It Takes You Away

There’s an accepted chaos inherent in the classic fairy tales of centuries past; an intersection of madness and mystery, humor and horror, adventure and absurdity. Even the most Disney-fied of these stories have dark contextual origins, and somehow we continue to look past these literary abnormalities because perhaps, on some level, we revel in the unpredictability and risk that runs throughout. So when Ed Hime and Jamie Childs decide to put these very disparate elements together for a televised modern fairy tale of sorts, where else could you as successfully adjoin the macabre and the madcap as in the Whoniverse?

After checking that all the mirrors in the studio do in fact have us looking back in them, we settle in for a discussion of the penultimate episode of Season 11. We spend a bit of time pining for the fjords of Norway, and then heap praise on to the vast majority of this story, up to and including THAT MOMENT — so haters, be damned! All our Team TARDIS have moments to shine (particularly Bradley Walsh once again), and the music is extraordinary. The one thing we absolutely can NOT abide is ‘Erik the Yellow-Bellied Arsefather’, who deserved far worse than the wrist-slap he received. Let’s hope his karma manifest as a more formidable creature than, say, an amphibian.

NEWS:

Play

The Witchfinders

There was far more to the dark recesses of religious fanaticism and patriarchal atrocities than what we normally associate with Salem, Massachusetts. When the Doctor stands — quite literally — at the water’s edge of one of these shameful points in history, there’s no question that any policy of non-interference will get quickly tossed aside. Into the mud, as it were.

This week, we get another invaluable history lesson from Team TARDIS in the eighth installment of Series 11, “The Witchfinders”. Alan Cumming guest stars in the role of King James I, but despite his ability to portray some of the most compelling villains on stage and screen, the true adversary is far below the king. Somewhere around foot level. We discuss the historical accuracy and present social significance of this story, and how it fits into the series’ thematic tableau to date.

NEWS:

Play

Kerblam!

The lead-in to the holiday season wouldn’t be proper without shopping, shipping, and the eager anticipation of a package on your doorstep, now would it? And a season of Doctor Who wouldn’t be all it could be without giving you more than enough reason to fear that whole process, eh? It gives all new meaning to the phrase, “click, click, boom!”

Just in time to properly worry about Cyber Monday, Series 11 gives us “Kerblam!” a statement about the worries over technological advancement and automation, as well as the dangers of (all too human) fanatical extremism. Haley and Charles see shades of numerous sci-fi tropes (all wielded rather adeptly and resulting in a quite enjoyable story). Keir’s happy to see bubble wrap back in the limelight, though not quite as pleased to see a certain piece of headwear again. We all thoroughly enjoy our companions in this story, as Peter Tighe’s script nails the key contributions of each archetype. All the while, Keir’s microphone gives him reasons to want to start browsing online retailers for something more reliable. Let’s just hope they pack in foam peanuts.

EXTRA: We take a moment to note something we’re particularly thankful for as Whovians this year.

NEWS:

Play

Demons of the Punjab

When the enemies you fear are the faces you’ve known all along, the world has become a worrisome place, to be certain. Deepening that concern is the reminder that this is not only what is, but what has been, and if lessons are not learned, what will be once again.

Asking Chris Chibnall to step away from the pen this week, we are given Vinay Patel’s fascinating depiction of the 1947 Partition of India, in “Demons of the Punjab”. In yet another successful real-world-history episode, our Team TARDIS grapple with the repercussions of paradox, the dangers of preconception and preconditioning, and the complicated, sometimes unfathomable complexity of family. We finally get our Yaz-and-Graham moment — to some degree — learn more than we may have ever been handed in Western educational systems about the personal impact of this infamous moment in world history, and realize that the sort of thematic approach to social issues and awareness in this season is not only intentional, but precisely what the substantially-sized viewing audience is looking for. Yet another reminder that if you feel that “topical relevance”, “social issue motivated” and “morality message” stories are something new to Doctor Who…you’ve been watching the wrong show for the past 55 years.

EXTRA: We take a moment to appreciate the overlapping contribution to fandoms everywhere by Stan Lee, on the announcement of his passing this week. You will be missed, but always with us, sir. Excelsior.

NEWS:

 

Play

The Tsuranga Conundrum

Let’s be precise about something here, shall we? “Conundrum” refers to a problem that is both challenging and confusing. If you’re missing the challenge, it’s just confusion…sort of like freshman year of college. If you’re missing the confusion, it’s just an extremely difficult task…let’s say, landing a NASA probe on the side of a moving asteroid. When you have both, that’s your conundrum…like doing your own small business taxes.

Trying to discern how to deal with a virtually omnivorous, nearly indestructible invasive alien aboard a self-guided ship that cannot deviate from its trajectory else it be remotely destroyed, while dealing with one passenger who is terminally ill and another going into labor? CONUNDRUM.

So, with that out of the way, let’s eat!

This week, we tie on our bibs and tuck in to a heaping coil of antimatter with “The Tsuranga Conundrum”, marking the midpoint in Series 11. We’re all in agreement that this is stock-in-trade, dare we say ‘classic’ Doctor Who, involving a complex set of interwoven challenges, limited time, interesting but not distracting supporting characters, and a blend of scientific wonder and oddball humor from our Doctor. Was there a bit much packed into one story? Were there one or two characters too many? Was the Pting really what happens to Stitch when Lilo feeds him after midnight? Perhaps. But all things considered, we had a blast with it, and can itemize what we enjoyed while (simultaneously!) acknowledging those aspects which might have increased our appreciation.

That’s a nearly trademarked midseason Doctor Who episode, everyone: not the end all, be all; not the nadir of television. Just good old, rollicking, spaceships-and-sarcasm drama. Yes, please. We’ll take a few of those.

NEWS:

Play