Posts tagged Neil Gaiman

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Doctor Who Recap: S6x04 The Doctor’s Wife

Warning: “I’m looking for a word; a big, complicated word,” – SPOILERS.

Seriously – if you don’t want to be spoiled, please stop reading now.

Look, I’m putting loads of space between you and the spoilers.

 

 

 

On your own head be it, then.

I’ll say up front: “The Doctor’s Wife” is funny and scary and strange and all the things that make Doctor Who a show that is still entertaining and relevant after nearly fifty years.

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I think it’s fair to say that the anticipation of a Neil Gaiman – penned episode of Doctor Who was at a fever pitch from the moment it was announced, well over a year ago. There are a few reasons for the level of fandom squee that accompanied the announcement: Gaiman is, himself, a very well-respected, (and beloved) writer. He’s known for his love of, (and contributions to,) the comics, science-fiction, and fantasy genres. He’s also a total Whovian.

As “The Doctor’s Wife” was bumped from Series 5 to Series 6, due to budget and storyline constraints, legions of Doctor Who and Neil Gaiman fans sighed in disappointment. When tantalizing tidbits began trickling out during the filming of Series 6, well, let’s just say Whovians have been on tenterhooks for quite a long time.

This is an episode that lives up to the hype. Gaiman has written an intense adventure, that goes right to the core of what Doctor Who is about.

He’s a man, a Time Lord, and he’s got a box, it’s a TARDIS, and they have adventures together. Sometimes with other people, but always together.

The episode opens with “Uncle” handing, “Idris” over to “Nephew” (who is an Ood,) to have “Nephew” as “Auntie” puts it, “. . . drain your mind and your soul from your body.”

In the TARDIS, there’s a knock at the door. An illuminated box.
I’m not sure if it’s the most adorable shot and line-reading ever, as the Doctor says, “I’ve got mail,” but it’s definitely Matt Smith showing us the lonely little boy that’s still part of who the Doctor is.

Mail from a Time Lord? From another universe? Maybe. Once they’ve landed, (after a lovely sequence with gorgeous drop-in lines about deleting rooms and that Time Lords can change gender  – take that, fandom, it’s canon now,) all the power drains from the TARDIS, and we see it enter Idris.

There is both charm and danger in Idris’ (Suranne Jones) first encounter with the Doctor and the Ponds, “Tenses are difficult, aren’t they,” dovetails nicely with both the nature of Doctor Who, as well as the show and Gaiman’s history with Douglas Adams. They’ve landed in “A junkyard at the end of the universe,” that’s not a junkyard so much as a sentient asteroid. “House,” says of, Uncle, Auntie, and Nephew, “I repair them when they break,” leading to much creepily subtle body-horror in a later scene, and adds that they, “Do my will.”

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In the cage Nephew has placed her in, Idris mutters in a very time-out-of-joint way to herself, and plaintively cries, “Where’s my thief?”

The Doctor, of course, can’t just let the babble of Time Lord voices that he’s heard from Nephew’s translator ball, and all around them, go. Not if he can save them.

“You wanna be forgiven,” says Amy, to which the Doctor replies, “Don’t we all?”

(That might just be the larger common thread for Team TARDIS this series. Everyone needs to be forgiven for something, even if we don’t know what it is, or will be, yet.)

I’m very glad that “The Curse of The Black Spot” last week, provided a breather between the emotional and mental defenestration of the series openers and “The Doctor’s Wife.”
Where eps 1 & 2 focused on the future: The future Doctor’s death and the future of his liasion with River Song, the future of the human race, Rory and Amy’s future, the yes/no future of Amy’s yes/no pregnancy, the futuristic-looking lady in the eyepatch, and the future regeneration of the mysterious child, “The Doctor’s Wife” is really about the past.

The Doctor’s past as a thief and a killer, his history with the TARDIS. Amy and Rory’s past: his 2,000 year wait and whether he’s really come to terms with Amy’s tendency to leave him behind and whether she’s come to terms with what she’s done in abandoning him.

As the nature of the deception, and the trap they’ve been drawn into is revealed, Smith’s reaction is enough to make the blood run cold.

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“House eats TARDISES,” as it turns out. Guess where the Doctor sent Amy and Rory? We see the TARDIS dematerialize and the sound of the cloister bell, which is really very bad news, indeed.

I can’t give enough credit to Suranne Jones, for playing the somewhat scattered, incredibly vivacious and desperately sad personification of the TARDIS, with a manic glee and a core of steel that matches Matt Smith’s portrayal of the Doctor to a T.

I think it’s going to be a safe bet that none of us will ever think of that blue box in the same way again.

“It’s not impossible, as long as we’re alive.” The Doctor, knowing House has inserted itself into the TARDIS and has stolen his companions, sets about building a TARDIS from the remnants of House’s previous meals.

“You didn’t always take me where I wanted to go,” he says, and her reply is, “No, but I always took you where you needed to go.”

Though her human body is dying, she’s still his TARDIS, and he’s still her Doctor.
“Safe is relative,” she admonishes as he doubts whether they can succeed in building a control room without a shell. (The design for the makeshift control room, was created for a Blue Peter contest run by the BBC.)

As we jump back to Amy and Rory in the TARDIS, where House is tormenting them via the remnants of their telepathic link to the ship, we get more of the, “Oh my god, they killed RORY,” meme.

(Note: Rory Williams-Pond has only actually died once. In S5x09, when he was shot by a Silurian. End of debate. Dream-world death doesn’t count. Fake-death in DoTM doesn’t count. Almost-drowning death, doesn’t count. Hallucinated-death in this ep doesn’t count. I do, however, have a theory about why we keep perceiving that he’s died in S6. No, I’m not telling you now.)

We get to see the console we grew so familiar with during Nine and Ten’s tenures. There are loads of little touches and call-backs to the history from Classic Who through the present, that will delight fans on repeat viewings.

Once they’ve gotten back in the TARDIS, the Doctor confronts House, who says, “Fear me, I’ve killed hundreds of Time Lords.”
The Doctor’s answer is as chilling as it gets, “Fear me, I’ve killed them all.”

As Idris’ body lays dying, and the TARDIS is restored to her home, the cold wrath of a Time Lord is evident, “Finish him off, girl.” Never underestimate a TARDIS and her Time Lord. Never.

The final scene between the TARDIS and her Doctor, manages to be both heart-wrenching and gently joyous.
“There’s something I didn’t get to say to you. . . I just wanted to say, Hello. Hello, Doctor. It’s so very, very nice to meet you.”

The profound loneliness and longing Matt Smith conveys in that scene. . .
Yes, I shed a tear.

Afterwards, as the Doctor fiddles with his ship’s circuits, Rory reveals what Idris told him, “The only water in the forest is the river. She said we’d need to know that someday.”

Cue the fandom speculation, but I won’t be surprised at all if it’s not precisely what comes to mind.

And there are bunkbeds in the newlyweds’ room? Bunkbeds are cool now, too.

The first thing that struck me about Idris, is the parallel to The Little Mermaid. This is a creature of the cosmos trapped on dry land, in a body that’s dying, always dying, as frail humans do. Yet she’s ready to give everything she’s got for her Doctor, as she always does, while he’d do anything for her.

What Gaiman has done, is lovingly craft a story that’s a bit of a dark fairytale, while never letting us forget that the clock will strike midnight, the Mermaid will return to the sea or die, and sometimes the fool and the prince are the same person at the same time.

A word to those who are trying to figure out where this series is going: There aren’t many threads that are relevant to the series-arc, at least not obvious ones.  Instead we see the shifting dance in the dynamics of what is, even minus River Song, truly Team TARDIS, and it’s this that Matt Smith, Karen Gillan, Arthur Darvill and Suranne Jones play out with verve, depth and grace.

The momentum of the sixth series is almost relentless, as we approach the mid-series break. What is magnificent about “The Doctor’s Wife,” is that it isn’t really tied to the timeline, yet it feels like a story that’s always needed to be told. That we should recognize the TARDIS for who she is – the only constant companion the Doctor has ever had – is necessary.

We just didn’t know that, until Neil Gaiman wrote it.

Two more episodes to go, before the fandom howl heard ’round the world.

“MOFFAAAAAAAAAAAT.”

Photo Courtesy of io9

Guest Post: On Writing Fan Fiction

The following post was kindly written by request (from me) from an amazingly awesome friend of mine.  This writer requested that he/she remain anonymous and they will explain that below but they did give me permission to share their screen name (mysterypoet66) on Fan Fiction Net/Live Journal in case you are curious about their writing.  Now, why did I ask someone to write this? Here is my big confession: I actually enjoy reading fanfic.  I agree with the author below that a lot of it can be quite frightening but, regardless, there is the ‘shameful’ truth.  I do not have the discipline to finish my own personal story creations when I start them, therefore I have never dabbled in writing fan fiction myself.  Nevertheless, I believe there are some fan fiction writers out there that are better writers than “professionals.”  I also find it hilarious that there is such a stigma against online fan fiction while we regularly publish and promote books that could easily be at least linked to fan fiction (ie Pride and Prejudice and Zombies or even Wicked).  Anyway, yes. I read fan fiction and fully love and support my friends who write fan fiction.  If nothing else, read the following post with an open mind.  I’m not trying to recruit people into reading fan fiction (let alone loving it) so much as just trying to get the point across that people who write fan fiction? Not necessarily as crazy as you assume.

Photo Courtesy of io9

I consider myself a serious writer. Which is why I’m not revealing my identity here.  Fan fiction has been painted as something that is considered lazy, deviant, and certainly not, “Real,” writing.

(Although it’s far more accepted, these days, which is an odd dichotomy.)

Consider this: every adaptation, every reinvention of a mythos, every, “Reboot,” and sequel not written by the original author, can be considered fanfiction.  Neil Gaiman writing for Doctor Who, when he’s been a fan of the series since childhood – yup. Broadly considered, it’s fanfic. Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss updating Sherlock Holmes? Ditto.

I’m not saying that every author of fanfiction is a skilled or serious writer. But saying that every author of fanfiction is dreadful, does a serious disservice to people who craft stories as carefully as any novelist or screenwriter. Some people, like myself, write fics to polish their RL writing process, as well as engage in their love of characters. Some do it to blow off steam from their real-world writing jobs. Some do it as a hobby. Some do it for porn.

Yes, that’s right – fanfiction is full of porn. Or, if you think of it another way – it’s full of things that can’t be put onscreen, but that are logical in both human and storytelling terms.

Yes, there are some very extreme forms of porn, including things that make a lot of us very uncomfortable. They’re also things that in, “serious writing,” are taken seriously.

Okay, in fanfiction, some of it is just seriously kinky porn. I’m not particularly keen on the Harry Potter fandom, or Supernatural fandom, because there’s quite a lot that will freak me out.

One of the Original Slash Pairings - Image from THYLA.com (All-Ages Kirk/Spock Archive)

One of the things that tends to get quite a lot of attention in fanfic, is slash. Most people know that slash is a M/M relationship, although it originates from the, “/” used in any pairing. I recently saw an icon on LJ, “My fandom warns for het,” and spent a good 10 minutes giggling. The interesting thing to me about slash, is that there has been a long tradition of catering to the heterosexual male gaze in erotica, (and heavens to betsy, look at the, “Lesbian,” or, “Girl-on-Girl,” porn available on the internet,) but very little catering to the female gaze or LGBT gaze. That’s changing, rapidly.  Slash is overwhelmingly catering to anything BUT the heterosexual male gaze. Truthfully, slashfic can either be amazingly good, or really horrible. It depends on the author. Like any story, and any sex therein. An interesting point about the phenomenon of slash, is that the authors tend to be overwhelmingly female. Women are a whole lot kinkier than we’re given credit for, and don’t you forget it. In my own fics, I am someone who prefers to stick to canon (or at least canon-if-you-squint,) when it comes to orientation and relationships. I don’t do original character romantic pairings, (the dreaded Mary Sue/Marty Stu effect,) because that is not the reason I write in a given fandom. Some authors will do anything to get the characters they want in bed together, regardless of how out-of-character it is. Some are so scrupulously in-character and canon-locked, that they don’t feel fresh. It all depends on the author. As all storytelling does.

One of the things that truly inspires me, as a writer – full stop, is that the best authors in fandom, make me want to read their original work. Being able to write a character that is so familiar and beloved, in ways that are completely true to the character, and yet completely surprising, is not easy.   This is the universe you’ve been given – make it work, make it new, make it exciting to the reader. These are the rules. When authors go AU (Alternate Universe,) the challenge is greater. Is this still canon-enough, are the characters recognizable, does the universe you’ve created make sense? And fandom is harsh. You think your creative writing workshop crit is brutal, wait until you screw with someone’s favorite character, or god forbid – kill them off in a story.

And I haven’t even broached the subject of the ‘ship-wars. Try writing Jack Harkness with anyone but Ianto, or writing the Tenth Doctor with anyone but Rose Tyler, and god help you. No, I’m not actually kidding. People take their ‘ships, incredibly seriously.

A fandom can broadly be described as a bunch of people who share a love of something. Be it Star Wars, Twilight, Harry Potter, Doctor Who, Good Omens, Discworld, or Transformers. Not everyone in fandom writes or reads fic. Many do.

(Yes, there is Transformer slash. No, I haven’t read it. Although I have a certain admiration for anyone that can write it, because I can’t even imagine how to do it.)

Image Courtesy of Chronicle Books

We’re telling the stories we want to read, telling the stories we want to see, we’re telling stories, and that is the point. Is some of it weird, or kinky beyond what most writers feel comfortable publishing under their own name, even if it were original work? Yes. The vast majority of it, however, is no different from Amy Heckerling deciding to write Clueless based on Jane Austen’s Emma, or something like Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.

The difference is – we’re not doing it to get paid. We’re doing it, in fact, with the absolute knowledge that we won’t. We’re doing it because we love the characters and we want to tell stories.

Isn’t that what any writer wants?

Human beings have been telling stories since the dawn of time. Everything since has been a variation on a theme. Pretending otherwise is silly. What makes any story original, is how it’s told, the world that the author builds, the characters, and the skill of the execution.

I can respect authors who prefer not to have fanworks based on their work posted, but I think I respect the ones that acknowledge it, even more. Steven Moffat, Simon Pegg, J.K. Rowling, all acknowledge that people love what they do enough to riff on it, (much as I adore his work, Jasper Fforde’s insistence on no Thursday Next fics being posted is. . . odd, to me, given how much of English Lit he borrows.)

So, yes – I write fanfiction. I don’t do it under my own name, and I keep a pretty tight lock on my identifying details in fandom, because I do consider myself a serious writer, and I want other people to think of me that way, too. I’m a serious writer, but maybe I should say I’m a serious storyteller, instead.

The thing is, writing in fandom has taught me more about the craft of writing – structure, pacing, character, and narrative flow, than any of my teachers. It’s taught me at least as much as being a voracious reader from the age of three, has.

I’ve also read fanworks that are infinitely more original and well-written, than dreck that’s being published by major houses. The most valuable lesson I’ve learned though, is that regardless of how insecure I may be, and how much I have to learn about prose, (and I do,) I have the ability to tell different kinds of stories.

We make art with the tools at our disposal. Be they fanvids, or fics, or visual art. Some are funny, some are dramatic, some are sexual. That’s what we do. We make art about what moves us, we explore the human condition through a variety of modes.

Everything is a version of something else; all of it is meant to translate what we – as creators, see in the world.

I find it interesting that television and film companies, and even novelists, often draw upon other sources. How many versions of Shakespeare, or Austen, or Dickens, or. . .

How many updates of those works? When in doubt, go to the public domain.

I take umbrage at the notion that writing fic is somehow not real writing. Taking a leap of the imagination, doing research, constructing and maintaining a plot and narrative progression – in what way is that not real writing?

We write what we know. First principle. What we, as members of fandom, know – is what we love. Where we go from there, is neither required nor guaranteed.

The fact is, if I weren’t a reader, a lover of film, art, music, television, and above all – books, I would never have wanted to be a writer to begin with. Everything is a version of something else. All we do is look at it through different eyes.

Yes, I’m a serious writer. I take writing fic as seriously as I take my original work.

That’s what writers do.

TSIMU: Wil Wheaton and Ali’s Excellent Adventure

TSIMU = True Story I Made Up
This is a work of absolute fiction. But it totally happened in my brain.
Wil Wheaton** and I were walking down the street one day talking about how unfair a gelatinous cube could be when he stopped dead in his tracks and his mouth fell agape.
I glanced at him quizzically. He pointed and stuttered a few times before choking out “TARDIS*. replica. right. there.” He pointed to my right and I did a double take.
Sure enough, a large blue Police box perched on the corner, a silhouette of a head illuminated through the windows.
“Someone’s in it,” I said. “We should probably keep walking.”
The doors opened and a tall lanky man walked out with floppy black hair.
“Neil Gaiman?!?!” both Wil and I exclaimed.
“You two need to hurry,” he replied. “I’ve been waiting for you. You have a competition to win.”
“Wait, what?” I couldn’t help it. I was flabbergasted. One of my favorite authors stepped out of the blue effing box and told us he was waiting for us.
I looked to Wil to confirm that Neil had indeed gone crazy and felt my blood pressure drop. Wil was wiping tears from his face.
“It’s… real?” he uttered.
“Of course it’s real. Now get in.”
“Where are we headed?” Wil said as he grabbed my wrist and led me into the contraption.
“The eighties.” Neil stepped in behind me.
“Okay,” I said with a sigh. “Um… I know what the TARDIS looks like, but I don’t know what it does. Isn’t it just a prop?”
“How would I have gotten it here?” Neil questioned.
“So you’re telling me that the TARDIS that they use on Dr. Who…” Wil began.
“… is real.” Neil finished.
“How did you get this?” I asked, not sure if I wanted to know the answer.
“I’ve been writing for Dr. Who,” Neil replied.
“You nicked the TARDIS from set?” I slapped both of my hands to my face and took a deep breath. Telling myself to calm down wasn’t working. I was on the edge of a panic attack.
“Hence the need to leave quickly,” he said as he fiddled with something on the interior of the cabin. “I’m sure there are some security measures they have taken to locate the box once it appears.”
My mouth went dry as this demonic whirring noise starting sounding around me, followed by a sound I can only write down as “pkew pkew”.
“Calm down,” Wil said, patting at his messenger bag. “A good GM never leaves anywhere without his bag of holding. If it’s the eighties we’re headed to, we’re talking Basic Set D&D. 2nd or 3rd edition. We’ll be fine.”
“This isn’t a Dungeons and Dragons competition,” Neil said, a long smile on his face. He handed me a faded newspaper article and I glanced at the headline.
“But… but… but…” I couldn’t help but stutter.
“What is it?” Wil said as I handed him the article.
“I don’t know how to breakdance.”
This concludes Part 1 of Wil and Ali’s Excellent Adventure. Will Wil (heh. that’s fun to write) and Ali prevail? What is on that article? What is in Wil’s bag of holding? Does Ali have a panic attack? Can she master a Pencil Spin? WTF IS a Pencil Spin?
Set your RSS reader to stun, because you will be. Oh, you will be.
* TARDIS is a registered trademark of the BBC. I own no rights to it. Nor do Wil Wheaton and Neil Gaiman, but I’m sure they’d both like one.

** I also own no rights to Wil Wheaton or Neil Gaiman. I do, however, thoroughly enjoy each of their bodies of work. This is a true story that I made up… in this dimension at least.

*** I have also never seen Dr. Who. That’s pretty much the only truth in this little escapade. That, and Wil Wheaton has a bag of holding.
If Wil or Neil happens to catch wind of this, uh… hi guys. It was a writing challenge that I inadvertently gave to myself. If you want me to remove it, I’d happily do so.
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