Erik Aadahl & Ethan Van der Ryn on the sound design of A Quiet Place, how they hope it influences other filmmakers, and more

Erik Aadahl Ethan Van der Ryn a quiet place sound designers interview jon krasinski emily blunt noah jupe millicent simmonds silent sonic envelope perspective

I think that the biggest takeaway is that sometimes it can be more powerful and more engaging to play less sound, and have the sound be more focused, than to play a lot of music, a lot of sound effects, a lot of dialogue. Sometimes doing the opposite can actually create a more engaging and powerful experience.

With a lot of blockbusters, there’s been this kind of race to the edge of the cliff sonically with ‘how much louder can everyone get?’ and going bigger and bigger and louder. What happens is there’s kind of this numbing effect to that much volume and I think audiences kind of start to tune out from it – so using negative space in A Quiet Place actually made people tune in. I’ll be excited to see how other filmmakers kind of see that and say “hey, you can have a blockbuster that does something totally different with sound”.

One of the things I did with this one, which is something I always enjoy reading in interviews myself, is ask Erik and Ethan what they thought of some other recent films, specifically which ones they felt had impressive sound design themselves.

It’s not something you always get an opportunity to do – understandably, since, you know, the point of these interviews is to talk about whatever they’re promoting – but it’s often the question that yields the most interesting answer, because it you get to hear what these professionals think of the work of other artists, and how they engage with that work.

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Doctor Who: Everything we learned about Series 11 at SDCC 2018

doctor who series 11 sdcc 2018 news thirteenth doctor jodie whittaker the universe is calling sonic screwdriver yasmin khan graham o'brian chris chibnall matt strevens

As the Doctor puts it in the trailer, “all of this” is new to her – and it’s going to be new to the audience, too.

Chris Chibnall said that “this year is the perfect jumping on point for that person in your life who has never watched Doctor Who. I want you to go out there and SIT them down. There is no barrier for entry this year”. Nonetheless, though, Chibnall also specified that “it’s a continuation […] All the things you love about Doctor Who are in there” – as new companion actor Tosin Cole put it, “it’s still Doctor Who, just with a little sauce on it!”

Of course, while Chibnall emphasised in a recent interview with the Radio Times that we’d see “all-new stories, all-new monsters, all-new villains”, it’s worth noting that there’s a difference between “all-new” and “all new” – so don’t discount appearances from, say, the Daleks just yet…

An article on all the news about series 11 that we heard at SDCC! There’s a lot of very exciting stuff here, I genuinely can’t wait for Doctor Who to return (whenever that may be).

It did get me thinking recently, actually, that a lot of Series 11 stuff seems to be pretty perfectly pitched to my taste, and where I think Doctor Who should be right now (not just in terms of what we know about the plot, but also in terms of the way it’s marketed and the publicity materials and so on) – which is also, actually, what I thought about Series 8.

So what I’ve been wondering, basically, is whether or not I’m just remarkably prescient and on the ball, or if Doctor Who just leads my thoughts and tastes very specifically. Probably a bit of both, I guess.

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Doctor Who: Breaking down the new trailer for Jodie Whittaker’s first season as the Thirteenth Doctor

doctor who jodie whittaker thirteenth doctor series 11 new trailer world cup screenshot

It’s been a little under a year since it was first announced that Jodie Whittaker would play the Thirteenth Doctor – it was, in fact, 16 July 2017 – and since then we’ve had relatively little news about the new series of Doctor Who.

Today, however, that changed, with a special trailer for Doctor Who series 11 airing at half-time during the World Cup Final.

The trailer gave us a brief look at the Doctor and her companions, promising new adventures to come – here’s a breakdown of everything you might have missed in the new trailer, and what it tells us about what to expect when Doctor Who returns.

So, obviously, I was very much excited about this trailer, because it’s Doctor Who and I love it, and I figured one thing I could probably do (since it was getting towards the end of the week and I hadn’t figured out the topic for my Yahoo column yet) is write about the trailer. I’ve done that sort of thing before, and it usually makes for a good article – take some screencaps, speculate a little about what each thing might mean, throw in a couple of jokes, sorted.

And then this trailer aired. A lovely, enigmatic, sort of mood driven piece… that is probably the most difficult-to-write-about trailer I’ve ever seen. Like, oh man.

Genuinely, I really had my work cut out for me with this one, and I think the fact I managed nearly 900 ish words – roughly 30 words for every second of content – is a testament to, if not necessarily skill, certainly something.

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Ten Years of the Tenth Doctor: Series 4 Overview

doctor who series 2 review overview episode rankings logo lozenge russell t davies tenth doctor rose tyler billie piper david tennant

So, hmm, I’m a little late with this.

While I was in the middle of the series 4 reviews – around the time of The Unicorn and the Wasp, I think – I started work on a new wordpress site, which is presumably where you’re reading this now. When it came time to write this series 4 roundup post, a week after Journey’s End, I decided it probably wouldn’t be that big a deal if I left it a couple more days and just wrote it once I’d properly finished the website.

Anyway, it’s now August 24th, because the wordpress site took a ridiculous amount more work than I anticipated, and I’m only just getting around to writing this overview post now. While I’ve had most of the ideas I’m going to talk about sketched out for a while, probably the distance since having seen the episodes won’t help. Ah well.

Disclaimer offered, so let’s get on with the actual overview. Here’s a reminder of the scores I gave to each episode week-to-week, all appropriately linked so you can go back and remind yourself of what I said about each episode.

  1. Partners in Crime | Russell T Davies | 8/10
  2. The Fires of Pompeii | James Moran | 8/10
  3. Planet of the Ood | Keith Temple | 9/10
  4. The Sontaran Stratagem | Helen Raynor | 7/10
  5. The Poison Sky | Helen Raynor | 6/10
  6. The Doctor’s Daughter | Stephen Greenhorn | 5/10
  7. The Unicorn and the Wasp | Gareth Roberts | 6/10
  8. Silence in the Library | Steven Moffat | 9/10
  9. Forest of the Dead | Steven Moffat | 9/10
  10. Midnight | Russell T Davies | 9/10
  11. Turn Left | Russell T Davies | 9/10
  12. The Stolen Earth | Russell T Davies | 10/10
  13. Journey’s End | Russell T Davies | 10/10

And, of course, there’s Voyage of the Damned, an episode which I’m always inclined to say is part of Series 3, no matter what the production codes say; I gave the 2007 Christmas special 7/10. (Incidentally, while Voyage of the Damned is definitely part of series 3, The Next Doctor is one of the specials; I am much more relaxed these days about whether or not the specials are part of series 4 in their own right, which I suppose is a sign of maturity.)

Now, time for my favourite part of these overview posts: the now-traditional graph. Love the graphs.

doctor who review series 4 overview donna noble catherine tate tenth doctor david tennant russell t davies daleks sontarans adipose hath stolen earth journey's end review rankings graph

(Those of you who went back to check may have noticed I actually forgot to give The Stolen Earth a score out of ten at the time. I’ve decided to give it a 10 retrospectively, because, well, why not. I also apparently forgot to give one to Forest of the Dead, so I’ve given that a 9, to match Silence in the Library.)

As ever, when the scores are accumulated together I do invariably think they’re probably all a little bit nonsensical. I think, over the years I’ve been doing these graphs, the scores have become more polarised – I’m becoming more comfortable giving lower scores, but still have the same inclination towards quite high scores as I’ve always had. The actual number grades are still typically the least important part of any given review anyway – at this stage, I only really include them (when I remember to, anyway) for these little roundups, the only maths I do all year.

Speaking of which: Series 4 has an overall score of 105/130, which is an average score of 8.08/10, or more sensibly 8/10. Interestingly, that’s actually exactly the same as Series 3, which also scored 105/130. In terms of the four instalments of the Russell T Davies era generally, they’re all still very closely grouped – series 1 got 107/130, while series 2 received 108/130. That, I must say, is quite surprising for me to note – I was expecting series 4 to come in ahead of its predecessors, based on the not-especially-scientific fact that I’d just kinda always had a sense that series 4 was probably the best one.

However! This is an average score, so what’s also interesting to look at is the highs and lows of each series. As you can see above, I gave two perfect scores in series 4 (which was interesting in itself; compiling this, I was surprised I’d not given a 10 to Planet of the Ood and Forest of the Dead, though I suppose the latter isn’t impossible), which is comparatively few in contrast to Series 3 (four 10/10 episodes) and Series 1 (six 10/10 episodes), though still beating Series 2, which only had one (Love & Monsters, obvs).

Where Series 4 does do better, though, is the number of 9/10 episodes – where series 4 has five 9/10 episodes, series 1 has x, series 2 has two (or three, depending on whether you count The Christmas Invasion or not), and series 3 had two. I suppose if you’re looking at a modal average – look at me, I know some basic maths – that’d suggest that Series 4 does actually come out of the comparison better, or at least houses some better episodes.

Setting aside the numbers for a moment, though, one thing that was interesting to me was the actual shape of the graph – there’s a massive dip in the middle there, not entirely dissimilar to the dip seen in series 3. Admittedly there’s an easy explanation – both series saw a Helen Raynor two-parter followed by a Stephen Greenhorn episode – but it did get me wondering a little about how that might compare to viewer numbers, since there’s typically a similar dip in ratings around that time, isn’t there? At that point, though, it becomes more of a maths project that I’m really interested in, though, so who knows really.

the doctor's daughter doctor who review david tennant catherine tate donna noble tenth doctor hd series 4 stephen greenhorn alice troughton russell t davies georgia moffett jenny

If it wasn’t obvious from the above, anyway, I really enjoyed series 4. Like I mentioned a couple of times throughout the reviews, this is the Tennant series I’m least familiar with, so in some senses it was as close to new Tenth Doctor content as I could actually experience in 2018.

I went back and read the previous two round-ups ahead of this one, just to see what sort of tone I tried to strike last time, aiming for a degree of consistency and so on – and of course they’ve historically been fairly inconsistent. With series 2, there’s an almost oddly defensive aspect to it, almost like I’m trying to justify actually quite liking it; with series 3, it’s quite critical, as my discussion of the Doctor and Martha leans quite heavily on the unrequited love angle. I’m not convinced either really works with series 4 – I enjoyed it a lot, in a… not an uncomplex way, but I suppose a fairly straightforward way, and I don’t think it has any significant damning faults and flaws in terms of how the Doctor and Donna were characterised.

The obvious point, which I think a lot of people would offer as something worth criticising as part of series 4, is Donna’s exit. Certainly, there’s issues within it, but I’m not convinced it derails series 4 in the same way that Martha’s unrequited love plotline does series 3. What interests me most about Donna’s exit, which is something I’d like to return to one day in a proper article, is how the way it contrasts with Clara’s exit suggests a difference in how Davies and Moffat view what it means to be the Doctor. Donna’s very much the Davies era companion who comes closest to being a Doctor analogue in the same way the Moffat era companions do – to take an example at random, Donna’s the first one who’s shown being taught to fly the TARDIS – and yet in the end, she also falls furthest. That strikes me as a more interesting discussion to have about her exit, if only because I don’t think it’s been had before.

More broadly, though, after having watched series 4 again it’s not difficult to see why Donna is so popular. For one thing, there was never the danger that she’d be undercut by Rose the same way Martha was – playing the companion dynamic as just friends for the first time in the new series was massively important, but I suspect the fact that Catherine Tate was actually (and still is) quite famous in her own right helped a lot too, lending the character a certain gravity that Freema Agyeman didn’t have. (On that, it has just occurred to me that there were a lot of terribly famous people in those first four series of Doctor Who, weren’t there? Billie Piper, Catherine Tate, Kylie Minogue – lots of star power.)

But, of course, there’s also the fact that Catherine Tate had absolutely brilliant chemistry with David Tennant – she’s clearly prompting him to try harder and up his game, each of them rising to a challenge set by the other.

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Another thing I wanted to take a moment to reflect on was the reviews themselves, particularly since we’re actually coming up to the end of Ten Years of the Tenth Doctor, or at least the beginning of the end – certainly, they won’t be regular features again the way they have been previously. Over next year, we’ll do the specials, and then… well, I’m not entirely decided, but I suspect I won’t start covering Matt Smith’s stuff until a year later again, to do Eleven Years of the Eleventh Doctor. Basically, though, this is the end of this particular type of reviews as a regular thing for the foreseeable future, so I wanted to take a second to look back on them.

I am, admittedly, not actually entirely convinced any of them are very good. There are high and low points (the nadir, I suspect, was the The Unicorn and the Wasp review), but for the most part, the average level of quality was lacking: they’re never especially insightful, often because I wrote them in a rush, and the times where I do stumble onto an interesting idea, it’s typically gestured at and then moved on from, consigned to a vague “yes, I’ll write a proper article on this idea some day”. I’m still doing it, even in this one!

Even then, though, I don’t know that trying for especially deep insights and observations was the right track for these pieces; after all, if there’s room in any subject for the first piece of writing and the best piece of writing, these pieces weren’t the first, and they certainly weren’t the best. The aspects of them that were a little more interesting were the moments where I spoke a little more personally, or tried to at least, and moved beyond questions of quality and tried to deal instead with my own experience of the episodes.

So that’s something I’d like to return to and try and do properly. Not for a while, not yet anyway; I have a clever idea for exactly one such personal post, and I figure this is the sort of thing where you’d want to have a couple of good ideas before committing to it. Keep an eye out for that, though, at some point.

Anyway! Doctor Who, series 4. Often a series I’ve been reticent about giving a proper opinion on, because I didn’t feel particularly familiar with it; now, though, I feel basically confident in saying that it is actually very good.

(A conclusion that will likely surprise no one who’s read any of these posts before.)


Ten Years of the Tenth Doctor Reviews

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How Elementary managed to avoid the Moriarty problem with its latest villain

elementary season 6 michael desmond harrington sherlock holmes jonny lee miller moriarty natalie dormer andrew scott robert doherty addiction cbs

Introduced in the season 6 premier, Michael (Desmond Harrington) is a recovering addict much like Holmes. Michael credits Holmes with the success of his recovery, telling him “you said [at a meeting] you were made for one thing, and being away from it made staying sober almost impossible, but when […] you went back to it, that made all the difference. So, I actually decided to do the same thing, you know, focus on my work, use it to get better […] I worked hard, but, uh it started with you.”

In marked contrast to Holmes, though, the work that helps keep Michael sober is murder; where Holmes uses his detective work as a coping mechanism, Michael is a serial killer with similar struggles and compulsions. It’s a clever conceit, drawing obvious parallels between the two, positioning Michael as a mirror of Holmes in broadly the same way Moriarty has been in the past; indeed, it wouldn’t actually be that surprising to learn that this character is drawn from ideas at one stage considered for Elementary’s version of Moriarty. Notably, though, where the parallels between Holmes and Moriarty are typically drawn from their occupations – the consulting detective and the consulting criminal – the ones between Holmes and Michael are much more personal in nature. It’s an approach that offers potential for some compelling character drama, again an opportunity for Elementary to further explore Holmes’ sobriety.

So! Moriarty. This article kinda relies a lot on a thing I basically just sorta made up while I was trying to work out how to talk about the thing I wanted to talk about (Desmond Harrington‘s Michael, a new character introduced in Elementary season 6), so I should probably unpack that a little bit.

Basically, the “Moriarty Problem”, such that I’ve defined it, talks about the struggle that adaptations of Sherlock Holmes stories face when, after having offered their take on Moriarty (arguably the most famous literary villain ever), they have to move on to a new villain – the problem being the struggle to put forward a character that’s equally as impactful or memorable as their take on Moriarty.

Certainly, if we limit our pool to Elementary and Sherlock, both shows struggled; I liked Magnussen, though admittedly was less sure about Eurus, though I don’t think it’s difficult to argue that Andrew Scott‘s Moriarty overshadowed them both. The same is true with Elementary, where none of the subsequent villains have had the same impact as Natalie Dormer‘s Moriarty (though you can make the reasonable argument that they didn’t try to have villains in the same way, I suppose).

So, what this article talks about is the way in which Elementary found a way to avoid that problem with its latest villain character, Michael. Admittedly you could probably argue that what they do, and the point I talk around making, is essentially just to do an alternate take on the basic idea of Moriarty within the confines of their show.

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Ten Years of the Tenth Doctor: Journey’s End

doctor who journey's end review tenth doctor david tennant donna noble catherine tate rose tyler billie piper russell t davies graeme harper daleks davros

It’s been good, though, hasn’t it? All of us. All of it. Everything we did. You were brilliant.

Again, I want to start with a fairly simple, straightforward declaration: I love this one. I love every part of it, even the silly parts, even the bits I don’t like that much. It’s the apex of a particular version of Doctor Who, and when I watched it the first time, it was everything to me. So, there’s a degree to which I’m not really going to budge on that, now or ever.

Admittedly, that perhaps sounds like a preamble to an “admittedly…”, but no, I really do like this one a lot. It’s an episode that is, I think, easier to talk about for its questionable moments, and I obviously will talk about them, but that’s only really because of the nature of its strengths. It’s an episode that’s so bombastic and sprawling, so confident and sure of itself, that for a lot of it you’re left with little to do but point and gesture in wordless appreciation.

The review that follows – a particularly lengthy review, actually, because I wanted to try and do something hefty for what is a pretty significant episode, but also because I happened to have a lot of thoughts on it all – comes across, I worry, as being more negative about the episode than I actually feel. Like I said, it’s the sort of episode where the good things about it felt, to me, a bit harder to write about.

That said, though, I do just want to take a moment now to talk about my favourite moment of the episode: towing the Earth back home. It’s such a brilliantly sentimental scene, with one of Murray Gold’s best pieces of music from the Davies era, and I love what it represents. I love the way Freema Agyeman makes eye contact with the camera, too – it’s a strange, Blue Peter moment, and in a way it kinda threatens the integrity of the whole thing, as though it’s about to make it a joke. But, actually, it’s different from that, because it’s letting us in on the joke, including us, as though we’re piloting the TARDIS with them. I love the strange, crazy confidence to the way the scene just stops for an obscure Gwen Cooper continuity reference.

It’s really such a brilliant, brilliant moment. It’s actually the bit that makes it all worth it, to my mind; you could probably make some reasonable arguments that bringing all the companions together like this isn’t a brilliant idea – or at least you could try, because this scene shows how absolutely wonderful that is. I really, really loved it.

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Ethically, there are bits of it that are a little sketchy. Well, that’s perhaps the wrong way of putting it (if nothing else, it creates the impression I’m talking about something else) – rather, I suspect the moral quandary supposedly at the heart of the story is somewhat ill thought out.

One of the things that Journey’s End purports to grapple with – it doesn’t really; the idea is abandoned reasonably quickly – is this idea of the Doctor as a very dark figure, the Destroyer of Worlds. Not someone who emboldens and elevates those around him, shaping their lives, inspiring and empowering them to be better people, but instead moulding them into soldiers, weapons first and foremost rather than travellers or people or Doctors themselves. In and of itself, that’s debateable; certainly, I wonder how much, outside of this episode itself, that interpretation is actually supported by the Davies era anyway. Undeniably, there’s elements of it, and it’s more obvious with characters like Martha, but… well, is it true? I’m inclined to compare it to the Capaldi era, as I so often am, where the companions were left to become Doctor figures in their own right; I wonder if perhaps that’s the same as what’s happening here, but it’s a fundamentally different vision of the Doctor here than in the Capaldi era. That’s an interesting idea to grapple with – immediately the counter argument that they’re becoming, in effect, failed versions of the Doctor, missing the point, not the full version of such, which has an interesting resonance of its own – but I think befitting its own essay rather than a few stray paragraphs here.

More to the point, though, I think it’s worth considering what the companions are turned into soldiers against: the Daleks, the ultimate robot fascists. It is… difficult to argue, to be honest, in any meaningful sense that killing Daleks is wrong particularly. Certainly, in prior contexts – the Time War, or The Parting of the Ways – the point was not about the morality of killing Daleks per se, but killing Daleks while leaving massive collateral damage. That’s definitely the case with Martha’s final solution, but that’s not really emphasised in the text, and it doesn’t seem to be a factor with the warp star or… whatever it is TenToo did with the Crucible at the end. Instead, it does seem to be a fairly basic “killing Daleks is wrong”, which strikes me as questionable. It feels mainly like a broader version of the whole punching Nazis thing – yes, that is ethically fine. Just as it is, you know, ethically fine to blow up a Dalek.

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And that… not complaint, exactly, but certainly that little curio feeds into some wider points about the episode’s spine. Well, no, I’m reluctant to call it a spine exactly, because I don’t think it is – as I’ve said above, it’s dispensed with fairly quickly. It’s more that it’s just the subject of Davros’ rant, because if the villain is going to have a rant at all, it needs to be something with a lofty ethical point to be made.

I think I’d have preferred it if, on some level, there was an effort to refute that. I think it might have held the episode together a little better thematically if… well, if at any point the Doctor had been able to turn around and say “actually, we are so different, you and I”. Or, not like that exactly, but I think taking the broader point, about the impact the Doctor has on people, and showing it actually hasbeen a positive, that he actually is different, so on. I think it’s interesting to look at Sarah Jane’s line about how the Doctor has the biggest family of anyone on Earth, because actually, it’s debateable how much the episode itself actually seems to believe that; after all, the note that’s emphasised at the end is him, alone, crying in the rain.

More on that later, though, because what I want to talk about instead is TenToo. A lot is made of the suggestion that he’s this very dark figure – born in battle, full of bloodlust, all that jazz – but I’m not wholly convinced that rings true across the episode. Certainly, he seems broadly more cheerful and adjusted throughout than the brown-suited version of the Doctor does; you can chalk bits of that up to knowing Donna isn’t dead and the TARDIS wasn’t destroyed, so TenToo certainly has reason to not be as angsty, but even then. I think a big part of this, though, is that I’m still not especially convinced that killing the Dalek empire like that is an especially difficult decision; TenToo did the right thing, and Sarah Jane’s suggestion wasn’t wrong either. Martha is a bit more questionable, but at least that’s got an element of the trolley problem to it. (My hot take: Journey’s End would’ve worked better with the Slitheen, in that regard at least.)

What I do think works, though, is TenToo leaving with Rose at the end. Certainly, it’s a difficult scene to get right, and you can understand why Russell T Davies deliberated over it so much in The Writer’s Tale; very easily, it could have been a weaker rehash of the version from Doomsday. What’s impressive, though, is the way it’s doing something much more complex; where the last version was about Rose, this is about the Doctor – he’s manipulating her and pushing her away, essentially, making a choice because he thinks he knows what’s best for her. Actually, thinking about it, there’s an interesting connection to what he does to Donna later.

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Of course, there’s also the question of Donna. I’ve been deliberating over exactly how to handle this for some time now. To be honest, I was tempted to not bring it up at all; certainly, that would have been truer to my experience of the episode the first go around, because it was years and years before I realised there was anything to discourse about at all. For the longest time my thoughts on the subject began and ended with “that’s a tragic ending, I wish there had been some way for Donna to remember” – which, to be honest, I suspect was also the beginning and end of Russell T Davies’ thoughts while writing it.

But, equally, it’d feel too much like an unspoken elephant in the room if I didn’tmention it, and that doesn’t feel like something I can go without talking about. Particularly, actually, given that my beloved Capaldi era addressed this ending directly – more than once, actually, but most obviously with Clara, my favourite companion. So, it’d be a bit dishonest not to.

For anyone who’s not aware, the discussion centres around the Doctor mindwiping Donna; the – critique feels too mild a word, and perhaps misrepresents the strength of feeling of some of those who object to it – objection (not much better) regards how he ignores her wishes, disregards her autonomy and takes something from her without her consent. Part of the contention, too, is that it’s not really problematised within the narrative enough; the focus is largely on the tragedy, and how sad it is for the Doctor, as opposed to depicting it as a horrific violation of consent. That’s… I was going to say “That’s not an unreasonable interpretation, even though it’s not what the episode intended”, which manages to be both true and missing the point; whether it’s what the episode intended or not, that is essentially what’s on screen. I’m inclined to disagree heavily with certain sections of the debate, largely those that compare it to rape; I understand where they’re coming from, in terms of it being a violation of consent, but… it doesn’t sit well with me, for myriad reasons too extensive to really delve into here.

I think it’s probably best understood as a medical procedure; even then, there’s questions to be asked, but I think that’s a better model from which to approach it. (I also think it’s worth noting, in terms of comparisons to the Capaldi era, in Hell Bent and The Pilot, where the selfish, patrician nature of the act is emphasised, it’s not to save a life, which is manifestly different to what’s going on with Donna. Just to complicate things further!) It’s not a companion exit that sits with me entirely well admittedly; it’s cruel in a lot of ways, bleakly cynical in a way that sets it apart from the tragedy of, say, Doomsday. But… it also doesn’t, in a significant way at least, diminish the episode. At least not for me. I don’t know.

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One thing that did strike me as interesting is how easily this episode could have functioned as a series finale to New Who as a whole, if the specials hadn’t been commissioned.

Granted, you’d want a few changes made throughout; the version of this episode that was an actual ending would, I think, leave Donna as the DoctorDonna – the Doctor would finally have a companion and friend who really could travel with him forever (at the same time he gave Rose a Doctor who really could live with her forever, which would’ve been neat). Also, you’d kinda want there to be more of an effort to address Davros’ accusations, as I mentioned above; Journey’s End is interesting because it feels like it comes quite close to, or could have come quite close to, addressing the whole survivor’s guilt thing, and ultimately saying “actually, no”, but then ultimately eliding that in favour of a sad ending.

(Actually, personally, I think much more telling than the actual consent violation/mindwipe aspect is the fact that Donna isn’t allowed to keep her memories once she becomes a Doctor figure – a successful Doctor figure, in marked contrast to the others, beating the Daleks by tricking them into their own trap and hoisting them by their own petard rather than an aggressively militaristic figure. But where the others are failed Doctor figures who live, Donna is… not punished, exactly, but regresses. That, I think, is the difference between Donna and Clara; where “being the Doctor” is something anyone can do in the Moffat era, “being the Doctor” is a much more singular burden to bear in the Davies era. Again, that’s another idea worth returning to, particularly because I think Moffat’s conception of what it means to be the Doctor is one of the most interesting ideas of his tenure, and it’s actually probably one of the best ways to get to the heart of the whole lonely god idea in the Davies era.)

Anyway! Gosh. When this is finished it’s going to be over 2000 words, possibly approaching 2500; certainly, the longest of any of the X Years of the X Doctor posts I’ve done over the years. Actually, no, it could well be the longest single piece I’ve written full stop. It’s probably too critical in a lot of places, and doesn’t flow the way I’d like it to; equally, though, to repeat the usual refrain, these are often just the thoughts off the top of my head after watching an episode. A lot of the thoughts above are ones I’d like to elaborate on in future, though.

So. Journey’s End. I enjoyed it massively; I think that impression might not come across from this review, much as I would’ve liked it to, because so much of it dwells on the problem areas of the episode. That’s what got me thinking, I suppose.

I did have a slightly more elegiac conclusion in mind, but I’ve just remembered that next week I’ll be doing a general Series 4 overview. So I’ll save that for then!



Ten Years of the Tenth Doctor Reviews

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Genius: Picasso interrogates how gender has defined our understanding of genius

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Genius draws attention to how the patriarchal expectations imposed on Francoise Gilot, by both Picasso and society in general, limit her success as an artist; just a few short weeks after Picasso left Francoise “alone, sick and pregnant to care for a baby for almost a month” while he was in Poland, he objects to her going to Paris, asking “Who’s going to look after the children?” The parallels aren’t subtle – he refuses to look after the children because he “wouldn’t get any work done”, when just a few lines earlier Francoise told an art dealer “I’m afraid I don’t have anything new to show you. I’ve been too busy with the children”. Another moment, reminiscent of many recent #MeToo stories, sees the same art dealer tell Francoise he can no longer represent her, for fear of Picasso’s anger – even after their relationship has ended, Picasso’s influence continues to stymy her art.

Genius: Picasso does some genuinely interesting work in terms of its depiction of female artists; its interrogation of how gender has defined, and restricted, our understanding of genius isn’t so much subtext as it is openly, emphatically… text. The National Geographic drama isn’t just about great men of history, but about the genius left unacknowledged, the genius that wasn’t allowed to thrive, because of such a traditionally myopic understanding of what is or isn’t genius. Time and time again, Genius: Picasso asks why you’re not instead watching Genius: Maar or Genius: Gilot instead, and the indisputable answer it offers is a suffocating, gendered understanding of genius.

I was left in a bit of an odd place with this piece.

My plan, from around the fifth episode of Genius: Picasso, was to write an article about how the show depicts creativity, and the struggle to define your creativity – as well as perhaps also touching on how it grapples with the myth of apolitical art, and the need to use your platform responsibly when you have one. I might still write about that a bit, actually, I’m not sure.

Anyway, though, as I came to write it, I found it difficult to get to grips with that piece, in part because my plan to do it as a sort of personal essay seemed more than a little pretentious and arrogant (convinced though I am that we’ll eventually reach Genius: Moreland). Plus, I was increasingly fixated on another angle I’d thought of for Genius – how it engaged with gender. At first I was planning on writing it for the Mary Shelley series (giving me time to catch up on the Einstein series, which had apparently also done some interesting things vis a vis its depiction of women), or maybe the fourth series if it were also about a woman (I’ve kinda plotted out a 5+ series arc for Genius in my head where it’s this really interesting, feminist sotry).

But! I couldn’t get the creativity piece to work, and I couldn’t stop thinking about the gender angle, so this is the piece I wrote. I was quite pleased with it in the end; it’s a little longer than my Yahoo columns tend to be, though I had a lot of ideas I wanted to cover, and even then didn’t quite manage to get all of them in. I must say, I really did quite enjoy Genius.

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