I love Doctor Who, and not just Missy the trans woman. My friend is a fan of “classic” Doctor Who, not the show this century. When I asked why, he mentioned those creatures which farted all the time- the Slitheen of Raxacoricofallapatorius- which he called ridiculous. But that was 2005: have you watched it since then? The Magician’s Apprentice- [spoilers]
Consider the “hand mines”, a semantic game leading to a dark flight of fancy, and the image of hands coming up through a sea of mud, to pull a man down. The soil flubs back as if he had never been there. The hands have eyes on the palm. It is a simple, throwaway idea, beautifully executed over half a minute, shown that we see the details in turn: I understand hand-mines, even though they might do something new. They create the threat for the central encounter, between the Doctor and the “child who’s not going to die today”.
Having watched it twice, of course, I see more in it: Colony Sarff is a slave of the Daleks, so glides like a dalek; he is a colony of snakes, so the gliding is in curves not straight lines. “Your powers do not work here” says the Sister on Karn- a reference to The Brain of Morbius and the Eighth Doctor’s regeneration which this Doctor Who nerd appreciates- as his face twists and he looks worried. This is meaningless until the second viewing, after you have seen him dissolve into a myriad snakes. The snake effects look real, unlike in Kinda or Snakedance.
-How does she do that?
-Some kind of psychic projection?
-That’s a great help.
The pseudo-scientific jargon served to indicate that the Doctor knew what was going on and would deal with it, often with a machine which might emit sparks or small explosions. The threat is revealed, but the Doctor puts the invaders into a “time loop”, you know the kind of thing. In Flatline last year, the Doctor simply shouted “I’m the Doctor” at the invaders, who disappeared. Sometimes the jargon is used, and sometimes it’s laughed at. Well, I like a bit of variation.
So much invention. The planes stop in the sky: but that is Missy’s way of getting UNIT’s attention, to get help finding The Doctor, who knows he will die so throws a three week long party in the twelfth century, at one point playing a bass guitar on a tank. Some of the ideas are silly, but Doctor Who has always been silly, or playful. The ideas are knitted together, each having meaning, each having beauty or interest in its own right, around the central moral dilemma:
Davros made the Daleks, but who made Davros?
The former answer was, the thousand year war created that level of hate and fear linked to that creative will, perpetuating the hatred in a creature whose only desire is to survive. We have seen the Doctor and the child Davros together twice, and having avoided or deprecated spoilers, I had the full weight of the shock when he announces his name. I don’t expect the answer to be discussed in depth, only for one or more possible answers to be suggested. I expect to be entertained.