The Husbands of River Song

GPR Post HeaderFrom the very first cries as the infant Melody Pond in “A Good Man Goes to War”, to her first dangerously uttered ‘Hello Sweetie’, to her farewell as a data-stored conscience in “The Name of the Doctor,” River Song has always been a character of magnitude, and a force to be reckoned with. All viewers’ differing personal opinions aside, none can deny that Alex Kingston brought the character to life in a way few if any others could have accomplished. With a new Doctor firmly planted on the scene, fans wasted no time in asking for a return of the TARDIS-conceived femme fatale. Steven Moffat heard their cries, and delivered, but not without a swift kick in the feels for his efforts. From the moment we see the gift box in the Doctor’s hands, it’s curtains for any composure.

This week, we discuss the madcap escapade that was a holiday-special-turned-emotional-surprise, and drain the last of our eggnog in an attempt to dull the pain upon realizing that in all likelihood, this will be the last time we see Professor Song in a new Doctor Who adventure. (We’re not crying. It’s just the wind.)

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Hell Bent

Hell Bent

Emotions are complicated, often messy human traits — flaws, if you were to ask a Dalek or a Cyberman. They can inspire songs and uplift spirits, motivate heroes and move armies, weaken the stalwart and petrify the proud. We rely on them as much as we are hindered by them. In some fashion, we cherish the negative as much as the positive, for as every artist will attest, the light requires the shadow for contrast. What happens when those emotions are altered, muted, or wiped clean? Is it better to remember a lost one fondly, or not remember them at all, to avoid the pain? Have we not earned the right to carry both weights upon the scales of our lives?

The tumultuous, often quite dark Season Nine of Doctor Who comes to a close with “Hell Bent”, and with it, moments of controversy among fans of the program. Clara left us in “Face the Raven”, given an abrupt but heartbreaking farewell that succinctly encompassed all she meant to her Doctor, to us as viewers, and to the show’s legacy. She suddenly reappears, and we all have to find some way to handle mourning her all over — or perhaps not, as Steven Moffat once again entertains the idea that ‘Death on Doctor Who‘ is not a permanency. We have to ask a very simple, but surprisingly complex question that transcends more than just television program, and speaks to storytelling on a larger scale: does a beautifully crafted tale justify a story that risks upsetting the audience for what it does with its principal characters?

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Heaven Sent

Heaven Sent

We are consumers of an entertainment industry bred to define “epics” as large scale, sweeping tales with casts of hundreds if not thousands, panoramic views of parapets, mountain ranges, or the front lines of a battlefield, and soul-baring performances between cinematic greats that ignite the screen and leave the audience exhausted for the experience. In a wild attempt to break down this convention, writer Steven Moffat and director Rachel Talalay saddled themselves, and their artist Peter Capaldi, with a formidable task: create an epic of one.

“If you think because she is dead, I am weak, then you understand very little. If you were any part of killing her, and you’re not afraid, then you understand nothing at all. So, for your own sake, understand this. I am the Doctor. I’m coming to find you, and I will never, ever stop.”

In the penultimate episode of Series 9, ‘Heaven Sent’, we find our Doctor alone in an ever-changing prison, chased by a veiled creature that silently demands his every confession, and leading him on a terrifying venture through his deepest fears, into his hyper-intelligent reasoning mind, and into the ghostly arms of his own grief. The demands upon a writer to create a compelling hour’s tale for one voice, upon a director to draw equally compelling performance from a single actor, and moreover, upon that actor to craft such a performance, is unfathomably complex and risky.

Our beloved program has taken another great gamble — and won the house.

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The Woman Who Lived

The Woman Who Lived

The late journalist Herb Caen once wrote, “The only thing wrong with immortality is that it tends to go on forever.” He may have been speaking about the dangers that come with a long career of fame and life the public eye, but when looking upon the next appearance of the now-immortal Viking child Ashildr, the quote is altogether ominous. Being given a perspective on time’s rigors that only the long-lived can attain, she not only loses her identity, but a great deal of her amassed memories and, if the Doctor is correct, a large part of her spirit in the journey. With all that loss, however, she may also have gained a razor-sharp insight into the Doctor’s own time-worn culpability:

ASHILDR: So what’s wrong with Clara, then?
DOCTOR: There’s nothing wrong with her.
ASHILDR: Why haven’t you made her immortal?
DOCTOR: Well, look how you turned out.
ASHILDR: She’ll die on you, you know. She’ll blow away like smoke.
DOCTOR: Save your breath.
ASHILDR: How old are you, Doctor?
DOCTOR: Older than you.
ASHILDR: And how many have you lost? How many Claras?

This week, we take a long look at Catherine Tregenna’s contribution to Series 9, and the unusual follow-up episode that is “The Woman Who Lived”. We discuss the unusual nature of this second chapter in the Ashildr story, the true nature of the Hybrid theory, the many differences in construct, pace, and plot that this episode demonstrates from its predecessor, and of course, Jack Harkness. Because honestly — Jack Harkness.

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Under the Lake

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When there’s something strange, in your subaquatic base, who you gonna call? It’s a long-established tradition that the Doctor takes some satisfaction in debunking claims of ghosts and ghouls, explaining them away as anomalies in an individual’s progression through time, residual echoes of energy in the continuum, or simply a hologram that Old Man Crebbins was using in the barn to keep those meddling kids away from the abandoned amusement park. So what happens when the first person to emphatically (and enthusiastically) embrace the ‘ghost’ explanation…is the Doctor?

This week, we plunge into the murky depths of a Scottish loch with Toby Whithouse’s first script for Series 9, Under the Lake. From the uncomfortable but necessary ‘authority check’ between Doctor and Clara, to the spooky cliffhanger that will have us questioning everything for another week, we’re continuing to love the tone, format, and direction of the new series in its entirety.

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