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Mâvarin and Other Inspirations

A Fantasy Writer's Journal

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NuWho Review Redux: Cold Blood
Crack, Doctor Who, Cayenne
8/10 from me, not because there's anything wrong with it (I gave last week's a 9, when in retrospect it should have been an 8), but because this is quite a bit darker than I like my Doctor Who. This is Torchwood territory, and I don't mean that in a good way. This is like when Torchwood gets too dark for me, as in Chris Chibnall's Countrycide, or, goodness knows, in Children of Earth. Midnight was traumatic enough. I didn't want to see Doctor Who get this deep into the "drak side of humanity" vein.

Structurally, I don't think there's much wrong with this. Although the business with the Crack appears to be arbitrarily shoved into the story at that particular moment, I don't suppose it really is. We know from past episodes (and now from the "shrapnel") that it is somehow related to the TARDIS, and also to Amy and Rory's wedding. Naturally the Crack would appear by the TARDIS just as Rory's death is about to come along to destabilize things further. As for the rest of the story, while it's tonally very different from last week, everything that happens here was already set up, in that episode or in the season generally.

Let's see, specifics. I'll go by character. Tony Mack worked for me, because I could just about buy his hiding his green veins problem from a daughter already wild with worry about her husband and son. It may even have been a reasonable choice, given that he probably knows how she might react to the additional stress. What little we got of Elliot this week fits in fine with what we already know of him. I guessed from the moment Tony was set to stay behind that Nasreen would stay too; it makes perfect sense for her character and beats the heck out of her getting killed off.

But oh, that Ambrose. Oh, dear. She was such a loose cannon, almost from the beginning, that she was barely likable even before she did the single worst and stupidest thing possible. She's just about believable, but only because of the nuances the actress gave her throughout, and only because she didn't actually murder Ayala. She only tortured her to death. Yeah, that's much better. *shudder* But what I mean is, she didn't deliberately do the really stupid thing of leaving herself without a hostage to exchange for her family. She actually says that she expected Ayala to back down and tell her how to save her dad. "I would have," she says. So. Believable, but really, really unpalatable. She's the reason I turned to my husband once during the episode and said, "I'm really hating this."

And then there are the two fanatically genocidal warrior sisters. Does the one not understand that the other would deliberately turn her captivity to a virtual suicide mission in order to achieve martyrdom and provoke a war? Is it such a surprise that Ayala is dead? And given that Restac is keen to assume the humans are attacking and exterminate them regardless, Ayala's ploy/sacrifice seems unnecessary, unless the non-warrior class characters need to be convinced. Now those two, I like. I'm not sure Malohkeh's character quite holds up under scrutiny, the earlier scenes of dissection and medical experiments quite fitting in with his later gentleness and geniality; but I suppose I can just about buy that he means no harm. Certainly Mo seems none the worse for "dissection" aside from an interesting scar. And Stephen Moore's Eldane is the Silurian we've been waiting for all these years, the reasonable person willing to negotiate in good faith, and not easily pushed into "humans must die" mode. (And frankly, it's a thrill to get Stephen Moore into Doctor Who anyway, as a character so very different from Marvin. I like his recordings of the H2G2 books at least as well as the Douglas Adams ones.)

And finally, finally, we get a result other than the humans killing off all those murderous Earth Reptiles. It's been a long time coming, forty years in fact. One question, though: why are all the nasty Silurians female, and the nice ones male? Ah, well. I suppose there would be more of a mixture in the general populace, but nearly all the non-warriors sleep through the story.

The end bit? I spoiled myself earlier in the week, and was dreading this. Overall it was well done. My only real problem is that the Doctor is safe from being erased from existence while actually sticking his arm through the crack, by virtue of a handkerchief on his hand. Really? Maybe it's only when the time energy (or whatever) comes out of the crack that it becomes a cosmic eraser, but that's not actually said. And if it's a matter of not touching his skin, well, I think the time energy light is only up to Rory's covered legs when the Doctor abandons his body. It's possible to make this all work, but as it appears on screen it's more than a little dodgy.

Rory's death scene itself was perfect. Every word and every expression from Arthur Darvill was just right. Amy's shell of wisecracking unflappability falls away for the second time this series, and for the same reason. Notice that her "clingy" remark earlier is her making light of her own danger; her delivery of that line is not genuinely carefree, but more a show of defiance. At least, it is to my ears. Amy doesn't go to pieces easily over her own peril, something we've known ever since fish custard. But actually losing Rory makes her go to pieces. He's the one reliable source of love and stability in her life, even if she seldom appreciates this until he's threatened or killed.

Which brings us to the whole forgetting thing. I was worried that she'd just instantly forget him, la-di-dah, let's go meet Van Gogh. But no, she has to be pulled away from his body, and then struggles to keep his memory alive with the Doctor's help. That really works for me. It comes off very differently from Donna's superficially similar memory loss, largely because the Doctor has the opposite intent this time. It was nice to see a flashback sequence that has a strong in-story reason (it's not we who need to remember, but Amy), and that has scenes NOT appearing in previous episodes. That's a good touch, emphasizing that Rory's presence in Amy's life didn't start the day Prisoner Zero was caught by the Atraxi.

Then Amy loses Rory anyway, through mechanics of memory and rewritten time that are kind of the opposite of what I'm used to seeing. In Madeleine L'Engle's A Swiftly Tilting Planet, for example, it's the people closest to the rewriting of history (Charles Wallace and Meg) that remember the original timeline. Here that is inverted, with Amy remembering strangers erased from history but not her own fiance killed in front of her. Our Amy becomes a different Amy, who never made Rory dress up as the raggedy Doctor, who didn't run away from her wedding, and who has no reason to be upset of angst-y as she sails off into the next adventure.

The poor Doctor, on the other hand, racks up mixed results with the Silurian negotiations, a major loss with the death of a companion for the first time since Adric, a secondary loss with Amy losing part of her history and identity, and the knowledge of future loss as he holds a piece of the TARDIS's destroyed outer shell in his hand. Amy's suffering here is finite because of what happens to her memory, but the Doctor's suffering is profound - and he's not allowed to show it, for Amy's sake. But then, that's what the Doctor does anyway. He buries his hurts and goes on.


"Time is not the boss of me." --The Doctor

Find me on Twitter, Blogger and elsewhere using that magical word, Mavarin.

The Eleventh Hour: 10.
The Beast Below: 8.
Victory of the Daleks: 7 (but should have said 6).
The Time of Angels: 10.
Flesh and Stone: 10.
The Vampires of Venice: 8.
Amy's Choice: 8 (should have said 9)
The Hungry Earth: 9

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I also found Amy's scenes to be intensely powerful -- so well done. And so, so sad.

I also was puzzled about the hand in the crack thing. I figured that the light from the crack didn't originate from the crack per say, but that it would ooze towards the crack and spill from the crack because in the Eleventh Hour, there wasn't any light -- just the alien eye thingy. In an attempt to be more articulate, it could be that the Doctor could put his hand through the crack without actually touching the light because the liquid hadn't caught up with the crack yet.

Yes, that would work, if the time-unwriting energy is the stuff that oozes but not the mere light behind the open crack. That could be the light of the original explosion of the TARDIS (presumably), since that's what he pulls out. But why is that not destructive in itself? Messy, very messy.

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