Monday, August 25, 2008

Jared Reviews the Forest of the Dead!

Assuming that's actually the title. I can't remember, I hated the episode.


Sigh, time for me to bite the bullet and review this shit. Yeah, I could easily skip it but damnit somebody cursed me with some sort of Episcopalian work ethic somewhere along the line that forces me to always try and finish stuff even if it takes me over a year to do it. So here we go...

Sadly I have to watch the episode again because... nothing of it sticks in my mind it's just horrible...


Okay, that was about two seconds now I have something to bitch about again. Why is the library even in this story? What does any of it mean? Presumably the library is a metaphor for something, as it serves no function to the plot as it could so easily have been set in, say, a dead city or a cave system or ANYWHERE. Let us assume that it's a metaphor for imagination and the duality thereof between the mind and imagination, as Cal imagines the library, yet at the same time in a Life on Mars-style trick the consciousnesses of the departed are on the library computer. As with Sam Tyler at the point where he commits suicide, whether they are alive or dead becomes more complicated than the ruminations of Schroedinger and enters a grey area of debate. So... why is this completely irrelevant?

For this metaphor to work the library needs to be the cradle of imagination, the lifeblood of a child's mind, even more for that, a symbiotic aspect that fuels it with knowledge and wonder in place of blood. Yet the characters within are either scared of libraries, view them as property, or sneer at them as nothing but boring repositories where some tacky pop fiction can mercifully be found (This view, shockingly, given by the Doctor himself. Wash your mouth out, motherfucker!) Furthermore, the script is really about television.

Why? Fucked if I know. That's exactly the point - what is going on here? The script is trying so hard to break the fourth wall and impart an elusive something to me that it hurts. Cal watches the Doctor, and hence the library, through the television throughout the story. Obviously a metatextual wink as the television is where the Doctor lives, of course. The other suggestion possible is that the television has superceded the library as the place for a child's imagination - that's also true. But does the contrast of trashy television that Cal flicks off in order to try and hunt the Doctor through the airwaves symbolize a ... drowning of imagination in mediocrity? Or is her desperation to find him a parallel to the experience of many a Who fan in the 80s, presumably Moffatt himself included, of trying to figure out where in the schedule they could get their dimunitive Scotsman fix? Or is it ANOTHER metaphor for the wilderness years wherein fans could not find the Doctor anywhere? Again, I don't know. Textually there seems no clear message...

Much of the episode is in turn taken up by Cal's reactions to the Doctor and Donna's trials and tribulations as seen on her telly - fourth wall shattering at its most intrusive, recursive and downright boring. Within here there is one particularly odd example, during one of the many oh-so-blatantly-screaming-out "River Song is the Doctor's wife motherfucker!!!" moments that fandom keep telling me are 100% 'ambiguous', which evokes a response from Cal to throw down the remote and scream angrily at the TV. Again... I know there is a point to be made and that the writer is throwing it in my face with zero subtlety. But also zero coherence.

So... is Moffat uncharacteristically voicing the views of Davison and JNT that kids don't want to see the Doctor doing 'kissy' stuff? Is he mocking this view? Is Cal not symbolic of the show's official target audience but of the actual audience, or, as Moffat sees them, the 'nerds' on OG, who point out that there's no oppurtunity for Reinette and the Doctor to have sex in The Girl and the Fireplace unless it's a menage-a-trois with The King? (Yeah, that was me) Again... if he is doing ANY of this what's there to prove.

This is all compounded by the nadir of the story, if not for the character of Donna and/or the series itself - Donna's 'prison' in the computer's core. I admit I don't really watch much television because of our limited setup (ABC and SBS only) so I have no idea what exactly this is a parody of. I can just tell that it's a parody of something, possibly mid-day soaps like the hilarious bad Passions (if you can watch an entire episode you get a prize!) or of the cheapo-looking evening soaps ala Neighbours and Eastenders. Of course if either is likely to be the target it would be the latter as EE is the show that killed DW. But then...again... my question is what does it mean?

There's a lot of subtext in this story, I know because it keeps shoving it in my face but WHAT DOES ANY OF IT MEAN?!?!? Does it connect to ANYTHING? I mean, let's assume that Donna's a prisoner in EE and therefore the hospital (and therefore Doctor Moon) represents DW's 'enemy'. Does it then thematically make sense for Doctor Moon and the hospital to [sort of] save the lives of all those faceless losers at the end? But if it does not represent EE... is there any point for it even being in the episode? It's like a massive gumbo of themes and plot points, all just sloshing about in a bowl, with nothing connected to anything else.

The end result is that the whole thing feels like a last-minute script written by somebody who's falling back on something that doesn't belong in it at all - the mindset one doubtlessly gets from working in TV for about two decades. For a story ostensily about a library (insofar as it can be said to be about ANYTHING at all) this is very, very bad.

As stated in last week- er, the last review I did - this story is full of Moffat's absolute worst characterisation, which is a shame considering that we're meant to fall in love with *shudder* River Song in the space of knowing her for about ten minutes (Hint: get a decent actress next time you try this) so is sort of the most ambitious story in terms of characterisation made. You could say that it's best to try and fail rather than not to try at all, but I know what's best to see on TV.

I have not seen either Press Gang or Coupling (No, it's not some sort of mental condition) but it is interesting to note that people who have seen them (namely Lawrence Miles and Ewen Campion-Clarke, who I'm sure don't want to be mentioned in the same sentence but it was kind of necessary there) comment, with regards to one of both series, that in Series 4 women suddenly become needlessly cruel bitches. That is quite a conincidence for that to happen in that number of series with two completely different shows. Or, should I say, three completely different shows.

For, yes, DW is indeed in its fourth series at the moment. That said, none of the females can fairly be described as 'needlessly cruel bitches', but ALL can be referred to as 'terribly characterised'. Donna, instead of being the anti-companion that over stories have so-proudly worn on their sleeves is now not only the cookie-cutter companion we're so used to (and in some case sick of) but is also utterly sidelined despite her traditionally dominating presence. She is also given a completely out-of-character fantasy-land where she marries the first guy she meets,(Well, second guy. She may think that black guys are cursed after Lance) an action I consider so odd I wonder if Moffat is cunningly using 'marriage' as a euphemism for 'sex' in a few of his scripts.

And then Miss Evangelista. Hoo-boy. The character does suggest some issues behind the first wall, with a very frank formula offered "Beauty = stupidity", which seems to be the recipe for a horribly stereotyped character to begin with, but when taken to the extent that the character suddenly becomes an eloquent genius when her face is torn apart by a computer malfunction and... I dunno. One of the few bits in the story that I consider creepy - but doubtlessly not for the reasons intended.

A quick note about the Doctor, you know the guy who's apparently the heroic god of all space and time but basically spends the entire story unable to work any pieces of technology, is slow-witted to the extreme and a delusional paranoid wreck who is unable to wrap his head around the concept that its possible for him to meet somebody who has already met him (YOU FUCKING TOOL!!!) instead assuming that River Song is "AN ALIEN SPY!!" (okay, that's my quote). He sucks in this story, he really does. And I feel the need to mention it because the factions of fandom telling me that River Song isn't necessarily the Doctor's wife (Guh?) offer me the alternative explanation:

The Doctor only gives River Song his name so that he can trust her when he first meets her and the screwdriver so that he can fix his own at the end.

On the surface that may seem fine, unless you're like me and think that the show should have an all Onthiological plotline prohibition now that Moffat has completely destroyed them through insane over-use, but scratch beyond the surface and this is surely one of the most disturbing things the Doctor has ever done? I mean, instead of just sending a screwdriver back in his time-safe with a post-it-note saying "Hey, buddy, this will help in the Library" he decides to hunt down and systematically seduce a young archaeologist, cons her into an empty, loveless marriage just so that she can show up when he needs an extra hand? Jesus Christ the disturbing mindsets fandom must have to find this acceptable! Was McCoy ever that much of an arsehole???


Anyway, we have a story with no themes, a cast with no character, a general sense of malaise and self-absorption. How's the best way for this to climax?

"You're in the biggest library in the Universe. Look me up"

This is the big iconic moment of the show, especially so to myself as one of the bits conspicuous for NOT being complete crap. But I'm torn - Ewen says that it's a great moment. Larry says cop-out. (Oops, done it again there..)

Ultimately, they're really both right - it's a great moment.. that's used as a cop-out.

If the Doctor was facing a highly intelligent enemy with extra-sensory powers and the moment did not occur at the episode's climax it could be very cool. Or, I guess it could if you actually like 45 solid minutes of 'shipping and no Donna action it could work as is. But then who am I complain about a dodgy climax - this is entirely appropriate ending for a story as far up it's own arse as this one and does finally make some vague use of the library setting - a factor that critically sets it apart.

That said... I am once again distracted by small details such as pica-scopic dust-mites being able to read a collection of works on the Doctor in the space of ten seconds when they're barely able to construct a sentence with far simpler technology.

As usual though I feel the need to clarify that Larry does take his criticism too far and leaves me wondering just how the fuck he sees the world when he suggests that the incident 'clearly indicates' that Moffat is planning an 'even more God-like' 11 the Doctor.

Show your working, please.

Ultimately it's nowhere near as bad as insisting that when Tosh is thrown in a 'Guantanamo Bay' cell that this is presented as a comedy moment. I wouldn't mind him being so massively off his face were this not actually Exhibits A - J for his case against Chiball being a shit writer, and apparently his sole reason for hating the series.

But... seriously... what made him think that was meant to be funny? I mean, come on! Does he take unusual amounts of pleasure in seeing Asians locked up and assumes that this is a universal disposition?

He is of course correct in pointing out that UNIT being concerned about homeland security makes absolutely no sense if you remove it from the narrative universe, but blaming Chibnall is foolish when we see that exact same slant in the parent show of 'Big Russell'.

What's that? I've just spent four paragraphs not even deigning to mention the episode that I'm technically reviewing? Oh, I apologise for my unprofessionalism! Let's have a look at the far more informative words of wisdom that Eye of Horus have to offer...

EPISODE REVIEW - PENDING SUBMISSION

Wow. Do you guys work for CNN in your day job?


Of course, I should probably fess up in that I'm living a white lie in that I haven't entirely watched the episode. I half-watched it at that convention, you know, and saw that everybody survived in the computer world and that River Song sacrificed herself in some way and that the Doctor flew through a wormhole with his sonic screwdriver... but I think the fact that at no stage did I feel compelled to watch this properly is enough of an indictment against the episode, when you consider what a fucking unbelievable uber-nerd I am.

2/10

(The 2's because the direction was pretty good)



WHAT THOSE OTHER LOSERS THOUGHT

Incisive Response: Who would call their daughter...

RIVER SONG!


Moron Response: River Song was his wife? I must have missed something. How did everyone reach this conclusion? I'm not saying she's not, but why are people convinces she was?


Person who deserves the swift embrace of death response: I dunno if this has been posted before, but my wife pointed out that RIVER SONG is an anagram of...


ROSE v RING

This sent my head into all manner of guff about the Master's ring and Rose's return and what have you.

Probably all a coincidence or a nice piece of misdirection.

Thoughts? Comments?

(What. The. Fuck. 'Rose v Ring'?? What the fuck?!? Is that a level on fucking Street Fighter or something???? I mean... what?!? Hey, you know my name - 'Jared Hansen'? Did you know that that's an anagram of "A raj hen's den"? Yes - THAT MEANS I AM ACTUALLY CHRISTOPHER SKASE!!!)


DontTeaseMeRoseTyler Response: Riversong is a lesbian?

I think this is why the doctor was so sad at the end of the episode, even after he saved her. Think about it. He will see her in the future again, so why was he so full of despair? I think it's obvious he has a one sided love for her in the future and she doesn't tell him until right at the end and they can only remain friends. The Doctor tells her his name only to have it thrown back in his face with rejection. I don't know why they went with an angle like this, possibly to highlight that even though he can take women to the ends of the universe, not everyone will fall for him instantly. People have their own issues as well. I thought they were only going to fill Torchwood with homosexual propaganda, but it seems like the trends are sweeping across to the mother brand.


Everyone else's Response to that:



Paraphrased Lawrence Miles Response: As we all know, the phrase 'behind the sofa' was NEVER used until the eighties... what's that? You watched Whose Doctor Who just the other day and Melvyn Bragg uses the phrase? OH, WELL DONE COLUMBO!

Anyway, my point is that Doctor Who has NEVER been scary. EVER. To anybody. SHUT THE FUCK UP DON'T DARE CONTRADICT ME OR I'LL FORCE FEED YOUR BALLS TO NEIL GAIMAN. Yeah, I know he'd enjoy it, I want to get the scrote on-side.

The point is - MOFFAT IS A TOOL! He's trying to make it scary and - hahaha, it's just pathetic. And this is so slow I fell asleep on the sofa and pissed Blink for a third time. And this is WONDERFUL - bet you're feeling sorry that you slagged off The Book of the World now, eh? It's better than this shit and you can't deny it! NOTHING IN THE WORLD CAN HUMBLE ME NOW!


Next Week: People on a bus yell at each other.

4 comments:

Youth of Australia said...

You know, I was boggling at SIL the other night and it struck me:

if everyone was downloaded into the computer, who did the Vashta Nerada eat? Because the chief librarian saw enough death to send everyone emails about it.

And what do the Vashta Nerada live on for three hundred years without food?

As for Press Gang, I'd say it's not they become needlessly cruel bitches. It's a kind of escalation of needed cruel bitchiness. Indeed, the final series is very much a wakeup call with plenty of sad endings that needlessly cruel bitchiness is the wrong way to go, despite the final episode being 25 minutes of, "No, mofo, it IS necessary!" discussion.

You're right though, that it's a cop out, the 'look me up' bit. But it's acted and shot and written very well. Rather like the story itself, it's a Saward-esque staping-decent-bits together to form a narrative and it ends up less than the sums of its parts.

You know my copy of FOTD lacks about five minutes of the episode? Never noticed. And the new stuff didn't improve at all.

I have to say that this story is the shittiest Moffat script done for NuWho. Even The Empty Child with its myriad of flaws had a kind of concussed enthusiasm.

In Confidential, they discuss ideas, not the story. A planet sized library. Air pirahnas. Meeting your future wife. They talk about that, not the EXECUTION.

Indeed, FOTD's Confidentally is basically RTD and Steve Moffat discuss plot devices of the new series interspersed with recording stuff. He never says WHY he chose such a stupid fucking name for the Doctor's wife. Or why a library except there are books there and books are made of paper which is wood... it could have been a fucking art gallery. Now, art galleries I could find scary. Museums I could find scary.

No, as far as I can tell, Moffat divided his time between Tintin, Jekyll and this. And we saw Jekyll. We know how fucking brilliant it was. Obviously that had priority.

I like how my screams of "show your working" at Ron Mallet have become a meme of "toothbrush wielder" proportions. But then, I'm odd like that.

I love Picard's "dear god, not Ben Chatham" pic. And "River Song is a lesbian?" DUH! It's the 51st century and she openly admits to shagging androids! I'm amazed that they didn't instantly have an orgy...

Incidentally, I shall now waffle on about The Cruel Sea, a Rob Shearman comic strip that somehow managed to steal pretty much every idea I had for a 9DA. Anyway, the second half of the story has Rose put into a fantasy world where she rejected the Doctor's offer, married Mickey, had a baby, got dumped by Mickey, and worked in a corner shop. Donna is put into a fantasy world where she marries a meek, quiet man and has lovely children and everything is perfect.

...

Bah!

Now, If *I* (fuck I love those asterixes) Had Written This, I'd use Donna's crippling self esteem issues to good use. Like RD: Better Than Life, she can't have a happy ever after cause she doesn't think she deserves it, which allows her to discover the truth. Apart from everything else, I'm sorry we are supposed to expect that Donna would find a nice bloke and settle down... and leave Wilf with Sylvia? Fuck off...

Jared "No Nickname" Hansen said...

You know, I was boggling at SIL the other night

Ah, well, I didn't bother to watch it actually, so I'm probably more than a couple of steps behind you.

Incidentally, my mum did enjoy it - but then she thought we were building up to a revelation that River Song was Romana in disguise. That pissed me off even more because THAT would be good. Shithouse casting but, come on, who wouldn't like Romana to be back? My mum also found it quite scary because she's afraid of the dark, apparently. So there you go.

if everyone was downloaded into the computer, who did the Vashta Nerada eat? Because the chief librarian saw enough death to send everyone emails about it.

Erm... wow. That is a very, very good question.

And what do the Vashta Nerada live on for three hundred years without food?

Erm... hmm. Um. Er. Cannibalism?

Indeed, the final series is very much a wakeup call with plenty of sad endings that needlessly cruel bitchiness is the wrong way to go, despite the final episode being 25 minutes of, "No, mofo, it IS necessary!" discussion.

Sounds like great television. (I'm joking, of course it'd be good and it's just the way you're explaining it...)

You know my copy of FOTD lacks about five minutes of the episode? Never noticed. And the new stuff didn't improve at all.

Well, I wouldn't have any way of noticing, would I? I haven't even watched it all the way through once!

I have to say that this story is the shittiest Moffat script done for NuWho.

Well, IMHO, it's the only shitty Moffat script (Okay, you're correct that TEC has ludicrously simplified take on 1941 but, hey, it's for kids) Unfortunately coming at a really terrible time. A good wake-up call for me, though, because it made me realise that I mentally assume "Moffat's writing that episode, it's gonna kick arse", and I should have known this couldn't last forever.

In Confidential, they discuss ideas, not the story. A planet sized library. Air pirahnas. Meeting your future wife. They talk about that, not the EXECUTION.

As I say, it's all missing a vital something to tie it all together. A plot. Or a theme. One or tu'ther.

Incidentally, I shall now waffle on about The Cruel Sea, a Rob Shearman comic strip that somehow managed to steal pretty much every idea I had for a 9DA.

Sounds like he's had his revenge at last. ;)

Now, If *I* (fuck I love those asterixes) Had Written This, I'd use Donna's crippling self esteem issues to good use. Like RD: Better Than Life, she can't have a happy ever after cause she doesn't think she deserves it, which allows her to discover the truth.

... how awesome would that be?!?

Hey, what actually happened to Donna in the story? The teleport was what was being used to download people onto the computer system or something, so the Doctor fed her right in by accident or something?

Apart from everything else, I'm sorry we are supposed to expect that Donna would find a nice bloke and settle down... and leave Wilf with Sylvia? Fuck off...

If they included Wilf in any more stories they'd need to have "AND BERNARD CRIBBINS" in all the titles..

Youth of Australia said...

Ah, well, I didn't bother to watch it actually, so I'm probably more than a couple of steps behind you.
I tell you, you can spot the moments when the script says "Donna" and the script says "whichever companion"...

Incidentally, my mum did enjoy it - but then she thought we were building up to a revelation that River Song was Romana in disguise.
...as long it was a very good disguise and she didn't act like that normally...

That pissed me off even more because THAT would be good. Shithouse casting but, come on, who wouldn't like Romana to be back?
Gabriel Chase?

Seriously, getting Romana back would equal no more Sad Doctor. Which seems to be on Moffat's to-do list.

The only problem would be people expecting them to repopulate the Time Lord race... which would remind too much of Red Dwarf 7...

My mum also found it quite scary because she's afraid of the dark, apparently. So there you go.
Well. Never let her watch Sapphire and Steel, then.

Erm... wow. That is a very, very good question.
Feel free to spread it to the mindless Moffat-is-god-botherers.

Erm... hmm. Um. Er. Cannibalism?
...maybe.

Sounds like great television. (I'm joking, of course it'd be good and it's just the way you're explaining it...)
Well, a dead junkie is found in the newspaper toilet after the newspaper prints an anti-drug campaign. Bad publicity, but the editor refuses to give a shit about the corpse. Pretty much everyone says, "Fuck you then" and walks out. She then has a near death experience where the junkie haunts her, and she doesn't back down from "Old Whatisname".

Well, I wouldn't have any way of noticing, would I? I haven't even watched it all the way through once!
It was all Lux explaining the patently obvious like "computers don't dream but little girls do". Obviously my copy was edited for good taste.

Well, IMHO, it's the only shitty Moffat script (Okay, you're correct that TEC has ludicrously simplified take on 1941 but, hey, it's for kids)
I'm willing to give him a break for TEC as a) he was out of the loop and b) production was a shambles. And c) I wouldn't have been scared anyway.

But this?!

Unfortunately coming at a really terrible time. A good wake-up call for me, though, because it made me realise that I mentally assume "Moffat's writing that episode, it's gonna kick arse", and I should have known this couldn't last forever.
Well, Rob Holmes suffered similarly. Never THIS bad though. Gimme Kroll anyday.

As I say, it's all missing a vital something to tie it all together. A plot. Or a theme. One or tu'ther.
Just WHY does a computer have the ability to throw books across the room? How does that help?

Sounds like he's had his revenge at last. ;)
...yeah, guess so.

... how awesome would that be?!?
Well, Alan Stevens would rant it was unoriginal rubbish, which is always a sign of quality.

Hey, what actually happened to Donna in the story? The teleport was what was being used to download people onto the computer system or something, so the Doctor fed her right in by accident or something?
Yeah. Though this begs the question why she appears at the other end, screams then vanishes again. Logically she should never have arrived. And it's be creepier too.

If they included Wilf in any more stories they'd need to have "AND BERNARD CRIBBINS" in all the titles..
...good. He should have his face in the title sequence too. STARRING BERNARD CRIBBENS AS WILFRED "MADE OF AWESOME" MOTT.

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