This week in our Doctor Who re-watch, Pete continues to be inexplicably fond of evil aliens in ‘Boom Town’, and Andy makes lots of weird facial expressions because Pete is really good at predicting things in ‘Bad Wolf.’ Changing time has serious consequences, including deadly reality shows and needlessly gendered robots.
Episode 11: Boom Town
Pete: Well, so this episode started off rather ominously, what with the slow reveal of the surviving Slitheen. Who knew local government could be so terrifying?
Andy: I like the cold open too, but it makes it difficult to enjoy the witty banter between the Doctor and his companions. We know that something is going to blow up their carefree holiday in Cardiff. I wish we got more opportunities to see these characters have fun with each other when it’s not the end of the world.
Pete: I did not have that problem, and I really liked learning about the history of police boxes. They seem so useful! Why don’t those exist anymore?
Andy: Because of police cars? And cell phones? And possibly the Geneva Convention?
Pete: All fair points. At least this finally explains why the hell the Tardis looks like that. It’s aesthetic. He’s so proud that it’s broken and that he likes it! The Doctor has some adorably weird tastes.
Andy: The combination of whimsy and pigheaded stubbornness is indeed one of his most endearing qualities.
Less endearing, perhaps, is the exploration of some of the Doctor’s flaws in this episode. I don’t know if it is fair to blame him for Margaret’s escape from Downing Street back in ‘World War Three’ but, well, it sure is lucky that he showed up now! Once they captured Margaret, she forced him to face the fact that he was taking her to her execution. Now obviously, this was an attempt to emotionally manipulate him, but even the Doctor recognizes that this is a cold thing to do. (Which does not make it wrong, mind you.)
Pete: I couldn’t help but feel sympathy for this Slitheen. Don’t get me wrong, she’s a monster and I would still deliver her ass to her home planet for summary execution, but…I would feel a little bad about it. Of course I didn’t believe any of her stories designed to inspire sympathy, but I wanted to believe them. I’m squarely in the “Nurture” camp in the Nature vs Nurture debate, and that of course being raised in basically a galactic crime family would have an enormous impact on who you become later in life. I can’t help but hope that she will change given this second chance. The Doctor’s right: with a new family, one that doesn’t suck, maybe she can make a better life this time around.
Andy: Without revealing anything from the Doctor’s past, his empathy with Margaret in their conversation makes it clear that he’s done some bad things too. Yet while he feels for her, it doesn’t shake his resolve that she should be brought to justice.
Pete: It’s not so much that I think the Doctor has done bad things (although I do think that) but that he’s changed time so often that he’s seen first hand how different things can be with only the slightest change in variables. And that’s not too mention his overall sympathetic nature! The being that committed those crimes is no more. This being is innocent until such a time as it commits new crimes.
How Margaret got her second chance was important, too, because we got a glimpse of inside the Tardis and learned that it’s a-fucking-live. I’m also now thinking that it’s sentient, but that remains to be seen. So I guess it isn’t the Doctor who is bad at steering, but the Tardis itself? I’m starting to believe that it doesn’t bring you where you want to go, it takes you where you need to be — like Avalon from Gargoyles! It knows where to find trouble, and it loves trouble.
Anyway, Rose and Mickey finally talk about their relationship, and boy was this conversation long in coming.
Pete: It should have been a longer conversation but I’ll take what I can get.
Andy: It was an uncomfortable conversation, especially because frankly Rose needles Mickey about moving on in her absence, which is really unfair. (Remember last episode when the psychic paper told Jack she considered herself to be footloose and available?) I don’t like Mickey’s attitude towards Rose’s adventures either, but I understand more of where he’s coming from. He’s trying (poorly) to set boundaries with Rose, and talking constantly about how her traveling with the Doctor hurts him.
Pete: Well that’s the thing. As we previously discussed, I super don’t blame Rose for leaving Mickey behind. Mickey and London vs the Doctor and all of space/time: sorry bubb! But with her ability to call and come back occasionally (it’s a time machine!) it isn’t the traveling keeping them apart, it’s how Rose feels. She doesn’t feel the same way about him, and she does have feelings for the Doctor. She knows it, Mickey knows it, I think the Doctor might even be keen to it by now. But she doesn’t seem to want to admit this to Mickey. She doesn’t want to hurt him is really what it boils down to. She’s just too darn nice to break his heart.
Episode 12: Bad Wolf
Pete: So this two part finale starts with…a reality show? That was…not what I expected. But I would be lying if I said I wasn’t morbidly fascinated by this. How funny and fucked up would a dating show be if the losing contestants got vaporized?
Andy: The sad part is that it’s almost too easy to imagine this actually happening in real life, which is definitely a sign of the decline of the human race. This episode actually predates ‘The Hunger Games’ which means that more than one person had the idea that murder makes an awesome TV show. And yet somehow, two hundred thousand years in the future, people are still watching 21st century reality shows. Maybe it was just a ploy to get Captain Jack Harkness naked.
Pete: I am Jack’s Tardis key. I am proof of Jack’s superiority over doofy science guys.
I love how Jack is ready for shit to go down at all times. See: ass pistol. That is a hell of a backup plan.
Andy: Let’s also not neglect the needlessly gendered robots. Not only do they have boobs, but they are super hilarious boobs.
Pete: Here’s how I’m imagining that conversation went down:
“But how will people know these are robots are female?”
“Maybe we should give them boobs?”
“Good idea, why don’t you just suction cup these to the chest plate.”
::hands over a bag of apples::
Andy: We’re totally avoiding the fact that some super serious stuff happened in this episode.
Pete: Yes. Super serious. Like finding out hey remember when you destroyed the news that was controlling the planet and then left humanity to fend for themselves? YOU DID NOT FIX IT DOCTOR.
Pete: I KNEW something like this would happen! (Not that I’m exactly patting myself on the back for predicting this horror, but you know.) Of course Time does not just fix itself! When things go off track, fixing the track does not retroactively put the train back on the straight and narrow! The Doctor should have known that.
It’s possible I don’t understand what the name Time Lord really means, but you’d think it would imply a certain level of familiarity with ripple effects.
Andy: The thing is, I would never expect time to magically “fix” itself. Anytime you mess with the “natural” course of events (whatever that even means) you run the risk of altering the future. The Doctor couldn’t repair the damage done by Satellite 5 without risking some sort of paradox. By the same logic, it also makes sense that he wouldn’t want to continue to interfere at the risk of compounding the damage. He doesn’t belong there, and he has outside knowledge that would influence his actions. The safest thing to do is to leave and let the people find their new normal.
Except that it led to this, so you know, hindsight is 20/20.
Pete: The “Bad Wolf” supercut totally blew my mind. I love that this idea was seeded so early! It was so subtle, I only noticed one of them during my actual watch, and I didn’t even register it. It was just some unsuspecting graffiti, minding its own business. I still have no idea what it means but it would seem someone or something is also leapfrogging through time with the The Doctor and Rose, only instead of helping people they put them in homicidal game shows and appear to be fond of undomesticated canines. And vaporizing Rose.
But I have to admit that I wasn’t remotely convinced that Rose had actually died. When your show only has two main cast members, you can’t just kill one of them off in the first season! So I had built in denial and I was 99% positive that Rose was alive. And then there she was…
…on board a DALEK SHIP.
They seem far more threatening in large numbers than little ole Cornelius did on his own!
Andy: You are regretting asking to take him home with you, aren’t you?
Pete: The Doctor’s angry face is back. And this time I am strangely comfortable with that.
Question of the Week: There has got to be a better place for time traveling space con men to hide their blasters. Help us out, readers.
Images courtesy of BBC.