Friday, December 6, 2013

All The Years I've Been Taking Care Of You (The Doctor's Daughter)

Shooty daughter thing
It’s May 10th, 2008. Madonna and Justin Timberlake are at number one. Pendulum, Flo Rida, and Usher also chart. In news, the Federal Reserve notes that banks are increasing standards on loans as the subprime mortgage crisis gathers steam. Bertie Ahern, Taoiseach of Ireland, resigns after nearly eleven years as head of government, and Dmitry Medvedev becomes President of Russia. Barack Obama thumps Hillary Clinton in the North Carolina Primary, leading Tim Russert to declare that it is clear who is going to win, and turning Clinton’s campaign into a strange sort of zombie, which, to be fair, anyone who was looking at the numbers realized was true months ago. 

Commemorating her stubbornness, Doctor Who airs The Doctor’s Daughter. The definition of insanity, or, at least, the one trotted out for rhetorical purposes, is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. In Davies’s defense, he does not actually repeat the exact same stretch of episodes four through seven as he did in Season Three; he goes to Gareth Roberts instead of Chris Chibnall. Nevertheless, it’s tough to see why Davies decided to go with a Helen Raynor monster two-parter followed by a Stephen Greenhorn script for the second season in a row. And unsurprisingly, it works about as well as it did the first time, which is to say not really at all. 

The Doctor’s Daughter is interesting in part because it’s the most sci-fi story the new series has done in some time. This is a story that hinges on an entirely sci-fi riddle based purely on the interplay of imaginary concepts. One has to not only follow the good old “science concepts become mythology through generations of oral folklore” premise from stuff like The Face of Evil, one has to get the secondary realization that all of this has happened in a week. These are not hugely difficult and advanced concepts, to be sure - I doubt a significant portion of the audience was confused - but it’s still focused on sci-fi concepts in a way the new series rarely is. Certainly it’s difficult to think of another Davies-era story that works like this.

In many ways it’s a throwback to the classic series, although it’s tough to pin down a specific bit of the series. The aesthetics of the story are all very Saward-era - lots of military people shooting lots of stuff and the Doctor thrown in the middle of it. But under the hood this is the sort of thing you’d find in the Williams era - a morality play framed around the interplay of sci-fi concepts - something like Underworld or The Pirate Planet. In terms of those concepts, it feels most like Christopher Bidmead, albeit not in his “let’s play with mathematics” phase of Logopolis and Castrovalva, but rather in terms of the stuff he oversaw like Full Circle, or his later Frontios. But even this is part of an older tradition going back to stuff like The Web Planet and The Space Museum where the story is structured around answering the question “what are the rules of this world?” Like The Sontaran Stratagem/The Poison Sky, in other words, this is the sort of story that ought to appeal to people who bemoan the way in which the new series has fallen away from how the classic series worked.

Instead it’s widely hated. As with the previous story, there are sensible and easily identifiable reasons why the approach fails. Stories about figuring out how a world works work best when the world works according to striking and interesting images. The Face of Evil - one of the best examples of this sort of thing - hinges on the weird juxtaposition of scientific technology and primitive tribes, bound together by the supremely gripping spectacle of a giant stone face of the Doctor that’s being worshipped by the Sevateem. Frontios - another classic - hinges on the horrifying body horror and eccentric, twisted spaces of the planet’s interior. In all of the classic series stories like this that work, in other words, there are hooks that get us invested in the world. 

Here, however, the world is… rather drab. The idea of cloning soldiers to deal with the massively high death toll of a war isn’t bad, but there’s not that much mystery to it. How the world works is fairly obvious, and, crucially, the revelation that it’s only been a week since the ship crashed isn’t actually that revelatory. It doesn’t change anything significant about how the world works. The resolution would have been identical if it has been a week or a millennium since the ship crashed, just so long as you still have a functioning ship. (And there’s no reason you wouldn’t, since it’s all made up and thus the ship can last as long as you want.) The concept never gets developed in an interesting or unexpected direction.

I’m not inclined to blame the forty-five minute format for that. Yes, it has half as much time as a traditional four-parter to establish things, but the new series also abandons many of the padding techniques that plague the classic series and, within any given scene, moves considerably faster. It’s not like the new series can’t flesh out a reasonably complex concept in forty-five minutes. Look at how detailed the puzzle in Blink is. No, the problem is that the central spectacle of this episode is Jenny, not the sci-fi concepts. They don’t have any room to breathe because the story is so caught up in its titular premise that the sci-fi mystery that’s advancing the actual plot only half-registers. 

This once again comes perilously close to “don’t let emotions get into my sci-fi show,” but in this case there’s a fairly straightforward refutation to that claim, which is that it’s really just “don’t let poorly written emotions get into my sci-fi show.” Because, of course, the Doctor’s daughter is a blatant feint. There’s no substance to it. You’d be more than slightly hard pressed to identify a single regard in which Jenny actually resembles the Doctor. She’s not a character set up to extend from him - she’s not clever and prone to questioning everything. She’s slightly less violent than the other soldiers and she can do cool backflips, but the only way in which she resembles the Doctor is that she’s got special powers, essentially. All she does throughout the story is ask questions that seem to challenge the premises of the series, but that have weight only because the Doctor never gives any of the perfectly sensible replies. “You’re using it to fight back,” Jenny says. “Yes, but I’m actively trying not to kill people,” the Doctor inexplicably doesn’t. “You fought and killed? Then how are we different,” she demands. “I regret it and stopped killing people,” he fails to reply. And so on. It’s an argument that only works because one side isn’t allowed to give any of the stunningly obvious responses available to them.

And, of course, in the end Jenny exists only to get killed. This is a point so drably predictable that Steven Moffat called Davies out on it, pointing out that introducing major new character who alters the status quo of the series and then immediately killing them off at the end of the episode is very Star Trek. Davies proceeded to change the ending so that Jenny survived. But the result is just a cheap “introduce a major new character and then kill her off” episode with a resurrection tacked onto the end, as opposed to something that actually addresses the problem, which is that Jenny is neutered by her very inability to have any impact on proceedings. 

Which is not to say that stories like this can’t work. In giving the brief to Greenhorn, Davies wanted, it seems, a story in the vein of Human Nature/The Family of Blood or The Girl in the Fireplace - a character drama in which the Doctor has to respond to different things than usual. But Greenhorn didn’t write one. Instead he wrote a superficial morality play that gave Tennant virtually nothing to do beyond be cranky a bunch, and that had the same basic ending as Last of the Time Lords, only with a horrifyingly bad speech about “a man who never would.” 

The result is a story that’s bad in the same way that 70s Terry Nation stories that weren’t heavily rewritten by Robert Holmes are bad, which is to say, because the writer just doesn’t seem to be very good at writing Doctor Who. Greenhorn’s scripts are both sci-fi cliches with a handful of emotional scenes shoehorned in. In neither case do the emotional bits actually have anything to do with the sci-fi. They’re just sci-fi scripts where characters emote. He’s a writer who just didn’t work out. And unlike Helen Raynor, who proved her writing chops on Torchwood and then got given a pair of Doctor Who scripts that played to none of her strengths, there’s no real evidence that Greenhorn has a wheelhouse the scripts were missing. Greenhorn asked in an interview for a story that would allow the Doctor to change instead of just changing the world around him. He got given an opportunity to write exactly what he wanted. And he whiffed it. 

Perhaps the story could have been made to work with a Davies rewrite. But Greenhorn is one of the writers who’s run his own show and who thus doesn’t get rewritten by Davies. And even if he had, the problems are pretty deep-lying, in that the emotional content and the plot don’t have any obvious connections. The supposed point was to give the Doctor a new perspective on the Time War, but…

Well, actually, this becomes apropos following The Day of the Doctor. It’s often been observed that one of Davies’s real innovations in bringing the series back was destroying Gallifrey and having the Doctor be the last of his kind. Which is true; that was a major improvement, especially given how poor Gallifrey-based stories historically were. It gave the Doctor a new way to relate to Gallifrey, and gave the show some real energy for several seasons. The problem is that Gallifrey remained in the form of its absence. There was just a Gallifrey-shaped hole in proceedings. And all the Doctor could do with relation to the Gallifrey-shaped hole was be upset that he was the last of his kind. It was a new direction, but it was a fundamentally limiting one.

And in the end that’s where The Doctor’s Daughter really falters. Because it conceives of the idea of the Doctor having a daughter only in terms of him being upset about the Time War. And in the end, there are so many more things to do with the idea of the Doctor having a daughter than having him angst further about being the last of the Time Lords. But when you have the overwhelming weight of the Time War going on there’s no other way for the story to play out. The Master has similar problems in this period - any story he’s in has to be about his status as the other Time Lord. There becomes only one story to tell.


Which is to say that in many ways The Doctor’s Daughter is the point at which the necessity of restoring Gallifrey starts to become obvious. Because as bad as the allure of the stupid Gallifreyan epics that plagued the wilderness years was for the show, this is limiting too, and in just the same way. The Doctor gets stuck in one form of reaction - post-traumatic guilt. It’s not that there’s nothing more interesting to do with the Time War after this point - there are at least two more properly good Time War stories between this and The Day of the Doctor. But it does mean that the problems with the Time War as a concept are beginning to show, and that it’s beginning to cause harm as well as have benefits. You can’t blame the Time War for this story’s problems - it has plenty of others without it. But at the end of the day, even if you’d matched the sci-fi premise to the emotional premise, even if you’d gotten rid of the dumb pseudo-moralizing, even if you’d fixed every other problem with this story, you’d still end up with a story that thinks the most interesting thing about fatherhood is angst about being the last of your kind.

118 comments:

  1. Great stuff, particularly the bit about the debates that can only be made to look challenging because one side is not allowed to give the thunderingly obvious answers (cf The Satan Pit).

    Also, it's nice to see someone acknowledge that sometimes the problem isn't the feels in themselves, its that the feels are spectacularly clumsy and insincere.

    Re: Gallifrey. I'm increasingly thinking that the only way to fix the Gallifrey problem is to erase it from all history and have the Doctor existing alone, as a paradox, with no memory of his deleted origins. This would never be referred to again. No story arc, etc. The show would gradually just forget the Time Lords and the Doctor could go back to being a guy with no provenance who just bimbled around.

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    1. A mystery to himself, wandering around like a confused tramp, looking in bins. "I am the Doctor. God knows what that means but apparently it's true."

      I dunno. I like Gallifrey, and the Time Lords themselves can be many different things.

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    2. The problem is, though, Doctor Who needs its past. There's such a thing as too much focus on the past, but there's a reason the first monster of the new series was the Autons. What's the point of traveling in time if you can't visit the past?

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    3. It's worth noting that this is beat-for-beat exactly what they did with the BBC 8th Doctor novels from 'The Burning' on (I forget, but I'm pretty sure Phil touched on this in his essays on one or more books from this period). It didn't take, although not for want of trying. The problem with any sort of amnesia story is that a large portion of the audience, however much you try to convince them otherwise, are going to assume, and keep on assuming, that it's something that's eventually going to be undone when the character regains his/her memory (to be fair, the reason for assuming this is that it's turned out to be true of most, if not all, memorable amnesia stories elsewhere - even something like 'Memento', in which the character is physically incapable of regaining his memory, at least gives the "oh, so *that's* what he forgot" reveal to the audience in the end). There really is no way anyone could possibly write out Gallifrey in a completely irreversible way, so there are always going to be people clamouring, or secretly hankering, to bring it back - if one of these people becomes showrunner in future, then back it will come.

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    4. Indeed. The Master was pretty irrevocably written out during "The End of Time", by being sent back into the Time War which as we all know resulted in the Total Destruction of Gallifrey (TM).

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    5. On a purely trivial note, I really wish the mention of "memorable amnesia stories" in my last comment was a deliberate play on words. Alas, it was just inadequate on-the-fly copy editing.

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    6. No matter what you do, Gallifrey's going to be an elephant in the room. If you destroy it, the fans are going to be wondering when you're going to bring it back. Come up with some hyper-complicated way of wiping it out of time and space itself and wiping it from the Doctor's memory? They'll be wondering when you're going to undo that as well. Bring it back? Then you bring back the gravitational pull as well.

      For me, though, it's looking increasingly like the best way to deal with Gallifrey is just not to fight it. Accept it's there, deal with it when you have to or want to, and just forget about it the rest of the time. For all that the stories on Gallifrey were increasingly clogged with their own mythology and importance, there's entire swathes of the series where we didn't see nor hear anything of Gallifrey and the Doctor was just contentedly running around doing his own thing. Personally, For me, the perfect way to deal with Gallifrey in the new series is have the Twelfth Doctor bring it back, spend five minutes wandering around, going from wistful to increasingly bored and restless, saying something like "Now I remember why I ran away from here in the first place,"and then running off in the TARDIS again.

      Gallifrey only becomes a problem if you let it. And besides; the odd Gallifrey epic can be fun.

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    7. Scott, that is one of the most sensible comments on the Gallifrey 'problem' I have ever read.

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    8. Totally agreed Scott. Doctor Who thrives on change, and change keeps it going for a few years each time. Thus we get 6 years of vaguely running around Time & Space before the Doctor admits it was the Time Lords he ran away from. Exile to Earth keeps the series ticking over for the next 4 years or so. Then the Time Lords are reimagined as "Dusty old Senators" and that keeps us trundling along until more or less the end of the classic series.

      Then RTD gives us the Time War and No More Gallifrey, which sees the new series through (with the odd tweak here and there) from 2005 until 2013...when the Moff writes a new chapter - The Search For Gallifrey. Hopefully that will suffice for at least the next 3 or 4 years (and maybe 1 more Doctor) before inevitably we get The Return Of Gallifrey or possibly Gallifrey Gets Lost Again.

      But in between we'll hopefully get the same innovative, startling, moving, boring, annoying programme we've all come to love/hate (delete where applicable).

      After which the series will probably get cancelled for another decade or so...

      Do I give the impression I've seen all this before?

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    9. Agreed with Scott.

      In this show, nothing stays dead/gone. Davros, the Master, Gallifrey. And I do actually think it's a shame sometimes, but alas. That's the way it is.

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    10. Agree with Scott, but I'm also very trepedatious about the way Gallifrey comes back.
      As it currently stands the "Absence of Gallifrey" is a great big Proper Noun in the series; an emotional cornerstone and a totem of great narrative strength. How do you bring it back in a way that's not just a slow deflating of a leaky balloon?
      "Yay, we found Gallifrey and... it's back?" Yes, the actual events around that may be dramatic but is the return itself an Event, or just Something That Happened?
      (This ties into my misgivings about how Moffat made the Time War, with its eldrich abominations and Nightmare Kings and Never-Nevers and redeclared it to be a bunch of Daleks shooting at Gallifrey so that it would be small enough to fit into his plot.)

      Bringing Gallifrey back well, with some real payoff of the tension it's built up, will be hard and easy to screw up. (And I think Moffat's payoffs are the worst part of his plots.)

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    11. Sorry deriksmith but you've hit a nerve: How could they have shown any of that and had it been satisfying? They can't. They never could. Instead we get just enough: the last days of the war, when the Omega Vaults have been emptied. The great works lie destroyed, the impossible weapons have been used, and at the end, two almighty civilizations burning, all they have left are crude, burlesque technologies.

      As to the Absence of Gallifrey? We're not loosing anything with it gone. It's given all it can. It's just another thing that happened. Season 7 proper (excluding the 50th) had nothing to do with it's loss. It's time for some new toys in the narrative box: Now we can have Evil and Conflicted Renegade Time Lords, impossible technologies, and all sorts of other drama. Even the occasional romp on Gallifrey itself.

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    12. The rather banal set-up of last day of the Time War - Dalek ships firing on Gallifrey sort of reflects the last days of the war that lead into it - Just a couple of domes left from two great planetary civilisations chucking at each other whatever primitive weapons they can. (Although thankfully the Time War hasn't seen any naff giant mutant clams turning up so far)

      And I agree with Scott that's the way to deal with Gallifrey's return.

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    13. @Theonlyspiral
      You misunderstand: I don't want Gallifrey to stay gone. But I worry that its return is hard to "pay off." You can't just say "Okay, I guess Gallifrey's back now," there needs to be a payoff, the Storyline that restores it has to have a scope that matches the absence it's undoing.

      You can't just bring Gallifrey back via a technical cheat that simply satisfies the rules of the universe -- that's the definition of anti-climax. You talk about the cool things you can do once Gallifrey is back -- and I agree with you! But how do you get from point A to point B? What story can "pay off" the 8 year absence? To overturn something that big you need a payoff with enough "weight" to shift it, otherwise it takes all the energy of that absence and just... dissipates it.
      Moffat's already made the Time War small, drastically cutting it back in scope and richness, so that it could fit inside a bottle. They paid effectively no price to save Gallifrey in the 50th -- quite the opposite; he unburdened the Doctor of part of his defining history (the decision to burn Gallifrey) as a "price" for saving the world. It was EASY, a piece of narrative sleight-of-hand, carried off because the scenes doing it were quick and crowned by cameos -- a rush of energy that carried the episode through... but that is IN NO WAY a payoff of the story. The payoff is now deferred and the story that actually brings the planet back has to be even bigger.

      When Harve Bennett was struggling with how to bring Spock back in Star Trek III Nick Meyer (who wrote STII) told him "the genesis planet isn't enough -- that satisfies the technical answer to why he's alive but in order to undo something like that, an epic death, you need to pay an even bigger price. Kirk has to pay twice what he's getting back or death becomes meaningless." (Which is why David Marcus died and the Enterprise was destroyed -- to bring someone back from death you have to pay double.)
      I don't think the Doctor has to "pay a price" to bring Gallifrey back -- killing his companions or destroying the TARDIS in the name of "epic" is stupid and boring. The price is the payoff, the story that comes BEFORE "back to normal so we can use Gallifrey in stories again." The return itself needs to have enough "Oomph" or 8 years of the defining character arch for the Doctor ends with "Hey, we found Spock on a planet! Cool, good to have you back."
      An anti-climax on that scale could kill the series, or at least seriously harm it.
      And I don't think Moffat's up to writing the resolution of this story; he thinks being clever is payoff enough.

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    14. Can't help but agree with scott that the return is probably the right move at the moment. But I also agree with deriksmith that Moffat seems to have cheapened things a little. And I'm worried about Moffat's ability to pull this manoeuvre off.

      Of course, once he does it (satisfactorily or not) you know where the next direction is, without a doubt:

      The Doctor gets accused of some crime surrounding the events (probably as nebulous as The Laws Of Time) and has to...

      Run away.

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    15. I think the Doctor did pay a price. He paid with his regret, his sorrow. To save Gallifrey, he had to stop running away from it, he had to condemn Nine and Ten to suffer through their whole lives for a crime they avoided. And now he's going to have to pay the ultimate price, and grow up.

      And he's not yet finished saving his home. Not yet. He's going to have to confront his own past if he hopes to have a future.

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    16. Re: Gallifrey. I'm increasingly thinking that the only way to fix the Gallifrey problem is to erase it from all history and have the Doctor existing alone, as a paradox, with no memory of his deleted origins. This would never be referred to again. No story arc, etc. The show would gradually just forget the Time Lords and the Doctor could go back to being a guy with no provenance who just bimbled around.


      Yeah. That would work. "My past is a big giant mystery; I am the only one of my kind in the entire universe and seem to have access to powers and knowledge far beyond what everyone else in the universe has. Also I seem to be more-or-less immortal. But I'm not going to pursue that at all since I'm not especially curious about huge important mysteries."

      We've already seen in the BBC books that this approach is a mess; I can't simultaneously accept that this guy is the Doctor and also that this guy would not move heavens and earths to uncover the secret behind his erased origins.

      Personally, For me, the perfect way to deal with Gallifrey in the new series is have the Twelfth Doctor bring it back, spend five minutes wandering around, going from wistful to increasingly bored and restless, saying something like "Now I remember why I ran away from here in the first place,"and then running off in the TARDIS again.

      I can't see myself havign any reaction to that outcome other than "Well that was pointless."

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  2. Back around '42', Phil posited that it was in the worst run of four episodes of the new series, but for me, this episode is the nadir of the five worst episodes. The entire front half of Season Four is just garish, pointless noise, with Tennant running on an autopilot set to "gurn"; massive, massive off-putting shifts in tone around every corner; bland characters and characterisation; and an utter sense that Davies has run out of ideas. The only thing that really redeams them is Catherine Tate, and even she is often suspect as her dramatic acting often loses the wonderful naturalness of her lighter work and becomes leaden and stagey when she tries to get serious.

    I was so disheartened by the show at this point, the production just seemed *arrogant* more than anything else, a sense that if the show shouted loud enough, no one would notice anything wrong. (Although the true nadir did not come until 'The End of Time', which took everything that was wrong here and MADE IT EVEN LOUDER).

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  3. I'm the Doctor, the Last of the Time Lords, the Oncoming Storm, the Man Who Never Would!

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    1. Except that one time. And those other times.

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    2. Oh, but there was one time when I -- no... no. I did it then as well.

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  4. As regards the underlying wisdom that this story is "universally hated"... it is difficult to ascertain by who. The viewing public certainly seemed to enjoy it as 7.3 million of them tuned in, an improvement on the preceding Sontaran two-parter, and a million better than the forthcoming "Silence in the Library". It does seem to me to be a case of fans disliking the story because they have read that fans dislike the story...something that Who is particularly prone to. In fact as I recall at the time there was certainly trepidation on the forums prior to broadcast, based solely on the story's title, something we saw repeated years later with "The Doctor's Wife".

    Yes it is a fairly lightweight story, and the Hath seem to only have been created to give Martha someone to bond with (and therefore something for Freema to do), but the concept of the war only actually being a week old is quite an interesting one, especially if you're not expecting it. Plus Georgia Moffett is perfectly watchable in this, and Jenny's chemistry with the Doctor certainly sparkles.

    I'm not sure that introducing a game-changing character only to kill them off is a particularly bad thing to do either. It's the main-stay of most personal drama anyway. You only have to look at "Last of the Time Lords" where the Doctor gains the Master, only to lose him again, and "The End of Time" where the Doctor gets Gallifrey back only to lose it again. The only alternative is to have the game-changing character survive, and that is pretty dramatically unsatisfying anyway (see "Scream of the Shalka" which effectively continues the "alternative" ending of "Last of the Time Lords", where the Master does survive to travel with the Doctor).

    "The Doctor's Daughter" probably gave us the best ending we could realistically get - the Doctor loses Jenny, not because she dies, but because he doesn't know she lives...so he leaves.

    Try as I might I cannot shake the idea out of my head that the perceived dislike of this story within fandom stems very much from the idea of a blood relation to the Doctor. We will see the same kind of fan reaction when we get to "The End of Time" and Claire Bloom's character "The Woman". Online fandom seemed desperate for her to be anyone (The Rani! Romana!) other than who Davies admitted she was meant to be - the Doctor's mother - even to the point of claiming that regardless of authorial intent, if it didn't appear on-screen then it wasn't so.

    Funnily enough the idea of Claire Bloom's character being Susan seemed totally acceptable to the same people who shunned the idea of her being the Doc's Mum, and the concept of the Doctor having a grandchild appears to be immune from the "Doctor-not-have-sex!" taboos of the classic era.

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    1. "even to the point of claiming that regardless of authorial intent, if it didn't appear on-screen then it wasn't so."

      Isn't "regardless of authorial intent" a perfectly good lens to view this through?

      And IMHO, the Master or Gallifrey are different from a newly-introduced character, even if both of those are newly introduced within the series. I completely get what Moffat meant by "very Star Trek" - it's the idea of introducing a character who would turn the narrative upside-down, only they don't, because they're dead, haha! It's turned a lot of really good premises into anticlimactic shit in its day, on TV and off, in "genre" shows, in straightforward dramas, in sitcoms, and in anything unwilling to rock the boat. You could make a good case that the development of arc-based TV is in large part a reaction to this one trope.

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    2. "Online fandom seemed desperate for her to be anyone (The Rani! Romana!) other than who Davies admitted she was meant to be - the Doctor's mother - even to the point of claiming that regardless of authorial intent, if it didn't appear on-screen then it wasn't so."

      To be fair, authorial intent in this case is pretty firmly in support of the fans in question. Davies has made it clear (I forget where/when, but I'm fairly sure my memory isn't making it up) that, while the character in his head was clearly the Doctor's' mother, he left it unexplained on screen for precisely that reason - so she could be whoever the viewer thought/wanted her to be. Romana, Susan, Flavia, some as-yet-unknown Other...any or all are every bit as valid an interpretation as the one in Davies' head, and deliberately so.

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    3. Try as I might I cannot shake the idea out of my head that the perceived dislike of this story within fandom stems very much from the idea of a blood relation to the Doctor.

      Don't be silly. Asexualists like me don't dislike this episode because it has a blood relation of the Doctor in it - if anything, the idea that she pops out fully formed from a magic box he shoves his hand in plays into our loom-loving hands. I dislike it for pretty much the reasons Phil gives; it's a clumsy mess of ideas which, while they have merit in themselves, lack confidence and consistency in their execution.

      who Davies admitted she was meant to be - the Doctor's mother - even to the point of claiming that regardless of authorial intent, if it didn't appear on-screen then it wasn't so.

      I know it's not very fashionable around these parts, but that seems entirely reasonable to me. To paraphrase Dickens, anything you want to say about your story you should endeavour to say in it. Davies was obviously fine with it being left open to interpretation, so why shouldn't we play around with it?

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    4. Being free to play around with the idea is not the same as actively and vocally denying the concept just because it was not explicitly stated.

      Yes, for the reason you give, RTD didn't state that The Woman was the Rani, Susan, Leela, or Romana, and I agree that this was easily the best thing to do.

      But by far the most aggressive denials were reserved for her "not" being the Doctor's Mother...despite "The Writer's Tale" actually mentioning this (and RTD going so far as to advise David Tennant of this, thus informing his acting to a certain extent).

      However I must disagree that the author's intent has no more validity than the viewer's. A similar case is made for JK Rowling claiming that she always thought of Dumbledore as gay. That doesn't mean he's definitely not gay and must surely be seen as evidence that he could be.

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    5. I agree with Ununnilium. Another vote for Patience.

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    6. I thought the way it was handled was great - when Wilf asks directly who the Woman was, the Doctor glances significantly at Donna, with Sylvia framed prominently in the foreground, so you get Mother, Daughter, Granddaughter, Companion, Wife,all in one shot.

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    7. As for Jenny, I was more concerned with the notion that the magical cloning box also apparently has a function to apply eyeliner. Good on Moffat for calling RTD out on introducing her just to get rid of her; even BETTER on Moffat for never bringing her back.

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    8. I'm probably the biggest Patience fanboy around, but I say no to the Patience idea.

      She's dead, lost. She's a part of Dr. Who's past that he can never get back. If the Doctor lost his people during the Time War, he lost Patience before the Time War had even begun. Even her memory eludes him most of the time.

      Having her hanging around him like a ghost violates the way the character works.

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    9. Isn't she a long-lost far-past memory who's inexplicably come back both times she appears, though?

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    10. This must be a dumb question, but how does viewing audience tell us anything about whether that audience liked it? Tuning in means they wanted to watch it, surely, not that they were happy after it was done?

      I can't really think of an identity for "the Woman" that would be an interesting reveal, in part because she doesn't exist as a character. She's just a mouthpiece for prophecy. One reason having her be the Doctor's mom is even worse is that he never gets to interact with her, directly or indirectly, so what is the point of having her be such an important person in his life and then never explore that connection even for a second?

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    11. I have a vision of -after the restoration of Gallifrey- an older Jenny coming back bearing an infant daughter named Susan, and wondering if maybe the Doctor doesn't have some relatives back home who could help raise her

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    12. "This must be a dumb question, but how does viewing audience tell us anything about whether that audience liked it? Tuning in means they wanted to watch it, surely, not that they were happy after it was done?"

      You're right of course, that sheer numbers doesn't (although it does indicate that those viewers stuck with it all the way through). With episodic television like Doctor Who the majority of viewers for each story are those who continue to watch after last week, and in particular last week's "Next Time" Trailer. However the AI does tell us whether it was liked or not. "The Doctor's Daughter" got an AI of 88, which means it was liked less than "Silence" (89) but more than "Unicorn & Wasp"(86).

      "I can't really think of an identity for "the Woman" that would be an interesting reveal, in part because she doesn't exist as a character. She's just a mouthpiece for prophecy. One reason having her be the Doctor's mom is even worse is that he never gets to interact with her, directly or indirectly, so what is the point of having her be such an important person in his life and then never explore that connection even for a second?"

      Loss. Heartache. Agony. If we're talking about the audience filling in the gaps here, then having the two of them just look longingly at eachother provides an enormous gap for each viewer to fill in with their own emotions. To see your mother across an unreachable distance? Someone you've not seen for thousands of years? And to know that if you do what you have to do...what your mother wants you to do...you will send her back into Hell, with no chance of ever seeing her again? Good God, that's drama for you.

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    13. Yes, she's come back twice and Dr. Who has lost her again. Do it too often and it gets silly.

      The woman in End of Time seems connected to the world of Gallifrey that the Doctor lost in the Time War. Patience is even further removed from that world. The Doctor has fond memories of Gallifrey pre-Time War, but he barely seems to remember Patience most of the time (leaving aside the Infinity Doctor who remembers her).

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    14. having the two of them just look longingly at eachother

      Yes, but aren't her eyes covered in "dissent"?

      Good God, that's drama for you.

      I suppose it might be if we had any fucking clue who she was supposed to be. The Writer's Tale is a fascinating book (most of which I have yet to read, gloriously) but it wasn't sitting next to the remote when "The End of Time" was broadcast.

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    15. On the subject of Dumbledore being gay: I'm all for it, and I'd like very much to believe that Rowling really did intend him to be gay from early on, and not just because someone pointed out late in the game that the Harry Potter series has no explicitly non-hetero characters.

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    16. His relationship with Grindlewald in the flashbacks in Half-Blood Prince are coded pretty dang gay.

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    17. I don't think it needed spelling out. This is obviously someone important to him, that sending them back to the war pains him greatly. Do you really need more?

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    18. His relationship with Grindlewald in the flashbacks in Half-Blood Prince are coded pretty dang gay.

      I guess I'll have to read it again.

      I don't think it needed spelling out. This is obviously someone important to him, that sending them back to the war pains him greatly. Do you really need more?

      Really? I just watched "The End of Time" again recently and I don't remember any explicit onscreen indication that "this is obviously someone important to him." I don't even remember seeing the Doctor noticing her at all; the only time I can recall that might have happened was at the very end when she was hiding her face. What am I forgetting?

      Because obviously he's someone important to her, but even there I didn't get the sense that it was definitely because they had some personal relationship, as opposed to her having knowledge that he's important somehow to Gallifrey's present/future.

      So maybe I was just too blinded by the pain of, you know, sitting through "The End of Time," but yeah, I guess I do need more.

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    19. She uncovers her eyes to give him a Meaningful Look. Presumably she's someone whose judgement the Doctor respects, but for all we know, she could be a regenerated Spandrell. (Personally I always assumed she was Susan based on her miraculous convenient telepathic communications with Wilf through the unbreakable time lock - Susan was always the telepathic one in the family.)

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    20. And this is why no Doctor Who episode can ever please everyone. Mark Patterson seems quite happy for the identity of "The Woman" to be left open to the viewer's interpretation, while encylops appears annoyed about not knowing exactly who she fucking was! :D

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    21. Heh. :) Well, let me be clear: I think she's a terrible idea and should not be part of the episode, period, whoever she is. Her role as foreshadower struck me (maybe JUST me, and that's fine) as hackneyed and unnecessary in a story already overstuffed with foreshadowing. And her role as a Gallifreyan the Doctor might feel regret and anguish at banishing -- that's a great reason to have her there, but if she's going to do that...I don't think I need to know exactly who she is, but I need to see a stronger connection to have it work for me dramatically.

      Put another way, I don't think the Doctor's mom should really be an Easter egg. If that's all we're going to get, though, I definitely agree, keep her as vague as possible. Sweep her under the rug, if possible.

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    22. If Gallifrey comes back we're going to see her again though.
      I mean -- ther'es only one Gallifrey story. "A traitor on the high council, our politics are corrupt / battle in the matrix." The Deadly Assassin did it first and every Gallifrey story since then has had the exact same plot. When Lance Parkin wrote "The Infinity Doctors," set entirely on Gallifrey he set out to resolve all the different mythology of the planet-- and was extremely annoyed with himself when he realized that the story he was writing had somehow fallen into the same plot as Every Gallifrey Story Ever; a traitor on the high council.
      >>Parkin already identified the problem here, Gallifrey is
      >>boring. He couldn’t really escape that, ultimately ending
      >>up with the same broken structure of Gallifrey that he was
      >>reacting against
      http://www.philipsandifer.com/2013/01/you-were-expecting-someone-else-15.html

      Gallifrey is boring and Mystery Woman is something interesting to do on Gallifrey that isn't Every Gallifrey Story Ever. If we get the planet back we're going to see her again and all that ambiguity is going to be removed. If we're horribly unlucky someone is going to take Rassilon sentencing her to penitence "like the Weeping Angels of Old" literally.

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    23. When Gallifrey comes back, eventually, I would place money on the fact we won't see That Woman again.

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    24. His relationship with Grindlewald in the flashbacks in Half-Blood Prince are coded pretty dang gay.

      I'm not sure I'd peg Dumbledore as having an adult sexuality at all. It's clear he had one same-sex crush in his youth, but it seems like it led to him completely shutting down the maturation of his sexual identity.

      When Gallifrey comes back, eventually, I would place money on the fact we won't see That Woman again.

      It certainly wouldn't be something Moffat is liable ot have any interest in pursuing.

      For me, the fundamental question is: If she is his mother, what does that add to the story?

      And the answer is "Nothing. If it did, Rusty would have made it explicit who she was." So claiming she is feels like kind of a cheat; just a gimmick to add some extra weight that the story didn't deign to add itself.

      (If she's his mom, though, does that imply that the other dissenter is his dad?)

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    25. The best reason for The Woman in White not to be the Doctor's mother is that we've never met her. I stick to the idea that it's Susan, because at least then there's something to connect her to.

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    26. You haven't read Lance Parkin's Gallifrey Chronicles then, Mengu?

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    27. and the concept of the Doctor having a grandchild appears to be immune from the "Doctor-not-have-sex!" taboos of the classic era.

      You seem to have missed the army of Doctor Who fans who assert that they had always, always, allthe way back in 1963, taken it for granted that Susan wasn't his biological granddaughter, just some random girl who had taken to calling him "Grandfather".

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    28. Plus the unfortunate suggestion in Lungbarrow that Susan is the granddaughter of the Other, not Dr. Who.

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    29. "When Gallifrey comes back, eventually, I would place money on the fact we won't see That Woman again."

      But this is the thing about getting Gallifrey back isn't it? Nobody's dead now. So that means "Spittoon" Rassilon, the mad Visionary, the Woman, and the Master. Depending on whether centuries have passed, or no time at all, Moffat's got the whole toy-box to play with.

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    30. Plus the unfortunate suggestion in Lungbarrow that Susan is the granddaughter of the Other, not Dr. Who.

      Or the first piece of internet fanfic I ever read, which suggested that Susan was Dr. Who's granddaughter.

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  5. The main thing I remember from this is how much I liked the twist. The main thing I don't remember from this is that Martha's in it, at all - even after being repeatedly reminded, I can't summon up a single mental impression with her in it other than a few frames during the part they're revealing the twist.

    Also - was this your planned direction before Day of the Doctor aired?

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    1. What I remember most about The Doctor's Daughter is: Martha drowns a fish.

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  6. Another piss-poor treatment for Martha: quickly separated from the main cast with characters who the audience can't understand, giving Freema Agyeman a horribly tough acting gig with minimal screentime in a B-plot that could just as easily have remained on the cutting room floor.

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    1. Oh I disagree with you there, I thought that she came off very well in this episode. Being given a horribly tough acting gig is proof that the producers think you can pull it off, after all. She got to carry her own plotline, display a lot of competence and bravery, she got to make friends with a friendly fish person and have a big scene of grief when he (inexplicably) drowned...all in all I'd say she acquits herself pretty well in this episode.

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    2. Whilst she did what you say, Seeing_I, you could happily cut her strand of the story and not lose a single thing. She doesn't really contribute to the major story - she's only there to show us what the Hath side is like, but you could do with without her. Even if they don't speak understandable language, it's easy to grasp their side of the story. All she does is scramble over the surface of the planet to fill time and reach the Doctor and Donna when they arrive near the Source. And then she just stands there from that moment on. She really doesn't do a thing.

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    3. Yes, true, but that's a fault of the lackluster scripting overall, more than any lack of respect for the character or failure to at least try to give her her own storyline.

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  7. I do think there's some reasonably sound metal underneath the dross. It's Donna's best story so far and Catherine Tate walks off with every scene she's in. (And however badly misjudged the content of the emotional beats may be, I find the way they're written more likeable than the way Davies writes emotional beats.) I enjoyed quite a lot of it when I rewatched.

    The idea that the war's been going on for only a week has a Lilliputian deflationary effect upon the idea of an epic struggle. (Shame we have the Doctor's overblown 'never would' speech - doesn't really fit.)

    Another reason the script doesn't have room to breathe is that Martha is off on a pointless quest to get back to the Doctor. Actually there's a good bit: Agyeman's acting and the direction just after the Hath sacrifices itself to save Martha manage to sell an event that would otherwise be pointless and cynical. But then, it has no effect on anything Martha's actions or anybody else's actions later in the story, so that's a shame.
    I can imagine a different treatment of the basic scenario where Martha's subplot was about Martha turning into a soldier, seeing as lots of people have read that into the Sontaran story - but nothing's done with that at all.

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    1. I liked the Hath, I thought they idea of fish-people wearing water-filled respirators was cute, and I liked their bubbly speech. Paul Kasey did a great mime job and really managed gave Peck some personality. But still trying to work out how a fish person in a gas mask can bloody DROWN!

      I do agree that Donna had a great moment in this episode - where she turns on a dime from giving the Doctor a hard time about his "daughter" to suddenly being concerned and solicitous of his feelings. "You always talk but you never say anything" she says, and offers her moral support in a way that Rose and Martha really never could, somehow, wrapped up as they both were in their own personal dramas. Good stuff.

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  9. Huh. I didn't know that this episode was so widely hated. I always found it rather delightful.

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    1. This is one place where I particularly regret the fact that Phil's willingness to defy fan consensus with redemptive readings seems to have dwindled over the course of the blog.

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    2. Must admit I was surprised too, it has never struck me as particularly unpopular episode.

      Audience Appreciation 88
      Ranked in 57th place out of 83 episodes by Gallifrey Base fan polls.

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    3. My own thoughts were that it wasn't the greatest episode of the season (those would be the Silence/Forest two-parter and Midnight), but that it wasn't absolutely terrible. I didn't consider any episode this season to be outright bad. A solid 7.0 in my view: low for the post-revival standard, but still decent enough to watch again periodically. It certainly does have its problems, as Phil describes. But they aren't catastrophic.

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    5. I'm not too fond of this one, but I'm willing to give a redemptive reading a shot:

      What I wrote below about family? Forget it. Family is a red herring here, in the same way the "war for generations" is. Jenny isn't the Doctor's daughter, she's a replica. Just as the new Master was a replica of the Doctor. Just as Captain Jack on Torchwood is a replica. Just as Martha is. This episode represents a bold statement which will culminate in the accusation at season's end that the Doctor turns his companions into warriors. That the man who never would leaves behind him a string of abandoned replicas who frequently do.

      Martha's subplot in this episode makes perfect sense if read as an exploration of the possibility of a replica Doctor. She is, of all the companions, closest to being a doctor already. And she refuses war in favor of communication. But in the end, she can't save a fish-man from drowning. The Hath doesn't really drown here, he suffocates, in the weight of all the aliens the Doctor refuses to fight who he still can't save, from Silurians to Sycorax. Perhaps the Doctor never would (again), but his replicas can't not, it seems.

      No wonder that Jenny's challenges to the Doctor go unanswered. If she is a replica of him, why is she a young woman who seems more of a clone of a famous Whedon character? If anything, she should remind the Doctor of Rose, the action-girl he fell for. But she argues for war, she fights, she's good at fighting, she enjoys it. How is she not what the Doctor made Rose into? Rose pleads with Nine not to shoot one Dalek (he never would), but ends up erasing hundreds of thousands of them from history (after he declares he never would) and later helps him condemn more to the dark void of whatever (I suppose firing Chekov's gun doesn't count). The kind of replica she becomes in her alternate world, the kind of replica we see Martha become, these women look like Jenny is here. They fight, they shoot big guns, they can't save everyone. He never would, but they do.

      And they do because he leaves them behind. He scatters replicas of himself through multiple dimensions, imperfect replicas, unexploded bombs. From time to time, he comes across one he's responsible for, refuses to recognize it, maybe whispers to someone that it looks tired. When Jenny goes off to have adventures, do we imagine that she never will? Isn't the Doctor partly responsible if she does? Is it enough to inspire someone else to shoot the gun? And if the Doctor can stop someone from pulling the trigger by example, why are all his replicas so violent?

      The Doctor may be done killing. But the replicas he scatters along his path, like shed appendages, are fighting in his wake. And they are his handiwork.

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    6. +1 To Everything David said. That is all.

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    7. That's certainly better than I could do at redeeming this one. The best I can do is "at least it's not 'The Lazarus Experiment.'"

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    8. Part of why I'm not as swift to offer redemptive readings in the Davies era is that every single episode has three of them already - two commentary tracks and a Doctor Who Confidential devoted to making the affirmative case for them. And that eats up a lot of the free space for interesting counterfactual redemptions.

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    9. I walked into the cafe and I ordered a classic sci-fi war story with a twist. They served me this episode. I walked away satisfied.
      It was competent. It followed classic sci-fi show plot arcs. It introduced some neat ideas (not terribly original ones but still neat).
      That it isn't universally loved is for a reason we've seen in previous seasons - the latter half of the season is something else.

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    10. I like this one too. I don't think it's the best evah or anything, but I like it. Jenny is fun, Donna is clever, Martha is heartfelt. But yeah, Phil does have some points -- the angst of a Time Lord is starting to wear thin.

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    11. If I may add on to your comment, David Ainsworth, I just had an idea that Jenny is for new "Doctor Who" fans what Ten is for those who got on board with the Classic series.

      Something about the Doctor's insistence on "shared suffering:" Remember that the 80s and the Wilderness Years were the point in time at which the show was "uncool," a well-loved but much-derided memory. Many of us endured years of bullying for it.

      Now that the show is back in the public eye (and how!), I want to venture that there could be a little bit of resentment at how those who came in with the revival haven't had those years of hardening.

      In *my* book, that's not at all a bad thing. I thank heaven every day that they can bond over it without fear of shame or ridicule.

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  10. This may be an American English/British English thing, but I've never encountered the verb 'thump' in a context unrelated to the use of physical force. You might want to rephrase the final sentence of your opening paragraph so as to lose the implication that Obama assaulted Clinton, especially in the light of your having called out Chris Brown's violent abuse of a woman just a few posts back.

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    1. Interesting - I think of it mainly as a word used to describe the outcome of sporting events. But that may be wholly idiosyncratic on my part.

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    2. I thought it was a typo and you were thinking of the word "trumps" which would be much more common in a UK dialect in this context.

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  11. I really like the Doctor's Daughter (character and episode). It's all just good fun. My girlfriend at the time cried when the fish person died up on the planet's surface... there is something deeply upsetting about that scene though it probably illustrates your point about the emotional aspects of the episode in no way compliment the themes of the story.

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  12. I'd agree about the front half of season four being rather week--but the last half has some corkers. Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead, Midnight and even Turn Left. And your comment about possibly game-changing characters dying at the end of the episode makes me wonder how you'll interpret River in the next episode....

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  13. I too think that this is the nadir of nuWho, and it's not because I object to the Doctor having children. Susan is the Doctor's granddaughter; it's pretty much the first thing we learn about him, and it's never once refuted or even questioned within the series.

    No, I despise "The Doctor's Daughter" because:

    1) It's the one in which a fish drowns.

    2) The title is from the JNT school of fan-baiting, except that even JNT had the good sense not to act on it. Besides, any hope/fear that this might actually be about a previously unheard-of relative is dispelled before the title sequence. From the first scene, we know it's a cheat.

    3) Jenny is not the Doctor's daughter, except on a technicality. As Philip points out, she shares none of the Doctor's traits. The relationship between them rings false. No matter how much the story plays up the DNA angle, Jenny really is this woman he's just met. She's just another bit of weirdness in an already extraordinary existence.

    4) Instant cloning? I suppose that I can accept that. Instant cloning that includes clothing, weapons training, a fully formed personality and instant recognition of one's "parent?" That's a bit of a stretch. Instant cloning that produces grizzled, old war veterans? I give up.

    5) The drowning fish.

    6) The inevitability of Jenny's death. It's not only very "Star Trek," it's "Bonanza" (Little Joe's wife) and every other drama from the early decades of TV. It's also very nuWho; any time the Doctor invites the guest star to travel with him, the clock begins ticking. She joins Astrid and Lynda-with-a-Y in the roster of companions-not-to-be. Her last minute resurrection doesn't make her death any less of an entirely-expected "twist."

    7) A f***ing fish drowns. Seriously. I suppose that someone thought that they were being clever, but the fish is WEARING A BREATHING DEVICE. Martha watches him sink below the surface, sobbing, yet not doing one damned thing to save him. How long did he lie there in the quicksand thinking, "Hey, I'm perfectly fine. Someone get me a rope, or a stick. Surely that human won't be stupid enough to just walk away."

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    1. Besides, any hope/fear that this might actually be about a previously unheard-of relative is dispelled before the title sequence. From the first scene, we know it's a cheat.

      Indeed. I'm not the biggest fan of The Next Doctor, but at least it doesn't reveal the true story behind Jackson Lake in the first five minutes.

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    3. In his book, Russell states that often he'll have the "endgame" and then move his characters and pawns around the board to make them end up at that place. The most obvious example of this is Journey's End - he has the major scenes, and then has to strategically work out how X gets to Y etc.

      Here, though, it's the opposite. He has the first idea, the gimmick, but nowhere to really go with it beyond a massive grin and a doodle of it in his book. So he palms it off to someone else. Like, I do love Russell, but if you have a big idea like that then, from my POV, you should be the one to take it on. Russell should've handled his own idea, and then there'd only be himself to blame if it fell flat (like, for many, it did).

      I'm not sure I'd come up with "the Doctor's daughter - kinda" and then give it to the chap who wrote The Lazarus Experiment.

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    4. "The Drowning Fish" = great name for a pub.

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    5. :) good point also "The Doctor's Daughter" sounds like a pub name - not as good as "The Drowning Fish". I can't think of other episodes that could be co-opted as pub names - maybe The End of Time.

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    7. A quick Google confirms my suspicion that there are in fact at least two pubs called "Journey's End" (one in Birmingham, one in Devon). There's a "Warrior's Gate" in St-Leonards-On-Sea, Sussex.

      And I can just imagine a pub sign showing two serious-looking men in Victorian suits holding unlikely medical apparatus, above the legend "The Two Doctors",

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    8. The fish drowns because his water apparatus breaks under the sludge -- hence the "glass breaking" sound effect in that scene. Its water respirator isn't even plain water -- it's a special green mixture, obviously quite particular to its species. The black sludge in the sinkhole either suffocated the fish or poisoned it -- possibly both.

      Remember, *real* fish will die in water that's poisonous or denuded of free oxygen radicals -- which is why proper aquariums have oxygenators. So, no, the argument against the fish "drowning" is as specious as complaining about someone choking to death in mustard gas -- as if mustard gas was breathable simply because it's gassy, like air.

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    9. "The Empty Child" and "The Unicorn and the Wasp" sound almost pub-like.

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    10. Without the second definite article: "The Unicorn and Wasp" - very pub like.

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    11. 3) Jenny is not the Doctor's daughter, except on a technicality. As Philip points out, she shares none of the Doctor's traits. The relationship between them rings false. No matter how much the story plays up the DNA angle, Jenny really is this woman he's just met. She's just another bit of weirdness in an already extraordinary existence.

      Not quite sure how a daughter not being anything like her father means she's not his daughter. Lamarckian inheritance was disproven years and years ago.

      And if we're going to claim that Georgia Moffett isn't the Doctor's daughter, Peter Davison and Sandra Dickinson may have some very strong words for us :)

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  14. The central problem here is that this episode is about too many unrelated things at once. War, family, communication, renewal, action, trust. Martha gets an Enemy-Mine looking subplot and the ending seems to underline the problem that "classic" sci-fi Who always ends up with magic being the solution.

    The interesting and challenging part of the story gets pushed aside for all the war stuff, and the "debate" that relies on the Doctor's incoherence and culminates in a statement of principle that even an extreme advocate for gun control is going to have problems with. This episode has Martha, who worshiped the Doctor but parted with him, Donna, who challenges Ten like nobody else does, and Jenny, who poses an immediate problem in terms of what she is to the Doctor, especially if Time Lord reproduction permits this kind of technology. Martha should be asking questions about why, if the Doctor is so choked up about being last of the Time Lords, he never sought out this technology to reproduce them; Donna, who's still growing as a person at this stage, can drop snide comments about men, families and marriages. Jenny could be fascinated by her heritage instead of being "I am programmed to fight." And in defending himself, the Doctor could let slip about Susan, which invites Martha to ask the natural question: when the Doctor destroyed Gallifrey, did he kill his entire family along with it? And what ever happened to Susan?

    Not until the Williams/Pond family is there a better TARDIS crew for this kind of conversation.

    Instead, we get a man who murdered every last one of his own people (the Master excepted) to defeat a foe that survived the attempt, taking the moral high ground. Ten's arrogance doesn't make the morality here any easier to swallow, even without all the contrivences required to make the story work. Nor does the canon logic behind the Time War, which End of Time will make worse by trying to claim that the Time Lords deserved to die. If the Doctor claimed only two innocents, both of which seem like they were willing to die to stop the horrors of the Time War, then the real source of his guilt must be that he destroyed his home. Which, ironically, makes that the one place the New Series Doctor takes with him everywhere, instead of being able to leave it behind.

    Like the New Series itself, The Doctor's Daughter is haunted by the past history of the show by this point, and its refusal to build a story around that past is what stops it from working. But I think most of the problems here are at least shared by the larger Davies vision by now. In fairness, it's a problem I'm not sure the series is ready to solve yet, at least not without a compelling mustering of the show's new history to allow it to relate to its past as an equal. The writing here could work through these problems on screen in compelling ways, but instead insists on a situation founded upon newness, replication and the loss of memory. These themes don't engage the deeper problems; they look to be a deliberate refusal to do so, in fact. The Doctor is running away from himself, but for now the writing is cooperating.

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    1. The Man Who Never Would speech is truly ironic, and stems from the Doctor's own self-hatred, but the performance of it doesn't clue us in to such a reading. It's played as taking the high and mighty moral ground, as if that's who the Doctor actually is, rather than the humbling words of a man who's made the wrong decision and truly regrets it. This whole speech would truly work if it were played differently.

      And yeah, sure, the fact he's angry is justified, he's just lost his daughter (after struggling to accept her as such), but this works against the irony of his situation.

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  15. So many people hate the fact a fish drowned. Now, whilst I can see their POV, I do think Davies and the gang could've easily rectified this with a small "breaking glass" sound effect as the Hath went under. A tiny thing which would shut so many people up.

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    1. Yeah, but it's quicksand. If you drop any kind of fish into quicksand, it'll drown.

      Plus I always assumed the Hath apparatus worked on gas exchange from the air, like a reverse gill. Submerge it in what is basically oxygen-starved mud, and it'll no longer work whether you hear it break or not.

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    2. To be honest, I agree. I never really had a problem of the Hath drowning. It might've been able to breathe still, but it'd still been pulled under and effectively trapped, 'drowned' alive. If anything, that scene should be laughed at for Freema's reaction rather than the Hath.

      And you make a good point about the apparatus. To be fair, we don't have a clue how it works, so you could well be right. What the reaction of some fans shows is that they've just assumed "oh, it can breathe coz it has the bubble tank, and it's a fish". When, really, we have no idea how this creature breathes - for all we know, that bubble tank is purely for 'speech', and it breathes through the facial gills or something, in which case it would've drowned. (And it's never stated "he drowns" - Martha just can't save him, he gets pulled under. That's another word fans have just assumed. I think if you swap it with "trapped below" it'd be better, and maybe would help silence some people.)

      Having watched it recently, I think it's just the easiest thing to "bash" in the story for a lot of people. Whilst you can pick at a whole range of topics and odd lines and scenes here, "oh look a fish that drowned" is just an easy example to point and laugh at if people are too lazy to find something else and properly criticise.

      My original comment, about the breaking sound effect - well that was just me going 'I wish they'd done this' just to shut people up. I don't have an issue with it, but it's one of those where I just see "a fish drowned!!??!?!" and it's so wearisome that I sometimes just think "really?"

      It's the Talons Giant Rat of Series 4.

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    3. Yeah, but at least I hate it for at least four reasons other than the drowning fish. And for me, it's really that we've been given no reason to believe that the breathing apparatus is anything other than self-contained. I came away feeling that the poor thing probably had quite a while to ponder why the human was blubbing on the shore rather than taking off her jacket and using it as a lifeline.

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    4. I haven't watched it in a while, but I am pretty sure you do hear breaking glass when the Hath gets crushed.

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    5. easily rectified this with a small "breaking glass" sound effect

      Not as easily as all that! There is a small breaking glass sound effect at 27:06. Maybe what was needed was a big breaking glass sound effect?

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    6. It suffocated - it didn't drown.

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    7. I thought the breaking glass sound effect was perfectly clear, and I'm half deaf.

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    8. Y'know, it never even occurred to me that those breathing units were self-contained and not some kind of gas-exchangers.

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  16. Barack Obama thumps Hillary Clinton in the North Carolina Primary, leading Tim Russert to declare that it is clear who is going to win, and turning Clinton’s campaign into a strange sort of zombie, which, to be fair, anyone who was looking at the numbers realized was true months ago.

    Weird and irrelevent coincidence time: At work today I put my iPod on shuffle through my collection of Radio 4 Comedy Podcasts and was rewarded with an episode of The Now Show from around this time in which Mitch Benn sang:
    Well the people have spoken and they think he's great now,
    (Obama-bama-bama-bama-bama-bama)
    'Cos he's gonna be the Democrat candidate now,
    (Obama-bama-bama-bama-bama-bama)
    Well six months ago he had already won,
    And everyone knew it except Hilary Clinton.
    (Obama-bama-bama-bama-bama-bama)
    (Obama-bama-bama-bama-bama-bama-bamaba)


    Er, yeah, so anyway, Doctor Who. I don't have much to say here; one of those stories where I liked it, but I can't actually disagree with much of the criticisms. Although I would say that while there's certainly a case to be made that Jenny isn't the Doctor's daughter in any real sense, I don't follow the logic that it's because there are no noticable traits they share. Honestly, if there's a criticism to be made about the Child Who's Nothing Like Their Parent But They're Still Family Plot it's that it's such a cliche.

    Oh, one other thing; following how some people (rightly) loved Donna noting the lack of sick days in Sontaran Stratagem, how about the moment here where she solves the central mystery (such as it is) with Mad Referencing Skillz?

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  18. The thing I find most entertaining about this story is the casting. Georgia Moffett's father is, of course, Peter Davison. Which is to say that the Doctor's daughter really *is* the Doctor's daughter...

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    1. And now of course the Doctor's wife...which makes the Doctor his own father in law...or something. Actually this is the primary reason I can't watch this story. Tennant and Moffett getting off while she's playing his daughter is too icky. It's not quite on the same level as Tom Baker and Lalla Ward falling in love in Paris in City of Death is it?

      Seriously though the main reason is because the plot is so bad. The 'entire war happened within a week' twist just doesn't hold up and the cloning technology is not only there just to make the 'Doctor's daughter' possible but isn't even workable in the context of the show. It only works if you handwave the idea that every clone soldier is considered the child of the original rather than just, well, a clone. which is never established within the narrative.I mean there are many instances of the Doctor or his companion's DNA being sampled to create a duplicate but this interpretation has never been made. For example, is the Ganger Doctor regarded as the Doctor's son? Or from the immediately previous episode is Martha's Sontaran clone her daughter? No, the concept is only there to sell the teaser title and renders the whole episode cheap.

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    2. My first paragraph is somewhat mitigated of course by Georgia Moffet's brilliantly funny and self parodying cameo in her (real) dad's recent Five(ish) |Doctors skit.

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    4. If the Doctor's daughter is also the Doctor's wife, that means she's also both the TARDIS and River Song.

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  19. "This is a point so drably predictable that Steven Moffat called Davies out on it, pointing out that introducing major new character who alters the status quo of the series and then immediately killing them off at the end of the episode is very Star Trek."

    Uh, what?

    Sorry, but I just got through the period of the franchise with Gene Roddenberry's biggest involvement and even *he* didn't pull that trick. The only instance I can think of in the entire Original Series that is remotely comparable is Kirk's family being introduced just to kill them off to give him emotional baggage in "Operation: Annihilate!" and that was *one* episode that I rightly called the show out for.

    There's Kirk's studio-mandated-girls-of-the-week, but almost none of them died, a fair few were terribly interesting characters in their own right and the franchises cuts that shit out starting with the Animated Series.

    Speaking of, every Star Trek since the Animated Series has just about *relied* on its guest cast becoming regular, recognisable and important parts of the series' tapestry. I've counted two or three reoccurring characters already and I'm only three episodes in as of this writing. I don't see how Moffat's argument holds any water.

    I mean Star Trek has plenty of problems of its own, I'm just not seeing how this is one of them.

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    1. Maybe Phil finds the redshirts really really compelling characters.

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    2. Also, IIRC, by the time Kirk's family is introduced, they're already dead.

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  20. Gentle commentators, I present to you now, the Man Who Would Never:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lzmnPs64K74

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  21. The Doctor's Daughter would have been so easy to correct.

    All that needed changing was Martha and Donna's roles.

    Think about it; to have Donna alone with the Hath would have been opportunity for both comedy (the Hath are good for little else), and Donna's chance to experience alien life without the Doctor there. It could have built on the theme of Donna bonding with those she meets, as we saw with the Ood and the residents of Pompeii.

    Second, showing the Doctor and Martha united again, but this time in the middle of a war, would illustrate how Martha's views have changed and become more militaristic since she joined UNIT - and how the Doctor disapproves.

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