Ten Years of the Tenth Doctor: The Infinite Quest (Part 5)

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Live by the cutlass, die by the cutlass.

This was the most frenetic of all the Infinite Quest episodes – although all that amounts to is a fast-moving background image. Actually, it’s a little confused in a few places, with a bit of an odd sense of motion and staging. Once again, it’s difficult to describe this as any good.

And, again, I’m inclined to ask what the point of this all is. Like, yeah, it’s the extra additional Doctor Who content for a kids show, but why did it take this form? Because it’s not like it’s actually any good in these three-minute cut scenes, and I doubt it’s going to be any good in the omnibus edition – just a strangely disjointed and oddly constructed fifty minutes.

Really, The Infinite Quest shouldn’t have existed in the format that it does. This form of serialised storytelling isn’t very well suited to the demands of the project; I can’t imagine it would even have held the attention of its audience week on week. It’s actually surprisingly difficult to remember what happened the last week anyway, although probably because not much is happening anyway.

It feels like this is a series that should have taken a leaf from the DWA comics, really. Short comic strips, aimed at the same child audience as Totally Doctor Who, that were typically one and done little runarounds. They could probably have adapted some of them wholesale, in fact; they tended to be quite imaginative, but still would have been well suited to animation. Sketching out an improbably situation or strange world quickly and then resolving it within four minutes – easy peasy.

Really, that’s what would have helped The Infinite Quest. In aiming to be a ‘normal’ Doctor Who story but stretched out over thirteen weeks, it ends up being oddly bloated yet still strangely truncated. The approach should have been to go for something simpler – just a series of vignettes and short stories. The Doctor playing chess with a funny looking alien. An old man in China telling his grandchildren how he met the Doctor and Martha years ago. Martha looking for a present for her mother in an alien marketplace.

Maybe I’m overestimating the budget for animation – it could simply be that this is actually quite a cheap way of animating the story, limiting the different locations and so on. Equally, it might have been a marketing thing, with the option of later DVD sales and etc. Or, probably most likely, they thought this was the best idea and I’m just wrong!

I doubt it, though. Because in its week on week format, The Infinite Quest just isn’t very good. And I don’t mean that in terms of “I can’t make any words up to talk about it” – it’s just not that entertaining. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t very entertaining ten years ago, either. I’d be quite interested if anyone does remember enjoying it in that weekly format. Also, quite surprised.

Related:

Ten Years of the Tenth Doctor Reviews

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Archie vs Predator: Why Riverdale’s Miss Grundy storyline didn’t work

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On paper, it’s evident what this is – a predatory relationship between a teacher and a student, nothing more complicated than that. Within the show, however, this fairly straightforward detail is lost somewhat, leaving Riverdale in a far more problematic position: Archie and Miss Grundy are presented as having an illicit romance, one which is sexualised and glamorised by the narrative.

In part, it’s perhaps just a matter of visuals; it’s easy to forget that the teenagers in Riverdale really are just that, given that many of the actors look so much older. Without that in mind, the dynamic does change considerably – but it has to be remembered that Archie and his peers are 16 years old, all minors. Miss Grundy is a statutory rapist. There’s no other way of looking at it.

I actually really like Riverdale, generally speaking. It’s a huge amount of fun, and I’m disappointed that the first time I’ve written about it has been to critique it, rather than celebrating it.

But, much as I enjoy it, it does have flaws. And one of those flaws is the utterly tone-deaf and poorly handled Miss Grundy storyline, in which the show sexualises and glamorises a predatory relationship.

So, you know. Some limits.

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Does the Doctor have to be a male role model?

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There’s only really one argument that is, if not convincing, worthy of some genuine contemplation: that the Doctor should be preserved as a male role model, being one of the most prominent fictional heroes who isn’t reliant on violence and aggression, but instead is a template for teaching curiosity and compassion to children.

It’s an understandable stance to take; obviously, children’s media is important, and it’s important to have role models in that media. There is something important in having a character who subverts more traditional norms of masculinity – a character who uses his brain rather than his fists. The argument goes that the Doctor is largely unique in this regard, and in turn that’s why the character should continue to be depicted as a man – because he’s the only man in fiction who is like that.

And yet…

I am, of course, still going on about the possibility of a female Doctor. I fear I’m really setting myself up for disappointment when it ends up being… well, Kris Marshall! (I hope not.)

However, this idea of the Doctor as a male role model is the only argument that’s ever given me pause in my otherwise unrelenting viewpoint. So, I wrote an article about it!

(A year-ish later, and I have genuinely no idea what I concluded about. Well, I know what I concluded, just not how or why. Don’t suppose it matters much now exactly, though it might be interesting to see what anecdotal accounts spring up during the actual series itself.)

Oh, and the cosplayer above is Jacklyn Black, who is seemingly never credited whenever this very cool picture is used, so I figure I should make the effort to acknowledge her.

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