Wing, you've only seen the tip of the iceberg in regards to what she's really capable of).

* And of course, the deranged Mary Poppins act was taken to its logical extreme when she uses an umbrella to float down to earth.

* As soon as the Doctor told Osgood to put "all of time and space" on her bucket list I knew she was a goner. Given she was something of a fan-girl substitute (the bowtie, the glasses, the dorkiness) I'm going to assume a lot of people are upset, though I'm glad Moffat actually stuck to his guns when it came to killing characters off. It would be hypocritical of me to complain when in the past I've been annoyed at him constantly pushing the reset button on character deaths.

* In saying that, I'm glad Kate made it through, and though I've never watched a single old episode that featured the Brigadier, I knew of his reputation and figured that he'd get some degree of participation when Kate mentioned that her father always wanted to be saluted by the Doctor.

* The reveal of who "the woman in the shop" was came as a baffling anti-climax. I mean, we all knew it would be Missy, but I haven't the faintest idea what the ploy was behind her bringing Clara and the Doctor together. Apparently the Doctor would have no interest in the subject of the afterlife until he was paired up with a control freak of a Companion whose boyfriend would die in a freak car accident and thereby force the Doctor into discovering the Nethersphere and walk straight into the Master's trap? That was the gambit behind giving Clara the Doctor's phone number all those years ago? Moffat has pulled some anti-climactic guff in the past, but this really takes the cake.

* As ever, Moffat's love of banter is so annoying. Characters are so concerned with being clever that they make no sense at all.

* And during the final confrontation in the cemetery, most of this season's themes were wrapped up. The Doctor answers his own question about what kind of man he is (answer: not good or bad, just an idiot passing through who tries to help as best he can), and Danny embraces his career as a soldier to saves the world just in time for Remembrance Day (in hindsight, this is no doubt the carefully-timed reason behind why the season-long soldier subtext was brought up in the first place).

* I doubt this is the last we've seen of Clara, but it was a reasonably affecting scene to watch her and the Doctor lie to each other so skilfully about Danny's death and the return of Gallifrey respectively.

* So a sci-fi fairy tale becomes something of a sci-fi zombie movie, and all the soldiers who died in WWI are commemorated with a story that involves robots blowing themselves up in the clouds to diffuse the cyber-pollen that threatens the entire human race. Doctor Who, everyone!

* Sorry if you turned up to read some sort of in-depth commentary on this episode, but it just didn't do much for me. I watched on auto-pilot, and even the scene in which Danny opts to return the young Afghan boy that he killed in combat back to life was too manipulative to make me feel anything.

So I'm not having much luck with my shows at the moment. I watched Doctor Who and Downton Abbey out of habit, Sleepy Hollow is getting progressively worse, my interest in Arrow and The Flash is on the wane, and The Legend of Korra (though it's as good as it's ever been) is ending soon. I'm gonna need some better material, and fast.


  1. Do you want suggestions for better material? I have suggestions!

    I too find Doctor Who falls squarely in the "meh" category at the moment - I'm not going to stop watching it, obviously, but I was reminded the other day that there are episodes from seasons 6 to 8 that I don't even remember, and I can tell you exactly what every episode in 1-5 is about. And yeah, the woman in the shop thing was disappointing. I did think this season was a marked improvement on S7, however.

    1. Throw all your suggestions at me!

    2. You mean you're not hanging out for Atlantis! just kidding!

      It was very much meh, and also I'm finding the whole season just way too self indulgent, emotionally manipulative and...boring.
      There are some who don't care (or are not old enough) to know who people like the Brigadier are, and I find that kind of fandom gate-keeping distasteful
      At least The Fall is starting this week.

    3. Ooh! Where to begin?

      For shows on now, the one I look forward to the most at the moment is The Good Wife. I know it's not necessarily in the genre mold that you normally review (which is also what I normally watch), but it really is very good and not at all a normal procedural. It's also notable because it generally maintains an upward trajectory in quality throughout (a few blips notwithstanding) - you know how most shows peter out somewhere around seasons 3 and 4, whereas TGW is still widely regarded as the best it's ever been in season 6. And it didn't start as a bad show by any means. It is one of the best shows at keeping itself fresh, and it is also delightfully unconcerned with the status quo (which is SUCH a relief after shows like Merlin).

      My genre recommendation is In the Flesh, if you haven't already seen it. I normally don't like zombie shows but this one really did it for me. Also Yonderland, which is made by the Horrible Histories crew for a slightly older (Doctor Who equivalent) universe and is just the best.

      (Gah, I am afraid I will be watching Atlantis. But I will feel horrible doing it. I just can't resist that combination of Greek mythology and respected British thespians. Plus, I still kind of feel it has the potential to end up less problematic than Merlin - although certainly not good by any means.)

    4. Thank you, I'll put all that on my "to watch out for" list (my mum's a big fan of The Good Wife, so it's been on my radar for a while).

      Regarding Atlantis: I ended up marathoning the first season with a sort of grotesque fascination at what was on display. It's very clear that the assorted Julians/Johnnys are attempting to achieve a second Merlin-esque success, though it's obvious that they have no real understanding of why Merlin pinged with so many people.

      I may attempt a contrast/comparison at some point in the future - though I'd rather wait until Atlantis has ended and so spare myself the concern that I'm inadvertently promoting it.

  2. Have you ever come across Haven? The first 3 seasons are pretty good - although the 4th season fell apart in a huge way. Its a police procedural with a supernatural element. The 3 leads are quite appealing, it has some gorgeous scenery and Jason Priestely turns up too.
    I've heard there is a 5th season thats started in the US but I'm very wary.

    and I'll jump on the Yonderland bandwagon - its brilliant. I hear the HH crew are doing a film on William Shakespeare (Bill) which I can't wait for.

    For something not-fantasy, I quite enjoyed The Last Tango in Halifax