Empress of Mars

Empress of Mars

The nobility of the warrior, the code of conduct to which they adhere, has been the subject of dramatic entertainment for millennia. From the amphitheaters of Ancient Greece, to the television programs of today, we can still be awed by the discipline and honor exemplified by history’s greatest warrior civilizations. The reptilian species of Mars once held this level of esteem — one facet of a complex and unique nature — and the Doctor himself recognizes it. “They could slaughter entire civilizations…and weep at the crushing of a flower.”

In the latest Doctor Who episode, the Ice Warriors are once again formidable, noble, and fierce. Long Live the Queen.

This week, we look to Mark Gatiss one more time, perhaps the last time, to tell a Whovian tale in “The Empress of Mars”. In a set of circumstances wonderfully unique to this program, our Doctor takes Bill and Nardole to the red planet in 1881, only to find the British Royal Army already there, making short work of crossing a very powerful — and irascible — queen. We discuss the deflation of patriarchy, the true villains of the tale (hint: they aren’t reptilian), the restored glory of the Ice Warrior species, and the return of a Pertwee-era character that closes a wholly entertaining continuity loop.

Bonus Segment:

As more entries roll in for our “Let’s Discuss Gatiss” contest on Facebook (open until 23 June), we pull on one of the threads within to reflect on Gatiss’ many episode contributions to Doctor Who, from ‘The Unquiet Dead’ all the way up to ‘Empress of Mars’. Reactions to his legacy seem to fall into two camps: he’s either a skilled storyteller who incorporates “moments” from time to time that throw viewers; or he’s a mediocre writer who occasionally has moments of brilliance. Got an opinion? Join the discussion — and be entered to win some DW swag, in the process! [Note: we recorded this episode before the recent interview Gatiss held where he discussed his controversial “protest” to casting in ‘Empress of Mars’. More on that next week…it would have had a profound impact on our opinions, for sure.]

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The Lie of the Land

The Lie of the Land S10E08

Trust, integrity, and the validity of information are all points of intense focus in today’s news, a modern world where we are finding the delineation between fiction and fact is perhaps as subject to bias and personal interpretation as such benign topics as one’s opinion on culture or entertainment. Who is the standard-bearer of truth, then, if such a single source can even be identified? Whom can we count on?

And where, for crying out loud, is UNIT in all this?

Putting the capstone on the series 10 trilogy, our TARDIS team directly contends with the Monks of Veritas in Toby Whithouse’s story, “The Lie of the Land”. After Bill’s impulsive consent to allow these aliens to take over our world (and history) to an Orwellian nightmare of a result, the situation is intensified when the Doctor appears to be…well, indoctrinated. We discuss the episode compared to its two predecessors, the overall story arc, the Monks as a villain, and the absolutely incredible performances of Michelle Gomez and (our absolute star of this series) Pearl Mackie.

Extra Segment: We ask for listener contribution (here in the comments, email, voicemail, or via any social network of your liking) on the topic of a social relevance “agenda” in recent Doctor Who series. Does such an initiative exist, as you see it? If so, does it add to, or detract from your enjoyment of Doctor Who? Is this a recent development, or something older? Your contributions and comments now will be part of an upcoming in-depth discussion, with some fantastic guests from the Whovian community!

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The Pyramid At the End of the World

Pyramid at the End

Oh, to be the middle child. Often forgotten, overlooked, disregarded, considered to be the “least likely to be a problem”. Such a moniker could be a curse upon the bearer — or a call to action. Sometimes, the “not oldest” and “not youngest” chooses to be something more. Something…enigmatic. (Oh, and sometimes they just become Jan Brady.)

This week, we look to the second component of Moffat’s final trilogy, “The Pyramid At the End of the World”. The Doctor is on to the Monks’ deception, in some small part, but is thoroughly concerned by their abilities and predictive accuracy (given their Matrix-like simulations seen the week prior). We discuss the fate of semi-cybernetic companions, the inexplicable archaic complexity of a modern biotech lab, the odd absence of UNIT, an alien race’s dependence upon ‘consent’, and how the Doctor’s sight factors into this as the “real” world…or is it?

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Extremis

Extremis

When we learned just before the start of Series 10 that Steven Moffat opted to begin and end the season with his own penned episodes, it came as no surprise. After all, it was becoming the expected fashion for the showrunner, and none would have expected anything less in his final tenured season. Upon hearing that he would check in mid-series with the start of a three-part arc, however, our collective ears stood up. Something complex and fascinating was in the works, and the maestro himself wanted to be the hand that set the gears in motion. Now here we are, at the very midpoint, with a Doctor in distress, a companion unaware, a revelation in a vault…and the head of the Catholic Church in the bedroom.

It must be Saturday, because things have just waterski-ed past “isn’t that odd?” and propelled headlong into “what in the heck does this all mean?”.

We hit the fulcrum of Series 10 with Moffat’s organized-religion-and-virtual-reality mindbender, “Extremis”. With the expected tilted ratio of questions raised to questions answered, we grapple with the newly discovered but highly formidable Monks of Veritas, Bill’s increasing exasperation with the inability to balance adventure with a stable life, Nardole’s apparent (albeit limited) bad-assery, and another fascinating wrinkle in the greatest frenemy relationship to ever emerge from the Prydonian chapter. No fewer than three rewatches were necessary to try and feel we were in any way prepared to unpack this complicated episode — and darned if it’s not just the start to a three-part story.

(And yes, we end up at some point merging “monks” and “mummies” to refer to them as “mum-keys”, and we’re not sorry.)

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Oxygen

Doctor Who: Oxygen

When you’ve run from all the bogey-men, the ghosts and ghouls, the shadows within the shadows, the killer robots, and the bug-eyed aliens bent on your demise, it’s a reasonable assumption that the next threat to terrify and terrorize us is…rampant galactic capitalism. CURSE YOU, EMPTY SUITS. *fist shake*

This week, we rub furiously at our eyes after a viewing of “Oxygen”, the fifth episode of Series 10. Discussions are had over the respiratory systems of Time Lords, Moffat’s new-found ability to kill at will, Bill going blue, and what Nardole’s organic-to-bionic ratio really is.

Bonus Segment:

“Say Something Nice” — we have to find at least three positive things to say about a randomly chosen episode that comes from the bottom 10% of major Whovian ranking polls. Pollyanna-ism, away!

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