Friday, December 19, 2014

On Civility ...

NYT Weighs in on Civility and the Salaita Case | Corey Robin
[I]ntentionally breaching civility by refusing to merely engage in calm persuasion — is itself part of the very process by which social-political perspectives shift. If it ought to have been true that only awful human beings would support this attack, how do we move society toward that point? One way is reasoned argument, no doubt. But it’s also important to exhibit the perspective, and not just argue for it; to adopt the perspective and provocatively manifest how things look from within it. 

GWAR cover "West End Girls" / "People Who Died"

GWAR covers Pet Shop Boys | A.V. Undercover | The A.V. Club



How to care for introverts

How to care for introverts:


https://www.pinterest.com/pin/14425661281825255/

1. Respect their need for privacy.
2. Never embarrass them in public.
3. Let them observe first in new situations.
4. Give them time to think; don't demand instant answers.
5. Don't interrupt them.
6. Give them advance notice of expected changes in their lives.
7. Give them 15 minute warnings to finish whatever they are doing.
8. Reprimand them privately.
9. Teach them new skills privately.
10. Enable them to find one best friend who has similar interests & abilities.
11. Don't push them to make lots of friends.
12. Respect their introversion; don't try to remake them into extroverts.
Sounds about right.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Dark Water / Death in Heaven - "Do you think I care for you so little that betraying me would make a difference?"

Dark Water (Doctor Who) - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Series 8, Story 11 (Overall Series Story #256a) | Previous - Next | Index



Where to start? (Start with the big hitter, my internal editor says, lead with the episode's best moment, then dance around it's other triumphs, acknowledge the wobbly bits -- there are always a few -- then circle back and close the loop ... ) But, if we're going to start with the best bit, then we have to know what the best bit is, and can you really know before the story's over? Well, I've got a pretty good idea, and I'll come to it shortly, but let's first be clear about what the best bit of the first half of the story was, on its own terms, and make sure we're not confusing any of the other razzle-dazzle for the singular best bit.

So, yes, Missy is the Master and that's not exactly surprising, but perhaps we're surprised Moffat didn't pull a double-plus red-herring on us. Missy was, we all speculated, either going to be a character we'd met before -- and the Master was the leading candidate in that category, probably favored by just a few points over River -- or she was going to be a new character we didn't fully appreciate the cleverness of yet. The reveal is not the best thing about this episode though.

Missy snogging the Doctor and then putting his hand on her chest, which turns out to mean so much more with benefit of hindsight -- the heteronormalized realization of digital reams of slash fiction -- is gobsmacking. Still not the best thing about this episode.

The death of Danny Pink was a shock. And Clara's reaction to it was ominous. That was all so well executed, it propelled us into the story like no other open has yet. But it wasn't the best thing about this episode.

Missy/the Master's engineering of a race of Cybermen is exactly the sort of thing we'd expect of the Master we knew. Delgado's Master, or Simms' Master, it's big, unnecessarily complex (they needed to be stored in Dark Water?) and unspeakably cruel. It is, of course, not the best thing about this episode though. Even though the echoing of "The Invasion" and "The Tomb of the Cybermen" is delightful fan service that, I'm certain, works perfectly well for those who haven't yet caught up to those classic stories, it too is not the best thing about this episode.

Missy telling humanity to "Bring out your dead," is the best assimilation of Monty Python into the series since John Cleese did art criticism of the TARDIS as an installation. Even that wasn't the best thing about this episode.

Danny Pink meeting up with the young boy he killed while serving was devastating, but there was something even more powerful and dramatic.

The best thing about this episode is the line I lead with in the title of this post. Really, it's the whole sequence that starts with Clara turning on her chipper voice when the Doctor answers her call and ends with him telling her to buck up before leaving the TARDIS after they've landed in the Nethersphere. But it is especially that line:
Do you think I care for you so little that betraying me would make a difference?
That is heart-breakingly beautiful writing. And Capaldi delivers it so matter-of-factly, with such understated glory. It's perfect. It is not only the best thing in this episode, it may be the best thing in Doctor Who since ... well, ever?

That's a brasher claim than I'm accustomed to making, and I'll sleep on it, but flush from watching the episode twice, I'm feeling pretty good about it.

Let's back up though. Luck of the draw, I just finished watching the "The Time Monster," and am still drafting that post as I write this one, so a few things in this story resonated that much more for me on account of it being fresh. "The Time Monster" is a Master story, and a goofy one, where he, once again, gets himself in over his head by trying to control a being far more powerful than he himself is. (You'd think he'd learn ... and it remains to be seen whether she's got her army of Cybermen under her control in this one.) It's not only the Master though that ties the older story to this one. "TTM" starts with the Doctor dreaming of a volcano, and this story prominently features another dream sequence with a volcano. It's Clara's dream this time, but it feels more than just coincidence that dream imagery haunts this story. "TTM" also has the scene where the Doctor, trapped in an Atlantean dungeon with Jo Grant, shares a story from his boyhood -- and the Doctor's boyhood featured prominently this season in "Listen" -- about his blackest day. That language echoes in Capaldi's Doctor telling Clara this is their darkest day, their blackest hour. Pertwee's Doctor, telling Jo about his blackest day, relates what is essentially a redressed Zen koan, firmly placing the Doctor in the Buddhist tradition. It's a lyrical moment that even the too-coy-by-half scripting ("It was the daisiest daisy...") and the ludicrous wig they put on Katy Manning can't cheapen.

It's that tradition Capaldi, I believe, is channeling when he explains to Clara that "Go to hell" wasn't curse he leveled at her, but instead an answer to the question of what they were going to do. This Doctor's response to being betrayed by his companion is very like Three's inability to leave the Master to be tormented by Kronos at the end of "TTM". (I'll save the rest of my thoughts on that for that write up, got to leave something to cover there.)

That line may be the most compassionate the Doctor has uttered in any of his incarnations. I often wonder what it is about Doctor Who that it is so appealing to the alienated, the odd, the misfit. I don't say this to be cruel or judgmental; I plant my flag firmly in that territory. But if you've been to cons, or even just gone to the theater for a DW event, you can't help but notice the demographic. Not to say all DW fans are stereotypical nerds and outcasts, but not even Star Trek conventions are as nerdstrong. The compassion, the injunction to have a brave heart and to be compassionate, even while being odd, is just the right message to appeal to the broadest cross-section of society. Across the LGBTQ+ and allies rainbow straight through to religious fundamentalists.

Anyone who has ever felt betrayed, and perhaps more importantly, anyone who has ever been selfish, and put themselves ahead of a friend at some point, and struggled with their conscience, has an ally and a champion in the Doctor. "Do you think I care for you so little that betraying me would make a difference?" He's weird and gawky, he comes across as cold and arrogant, but he always has Clara's back. She knew it in "Deep Breath," though she had to be reminded here. (Her, "Fair enough," may even be better line reading than Capaldi's of his line. Anyone complaining that Clara isn't a developed a character, or has no emotional arc, at this point simply is not paying attention.)  He cares so much. And we love him for it because we need that much care, we all do. And we all aspire to it, or know we ought to, even if we've ever pulled a Clara.

I'm looking forward to "Death in Heaven," but I don't think it's going to be possible to surpass what's already been accomplished. I'll come back at some point and revise this post to include some nitpicks and acknowledge the wobbly bits. But, for now, I just want to think about what a great line that was.

Notes to self for future revisions:

  1. Skepticism promoted as necessary tool for thinking about the problem. (That there is, for all intents and purposes, a sort of after-life here, need to sort out whether Moffat is fully convinced of the correctness of the Doctor's reliance on it. It *is* required, and "So ... an idiot, then," was such a great line, I should have included it in the things that could be confused for being the best thing about this episode.
  2. I've left much of the soldiering theme aside since "The Caretaker" but this is probably the place to talk more about Danny Pink and his experience in combat ... and what it means in the centenary year of the start of WWI, with the final episode airing on the eve of Remembrance Day. (We've seen the Doctor pin a poppy on his lapel before, after all ...  )



Death in Heaven (Doctor Who) - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Series 8, Story 12 (Overall Series Story #256b) | Previous - Next | Index

Spoilers

Stomp, stomp, stomp. That's the sound of Moffat marching us directly into the let down we knew was coming but hoped we'd be spared this time. Not that the episode was a complete failure; it had several moments of genius mixed in. The problem is those moments mixed into an overwrought mess of a story, the whole of which was less than its best parts.

When we remember this story, I suspect it'll be mostly for Michelle Gomez's fantastic turn as the Master. (Here's hoping that wasn't the last we've seen of her!) She pulls Simms's full camp interpretation through Mary Poppins and somehow makes that cohere into a genuinely villainous iteration of the classic that can withstand the Master's twice-baked, Goldberg Machine planning instinct and keep us engaged in a character that, by all rights, ought to collapse under the weight of its own silliness. (I'm over pining for the Derek Jacobi Master that could have been, we finally got an heir Roger Delgado could be proud of.)

We should be remembering it, based on how this season was constructed, for the arc of Danny Pink and how his fate intertwined with the relationship between Clara and the Doctor, as each of them wrestled with their own roles in all this adventuring. That resolution though was undercut by endings falling mostly flat. No fault of the actors here, they all did everything they could, it was the paces they were put through that derailed the story.

At this point, after all they've been through, they all needed to know they could stop lying to one another. Yes, the line about hugs hiding faces was poignant, but Clara and the Doctor should be living up to the friendship they profess and being honest with each other. Honest about matters of fact and honest about their feelings about the state of affairs. It was here, in the cafe where they hugged farewell, that the failure to learn and the failure to trust just fell flat. Dramatically, the scene didn't work either because we never believed this was really farewell. If anyone didn't suspect we were being set up again, then the appearance of Santa Claus and his announced that this had to be set right quickly settled the matter.

(So, yeah, when we write about this this, we have to deal with the fact Nick Frost, a casting coup, has been brought in to play a character who apparently believes, and has powers to back up that belief, that he is Santa Claus.

*sigh*

But, that's the beat that's been established. In new Who, the Xmas specials are set up by things like Santa Claus or the Titanic crashing into the TARDIS.)

The ending was a low point -- the cafe ending, I mean, Santa interrupting the credit roll is something bizarre we'll have to wait and see about -- an off-key way to end the episode and the season, but it was exceeded in manipulative hokiness by the opening scene. Clara rattling off a bunch of continuity trivia to 'prove' to the Cybermen she's the Doctor, followed by her eyes replacing the Doctor's in the opening titles was a joke taken too far. I'm not against that sort of mixing of narrative and the formality of title sequences on principle, it's that it was done in the spirit of overselling an obvious ruse that rubs me the wrong way.

Bringing back Osgood to have Missy kill her also didn't sit right. Not because she was a likable character, one that I don't think I was alone in anticipating seeing more of, those sorts of characters are fair game and her murder by Missy sets the stage for as cold a glare as we've seen from the Doctor, effectively foreshadowing his resolve at the end to kill her despite their long, complicated history. Osgood's death, along with Seb getting deleted when he indulged in a moment of squee, felt a like cold-blooded rebuke of fandom's tendencies towards cosplay and ... well, squee. Which is odd, because I've never had the sense Moffat is anything but appreciative and respectful of fandom. The conclusion I'm leaping to is this is Moffat poking us in the eye with the intent to follow up later with a moral or lesson that'll be meant to guide fandom towards a deeper appreciation of the character than parroting "Bowties are cool."

I could be way off-base here an have to eat my words later, this may not be his intent at all, but it looks that way to me. If it is, I don't think it's needed. I think fandom is just fine the way it is. (Yes, I was one of those voices saying 'watch all these young'uns bail because Capaldi is old and grey,' which was criticism based on some less-than-generous assumptions about younger fans, especially the Hunger Games demographic that probably could be pinned on some self-aggrandizing assumptions about my silver-haired, grew-up-with-Tom-Baker, had-a-long-scarf-before-many-of-you-were-even-born fan credentials.)

Going to go a step further and predict that we are definitely going to meet Kate's other daughter, Osgood's 'prettier' sister, at some point, and I expect she's also going to be played by Ingrid Oliver (though we shouldn't be surprised if Lorna Watson is in line for the role to make use of both halves of the duo) in order to highlight the insecurities that inhibited Osgood and led her to hide behind big glasses and less-than-fashionable hair to go with her long scarf, bow tie, and red Converse. Dangerous business, trying to predict what Moffat's got in mind, but I don't think the Zygon making a point about wishing it could have taken on her sister's appearance instead of hers, Kate introducing herself to the Cybermen as "mother of two," and Missy's manipulation of Osgood by banging on her insecurities and desire to please the Doctor were all for nothing. It's whether they're part of a judgment on fandom that says, "You're doing it wrong," that concerns me. Unless, of course, it's more nuanced and affirming and we end up mourning Osgood while appreciating her sister in a way I'm not anticipating.

Osgood's death may turn out to not be the stumble I think it is, but I don't see how they could possibly bring Cyber Brigadier back to fix the mess that was made of raising him from the dead. Look, I'm a tremendous fan of the character and the actor who played him. (One of my dogs is named Brigadier for that very reason.) Again, it's not that I'm averse to paying tribute in the context of the show as a rule, it's the execution here in the context of this specific story. Kate was thrown out of the plane so she could be saved by her dad, and the Doctor could salute his old friend -- these two things both felt forced. Together, the effect is one of emotional manipulation, in an episode where we've got too much of that going on already.

Complicating matters is how this loving tribute to the Brigadier, one of only two human corpses capable of resisting Cyber programming, fits in with the overall theme of appreciating soldiers while remaining skeptical of militarism. Pink is devastating in his critique of the Doctor as the general who orders others to do the dirty work, and the narrative rewards Pink with a hero's end. He delivers a speech to rouse the troops (who don't need it, because they can't disobey their orders), promises the civilians that will sleep safely tonight thanks to his sacrifice, and then keeps his word. Yes, he suffers, but he gets to ease his conscience by bringing back the boy he killed when he served in the Middle East. Clearly, Pink is meant to be a model of heroism. But the Brigadier is one of those military types he, and the Doctor, are mistrustful and contemptuous of. A nuanced appreciation of the Brigadier would have held him accountable for his attempted genocide of the Silurians, a more bloody-handed old General than the Doctor, not presented him as one of the two humans with enough love in his heart to overcome Cyber programming.

The effect of this is to clump the acknowledged evils of the military mindset in with the tough decisions the Doctor makes (an individual, influencing people on an individual level) and excuse them both as being morally equivalent, as if we need to leave with murderous military bureaucracies to enjoy freedom from tyranny. This is a deeply cynical and defeatist attitude about human nature. Yes, we do need soldiers, because the world is horribly messed up. The Nazis and today's religious extremists attempting to impose their warped view of what makes a just society on the ravaged populations of the Middle East are expressions of fundamental flaws in our political systems on top of our imperfect understanding of history. Madmen and their armies have to be stopped. The problem is we need heroes to change minds, not only blow them apart. There's a fundamental imbalance, reflected in Doctor Who, in the heroes we recognize. Remembrance Day/Veterans Day and Memorial Day honor those who served, and fell, in armed conflict with foreign enemies, but we owe the freedoms we enjoy as much to civil rights advocates, labor organizers, and the efforts of scientists, researchers, and medical professionals as we do to soldiers. Any chance we'll see a Labor Day special one of these years?

Doctor Who, at its best, celebrates humanist values, takes joy in exploration, and teaches empathy. There's some of that here, but it gets lost in the shuffle, overridden by the pressing need to stop the Cybermen. "Pain is a gift. Without the capacity for pain, we can't feel the hurt we inflict." The Doctor is spot on here. But in this case we're up against the clock. The Doctor needs to turn on Danny's inhibitor so doesn't feel pain, in order to get the information he needs (but should have figured out, honestly) about Missy's plans. Cyber Danny points out the problem here, all the speechifying is meaningless in the face of the need. But the message was too important to gloss over and a more effective drama would have found a way to preserve that.

Odds and ends:

  • Cyber Zombie Brigadier flew away at the end. To self-destruct? Or is he, like Jenny, still out there somewhere?
  • The clock in the cafe calls to mind this season's clock-themed opening titles animation.
  • Moffat loves to make mirrors. The Doctor is offered armies twice in this episode. First the humans (improbably) make if C-in-C of all the armies of the world, then Missy attempts to give him the army of Cybermen. 
  • The dialogue was a bit rushed when the Doctor and Osgood were talking about Missy aboard the plane, but I gather he offered to show her all of time and space, making it all the more devastating that she dies instead of becoming a companion.
  • "Hang on a second. The President? We don't want Americans bombing [or "bobbing"?] around the place. They'll only start praying." Snort laughed.
  • The news broadcasts in the background at one point discuss how the Cybermen are flying this time, and that's new, so people remember them from "The Invasion" or from the events that led up to the Battle of Canary Wharf. And yet the first response to them emerging from St. Paul's this time is to take selfies with them? Srsly?
  • Was shocked by the A.V. Club's A- rating and several other generally positive reviews for this episode. I was decidedly underwhelmed and expected more, harsher criticism. If not along my usual WTF doesn't anybody take Labor Day seriously?! lines, then for how goofy it ended up being overall. After watching it again though, I found myself enjoying it more, rather than less. Once I made it through all my eyebrow raising reactions and I-would-have-done-that-differently moments of the first viewing, it grew on me a little. Still wish




Sunday, October 26, 2014

In the Forest of the Night - "There are wonders here."

In the Forest of the Night - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Series 8, Story 10 (Overall Series Story #255) | Previous - Next | Index

Image via Beat That For a Date

If last week celebrated Banksy, this week, we knew we were in for at least a bit of a cap tip to William Blake when we saw the previews, which included a tiger, and put it all together with the title.

THE TYGER (from Songs Of Experience)
     By William Blake 
Tyger! Tyger! burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?
In what distant deeps or skies
Burnt the fire of thine eyes?
On what wings dare he aspire?
What the hand dare seize the fire?
And what shoulder, & what art.
Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
And when thy heart began to beat,
What dread hand? & what dread feet?
What the hammer? what the chain?
In what furnace was thy brain?
What the anvil? what dread grasp
Dare its deadly terrors clasp?
When the stars threw down their spears,
And watered heaven with their tears,
Did he smile his work to see?
Did he who made the Lamb make thee?
Tyger! Tyger! burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?

Here's the thing, I'm no Blake scholar, and I'm liable to come precariously close to sounding a fool trying to put the pieces together, but here goes. If it were only the title, and there were no other links to Blake or his works, then we'd say "In the Forest of the Night" was a cap tip and nothing more. But Clara and the Doctor encounter a tiger in the forest. And there's the Doctor's monologue about an acorn planted in 1795. (Because I went googling around trying to brush up in advance of this episode, I had 1794 in mind as the publication date of Songs of Innocence and Experience.) That acorn in 1795 being the tree in the middle of London in the present, in time to save the Earth, and that tree being a sort of time traveler by having a little bit of 1795 in it ... that's, effectively, Doctor Who arguing for saving the world by looking to William Blake. As sure as I'm only nibbling around the edges of the significance, I've a pretty fair idea where to turn for guidance ... and where not to *koff* reddit.

Sure enough, as much as the vast bulk of fandom seems to have loathed this story, our man Dr. Sandifer thought it fantastic. I've done the whinging about the science, recently, and over time where the classic series went apeshit bungling it, but what Doctor Who is doing these days, and especially this week, is something completely different from science fiction -- this is not extrapolating from current knowledge and theory to some future we can use to look more deeply at our lives, our society now. This is science fantasy (and maybe just fantasy), pulling from old myths to tell a fable. All that fairy tale stuff that was getting to be a bit much when Eleven was our Doctor, it's never gone away, and the fairy (or faerie) is very much at the heart of this story's plea that humanity be less fearful and more trusting.

One of the other connections to Blake, and one I couldn't have made without reading around, was that Blake's writings were inspired his visions and voices he heard. In the story, we've got Maebh hearing voices, and (sonic screwdriver wavey-wandy) receiving a vision in a clearing in the forest. Give her her tablets so she stops hearing the voices, that's how everyone -- save the Doctor -- responds to her. But we're forced to compare her to Blake here and wonder, would the world have been better off if Blake had been treated by the physicians of his day to quiet the voices he heard?

Now, here's where I worry about DW possibly getting in over its head. In some cases, we do want to help people not hear voices the rest of us don't hear. Whether they are able to articulate a plea for help or not, when the voices tell people to harm themselves or others, I'm not against society saying that person needs the best available help we can offer to prevent harm. A facile reading of this story might yield the conclusion we shouldn't treat mental disorders. I'm not sure that's the correct reading; if it is, I'm inclined to say that's not a tenable position. Acknowledging we're not very good at it, we should at least try be trying to get better.

Time and again while writing these posts, I've lauded those stories where we're reminded to have brave hearts, to approach the world with compassion and trust. This story is clearly, explicitly, and in full knowledge of its agenda, saying that this is what Doctor Who is, this is why the story is being told: To save us from the fearful side of our nature so we don't destroy ourselves and the world.

It may not seem like it, but I don't only write about Doctor Who on this blog. One of the other great influences on my imaginative life is the collected work of Kim Stanley Robinson. Apart from writing brilliant novels and stories, Mr. Robinson makes some fairly pointed arguments in interviews and in his public speaking. One of the arguments he makes frequently is about our future on Earth -- and it may seem to be in stark contrast to the visions of the future he puts to paper: he acknowledges that our technology almost certainly will continue to make tremendous, rapid progress, but the constraints of the laws of the physics, confine humanity to our solar system. Forever. And, within our solar system, there is no other planet on which we can expect to live and thrive apart from the one we're on.

When he writes about terraforming Mars, he's writing science fiction. It's sci-fi with a useful lens to turn towards our activities on Earth. We are terraforming the Earth, but we are doing so in a way that it is going to render it hostile to our continued existence because we refuse to grow up and deal with the effects of human-driven climate change. We must find a way to deliberately, reasonably, shape our society (our governments' policies, our lives) so that we can continue to live on Earth. I'm straining here to draw two parallels between disparate styles of storytelling, two narratives that are informed by different ways of looking at history and storytelling, and offering two different (but, crucially, not incompatible) solutions. Stan's embraces the scientific method, suggest we act based on reason, conduct experiments, be bold in the quest for solutions, but remain clear-eyed and honest with ourselves about what it's going to take to effect change. Doctor Who is asking us to embrace a more imaginative, fantastical worldview and to live bravely with each other's mad genius, to trust one another to do what's best. I see one trying to open our minds so our hearts can be guided with wisdom, the other trying to embolden our hearts, so when we find the wisdom, we're ready to pursue the path it shows us.

So the question is, does Doctor Who do the latter well? I take it as a premise that the ends are good, so the question is about the means. Do these sorts of fairy tale inspired stories, un-moored from science fiction and the usual rigors the genre entails, fit the aim of the story? And, if we say they do, are the elements of the story put together coherently, executed well enough to lead the viewer down the path the storyteller intends to take us?

Yes, I think stories like "Kill the Moon" and this one using storytelling techniques that suit the moral of the stories. It's in the execution that the stumbles occur. But, they're stumbles don't take us off the path. TV as a story-telling medium has been around long enough that we've gotten pretty good, as viewers, at identifying when constraints of format and budget have forced attempts at hand-waving keep the narrative on track, and under the 45 or so minutes allotted. That's not to excuse them, only to say certain flaws are understandable.

The haters are getting this one wrong though. They're missing the thematic forest for the problems with the trees. And, yes, there are problems with the trees. Conceded. The science of trees springing up to protect the world from a solar flare, then disappearing in puff of fireflies is, of course, no science at all. And if you're trying to put it in that box, then of course it's not going to fit. We don't criticize fantasy literature for using magic; criticizing DW for magicking up the science is misunderstanding what mode of storytelling it is using and applying the wrong standards to judging it. Or, they're getting it and dismissing the thematic elements as inadequate. But if you opine that this was the worst Doctor Who story since "Fear Her," without so much as mentioning Blake in the reasons for your assessment, then I'm afraid you haven't tried hard enough.

(Oh, and there's another reference that clicked on third watch which I haven't seen anyone else mention yet, but I think firmly cements this as a faerie story. Maebh Arden sounds like a name that means something, one chosen for a reason, but the pronunciation obscured what I now think was. Mercutio's speech in Romeo and Juliet: "O, then I see Queen Mab hath been with you ..." Maebh is a variant of the Irish name Medb, which I've seen as possible source of Shakespeare's naming of his faerie Queen Mab, who has the power to craft dreams for sleeping humans. A forest popping up and covering the world, filled with wolves and tigers, and little girls in red jackets running from those wolves, who are in turn running from a tiger, feels very much like a sort of dream logic. Maebh is the key to this story, the one who delivers the message to humanity that the trees, of which she had first dreamt, must be preserved. Now, the last name I'm not able to place, but I hear Arden and think of the Ardennes, the site of WWI and II battles in the forests of Belgium where the British Empire sent tens of thousands of men to die.)

Having just finished reading Master & Commander, I've had at least some exposure to how Admiral Nelson fits in the British psyche. The statue that the forest tumbles, nearly crushing the Doctor and Clara, that's of Nelson, who died in the Battle of Trafalgar, for which the square is named. Wonder why the camera panned down to show the statues left arm broken off? Nelson lost an arm in a naval battle. It may not speak to the international audience quite so directly, but I expect this was picked up on by the British audience and resonated in a way it simply couldn't for us outside England.

Got to admit I thought it was an odd decision to let the camera drift down and linger on the statue's broken arm on first watch, it wasn't until I decided it must have been done for a reason that I went to check on why. But that's back to my point that I find so much of the lambasting this episode has taken frustrating, because so much of it is so glib. It's so obvious, the redditors moan, this is a terrible episode. But reasons either aren't offered, or when offered are often either wrong (the Doctor didn't "do nothing," as so many have complained -- now whether setting Maebh up to make the call to the whole world worked dramatically or not, that's fair to criticize, but I think we were supposed to imagine the planned defoliation campaign would have undercut the trees' ability to absorb the shock of the solar flare), or focused more on ticky-tack complaints that don't bear the weight of the condemnation. Child actors are what they are. Some are better than others. This lot are not the worst I've ever seen. Nor are they the best. Maebh's arm-waving while running looked, well, like a child actor told to wave her arms around while running, not like she was trying to brush away little faeries she didn't understand. But, I don't blame the young actress for that. A better to film that should have been found, perhaps by showing us her perspective and cutting it against what everyone else saw?

The harshest critics of "In the Forest of the Night," based on what I've seen (again, that's mostly on reddit or at gallifreybase) aren't demonstrating that they've tried to dig in to why the story has tried to weave Blake, faerie elements, and an apparent tearing down of the idols of Empire, into story based on dream logic. "There wasn't enough technobabble to make the trees scientifically plausible," strikes me as saying the same thing as, "We weren't spoon fed enough of the story that we could make any sense of it by simply recalling trivia from past episodes."

Not all the criticism can be easily dismissed, I don't mean to imply that, only that the hatred of this episode doesn't look like it tried very hard to find meaning in the symbols, or address the mode of story telling as appropriate or not for the moral.

One thing we all seem to agree on though ... how about that preview for next week?!


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