Bowties are STILL Cool

Chalchiuhtecolotl June 3, 2011 No Comments »

Recap from Series 5:

Last season introduced the newest Doctor, Matt Smith.  It also announced the departure of Russell T. Davies as the executive producer and head writer of the revived series, and Steven Moffat as his replacement.  Two arcs were prevalent in Series 5: The mysteries of the cracks in the universe and the repeated message, “Silence will fall.”  These mysteries were repeated on both a minor and major scale throughout Series 5 in the form of visual appearances of the cracks and character interaction involving warnings of the Silence.  By the end of the series, the puzzle behind the cracking universe was given a slight close, while the mystery of the Silence still remained.

Episodes 1 and 2: The Impossible Astronaut and Day of the Moon

Four Envelopes: All containing the same date, time, and map reference.  Four numbered envelopes all “TARDIS-Blue.”  These envelopes reunite the Doctor, Amy, Rory and River Song in Utah for a picnic, courtesy of a now 1,103 year old Doctor- nearly 200 years older since the last time we saw him.  The Doctor informs them that for their next adventure, he will be taking them to ‘Space: 1969.’  While enjoying the picnic, Amy spots a figure in the distance, a figure she immediately forgets upon looking away from it.  An old man then pulls up in his car, gets out, and waves to the Doctor, who suddenly looks very grim.  Out in the nearby lake is a man in space suit; the doctor walks up to the astronaut, instructing the others, “whatever happens now, you do not interfere.”  The horrified Amy, Rory and River watch as the astronaut fires upon the doctor, twice to trigger a regeneration and once more, ceasing the regeneration and killing the doctor permanently.  The man to whom the doctor waved is Canton Everett Delaware III.  He received the fourth envelope and had been instructed to bring a can of gasoline.  The gasoline is used to burn the Doctor’s remains and Mr. Delaware leaves the group with the cryptic message, “I won’t be seeing you again, but you’ll be seeing me.” 

River then notices the significance of the numbers on the envelopes.  Mr. Delaware’s was numbered ‘4’, hers ‘2’, while Amy and Rory’s was ‘3’.  Who got the first envelope?  At a diner, the three discuss the implications.  “When you know it’s the end, who do you call? …who did the doctor trust the most?”  Once the words are out of River’s mouth, the Doctor, alive, walks out of the restroom, now aged 909 years.  The Doctor, at the age 1,103, recruits Amy, Rory, River and his younger self for something related to Space 1969 and Canton Everett Delaware III.   The Doctor does not know who sent him the message, and the others decide not to tell him.   After much persuasion, the Doctor agrees to pursue the lead and looks up Mr. Delaware and Space 1969 with the end result being the TARDIS cloaked in the Oval Office in the middle of a conversation between a younger Mr. Delaware and President Nixon.  The topic of conversation is a peculiar phone call that the president receives from a young girl asking for help.  The Doctor ends up earning Mr. Delaware’s trust and persuades him to give him time to find the girl.

The Doctor works on unraveling the mystery and Amy spots the mysterious figure again, and once more forgets about it when she looks away.  Amy excuses herself to the restroom where she runs into the creature again and realizes the alien, revealed to the a member of the Silence, is wiping her memories.  She comes to this conclusion after watching the alien’s interaction with another human and takes a picture of it.  After leaving the restroom, she forgets the encounter.

The doctor deduces the girl’s location to Cape Canaveral, Florida and flies off in the TARDIS with Amy, Rory, River, and Mr. Delaware in tow.  At location, they find pieces of a space suit and bits of technology.  Rory and River explore a vast network of underground tunnels, tunnels that have been around for centuries, unnoticed.  They come across a control room like the one found in Series 5 episode “The Lodger,” completely oblivious that they are surrounded by the Silence.  Elsewhere, Delaware hears the cries of the little girl in the recording and runs to the sound.  By the time Amy and the Doctor catch up with him, he is unconscious.  Amy informs the Doctor she is pregnant, and they turn to see the astronaut.  As the astronaut begins to lift its faceplate, Amy grabs Delaware’s gun and opens fire as the moved faceplate reveals the astronaut to be the little girl.

Part II of the series premier opens three months after the end of Part I with Amy, Rory, and River being pursued by Delaware, all of them with tick marks over their arms and body, as if they are counting something.  Amy and Rory are shot and delivered to the Doctor- who is trapped in a perfect prison- in body bags, while River chooses to jump to her death, rather than be caught.  The Doctor’s prison is soundproof and impenetrable.  The Doctor is cut off from the universe: a perfect prison, and also, a perfect room for conspiracy.    It is revealed that Delaware is still working for the Doctor and has returned a still living Rory and Amy to him.  The three of them fly off in the TARDIS, revealed to be cloaked and inside the prison with them, and rescue River Song mid-fall.

Though the motive of the aliens is not known, the Doctor’s allies have found out that they exist all over the planet and have the ability to wipe the minds of the humans they encounter.  The Doctor implants devices into all their hands that will allow them to record audio from future meetings with the Silence.  Amy also tells the Doctor she was mistaken and is not pregnant.

The Silence have been present, unnoticed on Earth, for longer than anyone can really fathom.  Not only can they wipe memories, but they can plant suggestions into the minds of those they encounter.  The Doctor informs everyone that they are not ‘fighting an alien invasion.  We’re leading a revolution.”  How do you stop something you can’t remember, who can manipulate your thoughts, and have been present on the planet for longer than anyone can remember?  The situation seems impossible and what follows is a plot worthy of a season finale.  I can’t give any more info without spoiling all the juicy parts!

As far as season premieres go, this is one of the better ones I’ve ever watched.  The death of the Doctor in the beginning opens the season up with energy and sets the theme for the rest of the season.  These two episodes finally give us a tangible introduction to the Silence- a threat introduced last season.  In addition, they set two new arcs for the season, the Doctor’s death, Amy’s pregnancy, and the mysterious astronaut girl.

Once more, Steven Moffat’s storytelling refuses to disappoint, the episodes play out like a Sherlock Holmes story, with little clues and teases given throughout the episodes only to add up into something coherent at the end.  And again, Moffat manages to scare us with the simple and primal.  Moffat originally brought us the Weeping Angels, and I think these creatures may have a rival in the creepy department courtesy of the Silence.

The Impossible Astronaut and Day of the Moon both receive 5 out of 5 wagons.

Episode 3: Curse of the Black Spot

The Doctor and crew end up on a pirate ship in the 17th century after following a distress call.  The crew is being terrorized by a Siren who, contrary to myth, instead of luring men to the sea with her song, marks them with a black spot on the palm after being injured.  Then, she lures the injured sailors to her and to all appearances, disintegrates them with her touch.

In a fight, Rory is injured and receives the spot.  The Doctor finds out the Siren uses water as a portal and instructs the crew to take shelter in the ship’s dry magazine where they meet the son of the ship’s captain- who stowed away on the ship when his mother died.  The son, Toby, is revealed to have a black spot, his caused by fever, not injury.

The Doctor attempts to rescue the crew by boarding them on the TARDIS, which fails as the TARDIS begins to act strangely.  Captain Avery and the Doctor are barely able to make it out before the TARDIS dematerializes of its own accord.  Then, even in the dry magazine, a member of the crew is taken by the siren.  Water is not the portal, but any reflective surface, leading the crew to eliminate all reflective objects, including their stolen treasures.

A storm comes upon the ship, and Toby drops a gold crown while bringing his father his coat.  The siren comes through and takes Toby.  In addition, Rory falls overboard into the sea.  The Doctor does not believe the Siren will let Rory drown and also does not believe she kills her ‘victims.’  To test his theory, the Doctor, Amy and Captain Avery prick themselves and allow the Siren to take them.  The mystery of the Siren is then revealed.

This story is a standalone one, though it does touch upon the pregnancy arc.  All- in- all, it is not a bad episode.  Plenty of action, a good plot, swordfights and pirates.  However, I did have one problem with it… is it just me, or do the writers of this show like to torture poor Rory!?  It seems the writers like to tease us viewers into thinking they are going to kill off Rory and then they bring him back.  Thankfully, we don’t have to wait until the end of the season this time, but this plot device has the potential to get old if used too much.  There were some practicality issues in the episode as well- such as Amy taking the time for a costume change while the Doctor and Rory are in danger of losing their lives.

However, the story itself was very well played out.  The effects were gorgeous and the entire visual of the episode was very ethereal.  The music in this episode struck out more so than in other ones, adding greatly to the tone of the episode.  Overall, despite the couple of flaws mentioned earlier, it is still a very good episode.

Curse of the Black Spot receives 4 out of 5 wagons

Episode 4: The Doctor’s Wife

While traveling in the TARDIS, the Doctor receives a communication, but not just any communication.  The Doctor receives a message in a form used by Time Lords: a hypercube. The call is traced to outside the universe, and the Doctor, excited beyond all restraint, drops parts of the TARDIS to generate enough power for the trip.

The TARDIS lands on a junkyard situated on an asteroid and immediately stops working.  The Doctor and company leave the TARDIS to explore and meet Auntie, Uncle, an Ood called Nephew, and Idris- who takes an instant shine to the Doctor, fawning over him in her own peculiar way.  Calling her ‘crazy,’ Auntie and Uncle lock up Idris while Amy and Rory return to the TARDIS and the Doctor follows the distress signal.

The Doctor comes upon a cabinet filled to the brim with hypercubes and discovers that nothing is as it appears on the asteroid.  Uncle and Auntie are Frankenstein worthy creations controlled by the asteroid itself- called House.  What the Doctor discovers not only endangers himself, Amy, and Rory, but the TARDIS itself!

Let me begin the review by saying that I adore Neil Gaiman, who wrote this episode.  The man is a brilliant writer, a master of words and clever plots.  Given my initial excitement over the episode, I had to question whether or not I was actually enjoying it or if I was grinning like a deranged fool just because of an epic fangirl attack.  After all, Fangirl Syndrome, can cripple even the most analytical of minds into a drunken stupor.  Thankfully, after watching the episode multiple times, my opinion remained fixed.

The story itself was very well written. I am not an easy person to scare or give the willies too.  In fact, the only other Dr. Who episode to give me the heebie jeebies was the 10th Doctor episode “Blink” and now “The Doctor’s Wife” makes that list as well.  This episode is dark and eerie, sending chills up my spine the entire way through.  It got a wide range of emotional response out of me as well: laughing, crying, nail biting…  Gaiman touched upon so many aspects of the potential of this series, I’m amazed my brain didn’t shut down!

The cast is small, which is perfectly suited to the story, and the acting is phenomenal.  Suranne Jones- Idris- in particular did a fantastic job.  I can’t say too much without giving away plot, but Jones breathed life into a character that would be difficult for most to play in a believable way.    The temptation to go too far is great here, but Jones did a beautiful job.  The entire episode was poetic in a way that only Gaiman- and a skilled cast- could produce.  This episode defied all my expectations.

The Doctor’s Wife receives 5 wagons.  I’d go higher if I could, but the SpaceGypsy scale only goes up to 5, unfortunately

Episode 5: The Rebel Flesh

The Doctor finds the TARDIS swept up in the beginnings of a solar storm and he, Amy, and Rory find themselves on an isolated future island.  Here a factory is housed that pumps a valuable, but highly corrosive, acid to the mainland.  To eliminate the threat to the workers, the skeleton crew of the factory uses a self-replicating fluid, call the Flesh, to do the work.  These doppelgangers, called gangers, are controlled remotely by their real life counter parts and cannot operate seperately from their controllers.

The factory gains its energy from solar power, and fearing that the worst part of the solar storm will strike the factory soon, the Doctor offers to take the crew to safety in his TARDIS.  The head of the operation, Miranda Cleaves, refuses to shut down the factory without direct orders from the mainland.  The Doctor then races to disconnect the solar collector as the storm begins, but an electrical strike hits the building and throws the Doctor off the tower and renders everyone else unconscious.

When the crew awakens, it is under strange circumstances.   They are out of their control beds and there is no sign of the gangers.  Their own belongings, however, have been rifled through and the TARDIS has sunk- almost completely to her top- into the acid soaked dirt.  The Doctor informs everyone that they have been unconscious longer than they believed- over an hour, in fact- and that the gangers have gained sentience, believing themselves to be those they are modeled after.

Soon it is discovered that two of present crew are in fact gangers, Cleaves and Jennifer, when their forms begin to have trouble keeping shape.  Ganger Jennifer struggles with her new identity- initially in denial, believing herself to be the real Jennifer and befriends Rory who is starting to demonstrate a protective and emotional attachment to her.  Meanwhile Ganger Cleaves conspires with the other gangers to kill their human counterparts while the humans plan a similar course of action against their ganger selves.

As would be expected, the Doctor attempts to unite both sides.  He very nearly succeeds until the human Cleaves kills one of the gangers with an electrical charge.  The Doctor accuses Cleaves of killing a living being, but Cleaves refuses to acknowledge the gangers as being alive.  The gangers plan an attack and Ganger Jennifer goes in search of her human counterpart so that she may kill her.

The Doctor leads the humans to the safest part of the complex, but Rory, hearing Jennifer scream, runs off to find her, separating from the group despite Amy’s requests he remain.  The gangers in acid protection suits bear down on the human’s sanctuary, and behind the safety of the doors, a new figure engages the humans:  A ganger of the Doctor.

This episode is a personal favorite of mine for two reasons.  One: it covers one of my favorite science fiction philosophical debates: what qualifies as life? And Two: Rory finally gets a chance to not be a third wheel in the series.   When dealing with a genre that produces creatures and beings that act alive, but may not be alive, debates are bound to pop up.  In The Rebel Flesh we are introduced to gangers, perfect replicas of humans who under the right conditions gain memories of their human counterparts.  It is as if they have lived the lives of those they were created from, but are they alive?  The Doctor’s and Cleaves’ views on this differ greatly as can be seen in the episode.  I’m really curious how this particular bit of plot will turn out, especially now that the Doctor has his own ganger to deal with!

Rory often gets used as a side character.  He doesn’t really get his own arcs too much.  The fact that he gets to be the prince to a damsel in distress and get his own chance to shine is a welcome change.  For most of Rory’s time in the series, he is just an extension of Amy.  This is one of the few times we get to see Rory on his own and outright defy his wife!  We’ll have to wait until June 4th to see how this pans out for the character though.

The Rebel Flesh receives 5 out of 5 wagons

Concluding Thoughts

Thus far, this season of Doctor Who has got three plot arcs/ mysteries:  The future death of the Doctor, Amy’s fluctuating pregnancy, and the regenerating astronaut girl.  The writer’s are taking a different approach compared to last season’s arcs- cracks in the universe, the Silence…

There was something sinister about the cracks.  They were simple, but because they intrigued the doctor, we knew they posed a potential threat.  The threat of the Silence that loomed last season was equally ominous.  We see an unknown enemy- unknown to us and the Doctor- but we see the effect the threat left behind on other species.  Last season created tension by the use of words and visual teasing.  We’d get little pieces of information that would often raise more questions than it answered.

This season, the little girl and Amy’s pregnancy create the same kind of tension produced by last season’s arcs, but the death of the Doctor leaves a different taste behind. Obviously the Doctor will die at some point; Time Lords, while long lived, are not immortal.  The knowledge that Time Lords can be permanently killed by interrupting their regeneration is also not new.  No, what is interesting about the 11th Doctor’s death is not the death itself, but how he reacts to it.  Firstly, he is aware his death is approaching.  In addition, he sends out letters to his past self, Amy, Rory, River, and Mr. Delaware.  The last four are not that surprising, but the Doctor crossed his own time stream… a big no-no for Time Lords.  The show is taking a different route with this arc.  Instead of giving us a threat- the Silence, Cracks in the universe, inconsistent pregnancy, etc.  We are given an event, an ending, and are left to wonder how it ties into the rest of the story.  The interest sparked by this arc isn’t so much what happens, but how and why it happens.  Given the hints given by the Doctor before he dies and people involved in his death, a good theory would be that the Doctor’s death is connected to the astronaut girl and potentially even the Silence.  Without more evidence, it is hard to say exactly what will come of this and the other plot threads of this season.  All that can be said for certain is, that knowing series producer Steven Moffat, it will knock our socks off.

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