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So close, and yet so far. Given Steven Moffatt's pedigree, it wasn't hard to predict that at some point he'd succumb to the lure of a non-linear time travel plot. Given his pedigree, it should have been wonderful. Given the toys he gave himself to work with--clockwork robots, a time-traveler's courtesan who is destined to be Seria Mau--it should have been spectacular. And yet ...

The good: the vertiginous "3000 years later", and the fact they were two-and-a-half galaxies away from Earth. "What's pre-revolutionary France doing on a spaceship? Have some perspective, Mickey", and "Didn't want to say 'magic door'" and a lot of the rest of the dialogue. The pacing, which managed to make the Doctor/Reinette relationship believeable in a single episode. The aforementioned clockwork robots and the cyborg spaceship. Leaving space in the script to show us Rose's reactions to what the Doctor was doing.

The bad: the direction. The music. the logic. Or rather, the lack thereof, particularly at the end of the episode. The last five minutes or so are a triumph of convenience and character over the integrity of the story, and what makes it worse is that from the second the Doctor's horse crashes through that mirror you know exactly what's going to happen. You know that there'll be a touching scene between the two of them in which the Doctor explains he is resigned to his fate, you know he'll end up going back through the fireplace, and you know the fireplace will conveniently skip forward more years than it has in a comparable time for the rest of the episode, just to lay the tragedy on a bit thicker. (While I'm at it: of all the portals on the ship, the fireplace is the one which they shouldn't have been able to have conversations across.) And once you're snapped out of the moment, you start to notice the ways in which the episode draws attention to the problems with the way Doctor Who handles time travel. To be blunt: he has a time machine, and the hand-waving is not convincing enough to justify its non-use. (I was also hoping he'd make more use of the fact that Reinette was able to go through the portals to the future, but alas.)

The verdict: frustrating, because this time the problems are not conceptual, they're in the execution. Moffatt is probably still the most interesting writer the show has, but this just felt like it needed another draft.

Next week: zeppelins. I would say that there's no way this can suck, but I said that about a spaceship crashing into Big Ben last year, and look what happened.

All the other posts ever:
palatinate here.
iainjclark here.
nwhyte here.
apotropaism here.
communicator here.
surliminal here.
blackbeltbarbie here.
andrewducker here.
ang_grrr here.
pikelet here.
wg here.

(And people wonder why I'm still watching.)

EDIT: O anonymous adder of tags: "flocking"?
Why are you still watching?
Because everyone else is, and I'm a sheep. And because of the occasional flashes of potential.
Once upon a time, when I was young, Dr Who ran stories in 4-part (or even the occasional 6-part?) series. Those stories were, IIRC, far less complex than the recent ones. So why can't a story like this one be expanded to allow its potential to be proplerly explored?
ps please dont tell anyone I commented on TV skiffy, I once had a reputation, you know...
I agree with you, and you know how the rest of the quote goes.

(Is that an M John Harrison reference up there?)
I agree with you, and you know how the rest of the quote goes.

But it's better than agreeing with Dan, right?

(Is that an M John Harrison reference up there?)

Yep. (And the fact that I had that story in the back of my head as soon as I realised they were planning to plug in her brain probably made the episode more effective.)
I forgive this episode a lot, the music (which I found a constant bugbear in season one) was not an issue. The direction was nothing like as good as episode two (which looked fantastic!) but if you don't buy the not using the TARDIS to solve the problem by time travel conceit you may be a little stuck giving Dr Who the loving some of the rest of us have.
Still, you've never seen Ghost Light (which this episode reminded me of), have you?

Still waiting for a Dr Who episode as polished and confident as anything that Life On Mars had earlier in the year.
but if you don't buy the not using the TARDIS to solve the problem by time travel conceit you may be a little stuck giving Dr Who the loving some of the rest of us have.

To be clear about this: if it's just a background assumption that the TARDIS doesn't get used, then that's fine. And if the story that could be solved by the TARDIS is compelling enough in its own right, that's also fine. The problem comes in when the story doesn't quite hang together and in doing so draws attention to the fact that use of the TARDIS could basically solve everything.

And no, not seen Ghost Light.

Still waiting for a Dr Who episode as polished and confident as anything that Life On Mars had earlier in the year.

I suspect you may be waiting for a while...
Fantastic. The first thing I said to surliminal, when I sat down to watch it for the second time (and her 1.5th time) was "I really like the music in this one."

Which, I think, just goes to show.
I didn't hate the music later in the episode, but the plinky-plonky nonsense we got for the first twenty-five minutes really grated.

Flocking. Is it that hard to grasp?
I just automatically parse it as to do with Games Workshop.
and you know the fireplace will conveniently skip forward more years than it has in a comparable time for the rest of the episode, just to lay the tragedy on a bit thicker.

I suspect I'm the only one, but I got totally caught up in the moment and forgot about the time dilation (for want of a better word).
Not really. He left her when she was 7 and came back when she was 23. That last jump was only 5 years.
I agree with you. The End.
OK, time for a rant...I'm officially Not Happy with this series of Who, and am pretty much with Niall here on the reasons why. They seem to have taken it that their duty is to provide "big pictures" (RTD's term) in each episode: the massed blood zombies on the roof, the werewolf against the moon, the Doctor on the horse. Everything else is subordinate to providing those big pictures, so that even a writer like Moffatt, who's clearly interested in doing ambitious things with structure, has to bodge around with plot in order to get the resolution that we can all see is coming.

I'm not sure if the problem with Tennant's character is in the writing, the direction, or the acting, but it's clearly there. The Doctor is no longer a character, he's a series of push-buttons for the writers marked "flippant and energetic", "a bit eccentric and difficult to keep up with", "deadly serious", and (newly installed this season) "passionate". Only one button can be pushed at a time, and it helps that they have an actor with the technical facility to do each of these. But that's what Tennant's performance feels like - an exercise in acting rather than a continuous character.

Maybe my worry with this season is because I don't yet have the feeling that it's engaged emotionally with the deeper things going on in the story, or even that there are deeper things. Season 1 did this as early as "The End of the World", and then continued with "Dalek", "Father's Day", "Empty Child" and the finale. There's been nothing apart from the Sarah Jane stuff, which felt *insanely* rushed ("Hey guys, let's try to get the emotional impact of _The Winter's Tale_ in 45 mins, but we gotta fit Evil Giles in at the same time.") I have moderately high hopes for the Cyberman two-parter, but then I felt the same about "Attack of the Cybermen".
'End of the World' had the Doctor being all 'I'M ALONE AND NEED A FRIEND AND IF I GIVE YOU CHIPS WILL YOU BE MY FRIEND NOW YOU'VE SEEN MY PAIN AND WITNESSED THE END OF YOUR OWN WORLD PLEASE DID I SAY THERE WOULD BE CHIPS?'. I admit, I find the notion of a Doctor so intensely psychologically damaged he can only relate to people by making them see the end of the world rather intriguing. But this isn't really emotional engagement, this is just setting up your main character.

The rest of season 1 had bum character interaction. 'I wouldn't have missed it for the world!' says Rose in episode six, after she's been to all of no different planets and two different times. 'You lurve her,' grates a Dalek in the same episode, after the Doctor's been in none of Rose's pants.

'I could save the world and lose you!' gurns the Doctor who, by episode five, is apparently willing to avoid risking Rose's life in order to, erm, risk Rose's life.

'I wield the glowing farty stuff, and I magic you away,' breathes Rose to Daleks and Doctors. 'You don't need to earn your ending,' she dreamily sighs, 'you just need to get out of the hole you've had written for you.'

'Engaged emotionally' my arse. Not a single Rose/Doctor moment in season one, not one is earned, until Captain Jack turns up. Until then, it's melodrama that a sixteen year-old would cringe at writing.

We're meant to believe that these two like each other so much because we're told they like each other so much. That horrible little exchange between Tennant and Piper at the start of 'New Earth' is season one's character interaction in a nutshell.

Now, however, we have 'School Reunion' (which, you're right, was incredibly rushed) and TGitF (which really looks like it stands for 'The Gitface' - in fact, that's how this episode shall be known from now on).

'School Reunion' introduces Rose to the notion that she's not unique. And she's jealous, and the jealousy thing is actually one of the better-written things about the episode. By the end of it, she's accepting of Sarah Jane.

Then we have 'The Gitface'. Rose can't understand how the Queen and Reinette can get along with each other, when the Doctor's explaining their relationship. But later, when she has to explain to Reinette what will happen when she reaches 37, Rose is very much playing the part of the Queen. She accepts Reinette, she never questions Reinette's feelings, never confronts the Doctor about the emotions the two share, and she's never been quite so much a grown-up. Rose has a relationship with the Doctor that Reinette could never have ('no intention of setting foot', etc), and Reinette has a relationship with the Doctor that Rose can understand and accept, if not quite relish.

Rose in 'The Gitface' is a character who has clearly grown from the immediately previous episode. And it's never made explicit, it's just all there for the reading when you stop and think about it and look at how she's behaving. That, my friend, is emotional engagement, and episodes three and four of this season have done more of it than season one taken as a whole.
Sadly I fear this thread is crossing the line between (rightly) having high standards and expectations, and having such unreasonable expectations of perfection that we're never going to be happy.

On the one hand, that's a credit to the series that we believe in its potential enough to care. On the other hand it reminds me of some conventions where no matter how hard the committee work, someone will always find something to complain about.

Peronsally I'm going to concentrate on being really, really happy that DW is as good as it is. Perhaps that's made easier for me because I've always been quite good at just enjoying the ride when I watch film and TV shows - that doesn't mean I won't highlight real problems, but I'll try to go with it if I can...

I was just thinking the same thing. Considering most people really enjoyed this episode with a few reservations, I think the wood is being lost for the trees.
I posted my brief comments this morning.