Smile

May. 8th, 2017 08:57 pm
purplecat: Texture by simpleandclean (LiveJournal) (Doctor Who)
I was really enjoying Smile right up until the final 10 minutes or so. I actually enjoyed the Doctor and Bill exploring the empty colony and figuring out the threat more than I had the previous weeks' depicition of them initially getting to know each other.

Like In the Forest of the Night this had bags of atmosphere, but it was less overt than Forest with its explicit evocation of fairy tales and I thought, gorgeous as Forest was, that Smile benefitted from a more realist tone and less intense evocation of place.

Where In the Forest of the Night fell apart for me, and for most viewers, I think, was in its explanation for the trees. In my review of The Pilot I touched on the difficulty of pinpointing where a pseudo-scientific explanation in a show like Doctor Who fails to convince. After all, in a show about someone who travels through time and space in a police box, what is so inherently ridiculous about the concept of magic space trees? any yet for a large segment of the audience they clearly pushed suspension of disbelief too far.

I don't think the resolution of Smile works any better than In the Forest of the Night but I think it is easier to figure out what went wrong with it. At the level of the in show explanation, we have been told that the problem here is that the Emojibots have learned that they can eliminate unhappiness by eliminating the people who are unhappy - the solution we are presented with emphasises the concept of equal rights for robots which does not really seem to follow from the problem. To compound the issue, only the previous week the show has emphasised the potential amorality of mind-wipes. So here we have the Doctor first mind-wipe the robots as a solution to the immediate problem but then assert that they are sentient creatures deserving of respect. On a thematic level, in a story which has been about the impossibility of permanent happiness and the effect of grief a solution which not only side-lines but downplays the colonists grief at the end seems jarringly out of place. Smile doesn't feel as insulting to basic intelligence as In the Forest of the Night did, but its ending still feels incredibly clumsy to me, particularly in contrast to the story that had preceded it.

I think Frank Cotterell-Boyce is excellent at invoking a sense of place, creating atmosphere and introducing interesting themes. However I think he's really bad at then bringing all these elements together into resolutions that make sense. In Smile the problem is that the resolution is almost actively working against both his themes and the problem he has presented. I'm still not quite sure why the resolution to In the Forest of the Night doesn't work beyond that the appearance of Maeve's lost sister comes from nowhere and follows from nothing previously established about the magic space trees, but I suspect part of the problem is that Cotterell-Boyce doesn't really seem to have grasped the essence of the scientific concepts he is attempting to use, so that they appear as set dressing on a story that is magic realist without the guts to actually admit as such. I think part of the problem with Smile is that he's equating any solution related to Artificial Intelligence with any problem related to Artificial Intelligence without realising that AI is far from some monolithic thing within which any solution solves any problem.
purplecat: (doctor who)
Daleks (20 - depending how you count): 1963
The Meddling Monk (2): 1965
The Cybermen (12 - depending how you count): 1966
The Macra (2): 1967
The Yeti/Great Intelligence (2): 1967
The Ice Warriors(4): 1967
Autons/Nestenes(3): 1970
Silurians and Sea Devils (2 each, 3 in total): 1970
The Master (21 - depending how you count): 1971
Omega (2): 1972/73
The Sontarans (5): 1973
Davros (5): 1975
The Black Guardian (4/2 - depending how you count): 1979
The Mara (2): 1982
Sil (2): 1985
The Rani (2): 1985
The Slitheen (2): 2005
Cassandra (2): 2005
The Ood (2): 2006
The Judoon (2 - depending how you count): 2007

I feel there should be some way to plot this information to demonstrate diminishing returns. I also feel it's telling that the Slitheen are the only recurring monster to be created in the the four years of the new series which really should have been aiming quite high in that department.

EDIT: Forgot the Ood, who are a much better monster than the Slitheen. Perhaps because I don't actually view them as a true monster or villain, but by that reasoning the Silurians and Sea Devils and the Ice Warriors are also debatable entries.

EDIT 2: Not to mention the Macra, Autons/Nestenes and Omega. I'm clearly not as good at this as I used to be - I assumed I'd spot everything simply by looking down a list of stories. Fairly sure I would have done in my teens!

EDIT 3: Now we've got the Judoon in that list it, looks more like the Cardiff team have made a fairly serious stab at a "new" monster each year. Of which I'd say the Ood are the most successful but the Judoon are perhaps the most likely to appear again.


WHO DAILY: <lj user=louisedennis> has a list of <a href=http://louisedennis.livejournal.com/80320.html>recurring Dr Who monsters, their number of appearances and date of first appearance</a>
purplecat: Hand Drawn picture of a Toy Cat (Default)
I was rather touched when [livejournal.com profile] claraste and [livejournal.com profile] gilaed told me on Friday that part of their Torchwood watching ritual had involved reading my reviews afterwards, though I suspect they do this via the feed onto Facebook than on LJ itself. Induction Scheme Speculator, who I don't believe has an LJ identity, is also reading them on Facebook and wrote me an very interesting message following my Partner's in Crime review. Apart from revealing there is some point to Facebook beyond poking people and a version of Desktop Tower Defence I haven't yet beaten, I was curious to discover I had this separate audience for reviews. I know most of the active LJers on my flist read them too, but most of them are almost certainly also reading [livejournal.com profile] parrot_knight's reviews (and probably half a dozen others) so I don't feel I'm particularly contributing anything.

I'd also been half considering stopping the reviews. I'm not convinced they necessarily improve my viewing experience, especially given the tendency for stories in the New Who stable to fall apart when poked with a stick. I think instead I just need to work harder to decide when this matters and when it does not (so much).
purplecat: Hand Drawn picture of a Toy Cat (Default)
On [livejournal.com profile] parrot_knights recommendation I recorded then watched Mark Lawson talking to Russell T Davies on BBC4 late last week. While I accept the arguments many have put forward that RTD is no more likely to tell the truth when talking to Mark Lawson on BBC 4 than he is when talking to Dr Who Confidential on BBC3, I think his interest here was in selling the "Russell T Davies" brand rather than the Dr Who brand and that he recognised this audience wanted a little more by way of self-criticism and introspection that the relentless "fantastic!, wow!, daleks!, lovely people! amazing!" that he spouts whenever asked about Dr Who. Though, to be honest, there wasn't a great deal of self-criticism on show even here.

As well as the points [livejournal.com profile] parrot_knight picked out I was interested to hear a new justification for the lack of exotic alien worlds. Usually, when asked, RTD asserts that viewers are not interested in aliens; in fact this was clearly the answer Mark Lawson was expecting since he framed the question in terms of his personal relief that Rose opened in an everyday department store. Instead RTD said that on a BBC budget an alien world almost inevitably looked crap, and like a quarry. He compared the show to Heroes which, he claimed (and I've not seen any of season 2) couldn't make Orange County look like Feudal Japan on a much large budget so they were almost bound to fail in trying to make a quarry in Wales look like an alien planet on Dr Who's budget. Whether this is the real reason, or perhaps that he was worried that BBC4 viewers probably were (with the exception of Mark Lawson) interested in alien planets I couldn't say.
purplecat: Hand Drawn picture of a Toy Cat (Default)
[livejournal.com profile] parrot_knight's recent post has got me thinking.

For five weeks I've been reading comments in reviews which boil down to "Martha had promise in the first episode but has turned into little more than a love-sick puppy" - Francine's reaction to the Doctor in the Lazarus Experiment seemed to echo this sentiment - Martha has ceased to be an independent woman and become someone who follows the Doctor. It suggests the writing team are aware that Martha's potential is being wasted and that, in fact, it is deliberate. I just hope they are going somewhere interesting with this as I feel New Who frequently sets up potentially interesting themes or poses itself interesting questions in this way and then fails to resolve them in a satisfactory fashion.

Relevant Torchwood Ranting )

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