Doctor Who Season 5–the Facebook Marathon: Part 10

The adventure concludes!

March 12, 2011, 2.21 pm. It’s been one evening and one morning of ploughing through season 5 of Doctor Who, with a night’s sleep halfway through. Thinking about it, if I’d planned it better I could have started the previous morning and finished the same day. But no, it was all very impromptu, and I might have given up before this if not for the remote participation, via Facebook, of friends of mine from Arizona to Ireland, from Australia to Wales, from Banbury to… well, you get the idea.

NB – as before, if your name or image is on these screenshots and you’d rather it wasn’t, PM me on Facebook and I’ll edit the image. Thanks!

It’s the end – has the moment been prepared for? Find out as we rejoin Mr Moffat and his creations for one last dance:

Season 5, Episode 12: The Pandorica Opens

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A precredits sequence gathers together most of the guest cast we’ve seen this year to send an impossibly convoluted message to the Doctor:

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River’s back too, but as more than a cameo. Dealing with the conniving Dorium Maldovar (the excellent Simon Fisher-Becker), she employs a plan she must have learned by being a film buff:

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The message having led the Doctor, Amy and River to Roman occupied Britain, they start poking about under Stonehenge. At which point they encounter an amazingly tenacious ‘dead’ Cyberman:

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River is elucidating on the legendary being imprisoned within the Hellraiser-style Pandorica. Something about this seems a little obvious:

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Outside, aliens of all kinds are converging on Stonehenge, seemingly intent on gaining the legendary Pandorica. Sadly, more are mentioned than are seen, but Dan has an interesting casting idea:

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(Would she be a Drahvin or a Zygon?)

There’s a dodgy looking Roman soldier hanging around. But for some reason, the director won’t let us see his face:

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Having not quite reattached its head, the knackered Cyberman is still gamely trying to convert Amy:

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But – just in time – she’s saved! But… by who?

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River has been dispatched to the present day, to search Amy’s bedroom for clues. At least that’s what the Doctor told her.

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Having failed to find anything of interest in Amy’s bedroom (unlike my friends), River has got back in the TARDIS. Which promptly explodes. Followed, not too long after, by what appears to be the rest of the universe. Whoops.

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And it IS a great cliffhanger. The problem being that in future seasons, it’s impossible to top the destruction of the entire universe, and modern Who just has to keep trying to outdo itself each successive year.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Speaking of which, it’s the timey wimey conclusion:

Season 5, Episode 13: The Big Bang

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Despite the universe going phoom, Earth is still there, and we’re back to Amy’s childhood. But things aren’t the same:

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The Doctor faces up to plastic Rory as he patronisingly explains that there’s a bigger picture, receiving a thump for his pains. Brett and I approve:

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Back (or is it forward?) in the 21st century, Amy has just let Amy out of the Pandorica using a sonic screwdriver that only exists in a time paradox? Confused? So was I, but not by that:

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With the last remnants of the universe about to collapse, the Doctor comes up with  perhaps the most obvious solution ever:

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By an even more convoluted twisty turny plot, the Doctor died along with the universe, but Amy brought him back. Giving Moffat the ultimate licence that John Nathan-Turner could only have dreamed of:

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Making a triumphant reappearance at Amy and Rory’s wedding, the Doctor wastes no time in kidnapping the happy couple for a trip in the TARDIS. But where to go for a honeymoon? The Doctor has an idea, but unfortunately we’ll never see it:

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When my head stops reeling and I apply a bit of analysis, it’s time for the verdict on the finale:

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And finally, on the whole of season 5. That provoked a bit of discussion:

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And so it ended. A day and a half (ish) of me in a house by myself doing a sort of online live feed from a solo Doctor Who marathon. Unusual, but it felt social – Facebook gets (rightly) criticised for a lot of things, but it’s kept me in instant touch with friends from far away in a way that would never have been possible previously. For that, I have to thank it – and all the friends who put up with/joined in my strange exploit. I’ll give the last word to me of last year. And some of my friends:

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Until the next time…

Doctor Who Season 5–the Facebook Marathon: Part 9

The adventure continues.

March 12, 2011, 1.31 pm. After the undoubted beauty of Vincent and the Doctor, it’s time for another self-contained standalone episode. But this one is quite different in tone…

NB – as before, if your name or image is on these screenshots and you’d rather it wasn’t, PM me on Facebook and I’ll edit the image. Thanks!

We’ve had sci fi, we’ve had horror, we’ve had heartbreaking emotional drama. Now it’s time for something rather different, courtesy of writer Gareth Roberts – sitcom!

Season 5, Episode 11: The Lodger

Starting this episode involves inserting the next disc of the box set. I now know exactly how long this takes.

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Steaming mug of tea in hand, I settle down to watch the Doctor arrive somewhere surprisingly average, and reveal an unexpected knowledge of stationery supplies:

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Across town, beaten down everybloke Craig (James Corden playing it straight for once) is pining after his best friend. She, typically, doesn’t know anything of this:

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Stranded and unable to find the TARDIS, the Doctor decides to move into Craig’s spare room. Thus ensues a scene establishing Smith and Corden as a comedy double act to watch out for, including what must be an intentionally risque reference to a senior clergyman:

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I was quite enthusiastic about the comedy, but others saw it differently. And to be fair, I know Corden gets a fair bit of stick too:

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Never one to pass up an opportunity to lust after a scantily clad young man, I was happy to see the Doctor’s shower scene. Happier than I would have been if he’d still been William Hartnell anyway:

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At which point Steve directed me to a picture he’d found, much to several people’s delight:

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Much to Craig’s alarm, the Doctor decides to help out on his pub football team, showing the level of football knowledge achieved by most Who fans:

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For my part, I’ve found my attention drawn to part of Craig’s decor – intentionally on the director’s part, it seems:

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(Corden did return as Craig, but nothing ever came of the mysteriously prominent picture. Or the duck pond. Yet)

The Doctor discovers that the top floor of Craig’s house is actually a spacecraft that looks oddly familiar:

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(Yes, the spacecraft control room was featured in season 6, as the buried Silence ship in Day of the Moon. Significant, or just a cheap reuse of an existing set?)

And the verdict:

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Yes, the end draws near! Two more episodes, one more story, with Mr Moffat back on writing duties for the first time since episode 5. Coming up in a moment…

Doctor Who Season 5–the Facebook Marathon: Part 8

The adventure continues.

March 12, 2011, 12.38 pm. After cleaning my brain from the previous story, it’s a relief to have another self-contained, non-epic, intimate story about people. And strange invisible beasties.

NB – as before, if your name or image is on these screenshots and you’d rather it wasn’t, PM me on Facebook and I’ll edit the image. Thanks!

Having tried one guest writer, it’s time for Moffat to wheel out the big guns. Step forward, writer of the excellent Blackadder and romcoms that I can’t stand – it’s Richard Curtis with:

Season 5, Episode 10: Vincent and the Doctor

Taking Amy’s mind off Rory’s recent death (which she doesn’t remember anyway), the Doctor takes her to a Van Gogh exhibition, giving him the chance to wax lyrical in the established new series style about how bloomin’ marvellous a historical figure is. Backing him up is a surprise cameo from a beloved Brit actor whose own name was linked to the role of the Doctor a few times:

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The Doctor has spotted something ‘evil’ in a Van Gogh painting, so it’s off to 1890 Provence for a word with the man himself. They find him getting drunk in a French cafe with some rather odd accents:

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Van Gogh is being played (quite brilliantly) by well-known Scot Tony Curran. I cast my mind back to my earliest acquaintance with his work:

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Our heroes track down the mysterious alien, only to discover it’s a wounded creature that doesn’t mean any harm. Ben spots the hammer-subtle parallel with Van Gogh himself:

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Meanwhile, I’m luxuriating in the director’s skill with a camera:

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Amy and the Doctor try to see the sky through the Doctor’s eyes, resulting in a magical cross fade into one of the man’s best known paintings – the one Don McLean kept going on about:

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Having dealt with the alien, the Doctor tries (unwisely, as it turns out) to deal with Van Gogh’s depression. This is achieved via a trip to the future, where the tortured artist can listen to Bill Nighy unwittingly describe his genius while a mopey Athlete song plays in the background:

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Still, despite the transparent emotional manipulation, I still really enjoy the story. To judge by comments throughout, I’m not the only one:

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An atypical story then, but a hugely rewarding one, Curtis’ sensitive writing ably assisted by Curran’s excellent performance. I’m forced to agree with Stuart’s comment from a few episodes ago – the hit rate in this second half of the season is much more consistent!

Doctor Who Season 5–the Facebook Marathon: Part 7

The adventure continues.

March 12, 2011, 10.56 am. Amy’s Choice was as enjoyable as the first time, but now it was time to face up to my bete noire of Who writers – Chris Chibnall. Thankfully, my Facebook friends were becoming more numerous in their comments to help me through it. And as before, I’m counting this two-parter as one story, so I’ll cover both episodes here…

NB – as before, if your name or image is on these screenshots and you’d rather it wasn’t, PM me on Facebook and I’ll edit the image. Thanks!

Oh, the dilemma – one of my favourite ‘aliens’ done by my least favourite writer. Can Malcolm Hulke’s legacy survive Chris Chibnall as we delve into:

Season 5, Episode 8: The Hungry Earth

Watching this episode involves slipping the next disc of the box set into the PS3 and waiting for the menu to pop up. This takes some time.

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We’re back on contemporary Earth, in a setting any Jon Pertwee fan will instantly recognise – the standard Big Scientific Project as visited in almost every story of his first season. However, the rather limited budget for sets immediately makes this look a bit more low-rent:

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Informed of her location, Amy tries out her keen observational skills:

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The casting of comedienne Meera Syal as the project’s director raises a few eyebrows, but the celebrity guest Who of the 80s had its odd moments too:

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By this point I’ve noticed that the village where the project is located seems curiously underpopulated. My Irish and Welsh friends hasten to inform me that this is entirely accurate:

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And since we’re in Wales, not even advanced technology can keep the weather out:

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A Silurian appears (well, whatever they’re called now, anyway). She has some pretty cool make up, but I miss the quivering rubber of the Pertwee years:

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The Doctor makes a stab at telling the Silurian when she’s from. And gets it wrong, like every other time they’ve appeared:

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With this two-parter, I was pleasantly surprised enough by rewatching part one to offer a verdict on ‘the story so far’:

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But like football, it’s a game of two halves, Brian. And the second half would make me wish that Malcolm Hulke was till around to substitute for Mr Chibnall:

 

Season 5, Episode 9: Cold Blood

The second part reveals another Silurian warrior. She looks identical to the first one apart from some red patches on her scales. This raises an interesting question:

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Channelling Jon Pertwee in the first Silurian story (as does most of the script), Chibnall gets the Doctor to moralise a bit:

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Meanwhile, the scary Silurian scientist has been revealed to be a nice bloke after all. So we’re supposed to just forget that he dissected that first guy while he was conscious:

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The Silurian warriors are now itching for a fight with the ‘apes’, and it’s all a bit one-sided:

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Peace having proved elusive, the Doctor places the burden of both species’ future co-existence onto one little boy (despite UNIT and therefore the UN being well aware of the Silurians). His advice, while well-meaning, doesn’t seem to have been thought through:

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The wise old Silurian leader decides to go to sleep for another thousand years, reckoning humanity will be mature enough to deal with the situation then. But there’s something rather significant the Doctor isn’t telling him:

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But Restac is vengeful, and shoots Rory, who promptly tumbles into Amy’s crack and dies. Again. This causes heartache and confusion:

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Having run out of story, Chibnall blows up the project:

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Leaving us free to cogitate on the quality (or lack thereof) of the story, and indeed of the season so far:

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So, no consensus as to how good/bad the season is (though everyone seems on board with this particular story being rubbish). But thankfully, a civilised level of debate rather than the insane vitriol and mud slinging of most online Doctor Who forums!

Doctor Who Season 5–the Facebook Marathon: Part 6

The adventure continues.

March 12, 2011, 9.56 am. Having tired myself out with incessant Doctor Who and a lot of gin, I’d gone to bed after The Vampires of Venice, but woke up fresh the next day to continue the marathon in the morning. Now I think on it, I’d done a mid-season break before Steven Moffat had! Thankfully, many of the usual suspects were still online to keep the chat going…

NB – as before, if your name or image is on these screenshots and you’d rather it wasn’t, PM me on Facebook and I’ll edit the image. Thanks!

Next up, the first iteration of one of Steven Moffat’s better ideas – getting established, big-name authors new to the show itself to write Who. First out of the gate was Men Behaving Badly scribe Simon Nye, giving us a most atypical episode that was one of the wittiest – and most meta – of the season:

Season 5, Episode 7: Amy’s Choice

I got up, yawned, stretched and had a cup of tea (9.56 am being a little early for gin):

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Somehow, Amy and Rory are back in Leadworth village, and the Doctor’s popped in for a visit. It makes a nice change after Russell’s era for the Earth people not to live in a grimy London housing estate:

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The Doctor’s having trouble with the TARDIS, but he’s ‘misplaced’ the Haynes manual:

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Surprisingly to everyone, the impish Toby Jones pops up wearing a suspiciously familiar costume. His first act is to utterly demolish the tropes that make up the Doctor’s character:

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Trapped in what might (or might not) be a fake reality, the Doctor and co are chased by a marauding army of the elderly, angrier even than when George Osborne froze their pension increases:

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The script continues to play with and subvert the tropes of the show in both ‘realities’:

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And then, shockingly, the first appearance of a new trope that would become all too familiar over the next couple of years. The bemulleted Rory is unexpectedly turned to dust, disintegrating in Amy’s arms, the first of many, many deaths:

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By the end of the episode, it’s become clear that neither ‘reality’ was real, and neither was the Dream Lord. I remembered having heard gripes about the mechanism that allowed all this to happen, when the method was so much less important than the psychological exploration it caused:

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And the conclusion:

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Yes, the intervening hours of sleep had at this point lessened the number of friends chiming in on the comments. But like sand people, they’d soon be back, and in greater numbers…

Doctor Who Season 5–the Facebook Marathon: Part 4

The adventure continues.

March 11, 2011, 9.06 pm. With friends from various corners of the globe now chiming in on the Facebook discussion, it’s time to embark on the first two parter of Doctor Who season 5 in my marathon viewing. For the purposes of these posts, a two parter counts as one story, so both episodes are covered here.

NB – as before, if your name or image is on these screenshots and you’d rather it wasn’t, PM me on Facebook and I’ll edit the image. Thanks!

After only one episode away, that man Moffat is back, and he’s brought his most popular baddies with him…

Season 5, Episode 4: The Time of Angels

Somehow, my Facebook typing remains mostly accurate despite my increasing consumption of that most British of beverages, gin and tonic:

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River Song is back, and she’s trying to escape from a futuristic prison that looks suspiciously like a maintenance tunnel in Cardiff. But I’m more preoccupied with the oddly familiar young man she’s entrancing with her hypno-lipstick:

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At this point, I hadn’t become as jaded with River’s constant reappearances as I was later to become. This leads me to question the bleeding obvious:

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At this point, some ire is directed toward the then-new showrunner:

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The dialogue is channelling Frankie Howerd:

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As an Angel looms out of a TV monitor to reach for Amy, Steve sees it differently:

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As ever, I’ve discovered that one of the cast is quite an attractive young man; thankfully this trope hasn’t ended with the departure of Russell T Davies:

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As this is the second time I’ve seen it (the broadcast being the first), hindsight enables me to pick out some inconsistencies that I missed the first time:

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Ever the Robert Holmes wannabe, Moffat is ratcheting up the terror:

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The first episode reaches an exciting climax, but I’ve noticed something different from the original transmission:

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After a fag (no, a cigarette, not the other kind), it’s straight back for part 2:

Season 5, Episode 5: Flesh and Stone

Even more than the first part, Mr Moffat is letting his influences show:

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Like Tom Baker, Matt Smith has an excellent habit of counterpointing the scary bits with humour that doesn’t undermine them:

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The Doctor tricks the Angels into revealing their difference from the Spanish Inquisition:

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Being a little tipsy now, I decide to ruminate on the ongoing plot arc by quoting Leonard Cohen. Amy (not that one) chimes in:

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Contradicting what we’d previously been told, the Angels can be fooled into freezing by making them think you can see them. I may be tipsy, but my fanboy nitpicking head is still functioning perfectly. Steve comes up with the only possible explanation:

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As the terrifying set piece of Amy picking her way, blinded, through the artificial forest unfolds, I’m more preoccupied with her shoes:

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The Angels are defeated by hurling them into Amy’s crack, erasing them from ever having existed. Not for the last time, my nitpicking power enables me to spot that Mr Moffat’s timey-wimey narratives don’t always add up:

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With the excitement over, it’s time to (re)assess the story as a whole:

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So, opinion was more divided on this one, and even I had to concede it wasn’t as good as I said in my initial review. If you’re a regular reader of the blog, it’s worth noting that I write my reviews as soon as possible after watching, to capture the impressions I have at that precise moment. It’s actually not that unusual for me to become more critical of a story after I’ve given it glowing praise, it’s a habit I’m trying to combat!

Doctor Who Season 5–the Facebook Marathon: Part 3

The adventure continues.

March 11, 2011, 8.18 pm. Some gin has been consumed. With some trepidation based on my memory of it, I cue up the next episode of Doctor Who season 5, and the Facebook discussions commence…

NB – as before, if your name or image is on these screenshots and you’d rather it wasn’t, PM me on Facebook and I’ll edit the image. Thanks!

It’s a trip back to World War 2 and a meeting with some old foes behaving rather oddly in:

Season 5, Episode 3: Victory of the Daleks

As I start, I try to reassure myself. My friends are not convinced:

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Remember, I’m watching this before season 6 has been on, and as yet there are only rumours of the episode that will be known as Let’s Kill Hitler… Steve, though, has harsh words for Mr Eccleston:

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Transported up to the rather spartan-looking Dalek spaceship, the Doctor attempts to trick the metal meanies with a biscuit-based ploy. I’m impressed, but my friends are sceptical:

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The Daleks reveal that they’re trying to activate something called the ‘Progenitor’, but it won’t obey their commands as it doesn’t recognise their DNA as ‘pure’ enough:

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Unfortunately for fans everywhere, the Dalek plan succeeds and a bloated, multi-coloured version of the Daleks arrives in the warehouse spaceship. Somewhat unexpectedly, this results in a discussion of British politics:

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The new Dalek paradigm…

With the new Daleks having cost the BBC so much money and all, the old ones rather uncharacteristically (but conveniently) recognise their ‘inferiority’ and allow themselves to be exterminated:

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Using an adaptation of Dalek technology better described as ‘magic’, Winston Churchill sends the pride of the RAF out into space:

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The Daleks are (sort of) defeated. In the sense that they don’t destroy Earth, but get away to cause more mischief in future, thus justifying the expense of those shiny new props. With the story over, it’s time for the verdict. This one provoked a LOT of discussion:

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It’s typical (and actually more interesting) that the worse a Who story is, the more discussion it provokes. There was to be more of this to come, as the marathon continued…

Doctor Who Season 5–the Facebook Marathon: Part 2

The adventure continues.

It’s the evening of March 11, 2011, and I’m at home alone, staving off boredom by watching all of Doctor Who season 5 with the aid of gin and tonic. As I continue to post about it on Facebook, more and more friends are becoming aware of what’s happening…

NB – as before, if your name or image is on these screenshots and you’d rather it wasn’t, PM me on Facebook and I’ll edit the image. Thanks!

And now, onwards with:

Season 5, Episode 2: The Beast Below

As the story begins, the Doctor and Amy find themselves on a vast, mysterious spaceship. When are they?

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Steven Moffat’s script introduces a less than subtle note of political satire:

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The Queen pops up. With a bloody big gun.

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(No idea why I singled out Charles II. He did have good parties though.)

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Unlike the first time, I’m rather enjoying the episode, so no more comments until the final verdict:

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A shorter post than the last, but as you can imagine, the next episode prompted a LOT more debate…

Doctor Who Season 5–the Facebook Marathon: Part 1

On March 11 and 12 of 2011, alone at home and bored for the weekend, I chose to entertain myself with a marathon watch of Doctor Who season 5, the first with Matt Smith. As I went along, I was posting on Facebook about it every few minutes, and friends of mine from literally all over the planet chimed in with comments. It made a solitary experience into a fun, virtual social one, and was hugely entertaining.

Afterwards, I had the idea of using the posts and comments in a blog series. I mentioned it on Facebook, people seemed to think it was a good idea, then I completely forgot about it. Time passed, the computer the screenshots were saved on died, and the idea seemed to fade into the ether. Until now. I found a backup of all my old files, including the screenshots, and the idea was resurrected.

There’s so many that it’s easier to do episode by episode than one huge enormous post covering the whole season, so this is a trial run using just The Eleventh Hour. I’ve also found that images on this blog behave rather oddly, not always retaining their proper aspect ratio when published. If that happens, I’ll try to edit it in a way that stops it.

NB – At the time, I canvassed as to whether the friends who commented would prefer their names to be blurred out or redacted – those who expressed an opinion didn’t seem to mind either way. BUT, if your name is shown here and you’d rather it wasn’t, message me on Facebook and I’ll edit it out.

For now though, let’s begin with…

Season 5, Episode 1: The Eleventh Hour

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NB – I still haven’t tried it…

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A quietish start; later the debates became more lively as more friends realised what I was doing and chimed in with comments. If this works OK, I’ll  post more – one for each story – two parters counting as one story. Next one may be up sooner than you think…

The Spoiler Statute of Limitations

N.B. – Despite the subject matter of this piece, I’ve worked hard to ensure that it actually contains no spoilers!

SpoilersAhead

Spoilers! Don’t you just hate ‘em! Steven Moffat certainly does, as he repeatedly gets River Song to tell us in Doctor Who. It’s undoubtedly annoying, when you’re following a TV show, to be made prematurely aware of some vast, game-changing plot point that the creators had intended to come as a gobsmacking surprise. But recent developments in how we watch things have given rise to a new problem, and a new question – just how long should we wait before openly discussing (on the internet or in the pub or wherever) some major plot twist?

This came to my attention recently, when a frustrated Facebook friend in the US complained of his friends in the UK discussing openly on the site a major plot twist in that night’s Doctor Who. Now, given the fact that BBC America broadcasts the show in the US pretty quickly after the UK (not to mention the, ahem, naughty downloads), I did see his point in complaining that it wouldn’t be too much of a burden for his UK friends to refrain from discussing the plot for a little while at least.

But I can also understand that some people still think that, once a TV show has actually been broadcast, it should be fine to start talking about it. It’s an understandable assumption, particularly for those who grew up watching TV when it was a communal, even national thing; when you could be reasonably certain that your friends would have watched the same show at the same time as you. Back in 1980, for example, nobody worried about spoilering the eagerly anticipated question of ‘Who Shot JR?’ in Dallas. International communication was rare and expensive, and most people in each country who cared were watching the show at the same time.

However, ever since the advent of the video recorder, that’s not been guaranteed. And the problem has intensified; in these days of international chat on the internet, via forums and social networking sites, you have to take real care that you don’t, however unintentionally, reveal something that should have come as a surprise. But how long should you wait? What, in a nutshell, is the statute of limitations for spoilers?

The trouble is, there’s no hard and fast answer to that one. For filmmakers, it’s not a new problem at all, as films have never had the same simultaneous viewings for whole nations. Way back in 1960, Alfred Hitchcock popped up on the trailer for Psycho to plead “Don’t give away the ending, it’s the only one we have.” Fair enough, but is there really anyone left in 2012 who doesn’t know how that ends? And if there is, is it unfair of them to expect those who want to discuss it to keep silent, 52 years after the fact? It’s actually a very common problem with films – they get older and older, but there’ll always be somebody for whom they’re new. Will that person’s viewing experience be tainted by a spoiler that’s become cultural common knowledge?

There are plenty of well-known examples. The first time I saw Psycho, I already knew the ending; I still thought it was a pretty fine movie, but I wonder how much more I might have enjoyed it had the twist come as a surprise? And yet, it seems churlish of me to demand that the entirety of society should refrain from discussing a very old plot twist on the off chance that I might not have seen the film yet.

But what about more recent films? How soon is too soon? The original Planet of the Apes, for example, has often been released on video and DVD with a cover picture that actually gives away the twist ending before you’ve opened the box – again on the assumption that it is, by now, common knowledge. OK, that movie was made in 1968. How about 1980, a ‘mere’ 32 years ago? Can there be anyone left who doesn’t know the twist in The Empire Strikes Back? Apparently so, if this clip of a four year old reacting to the previously unknown revelation is for real. I saw that one not long after it was released, but that particular spoiler was already common knowledge. Would I have been as gobsmacked as that kid if it had been news to me, too?

A bit more recently, is there anyone left who doesn’t know the twist endings to M Night Shyamalan’s early movies? I was about a year late seeing 1996’s The Sixth Sense; by then, the ending had entered common culture so thoroughly that I’d found it out in, of all places, an article in Boyz magazine. I still enjoyed the movie, but again, how much better might I have enjoyed it had the end come as a surprise? Similarly, I’ve never actually watched his 2004 film The Village; though that’s less because I’ve found out the twist and more because I’d seriously started to go off his work after the nonsensical Signs. I did manage to catch David Fincher’s Fight Club (1999) before its ending became common knowledge, and that was certainly effective – but again, 13 years later, I’m willing to bet that that’s become cultural common currency.

But now, an old problem for films is very much a current problem for TV shows. Some websites have hidden text sections for spoilers, others, like Facebook and Twitter, rely on the (apparently infrequent) discretion of their users to avoid releasing spoilers into the public domain. It comes back to, how long should you wait? One friend has a self-imposed limit of a week – seems reasonably fair. Some would say not – after all, how many of us now catch up with TV shows on DVD box sets long after the original broadcast?

Reasonably, if you’re desperate to avoid spoilers, it looks like your only pragmatic choice is to stay away from the internet. Completely. Because if something’s popular enough, any major plot developments end up being referenced anywhere and everywhere. I recall rushing through the final Harry Potter book for precisely this reason, and avoiding Facebook et al for fear of finding out the ending before I reached it. It’s not ideal, I know, but unfortunately it’s a more sensible solution than expecting everyone else in the world to be sensitive to your viewing (or reading) habits.

Of course, some people take a perverse, trolling delight in spoilering. One old friend of mine had an irritating habit of flicking to the last page of whatever book I was reading in order to tell me that (character X) made it to the end. Others use it as a status-building ego reinforcement – “look how important I am, I know something you don’t, and I can prove it!” Unfortunately, if you’re a true spoiler-phobe, complaining is like a red rag to a bull for this kind of person; you’re actually better off not encouraging them. Just try to close your ears, or step away from the internet.

So can there ever be a ‘statute of limitations’ for spoilers? I’d have to conclude not, pragmatically. If you find them annoying, then your only recourse in the real world is to do as much as you can to avoid them, because, sadly, they’re not going to go away. On the flipside, if you have a friend who shares your interests, it might be courteous to refrain from discussing plot points unless you know your friend knows them too. But for how long is between you, your community, and ultimately, your conscience. Everyone has different standards, and in the end, if you want to avoid spoilers for as long as you deem fit, the final responsibility has to be your own. We could wish for a more polite, considerate world where that’s not the case, but somehow I don’t see it happening soon…