This week on our Doctor Who re-watch series Texts from the Tardis, Pete professes his love for Rose (again) while Andy grins deviously in his general direction.
Episode 10: Love and Monsters
Andy: I was initially worried Pete wouldn’t like this episode so much, since I know he loves Rose so much. This is one of those “Doctor/Companion Lite” episodes that appear every now and then — fun one offs that focus on different characters to explore the universe.
For my part, I find this episode to be incredibly sweet, and that is all due to Elton. Marc Warren’s earnestly ridiculous dancing to ‘Mr Blue Sky’ completely sold me on his sweetness,. (What is with my weakness for skinny white boys dancing like dorks?) Elton somehow managed to cling to his sweetness even when he was otherwise behaving despicably, such as his near-seduction of Jackie.
The documentary format was a little trite, but the opportunity it gave them for Elton’s emotional exposition made the story. Otherwise, the silliness of the Absorbalof might have overwhelmed the seriousness of the situation.
Pete: I must say I’m a pretty big fan of side stories and flashbacks in general. (For example, Lost is one of my favorite shows of all time and one of the main draws for me was how every episode is part flashback, and each one told a sort of parallel tale that enhanced the main story.) This episode, featuring the newly introduced Elton (but not that Elton!) incorporated both of the previously mentioned storytelling techniques guaranteed to hook me. It also had; a likeable main character, adorable side characters, oh and wait for it, an evil alien that fucking eats people. So basically a recipe for a good time.
Though I will add that again, there was not enough Rose. And after that ending, I’m scared that I don’t have much time left to spend with her.
Andy: This episode is heavy handed with its message about how the people around the Doctor are affected by him. For Elton and his friends, it’s the small ways: it’s a tiny voice at the bottom of their soul that tells them they are not alone in the universe. They know for a certainty that the universe is far stranger than they imagine. Okay, so maybe knowing this wouldn’t be such a small thing.
It leads to them reaching out to others who feel the same way, which ultimately I feel is an incredibly healthy and beautiful example to set. The motley group of “Linda,” who seemingly have little in common, find enough to share to create a strong friendship and support network.
Pete: I loved Elton’s group of friends! One of them was Moaning Myrtle. (Spoiler alert: she dies in this one too.) How these people evolve from a group of conspiracy theorists exchanging information on the Doctor to a tight knit support group is so heartwarming. It’s not fair that they got eaten when they were all finally happy! I finally fully understand why “everybody lives” was such a big deal.
Andy: This episode also shows us what it’s like for people like Jackie, who also have that knowledge. Again, the episode does not mince words when telling us how the thought of Rose traveling the cosmos haunts her. It’s hard to imagine Jackie finding the same kind of solace from a support group like Linda. They’ve bonded over their shared past experiences. Jackie’s fear is all too present. There is no moving on for her.
Pete: So Jackie is being nice to someone…can we check to make sure we didn’t cross dimensions again? Apparently she was just looking to get her some but it was still quiet a moment to witness.
We were also treated to a couple of heartfelt moments from our hero’s mom, that really made me feel for her. I think everyone can relate to what it feels like to be left behind by a loved one. Or what it feels like to never know if they are coming home…if they’re safe, or if they’re okay. Jackie’s right, it makes you hard. And a little lonely I think.
Andy: And of course, the Absorbalof wanted the Doctor too. And his reasons were disgusting: he wanted to eat the Doctor for his immense knowledge and age! How many other vile creatures want that too? How many enemies does the Doctor have?
Pete: We need to take a second to talk about this Absorbalof. (Absorbalot? Asorbatron? Narrowing down the different variations of absorb-a-whatever until they settled on Absorbalof was laugh out loud funny.)
Back when the Slitheen first appeared, you talked about how you thought the farting aliens were being fat shamey. At the time, I didn’t agree but this alien seemed to hit every negative checkmark. and given that; it does sort of change my perspective on the slitheen episode and im starting to see it Andy’s way. The Absorbalof seemed to not only reinforce the notion that fat people are evil and lazy and they will eat you if given the chance, but it also to had him strip down and chase Elton with his gut protruding in a way that was supposed to be a joke.
Andy: I definitely agree with you there. It is just lazy storytelling to have this alien fulfill all the worst stereotypes of fat people. But honestly, the Absorbalof wasn’t the point of this story, so I didn’t mind not getting too deep into the character.
“When you’re a kid, they tell you it’s all… grow up. Get a job. Get married. Get a house. Have a kid, and that’s it. But the truth is, the world is so much stranger than that. It’s so much darker. And so much madder. And so much better.”
Pete: This speech does not fill me with warm fuzzies. There’s an alarming amount of foreshadowing that implies Rose is going to die and it’s not o-fucking-kay! I fucking love Rose and she is awesome and she can’t die!
Pete: But…Elton makes a really good point too. Everybody that crosses the Doctor’s path will know tragedy. Will know loss. How long before the Doctor comes back to Rose’s time and delivers her dead body to her mother? Or worse, what if her body is destroyed and the Doctor can’t face Jackie (because well, it’s Jackie) and she just has to wonder forever what became of her daughter? Ugh I can’t even begin to imagine how awful that would be.
Episode 11: Fear Her
Pete: This episode was kind of unremarkable. It wasn’t bad or unenjoyable, exactly, it’s just that given the shows track record it felt like they phoned this one in. There was no big mystery and the side characters felt a little underdeveloped. It definitely still had some really quality parts (like the ‘Rose figures things out alone’ portion) but as a whole I would have to say it was one of the weaker entries in the series so far.
Andy: You are not alone in that feeling. ‘Fear Her’ is consistently rated one of the lowest episodes in the entire series. As you said, there’s nothing explicitly bad about it, but it is something of a generic story, without a lot of meat to it.
One of the odd things about this episode is that the “next week on…” explicitly shows us that something is up with Chloe, while the Doctor and Rose still waste time investigating and not figuring out the problem with Chloe’s drawings. It sort of strips the tension from the first half of the episode, because you are more interested in what will happen to Chloe when they do find out.
One of my favorite scenes here is the moment when the Doctor gets the adults to stop yelling at each other by telling them to put their fingers on their lips. It’s hard to believe that worked. Just goes to show that if you act like you know what you’re doing, people will listen to you.
Pete: I still miss Christopher Eccleston as the Doctor but I’ve officially come around to David Tennant. He brings a different Doctor to the table, and it took me a while to adjust to his style, but now that I have it’s thoroughly enjoyable! It’s fun to follow along with his “logical” ramblings. And he seems to be a bit softer. Nine always seemed like he was ready to yell at someone, while Ten is more likely to give someone a hug.
Pete: I found this week’s alien to be tragic and beautiful. Even if it was kind of a brat. It lost its family and was lonely, so it sought out someone else who was lonely and tried to be not lonely together! Aww. Granted, it did go about soothing it’s loneliness in the worst possible way but it wasn’t trying to be malicious. And that doesn’t excuse its actions, but it’s something, because usually we have malevolent aliens hellbent on destruction of some kind or another. This one however is more like the nanogenes back in ‘The Doctor Dances’; they aren’t trying to fuck everything up but they still kind of do. It makes me wonder if that Moffat fellow spearheaded this episode.
Andy: For the record: no.
For me, the only thing that makes the alien’s actions excusable is the fact that it’s a child, because of course kidnapping people is wrong, no matter what dimension you send them to.
Pete: I know I say this a lot but Rose is the best. The Doctor gets taken out of the equation by the baby alien and Rose is like “It’s cool. I got this”. And then she fixes everything! She Doctored the fuck out of the situation, and she did it still sans a magic screwdriver. On top of that I’m pretty sure no one died. Keep being awesome Rose.
Pete: Finding out that the Doctor was a dad once was a BOMBSHELL and I need to know more. When? With who? How many? Where are they? Oh no, they probably died…
Did he go on fun trips like this as a family unit? Like do they go on family picnics to the edge of the universe? Road trips to the beginning of time itself? Did they team up and fight evil aliens through the cosmos? Did he have a spouse? Did she look like Rose?
Andy: Well my friend, some of the answers you seek are in the classic series, some are from the expanded universe of novels and comics, and some can only be found in fanfiction. Good luck!
To end on a positive note: one amazing result of this episode is that it sparked a petition for the Doctor to carry the real Olympic torch in 2012. And it worked.
Images courtesy of BBC
Please don’t spoil Pete in the comments!