Monday, December 26, 2011

A Big Mining Thing (The Power of Kroll)


It's Christmas Adam, 1978. Boney M are still at number one with "Mary's Boy Child." Two weeks later they're unseated by The Village People with YMCA, which stays for the last week of the story as well. All of this marks the clear ascendency of disco as a subculture. In the past, Doctor Who has tracked the tone of youth subculture uncannily. In which case this alone is reason for concern. In any case, Earth, Wind, and Fire, Elton John, and the Bee Gees also chart.


While in real news, Vietnam makes a major attack on the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia. Spain ratifies its new Constitution, an event that Wikipedia describes as officially ending military dictatorship, which is amusing given that six lines earlier in its timeline it describes an earlier stage in the Constitution's development the exact same way. And there's a big UN/UNICEF push for the "Year of the Child" featuring a big concert with ABBA, the Bee Gees, Donna Summer, and Rod Stewart. So that's horrific.

While on television, it's not a popular story at all. Let us be honest, for a moment, about the critical consensus regarding this story. Its weaknesses are evident, yes. It’s a bold fan who can defend the Swampies or the way in which Kroll is merged into shots. (The Kroll model itself is actually phenomenal, and it’s easy to see why his first appearance was an iconic moment for children of the time. On the other hand, the join between the two shots is an abomination.) But these in and of themselves don’t explain this story’s status as a punching bag, nor does the fact that it drags a bit.

No, the biggest problem this story has is that for a Robert Holmes script it’s complete and utter crap. It is, in fact, the second worst Robert Holmes script according to the DWM poll I’ve been oddly obsessing over through this story arc, coming in at 174th place. The one that’s lower is, of course, The Space Pirates, which is actually not a bad story to compare this one to.

Both, after all, have essentially the same origin. Holmes was called in to produce a script in a hurry to fill a gap. And in both cases he was given a thoroughly crappy set of instructions for his troubles. For The Space Pirates he was told to tack on two extra episodes and be sure to keep the science realistic. This time he got told to cut down on the humor and to insert the biggest monster in Doctor Who history. And in both cases the resulting script amounts to Robert Holmes writing a space Western. (Also, in a more esoteric coincidence, The Space Pirates was the first story on which John Nathan-Turner worked, then as a floor assistant. The Power of Kroll, on the other hand, was the first story produced by him, as Graham Williams, depending on your choice of sources, went on vacation or took ill, leaving him as the de facto producer.)

And in both cases the result is similar. When I covered The Space Pirates I suggested that there was a heavy degree of unknowability about the story – that it was paced in a way that would only work in 1969 and that it was so visual as to be impossible to understand from audio only. And I stand by that. I don’t think there’s another story with quite as much information missing as The Space Pirates. But were I to take a guess on what we’d conclude if we had all six parts of The Space Pirates, I’d guess that we’d basically get Robert Holmes giving the show and, if we’re being uncharitable, the audience the middle finger. Simply put, The Space Pirates gives the strong sense at times that Robert Holmes is just going “you want realistic space action, I’ll give you realistic space action: long stretches of NOTHING HAPPENING.”

Here there is a similar sense of irritation. Even the basic idea of the story has a whiff of cynicism to it. A cowboys and Indians-style western set in a swamp. Tat Wood, in what may be the single most psychologically revealing moment in the whole of About Time, asks “what other programme would give you a western in a swamp” as if this is some sort of mark of distinction or a reason to like this story, but for those of us who are not Tat Wood the fact remains that this is not a combination that really sells itself to us.

Instead one gets the acute impression that that Holmes just didn’t care about this script beyond how it let him work in his biggest fart joke to date. (The reason the refinery is producing so much methane is Kroll’s “feeding processes.”) It’s hardly the first or the last story to simply be packed with Doctor Who standards – indeed, it’s not even the last Robert Holmes story to do that. But there’s a density to the standards, and a sense that they’re an older fashioned set of standards than usual. The space western’s parallels with The Space Pirates is only the start. There’s a distinct air of base under siege to the proceedings here, and the sequences where Kroll’s tentacles begin bursting out of pipes in the refinery is more than slightly evocative of Fury From the Deep. The plot throws in captures and escapes like they’re going out of style. And conceptually the whole thing is basically just The Mutants only without the flurry of clever ideas that characterizes a Baker and Martin script.

And that, I think, is the crux of this story’s reputation: the fact that it’s just depressing to watch a Robert Holmes story and compare it unfavorably to a Baker and Martin story. But that comparison also captures, I think, why the reputation isn’t quite fair. Because if it weren’t for the increased expectations that come along with the name “Robert Holmes” much of this story would be easier to forgive. The exact same story transmitted under Baker and Martin’s names would, I think, rank as one of their best. I’d even bet on that simple change being good for a solid 20 to 30 place gain in the DWM poll.

Because even if people prefer to focus on the story’s deficiencies, there’s a lot to, if not love, at least enjoy here. The cast is surprisingly good, with both Philip Madoc (who is, to the frustration of both actor and audience, wasted in something of a bit part) and John Abineri involved. Martin Jarvis was supposed to be there too, and it’s almost a relief he dropped out, in part because it means John Leeson gets to appear in the flesh, and in part because blowing that many great actors on a story this mediocre would be painful. The directing is mostly solid. The Swampies are a wreck, but it’s not like the script gave anybody much more to go on. As I said, the Kroll model itself is actually quite good. It’s not much harder to put it on and have a fun two hours than it was with The Androids of Tara.

It’s just that so much of what stands between it and quality is so… contemptuous. Watching it there is the continuous sense that the writer is looking down on you for enjoying it. Certainly he isn’t. Even the story’s moral point is half-hearted and cynical. It’s an anti-colonialist parable that can’t muster up much more than “homicidal savages with funny skin probably shouldn’t be subject to genocide.”

To Holmes’s credit, he apparently recognized that this script was weak. Indeed, he seems to have taken it as a sign that it was time to step away from the program which, at this point, he’s contributed to ten of the last eleven seasons of. Although he does eventually decide to make a return and contribute another three and a half stories, he did intend his exit after this to be permanent, and given the sheer depth of his contributions to the program, that fact speaks volumes.

Unfortunately, few of the volumes it speaks are particularly good for the program. For the first of two times the program is finding itself put in an impossible position by the BBC. On the one hand it has a mandate to move away from darker and more intense subjects. This is never a good thing to ask of Doctor Who, but at least the program does have one fallback available when this happens – the impish mockery Holmes and Adams have done so much to develop. But not for the last time that leg has been kicked out from under the program as well with demands from on high that the program tone down the humor. So the program can neither be funny nor serious. That doesn’t really leave it with much that it can be, though.

And that’s the crux of the problem. Mocking humor works well enough as a fallback, but falling back from that lands you uncomfortably close to out and out nihilism. An anti-epic can be made to work if it’s at least a cutting commentary on the normal system of values for epic storytelling. And at the start of this season, at least, we had that. The Ribos Operation was, at the end of the day, a compellingly powerful story about the power of the marginal and abject. The Pirate Planet was a sobering reminder of the existence of genuine moral abominations. But this? This is just a western in a swamp done because the writer was pissed off. It’s not an inversion of the normal values of a sci-fi epic. It’s just a willful refusal to do it well in favor of doing it with some backhanded jokes.

And this is the crux of the problem with the Williams era. For all that it has come up with a variety of means to subvert and upend the established order, it’s not clear what it actually does believe in. And not in the Occupy sense of being a howl of rage against a massive system that doesn’t have a coherent plan to fix it. Even if you do for some reason think that a protest’s job is to provide a fully articulated policy plan it’s at least clear enough what the Occupy movement is angry about. It’s pretty unambiguous what they want torn down, even if a large and diverse protest seeking to protect the interests of 99% of the population is unlikely to be able to formulate a unified consensus for an alternative.

But no such clarity seems to exist for the Williams era. What is it that it’s defying? What exactly is it mocking? None of the answers are particularly compelling. No, worse than that, the answers are reasonably compelling, they just don’t say anything good about the program. Is it mocking everything? If so, then there’s an uncomfortable nihilism. Is it mocking anything it can outsmart? That’s just bullying for people with high IQs. Rigidity? Conformity? Then this story and the one before it, which are just straight down the line thrill-by-numbers affairs wouldn’t make sense, or if they did, would have to be taken as mocking the audience for going along with it.

In a way, of course, we’re just reiterating the dilemma from the end of the Troughton era – the realization that tearing it all down is not a viable end in itself and that separation from the world is not intrinsically noble. In fact, in one sense this is the original dilemma of Doctor Who – the animating spirit of the Doctor’s plot arc in the earliest episodes. And now it roars up again.

But this time there is something altogether more troubling about it. The fact that the program has deteriorated to where Robert Holmes gives up on it cannot be taken as a good thing. Yes, this story is entertaining. Considerably more entertaining, in fact, than most people give it credit for. And I’ve never been willing to fault Doctor Who for being “merely” entertaining. But on the other hand, that’s always been because it was other things other times. At this point it is becoming increasingly and unnervingly possible that all Doctor Who is for is light entertainment. For the first time in memory it’s becoming very difficult to formulate a decent answer to the question of what Doctor Who is for. There’s a real sense that it’s just about the man in the scarf, his witty and attractive sidekick, and the tin dog.

And this story doesn’t even have the tin dog.

34 comments:

  1. and this is exactly where it all really falls apart, even from a discussion point, I agree.

    Viewing it fell apart back in the first 10 minutes of the Pirate Planet, because it is clear, more so because of this blog than just about any other place i've seen, that the first three stories of the Key to time are far more interesting to talk about than to watch.

    And thats a problem for a television programme.

    there is little to nothing on the screen that is interesting to look at: its all poorly shot on video and either overlit or blurry in a way that doesn't allow for anything to be easily focused on, the direction is amateurish a lot of the time and the producer, by this point, has just thrown his hands up. what a mess. no wonder Doctor Who got hte reputation for being rubbish in the states. Far from seeing the relentless rush of ideas and sometimes chilling performances, we saw the scripts finally go the way of the sets.

    And that is not a good thing.

    Got my book, btw, a fun read. hope that you're getting lots of orders and support.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I think the reason this story is so unpopular is that it gets just a little bit too close to the bone. Maybe Holmes was bored, pissed-off and contemptuous... but that seems to have unleashed him. I don't think this story is cynical at all. I think it's ANGRY.

    It is specifically angry about capitalism and race, and explicitly examines the place where these two incendiary subjects meet. Doctor Who has 'done' both subjects before, of course... but rarely does it 'do' their meeting point, and hardly ever does it 'do' how they interrelate. In fact, the show almost never puts the two themes next to each other in one story. Race makes hardly an appearance in 'The Sun Makers'. Capitalism is very definitely and carefully left out of 'The Savages'. 'Kroll' puts them right next to each other in the form of empire and its thesis is clear: capitalism causes racism via imperialism.

    This may not be a particularly novel or scary idea for academics. For fanboys - many of whom seem pathologically incapable of getting to grips with the concepts of race, racism and how they manifest in Doctor Who - it's another matter. Yeurch. Scary. Uncomfortable. Don't wanna know. *fingers in ears* Balalalalalalalalacan'thearyoulalalala!

    Thawn's racism is the most intelligent ever depicted by Doctor Who. He hates the Swampies not because they're green but because they're in the way of 'progress', where 'progress' means industrial exploitation of conquered lands.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I was feeling rough and popped my head around the door of the living room, where my housemate was watching part one of Kroll. "I'll just watch five minutes", I said to myself. Of course I ended up watching the whole thing, enjoying it a great deal, and I felt fine afterwards. Kroll cured me!

    The "probably looked more convincing from the front" moment is one of the best cliffhanger resolutions in the show, if not the best. Encouraging the audience to buy into the unconvincing horror and then pointing a finger at them is done with eye-rolling chutzpah.

    One change, though: instead of having a climax and then another crisis and resolution tacked on (giving us two consecutive moments of the Doctor being Superman) they should have staggered them. The Doctor goes out to be a hero, but becomes trapped and can't reach the tracer. Meanwhile, Romana coolly stops the rocket explosion, which shakes the platform, so the Doctor can get the tracer... And he returns to the control room expecting to be lauded, but everyone's treating the apprentice as a hero instead, the one he's been patronising for five stories. Perfect.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Also, 'Kroll' does the capitalism/imperialism/racism thing without most of the comforting safety-nets you find in, say, 'Avatar'. The Swampies aren't mystically enlightened, they're not wise, they're not morally pure, they're not 'untouched'... in short, they're not cyphers or symbolic reproaches to whitey. They're people. Flawed. Some are smart, some are dumb, some are cynical, some are nobler, some are cowardly. They're scripted to mirror the humans at the refinery. Ranquin is as cynical a BS-merchant as Thawn, Varlick is troubled by his boss but too hesitant to do anything about it - just like Fenner. And white guilt over the decimation of native peoples isn't soothed by the fantasy of the white guy becoming the leader/liberator of the natives. The Swampies help themselves without accepting any of the humans into their ranks. Only the conspiratorial aspect - with the genocide being Thawn's idea rather than policy - is toothless.

    ReplyDelete
  5. AND the Swampies don't get their planet back, unlike the natives in 'Dune', 'Avatar', 'Kinda', 'The Mutants', etc., etc. They won't be chucked off their reservation but neither will they get back their real home, no more than will the Nez Perce. So, again, no concessions to the customary mechanics of the white guilt relief fantasy story about colonialism.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I don't know what's stranger - that Blogger posted this 24 hours before it was supposed to (it is, of course, Monday's entry) or that it got five comments already on Christmas.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I thought it was odd to see it on Christmas too, but I thought maybe it was in the spirit of the Doctor Who Christmas specials.

    ReplyDelete
  8. It would be less if Blogger Comments had an edit function. Merry Xmas!

    ReplyDelete
  9. Occupy doesn't need a platform, it is a platform. Or so I hear.

    ReplyDelete
  10. I was wondering what that was doing up! I suppose this just means we can pick it all up on Monday.

    Merry Christmas to everyone here at TARDIS Eruditorum! Hope you all enjoy tonight's special.

    ReplyDelete
  11. I can't help having some fondness for this story, for all its faults, because I still remember how the giant Kroll scared the shit out of me when I was five.

    ReplyDelete
  12. For the first time in memory it’s becoming very difficult to formulate a decent answer to the question of what Doctor Who is for. There’s a real sense that it’s just about the man in the scarf, his witty and attractive sidekick, and the tin dog.

    I don't know. It was only two stories ago that you were saying it was hard to find words for how good this season is. If you're really saying this, it seems you need more to hang it on than one insubstantial story and one bad one. Is it a problem with the whole season, which should have come up earlier in your critiques, or is it just that we've had eight weeks that didn't add up to much? In particular, I think that with The Armageddon Factor (which I inexplicably like) coming up next, we have a story that does make an attempt to be about something.

    ReplyDelete
  13. It's rather the way in which these past two stories have been flawed. The first half of the season is great in part for its towering ambition. But for two stories in a row the show has been floundering about in a way that undermines the ambition. I mean, the most succinct way to put it is that I gave the first three stories some benefit of the doubt. There were terms on which they seemed to be validly takable in which they were extraordinary pieces of work. But the last two, and particularly this one, have at least partially discredited that hypothesis for what the show was doing.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Yep - you're getting to the meat of the problem now. But I don't really have anything to add on that point, so I have to simply say this:

    WHAT ON EARTH WAS THAT VIDEO?

    That is fantastic. Never seen it before.

    ReplyDelete
  15. The video was found by the good WGPJosh, who brought my attention to it on Twitter. It's what it appears to be - a little holiday outtake featuring drunken K-9 singing.

    ReplyDelete
  16. At the current rate, we won't hear what Philip thinks about the 2011 Christmas special for quite a while. But I have some feminist grumblings about it here.

    ReplyDelete
  17. @Phil, 5tephe

    Glad you enjoyed it! I first found that clip several years back on YouTube while doing some catch-up. I'm not entirely sure where it came from, but it's a fabulous and charming little holiday bit. Since we're covering the tail end of 1978 on the blog and it was Christmas anyway I thought it couldn't have been more perfect to share. Probably my favourite Doctor Who Christmas special!


    @BerserkRL

    Not to derail the thread too much (I mean "Power of Kroll" has a lot problems sure, but you kind of have to watch it if you want to watch The Key to Time story arc so it's a moot point-Just like "The Daemons", "The Sontaran Experiment" and "Silver Nemesis") but that's a trend I've noticed in Moffat's writing too-I've always had problems with how he writes women and you articulated it very well. I'd just add I think it's more the irresponsible carelessness that has always characterized his writing than it is outright misogyny though.

    ReplyDelete
  18. Ah, motherhood, that ancient tool of the patriarchy.

    Remind me, what things aren't tools of the patriarchy?

    ReplyDelete
  19. If you don't realise everything's a tool, you're a tool. Even if you do realise, you're probably still a tool.

    ReplyDelete
  20. From what I recall, the Christmas clip of Tom Baker, K-9 and Mary Tamm was a gag scene for a BBC staff Christmas party. It is also one of the extras on the DVD set for THE ARMAGEDDON FACTOR as well, titled "Merry Christmas, Doctor Who", I believe.

    ReplyDelete
  21. I don't think Moffatt's a misogynist. Quite the reverse. He puts Woman on a pedestal and worships her. Nothing wrong with that, except that he accords this complete, worshipful status only to women who have borne children. Which is why the Oldest Question Ever To Be Asked will have to be "Who's the father?"

    ReplyDelete
  22. I'm still surprised, in retrospect, that they went with Ted Lewis's script, "The Shield of Zarak" for so long (he turned out to be a self-destructing alcoholic, and the producers were forced to replace it at short notice with the above-reviewed story) without ever thinking of further developing Ted Willis's script, "The Lords of Misrule", which could've been a sight better than "Power of Kroll" (and might've kept Robert Holmes on board for Season 17!); as per the very useful Shannon Sullivan site, here is the plot outline for Willis's story:

    "The people of the planet Tetran are enslaved by the cruel Shadowlords, who rule from an orbiting castle. The Shadowlords hunt their subjects using wolf-life Prowlers, and force them to duel one another. The Doctor discovers that the Tetrans are actually descended from the survivors of a crashed mining ship, while the Shadowlords are security robots, disguised and maddened due to their connection with the pilot, who is held on the brink of death by the vessel's computer. K-9 severs the pilot's link with the ship, deactivating the Shadowlords. The Doctor and Romana recover the fifth segment of the Key To Time, concealed as a massive crystal powering the Shadowlords' castle."

    ReplyDelete
  23. @ WM Keith

    No, Moffat's not a misogynist, he's just a sloppy writer who tries too hard to stuff as much content and as many big ideas as possible into any given script without taking note of all the plot holes he leaves in his wake. Inevitably, this takes him well into unfortunate implications territory more often than necessary in everything he writes and it happens with particularly worrying frequency when he writes women in my opinion. But my problems with the New Series are fuel for another discussion on another day.

    @Matthew Blanchette

    "The Lords of Misrule" sounds like yet another tragically lost story with tantalizing potential. There are ever so many of them in this era. Well, we can only hope it's one that's given another shot at life as a Lost Tales Audio Play once Mary Tamm joins Big Finish as a regular in a year or so.

    ReplyDelete
  24. Putting a group of people on a pedastal and worshipping them is a way of objectifying them, marginalising them, confining them, grouping them together indiscriminately, defining them by traits other than their common humanity and making them the 'other'. It something that mysoginists do to women all the time.

    Of course, Moffat writes 'strong' woman characters... but there's something inherently dodgy in this whole "the female characters are strong" argument even at the best of times. Depicting women as 'strong' isn't the same as depicting them as equal. It implicitly says that women must be noticeably 'strong' *in order to be* equal... this wouldn't be so bad if it was an attempt to take into account the fact that, in a sexist society, women must work harder than men in order to be seen as adequate... but that's not how it comes over in practice, especially when Moffat does it. His idea of a 'strong' female seems to be one that can manipulate men by flashing her legs, make her boyfriend horny by shooting his enemies or be a good mother. Female 'strength' seems to be a weapon that his female characters use to lead their menfolk around by the nose, even as they (the females) are themselves slavishly dependant upon their male playthings. Hence the repeated stalking-as-romance thing.

    Mind you, it is a little unfair to single Moffat out. One can hardly turn on the TV without being assailed by imagery and storylines that denigrate women, either crudely or in more subtle ways. Classic 'Who' was hardly guiltless in this respect.

    ReplyDelete
  25. @ Jack Graham

    Excellent points, and you are of course right. Really I'm only differing from you in the technical details of defining terms. I only use the term "misogynist" when I am certain of someone's vocal, explicit, outspoken and violent hatred of women. Otherwise, just plain old "sexism" suffices for me. Sexism certainly abounds in Moffat's writing, as it does everywhere in media because we still live in a world where horrifically sexist and gendered mores and associations are intrinsic to society. However, I haven't seen any evidence that Moffat consciously hates women and actively goes out of his way to marginalize them. He certainly does marginalize them, but I'm presuming more out of ignorance and simply not knowing any better than malicious intent. Like so many male writers, he's not aware of the implications his words carry.

    And of course the Classic Series had problems too, I never said it didn't. My disdain for characters like Susan, Dodo, Victoria and Sarah Jane are well documented, as are my huge objections to the fates of Vicki, Zoe, Liz, Jo and Leela. However, as Phil said, on the whole it did better with its treatment of female characters in the context of the time than a lot of people give it credit for.

    ReplyDelete
  26. And for what it's worth, I think you'd be hard-pressed to find much in the world of action-adventure stories today that goes as out of its way as Doctor Who does to be for female audiences as well as male ones. Yeah, it's got its flaws (though I don't really think the Christmas special was particularly egregious in this regard. That said, a solid 80% of my feminist rage at the Moffat era is centered on one line in "The God Complex.") but...

    I was at Dragon*Con this fall. And in the course of the con, by miles the two most popular female costumes were Kaylee from Firefly and Amy Pond. That, I think, speaks volumes. Even more volumes, however, are spoken by the fact that there were at least a dozen instances of women dressing as male characters from Doctor Who - whether the Doctor (I saw female versions of multiple incarnations, with the female Troughton being one of the single best costumes and performances I've ever seen at a con) or Captain Jack.

    Regardless of its flaws, I think one has to give some real credit to the fact that Doctor Who is visibly doing more to create space for female fans to enjoy the show on their own terms than almost anything else out there. In a patriarchal world there's really no such thing as perfect feminism. But there is such a thing as doing a good job, and I do think Moffat's Doctor Who by and large does it.

    ReplyDelete
  27. @Phil

    I think that's just an absolutely perfect summary of it. The New Series in general, not just Moffat's take on it, has not only always done a good job at cultivating a female fanbase but it's also been wonderfully and overtly GLBTQ friendly. As you said the show always has been since the Pertwee era, but it's explicit about it now. There's Captain Jack of course, but there are excellent little bits sprinkled across all six years. The one that really jumps out at me is when Smith's Doctor tells us about his friend The Corsair in "The Doctor's Wife", thus confirming the long-held fan notion that gender doesn't matter to Time Lords and they embody the best of the whole spectrum. Of course, this renders the whole "weak/strong" debate in this year's Christmas special to be a titanic, Grand Canyon-sized plot hole, but that gets back to Moffat being a sloppy writer. Taken in the context of Gaiman's original work, the statement still stands. The New Series is still possibly the best, most feminist and GLBTQ friendly TV show out there right now (Glee doesn't completely count), at least in terms of sci-fi and action-adventure.

    As for "The God Complex", I generally despised that episode on the whole, but if you're talking about the line I think you're talking about then I second you 100%. "Mrs. Williams" indeed: Another example of Moffat being careless and ignorant. It's intended as a turning point for Rory to become more assertive and self-confidant, but it comes across as a total attack on Amy's own assertiveness and self-confidence.

    Doctor Who may have feminism problems, but it does tend to do the best job it can to be better than the norm for its time. We may not fully see the show's feminism problems go away until we see a canon female Doctor (which I desperately hope will happen soon) and/or another female showrunner if even then, but until that point it will hopefully remain a broad guideline on how to do things a little better.

    ReplyDelete
  28. @WPGJosh:

    Well, I don't think "Mrs. Williams" was a turning point for Rory; we'd already seen his character pivot several times in the prior series, so I don't think it's a question of his being unassertive -- rather, it's more of a gently letting Amy down, to go back to the life she might've gone to had the Doctor not reappeared on June 26, 2010... like a father giving away his child, sort of.

    As for "The God Complex", what exactly did you despise about it? I don't want to joust points with you having made prior assumptions... :-S

    ReplyDelete
  29. "Amy Williams" is the line that horrified me, yes. I'd bang out my feelings on it, but I'm going to have a hard enough time phrasing it better than Anna Wiggins did when I write the entry on it, so instead I'll link to her post on it: http://stringofbits.net/2011/09/19/doctor-who-the-god-complex/, with which I agree with completely.

    ReplyDelete
  30. I haven't seen 'God Complex' but Moffat has certainly done the 'growing up (for females) = getting a man' thing before. Most noticeably and arbitrarily in 'Blink'.

    ReplyDelete
  31. For "Moffat" in the above post read "Moffat's Who". O for an edit function.

    ReplyDelete
  32. @Matthew Blanchette

    Not to get too much into Series 6 (as I'm sure it will be a lively point of discussion once Phil gets there and after all we're supposed to be talking about The Key to Time and Season 17 right now, which I would far RATHER talk about), but I personally found the overarching themes and morals of this entire season to be incredibly uncomfortable and distasteful and "The God Complex" is the moment at which all of those themes become central and explicit.

    To me Series 6 is Moffat's attempt to do a non-racist, non-colonialist and non-youth hating version of the John Wiles era which I think is not just a misguided task but an impossible one. It has a happier ending then "The Daleks' Master Plan", "The Massacre", "The Ark" and "The Celestial Toymaker" sure, but I don't think there's any way to separate the themes and motifs of the Wiles era from its ugly associations and implications. It's an irresponsible, misguided and potentially series-ruining thing to do, especially in 2011, a year already full of misanthropy, horror, fear, uncertainty and dangerously unstable social unrest.

    ReplyDelete
  33. "Amy Williams" rather horrified me, but I also felt like I was supposed to be horrified. That whole scene was about the Doctor deliberately shattering all of Amy's illusions about him because that was the only way to save her life. It reminded me greatly of the scene in Curse of Fenrik where McCoy coldly mocks Ace as an emotional cripple because her blind faith in him was endangering the whole human race.

    ReplyDelete
  34. Jack Graham:
    "Thawn's racism is the most intelligent ever depicted by Doctor Who. He hates the Swampies not because they're green but because they're in the way of 'progress', where 'progress' means industrial exploitation of conquered lands."

    Excellent!


    John Callaghan:
    "One change, though: instead of having a climax and then another crisis and resolution tacked on (giving us two consecutive moments of the Doctor being Superman) they should have staggered them. The Doctor goes out to be a hero, but becomes trapped and can't reach the tracer. Meanwhile, Romana coolly stops the rocket explosion, which shakes the platform, so the Doctor can get the tracer... And he returns to the control room expecting to be lauded, but everyone's treating the apprentice as a hero instead, the one he's been patronising for five stories. Perfect."

    YES!!! Seriously, that scene is the one thing in the entire story that really bothered me, the writer in me, the pacing was just so "wrong", like those anti-climaxes they stuck in "DIAMONDS", "LIVE AND LET DIE" and "GOLDEN GUN", presumably because "OHMSS" had one. (Truthfully, "DIAMONDS" did have an anti-clmiax in the book, but it was much better than the crap in the film, which was crap from start to finish.) I love your "fix". Why didn't someone think of that at the time?


    WGPJosh:
    "you kind of have to watch it if you want to watch The Key to Time story arc"

    I'd compare this more to "COLONY IN SPACE", only I find "KROLL" more watchable (and, it's only 4 episodes-- and shorter than usual episodes at that). Come to think of it, both stories have some "mining" group out to kill settlers-- even if this time, the settlers had been forced to be there.


    I loved Mary Tamm's outfit, and the way she's coming along so nicely as a character and her developing friendship with the Doctor. I thought Kroll looked GREAT. As usual, Baker's Doctor refuses to take things seriously, even though if he did some people might not be quite so suspicious of him. Then again, Thawn was the cause of the whole problem, he would have been suspicous of anybody, as most people have a tendency to only see everyone else through their own eyes.

    A pity Madoc & McCarthy didn't swap roles.

    This has always been my least-favorite story of this season, yet, there's so many other WHO stories I like less than this. Which makes it just "watchable", which is hard to fault.

    Strange thing... over at Page Fillers, more than half the reviews mentioned something I never noticed until tonight, when I noticed it myself for the first time. That is, the plot similarities between "KROLL" and "ANDROZANI". (Probably because I read your "ANDROZANI" post earlier this afternoon!) It's as if, when he was invited back, Holmes thought back to his real disappointment, and thought, "There's a good story in there..." --and then set out to prove it. I've done that myself.

    ReplyDelete