On Phase Three of the Marvel Cinematic Universe

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News!

It’s obvious enough from the title, really. Marvel has announced their third phase (I love how planned this all is) of movies, including fan favourites Doctor Strange, Black Panther (who’s to be played by Chadwick Boseman), and Captain Marvel (that’s the Carol Danvers iteration, specifically).

This is a pretty big thing all on its own really – recently, DC and Warner Bros announced a rather diverse cast for their own next set of movies, and they were rightfully commended for making that step. Marvel’s now doing the same, so that means that over the next few years, superhero movies (which have got to be amongst the biggest genre of movies currently around) are going to get a lot better for representation and diversity. That is, obviously, pretty important, and generally all round pretty great.

What’s also interesting though is what this might imply for the actual future of the MCU as a whole.

I think it’s fair to say that the MCU is pretty much unprecedented as a project and an idea. The crossover between films and television, the whole idea of a shared universe – that’s completely new. Innovative, even. Personally, I think it’s brilliant; the way that Marvel has taken advantage over the connectivity between movies, and beginning to tie in TV shows with the movies, has really given a level of depth to their films and the stories they’re telling that you don’t get with straight up sequels.

But, obviously… this has to come to an end at some point. Apart from the fact that, hey, superhero films won’t be popular forever, and there’s such a thing as market saturation, the actors themselves will want to move on soon enough. Chris Evans, for example, is talking about getting out of acting and becoming a director, and Robert Downey Jr is beginning to limit his involvement somewhat as well. Now, they’re both relatively key players in the MCU, so when they do eventually move on, or get too old – “Iron Man 7, coming to cinemas near you July 2030!” – where does the franchise go?

The idea of rebooting or recasting isn’t exactly an option, although it was done with the Hulk, because of quite how established everything is – you couldn’t have, say, Johnny Depp turning up in the Iron Man suit for Avengers 6 and expect no one to notice.

Personally, I think that Marvel should actually build an end into their plans; when they reach Phase 4, they should have ‘The Last Avengers Movie’. Bring the universe to a finite close, never to be reopened; wrap up all the character arcs, and end everything. Kill off some of them, give others a happy ending, and so on and so forth. If built towards properly, it’d probably be the cinematic event of the century – the only thing that could top the first Avengers movie is the last Avengers movie.

However, this announcement does suggest that maybe that isn’t quite necessary. The majority of the characters on this list aren’t exactly in the zeitgeist – they are, if you like, C-List characters in terms of the public eye and how knowledgeable people are of them. They aren’t exactly risks though despite that. Guardians of the Galaxy proved, more or less, that the Marvel name is enough on its own now; you don’t have to have the most popular heroes.

So perhaps the future for the MCU lies in expansion, rather than closure. Maybe the way forward is to keep going through the roster, and making all sorts of different films – when the time comes for Iron Man to be retired, who says Squirrel Girl or Moon Knight can’t take his place? In ten years time, we could simply have a whole new set of Avengers, rather than none at all.

Whether that’s for the best, I’m not sure. I still like the idea of an ending.

But it’d be pretty damn impressive if they made a Squirrel Girl movie.

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The Pseudo-Science of Doctor Who

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So, In the Forest of the Night and Kill the Moon recently have both got me thinking about science and realism in Doctor Who, and to what extent something actually has to be ‘correct’ within any given episode of the show.

I mean, Doctor Who is only science fiction in the broadest of terms really – how concerned it is with the science part of science fiction is rather malleable across the fifty years of the show. I think normally people would point to the beginning of the show, or Christopher Bidmead’s episodes as evidence of a time when Doctor Who was more concerned with actual, ‘hard science’, but equally you’ve got the Daleks and Maths Priests saving the universe.

It’s probably fair to say, I think, that Doctor Who is a show that uses the trappings of science fiction to present different forms of drama, and examine aspects of society.

The question is though, of course, to what extent does it matter how accurate the scientific trappings are.

Things like the TARDIS and other original ideas get a pass, I think, because they’re part of the suspension of disbelief. You accept that because no one really has a way to argue against a time machine, or a warp drive – if the narrative says “Aliens can do this” viewers are more willing to go along with this because it’s all fictional, and that’s inbuilt into the show.

But conversely, something like the Moon being an egg isn’t going to have such an easy time of it, because people know a lot about eggs. The problems with an egg increasing in mass, or the Space Dragon laying another egg identical in size to the one it just hatched from, are relatively self-evident to a pretty large amount of the audience.

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It kinda comes down to a quote from… I think it’s Community? Anyway, it’s “That sounds wrong, but I don’t know enough about it to dispute it.” In scenarios where you can easily debunk something, or you know that the writer could have solved the issue with a quick google search, it’s far more likely to be a problem. But when there’s nothing more than a sense of “Hmm-I-don’t-know-about-this”, which is where In the Forest of the Night fell for me, I think one is more likely to go along with it, albeit with some reservations.

Equally though, how much does that matter?

For me personally at least, it depends how much I’m enjoying the actual story. I’m far more likely to give errors a pass if the plot itself is engaging – if I’m bored or disconnected from the story, I’m more likely to notice mistakes, and that’s only going to take me out of it more. (Incidentally, I think much the same of plot holes.)

And sometimes there’s moments where the incorrect science is actually better for the story than something which would be more correct – right now I’m thinking of Robot of Sherwood in particular. In a Robin Hood story, it makes sense for the resolution to relate to the firing of an arrow; the fact it doesn’t actually make scientific sense is mostly not the point, because it makes story sense.

Ultimately, of course, it is down to one’s own particular tastes. I think with simple things that can be easily fixed, then yes, the writer probably should amend it.

But to go into Doctor Who expecting rigorous scientific accuracy is probably missing the point a little bit.

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Doctor Who Review: In the Forest of the Night

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Tyger Tyger burning bright, in the forests of the night. What immortal hand or eye could frame thy fearful symmetry?

I read somewhere once that Steven Moffat, moreso than anyone else who’d been in charge of Doctor Who, is to be credited with the introduction of celebrity writers. And you know, it does make sense really – Richard Curtis, Neil Gaiman, and to a lesser extent Simon Nye, are all pretty big names, which are just as likely to generate column inches as a celebrity guest star.

And now of course we have Frank Cottrell-Boyce.

Whilst I don’t have any massive attachment to them, Frank Cottrell-Boyce’s books are one’s which I’ve read and enjoyed quite a lot – my own favourite is Cosmic, which shares a few themes of parenthood with this episode.

Obviously then, with the announcement of Frank Cottrell-Boyce, I was quite looking forward to this episode. When the synopsis came out though, I paused a little bit. Trees? Didn’t really know what to make of it.

And, to be honest, I still don’t?

I mean I always say that thing, don’t I, about how it’s wonderful when Doctor Who is doing original things, because it’s a showcase for the series, and just how innovative it can be. And I stand by that! I honestly do mean it, and I would defend that view as best I could if ever someone tried to dispute it.

But, you know, trees. Trees. That’s… that’s pretty bizarre. I am not really sure what I meant to make of that? Like, at all.

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I think in part that’s because I am still not entirely certain of what actually happened in the episode. The trees, are, like, a planetary defense system, which are run by some strange glow-y life forms, who are sort of intrinsic to the eco-system of the planet, or something. These glow-y life forms, who I shall henceforth refer to as photoarboreals, or something, can communicate with Maebh (not Maeve?) because she has suffered a trauma and is now vulnerable and somewhat unstable.

That’s… that’s pretty bizarre. Not a slight on the the episode, not at all. But I am somewhat at a loss for words. The best critical opinion I can offer on the plot is a sort of squinty eye thing and non-committal wavey hand gesture.

There was, of course, a lot of good stuff to enjoy here. Peter Capaldi gave another great performance, and his interactions with the children were quite nice to see. I particularly liked the analogy drawn between TARDIS and Coke, which was rather a nice touch.

As a whole actually, this episode was a pretty good showcase for the regulars. Lots of nice little character moments – Danny in particular came off really well here, albeit perhaps at the expense of Clara. I’m actually quite liking Danny as a character; Samuel Anderson is a great actor, and there’s something about his portrayal that makes Danny fun to watch on screen.

I also really enjoyed the exchange between the Doctor and Clara towards the end, where she was trying to make him leave, and he offered to try and save her. There was a nice sense of foreboding there, and the dialogue between them – “I don’t want to be the last of my kind” – was just excellent.

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But, you know, there was an awful lot of stuff that wasn’t so great about this episode.

I’m in two minds about the kids, for example. Generally, they were on point – they were mostly believable, they had good dialogue, they were funny without being irritating, and the actors were all pretty good too, which is practically a miracle.

But… I can’t buy these kids as a group of 12 and 13 year olds. In part because of how young they all looked, but also because of their dialogue – it was really accurate, if you’re trying to show us ten year olds. This isn’t really what 12 and 13 year olds are like; or, at least, none of the 12 year olds that I know.

Something I was also sort of unsure of was Maebh, and her psychological issues. I’ve seen it be pointed out that this is meant as a parallel with William Blake – the person who wrote The Tyger – but… well, this isn’t something I would have picked up on, because I don’t know a lot about Blake, and I’d wager the same is true for a lot of the audience. As it was, I felt a little bit uncomfortable with the way the voices she heard and the fact she needed medication was presented. Frankly, I’m with Ruby on this one – they should have just given her the medication.

(Also, how ridiculous was the bit with the sister at the end? I know they were going for a grace note, and a bit of a happy ending, but somewhere along the lines that was lost, I think. Was… did the sister come home, and think “Hey, wouldn’t it be funny if I hide in the bush, and jump out yelling ’gotcha!’ after I’ve been missing for two years?” or was it meant to imply that the sister was formed from the bushes? I’m also sort of struggling with the idea of introducing that sort of tragic event for the sole purpose of setting up a happy ending, but I can’t think about it logically with the way it was presented at the end.)

So, so. In the Forest of the Night. Really not sure what to say about this one? Because ultimately, there was nothing extremely awful or offensive about it, but equally, there was nothing extremely amazing of compelling about it.

I think really, in the end, it was just a load of tree-related nonsense. But it was fun tree related nonsense, and it was enjoyable enough to watch, and I think that’s all that matters really.

6/10, bordering on a 7, I think.

Related:

Doctor Who series 8 reviews

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On Skulduggery Pleasant, ended

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I finished the final Skulduggery Pleasant book about two weeks ago.

It was a very, very good book, and a really fitting end to the series. It was not, admittedly, perfect. I could have done with another 300 hundred pages or so, because the final part of the book was a bit rushed, and there was, admittedly, one aspect I wasn’t quite happy with and probably never will be.

I loved it though, I really did.

There was a strange sense of completion, once I’d finished it. I’m struggling to articulate it really; when I closed the book, I wasn’t just closing that one particular book, but something a little bit more than that.

And I think that, on some levels, Derek Landy anticipated this, because in the final two books he brought back every character who’d ever appeared, even ones who just had little bit roles. It really helped to encompass everything, and tie it all up in a little bow. It was nice, it really was.

Except, of course, it isn’t the end, not quite. I deliberately didn’t read a couple of the short stories in Armageddon Outta Here, so there will always be, in effect, some “new” Skulduggery at any point. And, you know, fingers crossed for a film series at some point.

And, hey, I can always reread them.

So, essentially… the moment was prepared for, but it’s not the end. Not really. Not ever.

Note: “It’s not the end” became more literal in this case than I anticipated.

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Film Trailer Thoughts | Avengers: Age of Ultron (First Trailer)

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Yeah, I mean like… if you haven’t already seen this, you’ve probably been living under a rock. (What’s the rent like?)

But you have not, already, heard my thoughts upon it! And so, you lucky people, you shall hear them thusly.

I mean obviously it looks really cool. Do you ever realise, when you’re watching trailers, the most exciting thing about them is just how new everything is? Especially when you’re already so familiar with what’s come before, to see the characters you love in new settings and doing new things is pretty amazing. Somehow in a trailer though it’s a little different to, you know, actually watching the film – maybe it’s the suspense from not having the whole thing yet? Hmm.

Anyways, one thing that stood out. Mostly – and this is probably because it’s the sort of thing I look for anyway – it’s a lines of dialogue, specifically one of Ultron’s.

“You want to save the world, but you don’t want to see it change.”

This was the most interesting line, I think. I find the whole idea of the status quo in world’s with superheros pretty compelling – I mean, in all seriousness, what on earth would you actually do if people like this existed? The idea that the Avengers wouldn’t drastically affect politics, or diplomacy, or people’s lives – that’s ridiculous. But whether they’d be willing to acknowledge the change they’ve made is a bit different, and it seems to be where they’re going with this. Who cares about the real world? Let’s see their world.

Doctor Who Review: Flatline

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You were an exceptional Doctor. But goodness had nothing to do with it.

Doctor Who is at its best when it does things that other shows can’t do, or simply haven’t been done before.

That is, I think it’s fair to say, one of the facts of the program. Innovation and originality are where Doctor Who sings; that’s the time when you can say “yes, this is one of the best things on television, and there’s nothing else I’d rather watch”.

And I tell you what, the Boneless absolutely typify this. They just aren’t like anything we’ve seen before. At first there’s this wonderfully strange, sickening sort of body horror – the nervous system, and the skin? That’s some really scary stuff. Then it evolves slightly, and there’s that Banksy style graffiti, shifting and moving and coming to life, claiming its victims by pulling them into the painting. And then those glitchy jittery zombie creatures, almost like something out of a videogame, with their slow lumbering movements, and a real evocation of the uncanny valley.

They were really very chilling, and really very Doctor Who.

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Visually, this episode was pretty stunning. I’m not talking in terms of the location or anything like that – though that train station was pretty spooky – but rather the direction, and all the little visual tricks that were used to really sell the idea of 2D monsters. Things like the shifting perspective, where the camera angles move and what we thought was 3D, like the door handle, is in fact completely flat. When they did that to one of the workers, it was just horrific, frankly.

Lots of great funny moments in here too – the Adams Family TARDIS, for example, that was pretty great. Going to be honest, I snickered a bit at Danny’s “…sounds active” line towards Clara, though it probably wasn’t intended the way I read it.

Rigsy (conscious echo of “Banksy”, perhaps?) and Fenton were both rather excellently characterised. Loved those two, and the conflict between them; the young, mostly harmless graffiti artist, and the old, bitter, probably a UKIP voter and all round nasty piece of work. There are few characters, I think, that I’ve genuinely hated quite so much as that fellow. I kept expecting him to be revealed to be some sort of alien (incidentally, the actor had a part in Guardians of the Galaxy recently, albeit under heavy prosthetics) but, no, he was just a horrible person.

The best part though, and what really made the episode stand out to me, was the further development of the relationship between the Doctor and Clara, and the question of whether or not the Doctor – and now Clara – really are ‘good people’.

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This is some fantastically weighty stuff; the Doctor’s own morality and manipulative nature is being reflected in Clara, and she is changing. It all adds up to a fantastic bit of character development, and it is, again, largely pretty new ground for the show – something similar might have happened in the NAs with Ace, perhaps, but I’m not certain of that.

It’s written with such subtlety and finesse throughout; one of the best moments for the Doctor, I would say, is his line “Absolutely” when Clara asks if he’s sure that the 2DIS will help them. It’s very clear though that he isn’t – which makes that line all the more crucial. For Clara, I’m thinking of the “on balance” exchange towards the end of the episode – she was so damn pleased with herself at being the Doctor, she didn’t even give a second thought to the people who had died. She started thinking on balance – which, as the Doctor says, is something he does so other people don’t have to. But because they’ve been around each other so long, she’s started doing it too.

Honestly, this was an absolutely fantastic episode. It was so deep, and clever, and nuanced. Definitely another strong 9/10 – Jamie Mathieson has to come back next year. And every year after that!

Related:

Doctor Who series 8 reviews

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Doctor Who Review: Mummy on the Orient Express

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Don’t stop me now, I’m having such a good time, I’m having a ball! Oh, don’t stop me now, yeah, I don’t want to stop at all…

One of my favourite TV shows ever is House. I’ve never really written about it on the blog, which is something I’ll have to correct one day, but I absolutely love the show. It’s a fantastic Holmes adaptation, and there’s some wonderful, wonderful drama to it.

My favourite thing about it is, perhaps obviously, Hugh Laurie as House. I think he’s brilliant. Every second he’s on the screen is properly compelling; House is, in short, a fantastic creation. The best part about the character, or the bit that stands out to me at least, is the fact that that he’s very single minded in his attempts to help the patients – House doesn’t give a damn if he upsets people or offends them or even hurts them, because he knows without a doubt that it will, in the end, help.

So I was, it must be said, quite pleased to see Jamie Mathieson, who wrote the episode, naming House as an influence.

The-Doctor-as-House thread running through the episode is one of my favourite parts of the episode. This is, I think, probably the best way to pitch a more callous, brusque Doctor without him becoming a different character altogether; it highlights the fact he’s an alien, but it still keeps to the basic idea of the Doctor helping people.

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There’s a wonderful, morally ambiguous sort of thing going on with regards to the responsibilities the Doctor takes on when he’s travelling. It’s typified when, at the end, he says “Sometimes the only choices we have are bad ones”. I loved it, and I loved the way it was a bit more reflective than usual. It’s something I’d love to see explored a little more, and given some more time; it seems quite well suited to Peter Capaldi’s Doctor. Older, wearier, and very keenly aware of the burden upon him. This is a really fantastic interpretation of the Doctor at this stage in his life, and it’s the sort of thing that’s making me really love Twelve.

But, as with House, not everyone is willing to put up with the Doctor. Following on from last week, we’ve got Clara back again, and it’s their last hurrah.

I really quite liked this plot thread – surprising me a little, actually, because I wasn’t that impressed last week. But there was a real sense of melancholy, actually, in the interactions between the Doctor and Clara. The arc that Clara went through, from hating the Doctor last week, to an apathy at the start of this episode, to finally realising just what she loved about travelling and accepting that the Doctor still did good in his approach to things was brilliantly pitched and absolutely note perfect. Beat by beat, moment by moment, everything was completely on the nose.

It was another brilliant showcase for Jenna Coleman and Peter Capaldi. They’re so amazing together, it’s really compelling to watch, especially in episodes as well written as this. My favourite moments for the pair, actually, were the quietly awkward little exchanges towards the beginning; they’d both be trying to be nice, but then one of them would say something, and the facades would drop, and the sadness would be obvious. Moments like that were really touching, actually.

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Another thing worth commenting on is the background characters; Perkins, Moorhouse, Quell and Maisie. They were all remarkably well drawn; in a fairly short space of time, they all felt pretty real. What I particularly liked actually was how they each got their own stand out moments, as it were; I quite liked Maisie’s bit about hating her grandmother, and wanting her to die, except not really wanting it to happen. It was a fairly small detail, but it really did make her stand out far more than if she had just been the character who’s grandmother died.

Frank Skinner was another stand out, and he’s definitely going to go down another should’ve been companion. One of the more memorable characters here. Brilliant writing brought to life by brilliant acting. Can’t ask for more than that really. (In the DWM where I read the House quotes, incidentally, Jamie Mathieson said that he based Perkins on a friend. I’d be willing to bet the real life Perkins was chuffed!)

Finally, I loved the Mummy. That’s a sort of important thing I haven’t mentioned yet, isn’t it? The Mummy is in the title, after all. It was quite a scary thing, actually, and it tapped into the fear of other people not seeing what you’re seeing. When that was then flipped on it’s head later on, to become the scientific observation scenes, it was remarkably clever and added another dimension to the whole thing. Brilliant stuff.

So, all in all, that’s a pretty bloody fantastic episode. Definitely one of the best ones of the series – strong 9/10 for me, I think. Really looking forward to tonight’s! (Which is… starting right now.)

Related:

Doctor Who series 8 reviews

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Doctor Who Review: Kill the Moon

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Whatever future humanity might have depends upon the choice that is made right here and right now.  Now, you’ve got the tools to kill it; you made them. Kill it or let it live, I can’t make this decision for you.

When I watched The Rings of Akhaten, I was quite… frustrated, I think, by the way it ended, and the way cultures were treated within it. I didn’t like how, at the end, the Grandfather was destroyed, taking with it the sun for an entire system of planets, and destabilising an entire religion. I know it wasn’t the main concern of the episode, but it made me uncomfortable nonetheless – the consequences of the Doctor and Clara’s actions were pretty damn clear, and the fact that they weren’t taking responsibility, nor the narrative presenting them as having a need to, irked me, to say the least.

So since that point, I’ve wanted a story where the Doctor takes responsibility for his actions, or, à la the Prime Directive, said he wasn’t going to interfere in something that resolutely wasn’t his business.

I thought I was going to get one, actually. I’ve lived for over 2000 years, and not all of them were good. I’ve made a lot of mistakes, and it’s about time I did something to fix that. As a line, that sort of indicates the kind of thing I’m talking about, doesn’t it? A more reflective, responsibility and consequence driven approach.

And, hey, for a moment or two the story actually tries to be like that. The Doctor says it’s not his choice! Not his moon, not his choice.

Wonderful. The sort of theme I’ve been waiting for the past year, the brilliant team that is the Twelfth Doctor and Clara, and it has spiders on the Moon. How could I not love it?

Well, you want the full list of reasons, I suppose.

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I mean… I’ll start at the beginning, because of course that’s what makes the most sense.

This episode felt very strangely paced. It’s most obvious at the start, where you go from Courtney in Coal Hill to a confrontation on the Moon. Very quick there, and yet everything is really drawn out after that. There’s little in the way of properly establishing things – the episode is far more concerned with getting to a certain point, and then just… staying there. It harmed the clarity of the scenes, I think, and the understanding you get of what’s actually going on.

The bit with Courtney at the start, for example. It’s never really followed through, the idea that put downs and insults can harm a child’s development – and, look, if you’re not going to follow through on it, why bring it up? It’s stranger still because it’s implied later on that Courtney and Clara were just joking and trying to convince the Doctor to give her a ride in the TARDIS. Except, the way that line is delivered means that it falls at a very strange point in the story and could easily be missed – which, like I’ve said, messes around with the clarity of the story.

It’s the same with Hermione Norris and her crew of Rubbish Spaceman and Teacher Spaceman. The point of them being there is brought up and dispensed with really quickly, when it should have been a much larger point of focus, especially given the eventual climax. Something has changed within the Moon, and it’s wreaking havoc all across the Earth, killing millions. These people are on a suicide mission to destroy the Moon, because even though that’s going to cause problems, it’s better than the alternative they already have.

What I just said there? That should have been a massive part of it. It’s practically crucial to the episode. But it’s two lines of dialogue at most, which is very easily missed. In fact, part of that I only knew because I’d read previews ahead of the episode, rather than it being anything established on screen. That’s a ridiculous error to make, because something like that is central to the episode. That’s the reason why they’re on the Moon with so many nuclear weapons (which are briefly established to have come from across the world – again, that’s a really important thing to note) and it adds a whole other dimension to the final conflict. And it’s a really, really important one; this isn’t just a case of what might happen if the Moon hatches, it’s also what is already happening. 

The “time is in flux” thing is also starting to get a little tired. I know that’s a ridiculous criticism to make; whether or not time is in flux is something of an inherent problem to Doctor Who, because, of course, the future is no less mutable than the past, so why can they act one way in some places but not in others? It’s a difficult one to answer, obviously. But when it’s the focus of an episode, it needs to at least have something new or interesting to add to the idea, rather than just trying to suggest that “anything can happen”. The fact of the matter is that it’s obvious the Moon won’t be removed, because that’s just awkward. Bringing it up like this just draws attention to the fact that this episode isn’t actually going to have any sort of lasting impact at all.

I mean, credit where it’s due, of course. A lot of the speeches here about time were quite well written, and Peter Capaldi is absolutely fantastic at giving the sense that he’s staring at something not quite there, something nebulous that’s just beyond us. He really looked like he was seeing into the web of time. Or came quite close to it, at any rate.

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But anyway. Onto the real problem, the thing that really bothered me.

The ultimate climax, the choice of whether or not to ‘kill the Moon’, seemed quite clearly to be an allegory about abortion. And it took a very specific, pro-life stance. Hermione Norris, who advocates the abortion equivalent, is shown to be in the wrong. She is criticised, implicitly by the narrative and explicitly by the other characters. They call her out on wanting to kill a “vulnerable baby”, tell her it’s not to blame, say that she shouldn’t take a life. And at the end, a very large show is made of her thanking Clara – specifically, thanking Clara for ignoring the decision made, and letting the Moon Dragon live. Letting it live is shown to be unequivocally right and good, and the alternative is a mistake. (Ignoring, incidentally, the set up given at the start, that the Moon as it is is killing the Earth. By not setting that up properly the dynamic of this metaphor is shifted away from “baby is killing the mother” to “baby is making the mother uncomfortable”.)

Now, I don’t really like getting deeply into politics on this blog. Largely, it’s not my place, and I’m not really qualified to comment. I’m not entirely sure I should be saying this now. But, equally, it’s a media review blog. Media connects with the real world, it has to. It doesn’t exist in a vacuum, after all; there are politics in media. There are allegories. I think it’s important that these allegories exist, and I think it’s important that fiction gives commentary on issues like abortion.

The thing is… within the context of Doctor Who, yes, saying that you should try your best to make sure the Moon Dragon can live makes sense. Of course it does. But within the context of an abortion parable, which is what this episode tried to be – Doctor Who should not be saying that abortion is wrong under any and every circumstance. That just isn’t right.

Frankly, it makes me uncomfortable. The general dreariness of the episode would be forgivable, but for this aspect. The way it ended up, the message of this episode is just unpalatable.

Listen, at least, wasn’t offensive. This is… this is not so great.

3/10

Note from Alex of 2018: I am, with this review, quite out of step with certain circles of Doctor Who fans, circles I now move in quite a bit. Much of the above is not exactly brilliantly written, and I’m not entirely sure how much of it I’d agree with were I to watch the episode again.

Equally, though, I’m not exactly in a hurry to do that, because that abortion analogy – denied though it may have been by many involved with the episode – really did bother me quite a lot on a personal level. So, you know. 

Related:

Doctor Who series 8 reviews

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Violence, ‘Realism’ and Hope in the Superhero Movie

aquaman jason momoa justice league batman v superman unite the seven first look realism hope james wan

So I was watching this video recently, about the reasons why you should look forward to an Aquaman movie (this is really the only reason you need) and one of the things that was mentioned is the fact that he doesn’t have a ‘no kill code’ like Superman and Batman.

Now, in theory, I can understand that. It’d be a pretty interesting contrast against the other characters, and might fit in quite well with the idea of the character as a king with responsibilities.

But… I’m not convinced that something like that is a selling point, because it’s that contrast which would make things interesting – and that, of course, doesn’t really exist.

Man of Steel was the most gratuitously violent and destructive movie I’ve seen… well, ever, actually. I can’t call to mind any movie that’s even close to resembling that level of destruction, where it deliberately harks back to 9/11 and plays upon that imagery (which is messed up on whole other levels, but I’m not going to get into that, because I’m really not qualified to.)

To then go on to say that another DC hero is sometimes willing to take a life is really quite disingenuous… but it does beg the question, why is that actually a selling point?

Generally, I prefer superhero films to be a fun, enjoyable affair. I mean, I’m not against the occasional movie shaking things up a bit for dramatic purposes, because that can be a pretty compelling story, but on the whole, superheros are meant to be a symbol of hope. People with great powers and abilities, who use those talents to help other people, and improve their lives? What else is that apart from a story of hope?

What’s strange though is that the split is pretty much entirely DC and Marvel. I suppose what this comes from is The Dark Knight trilogy – the only DC superhero film to have been really successful was more in that vein of gritty realism, whereas when they tried something outside that mould, they ended up with… well, Green Lantern. (I actually quite enjoyed Green Lantern, it’s a lot of fun. Similarly, I liked The Dark Knight trilogy because, whilst they were serious, they never took the turn towards being crushingly bleak.)

Marvel, on the other hand… well, Guardians of the Galaxy opens with their hero dancing to this song. I don’t think there’s really any better way for me to explain the difference! (I loved Guardians of the Galaxy for this very reason, in case it wasn’t obvious)

The point though is that The Dark Knight made money and that Green Lantern didn’t so much was not due to their tone, but a whole host of other reasons. To suggest that people prefer that kind of tone based on that alone is rather a mistake – which is obvious enough from the Marvel movies. (Chris Pratt says some interesting things about the tone of Guardians of the Galaxy at the beginning of this video)

With the state of the world as it is, I don’t want these symbols of hope to take that veneer into cynicism and darkness. Misery and pain is not intrinsically more ‘adult’, and if it is, that isn’t something to aspire to.

Make us believe that a man can fly… and enjoy flying.

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