There’s a comment on one episode with Clara:
I still feel like these episodes are so disjointed. Nothing gets explained or rationalized. I feel like I’ve gotten up to get a snack for ten minutes and returned, confused because I missed something… except I was watching the whole episode, vainly trying to make sense of that mess.
I don’t need everything to make sense or be realistic. This is a show about a magic blue box and an alien with two hearts who likes to wear a fez. But I want some goddamn resolutions, I want some freaking explanations behind stuff.
Interesting he should say that because that was how Skyfall also was. Disjointed. And the reason was that they were trying too hard to put all “the elements” of James Bond in. That, in a sense, is ideological – where the political correctness is way more important than the actual continuity and the tale.
And still with Bond, they then stray from the essence and take themselves way too seriously. That’s the issue with Skyfall – it’s so wow, look how we’ve got all these elements in here and it’s so PC and the cinematography is so great.
Maybe this is not clear. Let’s go to Sherlock Holmes for a mo. The Bruce-Partington Plans works because it’s immediate, real, it doesn’t feel constructed, it fits and flows. There’s nobody trying to say, “Let’s include this element here so we can be relevant to today.” Mycroft appears because the plot requires it. If it didn’t, Doyle would not have included it.
Yet we go to a later episode, e.g. The Mazarin Stone and it’s cringeworthy. Because Doyle starts with the idea of putting a black man in toffy gear into it. His black man is like Evelyn Waugh’s but without the skill. Doyle is bes ton the hunt, the chase, the coach flying down the foggy streets, clattering across cobblestones, also like a horse’s gait on those stones.
The problem with Jenna-Louise Coleman is she must be cute and everything about her must be so PC – she’s had a tragedy, she has amazing powers. Fine, Zoe had those too but there was something restrained in it – the whole show was not predicated on her, nor only only on the Doc. You remember the Dalek episodes – the episode itself ruled, the creatures ruled, the goodies were there to stymie it at the end. There were no political points being made so earnestly, so desperate to brainwash with a PC message.
I’m glad there was a woman, Charlie Jane Anders, who saw this as well, slightly differently but nevertheless she saw that this was a pain in the butt. And like her, I like Jenna-Louise Coleman but not the use she’s been put to:
It’s part of the ritual of Doctor Who these days: First we have to be introduced to a new time-traveling companion (for the third time, in the case of Clara.) And then, in her second story, we have to get reminded just why she’s so amazingly special and wonderful. That’s this week’s episode, which is kind of mixed bag.
So of course, Clara is special for a very particular timey-wimey-blimey reason: she’s been fragmented in time, and we already met two versions of her, who died in the far future and the 19th century.
Yes, it’s kind of treacly and ridiculous. No, it doesn’t really work in the end. But it has some great moments.
Anyway, as we were saying — this is the traditional “new companion sees the universe and proves that she’s SUPER GREAT” episode. The first 15-20 minutes felt like a retread of “The End of the World,” where the Doctor introduces Rose to a bunch of aliens, and then Rose goes off and meets a humble cleaning woman and they bond over being working stiffs. Bits of it also reminded me quite a bit of “The Beast Below,” Amy Pond’s sophomore story, in which it’s Amy who saves the day while the Doctor is stymied and shouty.
Now Charlie Jane Anders has hit the nail on the head. As she herself is a female, she wouldn’t put it as we males would but still – there it is. It is de rigeur today that the male is either shouty, wimpy, incapable or whatever, despite him occupying a position above the glass ceiling and being a Doc for 900 years and then along comes some young girl with no life experience whatever and suddenly she has all the answers.
She’s a girl, remember – she can do anything with no background or training whatever. Coz that’s what females are – superior. Therefore, I can’t believe it’s a woman writing this:
In this story, Clara saves the day because she has the humble (and amazingly well preserved) leaf that blew into her dad’s face, nearly causing him to die in a traffic accident and causing him to hook up with Clara’s mum. Hence, the leaf is “the most important leaf in human history,” if you take a rather Clara-centric view of humanity.
Before that, the Doctor has been having one of his shouty moments, snarling at the creature about all his amazing memories and all the things he’s seen and the secrets he knows, etc., etc. — the Doctor expects all this stuff to give the creature indigestion, but it’s not enough, until Clara shows up with her magic leaf.
There it is again.
And if the goal of “Rings” is to cement the sense that Clara is “OMG awesum” as a companion, then the bit where Clara winds up on her own and meets a small girl in distress is perfect as well. She’s way out of her element, but she still looks after the Queen of Years and keeps her hidden from her pursuers, then bonds with her over a time when Clara got lost and felt scared. Jenna-Louise Coleman is terrific in these scenes.
I think Jenna-Louise Coleman might well be terrific – it’s not the girl we’re attacking here. It’s the writing. She’s a very pretty and cute girl. She might have a brain. She might be a whiz.
But it’s the way she’s rammed down the throat with that particular PC stridency which is galling. As if the message did not get home the first 5435 times.
And then it descends to that maudlin, saccharine sweet sludginess which is vomit-producing:
But in any case, the episode starts off asking why Clara is so unique, and winds up telling us that everybody is unique. As the Doctor explains to the Queen of Years, we’re all improbable conglomerations of molecules from distant starts, we’re all a fleeting miracle, and so on. And none of us can be sacrificed.
All must be included, all must have prizes. Even doctor Who, the bumbling old fumbly must get a consolation prize.
And Charlie Jane Anders’ conclusion about it all?
All in all, when the episode focuses on making Clara feel like a real person, with actual emotions — like in the scenes where she’s protecting and comforting the Queen of Years — she actually feels like she deserves to be a companion. When the episode tries to put up a billboard with letters ten feet high explaining that Clara is Super Special, it feels like it’s reaching somewhat.
Precisely. When the character is allowed to breathe as what she is – a companion who has special aspects to her, which allow her to achieve certain things, just as Zoe did way back when, then it works. When the PC stridency is missing and the Doc is what he should be – an eccentric fixer of things, sometimes by mistake and always with the companion’s help, then that is a good message to be giving out.
Back to Bond
The reason Skyfall was so awful was that it followed this self-same formula – all the Bond elements had to be in there.
Didn’t matter in which order and that they were only there for a short time – as long as they were connected by a “modern” narrative and the disjointedness could be explained away by Bond always being like that – it was not based on realism.
Not based on realism in the new way – the constructs were all wrong, not real, not real life, as with Dr Who.
And Bond. Craig kissed a man in a restaurant somewhere in the States. Now would Connery have done that? Brosnan? Nothing whatever to do with gays but Bond himself – he doesn’t do this. He is a hero figure - fictional of course – but a hero figure nonetheless and he must play the part as he’s meant to.
So, enough of the touchy-feely soul-searching, emasculated Bond they try to combine with sheer brutality which even Connery didn’t get into – Craig is some sort of sensitive thug who is not sensitive but he’s also this, this and this – it’s all woven in to appeal to everyone and so no one is offended.
All must have prizes.
Except it is offensive – offensive to those who like things to be the way they’re meant to be.
Look, I don’t give a damn if it’s the Moore way of doing it or the Connery – both are Ok because at least they’re real Bonds or were until Moore’s writers had him giving Tarzan yodels while swinging from trees. I didn’t even mind the two girls kung-fuing the baddies away with Moore standing behind – Roger does enough elsewhere and not as a super-hero [see Jenna-Louise Coleman again] but as a trained agent who somehow manages to get across the line at the end after some difficult moments.
That’s more like what life is like – yes, even in a Bond film. For Your Eyes Only was great that way – Moore was vulnerable but his confidence and training made him resourceful – that’s why we go to such films, to see that sort of thing [plus the Bond girls]. To me, the most real Bond girl was Eva Green and no one would call her a shrinking violet as Vesper. She was all woman.
You know where this whole thing is going.
Will we ever get the classics out of the hands of the new PCists and back into the hands of experts who have no axe to grind?