Ten Things about Who: The Power of Three

Ten points of discussion raised by watching the Doctor Who episode The Power of Three by Chris Chibnall.

This post has been edited, tidied up and expanded to form part of my new ebook, TEN THINGS ABOUT WHO, available on Kindle. Buy it now for £1.99More details

I really liked this week’s episode of Doctor Who. The conclusion to the main threat was ever more perfunctory than usual, mind, but that didn’t overly detract from the beauty of the character studies involved. But on with this week’s Ten Things…

If you’ve missed previous ones, read my Ten Things About… Asylum of the Daleks, Dinosaurs on a Spaceship and A Town Called Mercy.

1. Kate Stewart

When I saw the new head of UNIT’s full name listed in the latest Doctor Who Magazine, I knew that there would be a link to the organisation’s most famous member, Brigadier Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart.

And here she is: the daughter of the man himself. And, in a fan-pleasing touch, it’s a character that has already previously appeared in Doctor Who, having appeared in Gary Russell’s novel The Scales of Injustice, which featured the Third Doctor, the Brigadier and Liz Shaw.

Jemma Redgrave is a worthy addition to the Doctor Who roll call, I think. I hope we see her again.

2. “Twitter!”

Of course the mysterious cubes would have several Twitter accounts set up within minutes. Even the “Essex Lion” had at least two. But I do long for the day when the positives about social media can be referenced, rather than being the butt of cheap jibes.

Still, at least Doctor Who is referencing social media correctly. It’s light years on from when, in Utopia, Jack and Martha’s sharing of anecdotes about the Doctor is wrongly chastised as “blogging”.

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Ten Things about Who: A Town Called Mercy

Ten observations about the Doctor Who episode, A Town Called Mercy

This post has been edited, tidied up and expanded to form part of my new ebook, TEN THINGS ABOUT WHO, available on Kindle. Buy it now for £1.99More details

Hard to believe we’re now more than halfway through the current run of Doctor Who. While the Christmas Special and a whole new batch of episodes in 2013 are part of the same series from the point of view of the production process, in viewer terms there will be an ending in just two weeks’ time.

1. Yes, Virginia, there were black people in the Old West

There were several people on Twitter suggesting that the presence of a black character in Mercy was unbelievable.

Tweets with replies by Kevin Wilson (@kevinWilson94) | Twitter

Tweets with replies by global village (@conor_cymex) | Twitter


Unlikely, possibly, not not impossible. There were African American cowboys and soldiers throughout the period. While a black priest would certainly have been unusual, given the Marshal’s attitude to accepting people and giving them a second chance I’d say that Mercy may be more accepting than elsewhere.

2. A man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do, but obviously not that many women

Apart from Amy, only one woman gets any on-screen lines. And even then, it’s just the one two (I thought her line in the bar was the only one, but rewatching it she pipes up in the night-time scene too).

3. And we’re not going to credit the one who did the narration

I’m not keen on narration generally. I think that if, as in A Town Called Mercy, a story is introduced by a a narrator, the story that unfolds needs to feel like it’s being told from the point of view of the same narrator throughout. Here, it’s just a framing device that adds little.

For all that, though, it’s criminal that the actress who delivered the narration – the wonderful Lorelei King – received no recognition in the closing credits.

4. A cyborg’s gotta do what a… oh, you get the idea

Quite how and why the cyborg couldn’t/wouldn’t enter Mercy in order to extract his target isn’t exactly clear. The circle around the town has great visual and storytelling potential, but there doesn’t seem to be a great deal of internal logic at play here. However, the final image of him standing guard on the mountaintop is a beautiful one.

5. A lonely god is something to fear

“Sometimes, I think you need someone to stop you.”

— Donna Noble, The Runaway Bride

The concept that the Doctor loses his humanity when he’s on his own for too long is a concept that dates back to Rose. When we first meet him, the Ninth Doctor is companionless, still traumatised from the Time War and makes suggestions throughout the series that hint at a non-human morality (willing to allow the Gelth to use human corpses in The Unquiet Dead, prepared to obliterate the last Dalek in Dalek).

The Christmas Invasion and The Waters of Mars – and, indeed, his judgement of Solomon in last week’s Dinosaurs on a Spaceship – also highlighted that, left to his own devices, the Doctor’s tendency to take on the role of judge, jury and (either directly or through deliberate inaction) executioner can get out of hand.

6. Me and you, and a horse named Sue

“Wah wah wah gay agenda wah wah wah” is pretty much how every complaint about the increased presence of non-straight people (and now, horses) in Doctor Who goes.

I expect someone will complain about Susan’s life choices being unsuitable material for a TV show with large numbers of children watching. If they do complain, they’ll be dicks, because:

  1. Children respect life choices far more easily than uptight grown-ups do anyway – unless and until they’re taught otherwise
  2. While us adults recognise the deeper issues of gender identity being touched upon, all the dialogue works at the level suitable for any audience. It’s called a “joke”.
  3. It’s. A. Bloody. Horse.

7. Again with the voice

Last week, I suggested that Mitchell and Webb’s bitchy robots didn’t quite work because their voices weren’t processed enough to sound like they emanated from the metal cases that were in the room.

I think the Cyborg in this week’s episode had the opposite problem: his voice was so processed that it never felt like anything other than post-production ADR.

8. Marshal Exposition

As the Marshal and Rory approached the cyborg bounty hunter, the Marshal told Rory the plan. Which, as Rory pointed out, he already knew.

Getting across information for the audience’s sake, when the characters onscreen already know the facts, is tricky. Toby Whithouse manages here by making a joke of the unnecessary exposition.

9. “Ma’am. And… Fella”

Speaking of Rory, poor Arthur Darvill. His character was more or less redundant this week. A Town Called Mercy had the feel of a Doctor-plus-one adventure. Still, next week’s trailer suggests that we’ll get to see a lot more of Rory. In more ways than one.

10. Dining with monsters

Finally, the ethical dilemma at the heart of this week’s episode – should a despicable war criminal be turned over to authorities that would, in all probability, execute them? – is a reminder of 2005’s Boom Town. Blon Felfotch Passameer Day Slitheen, aka “Margaret”, would be killed if the Doctor hands her over to the authorities on Raxacoricofallapatorius. In the end, the decision is taken out of his hands, as it is here.

While that, as here, leaves me feeling with a slight sense of anticlimax, at the same time it helps to not answer the question at the heart of the dilemma. What would we do in similar circumstances? What should we expect our government to do on our behalf? We may all have different opinions on that. At its best, drama asks difficult questions of us, and the worst thing it can do is provide pat answers.

Ten things about Who: Asylum of the Daleks

This post has been edited, tidied up and expanded to form part of my new ebook, TEN THINGS ABOUT WHO, available on Kindle. Buy it now for £1.99More details

I’m not going to do full reviews of the new series of Doctor Who, which started last night on BBC1. But I thought I might try and come up with ten points I liked, didn’t like, or thought worthy of further discussion. Hence, Ten Things About Who.

If you haven’t yet seen the episode, what the hell are you doing here? Go and watch it, and don’t come back to this post until you have done!

Continue reading “Ten things about Who: Asylum of the Daleks”

Let’s Kill Hitler (and let’s keep it spoiler-free)

Last night, I went to the National Film Theatre to see a special preview of Let’s Kill Hitler, the first episode of the second half of the current series of Doctor Who, which is due to hit BBC1 this forthcoming bank holiday weekend. 

At the end of the last episode, a cabal of the Doctor’s enemies had absconded with Amy and Rory’s new baby, Melody Pond, who they said was to be bred into being a weapon in the war against the Time Lord. And in the final scene, we learned that River Song was indeed Melody, all grown up.

That episode answered many questions, though mostly in part rather than fully, and asked many more. Let’s Kill Hitler does the same, pushing the season’s story arc on in many new and exciting ways. There are some truly thrilling moments and discoveries which, as Steven Moffat reasoned in the post-airing Q&A, are best experienced as you watch the episode, so I’ll endeavour to keep this piece as spoiler-free as possible. And in that spirit, if you comment on this blogpost, I ask that you do the same…

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I’ve been quite on here for a while, but that’s partly because I’ve been so busy. I haven’t been to the theatre that much (trying to recover after a glut), but did get to see The Railway Children at Waterloo Station. It’s really, really good, but must put my thoughts together more coherently on that one…

I have written one or two things as part of my day job, though. Arthur Darvill, popularly known to BBC1 viewers as Rory Williams in Doctor Who, is currently playing Mephistopheles in Doctor Faustus at Shakespeare’s Globe. I interviewed him for The Stage:

“We have giant puppets that are going to take over the whole space and small puppets that are devils. It’s hilarious. There are people walking around on stilts all morning trying not to fall over. What Matthew’s done brilliantly is to bring all those elements in immediately. I think if those things were just added on, it’d feel like they weren’t serving the story. But everything is geared towards telling the story in the most concise, interesting, entertaining, brilliant way.

“It’s quite lucky for me because I’m just playing Mephistopheles. There are so many other people who are playing numerous parts. They can turn up as a monk, a demon goat, a fiery devil. There’s going to be a lot of running around. I spoke to the costume department and they said that, for the 16 of us in the cast, there are over 110 costumes. I’ve only got two.”

Away from the Globe, it is difficult to broach the subject of Darvill’s future plans without running into problems with Doctor Who spoilers. Such is the secrecy around future storylines that the actor can’t discuss whether or not he will be returning to Cardiff. One newspaper interview started parsing the tenses in which Darvill talked about his role in Doctor Who to try to determine whether he was done with the show. Darvill finds the situation hilarious, saying all he has to do to fuel more speculation is “just keep my mouth shut”.

Also Doctor Who-related, today I wrote a piece in praise of the latest issue of Doctor Who Magazine, which is a wonderful and highly emotive issue celebrating the joyous life of Nicholas Courtney:

One of the sadder duties of working at The Stage is occasionally having to report on the death of an actor whose work you have loved. But when it’s someone who evidently was adored, not just as a character, but as a person by just about everybody who ever met them, the loss can be immeasurable.

If we devoted as much space to the recently departed, their legacy and a commemoration of the lives they touched as those people deserved, we wouldn’t have the time or space to devote to anything else. So I think it’s only right that we should commend another publication for producing a marvellous tribute to a man who, as actor, Equity councillor, husband, drinking partner or friend, has left a profound hole in the acting profession by leaving us: Nicholas Courtney.

Do buy the latest issue of DWM: it’s a wonderful memorial to a man who quite clearly touched the lives of everyone he met.