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A long time ago tomorrow morning

There's something very disconcerting about seeing your younger self very clearly. This past four days I went up north to clear out the crap from my old bedroom at home, which included a large box and a tin of letters written to me by university friends, and boxes of books and magazines, all untouched for at least a decade.

It made me a little sad not to have kept in touch with more friends from then but I think it's natural that many friendships are situational in nature. Some people see life as a series of temporary alliances, and you don't have to put up with people who bore you. For others it's pure networking. It doesn't matter how you conceive of friendship if the person with whom you are friends sees it differently. We move on, albeit sometimes unwillingly. This is a fabulous article from The Grauniad on the nature of friendship. I read the letters of the person from whom I parted on bad terms -- and I can see the cracks there now, though I was oblivious as a 19-year-old.

Reading the letters again, it was frightening to think how little I've changed in the many years since. Pain in the arse then, pain in the arse now. I'm better at hiding things than I once was. If you ask the people I know now, I suspect they would find me opaque, but not in that fascinatingly enigmatic, sphinx-like way. More in a talking-to-a-brick-wall sort of way. Must work on being fascinatingly enigmatic. I'll put that on my list.

I wondered about talking to the people who I am still in touch with, to see whether they wanted to read their 18- to 21-year-old selves, but I think that we've all moved on, so all the letters and some old photos are now torn up and in the recycling. I remember the intensity with which I loved those people then, now banked down to a fond glow, so I'm going to call them, see how they're doing, and remember the golden rule of phoning: twenty minutes is more than enough.

I suppose those letters were relics of the past in as much as Kids Today (obligatory harrumphing noise) don't write letters; the ubiquitous email, text and cheap phone calls have seen to that. I feel a bit sorry for them. After all, no one goes back and reads their 'sent' folder, do they?

Also in the piles of crap: piles and piles of Doctor Who magazines and old fanzines. The fanzines were hilarious from today's perspective. The fanboys really are running the asylum now, aren't they?

I only watched Doctor Who when I got back tonight. I didn't love it as well as I did last week but there was still a lot to like, starting from him calling her Pond a la Steed and Peel. I also laughed when Moffat took the mickey out of RTD's moments of profundity (TM), with "oh, the songs they will sing." It's not the first time he's done that.

If shows are boyfriends, it feels as though for the past year of specials, I've been looking at Doctor Who through narrowed eyes, gritting my teeth, and muttering: "You know I love you, it's just that I don't LIKE you very much right now." Moff's version is as though the boyfriend has stopped drinking heavily, making stupid excuses and hanging out with a wanky crowd, and has become the person we loved all along.

Swearing off the Confidentials helps.

I bet Starship UK was built using PFI, and that's why it never got off the ground. The fact that everyone else, including Scotland, had already buggered off just smacks of some hideously familiar government cock-up.

The Beast Below felt as though a whole layer of explanation and reinforcing logic had been stripped out, leaving the entire edifice wobbly.

And yet I didn't care that much because so much else was wonderful. It felt really old school, very Happiness Patrol and Paradise Towers, but done with love, better scripts and a decent budget. There were shoutouts to Star Wars, and older Who eps, and a Farscape-like glee in vomit and giant space creatures.

One thing I do love is that we've lost "I used to have so much mercy", vengeful Doctor. I hated that aspect of Ten and while the punishments of the Family of Blood were fairytale in the Brothers Grimm sense, I didn't think they matched the character I loved when I was a kid at all. (Nor was that in the book, which I also liked very much). I didn't mind the Lonely God schtick at first -- or indeed when leavened by Donna's presence -- it started to feel like one of those slightly overwrought fanfic sagas where everyone dies. That's a guilty pleasure in casual reading but a pain in the arse in canon.

So how perfect was it that Moffat conceptualises the Doctor as someone who has suffered terrible losses, but is very old and, above all, kind. Yes, they hammered it home with the subtlety of an anvil falling on Wile E Coyote's head, but I liked that that's where he's going.

Sophie Okenedo was fun as the Queen, though I did wonder why she spoke standard RP in the video of her earlier self, and Cockney in the present -- unless it was meant to show the passage of time. It was also perfect that the ruler was a Queen rather than a president, as it matched the 1950s style fag-end-of-empire look of the sets. A figurehead monarch and a country that votes to forget, and meanwhile the engineers (winders) and secret police (smilers) make the world keep turning.

I continue to love Matt Smith as the Doctor, as he's done his homework, and he's unworldly and strange. There wasn't much Tennant-y inflection in his performance in this one, but there were definite notes of Two and a whole Seven vibe there.

Which brings me to the current cracky theory: Moffat is replaying the Ace arc of season 26, only better. Maybe Leadworth is so picture-perfect that it's not actually real and those people are caught in some sort of alternate world, like The Library, only not. The Doctor plucks Amy from there but wrongness follows her around, and the Doctor is seeking a way to trap it and stop it. He doesn't quite know what it is yet but he knows that something is awry, hence his furious "you don't ever decide what I need to know".

♥, still.


Apr. 12th, 2010 10:02 am (UTC)
I don't think it lasted more than a couple of issues. I mainly remember it for a Paul Cornell story which, I think, referenced All About Eve (the band, not the film), who I loved very much at the time.

There are also copies of Circus, edited by Colin Brockhurst, who now produces the tremendous Vworp Vworp. I think all those fanzines were my introduction to things like Quatermass.
Apr. 12th, 2010 10:37 am (UTC)
I was a reader of Circus too, and a writer for it... that final hand-perfect-bound issue with the Troughton playground montage cover in 2002 was a tremendous labour of love.

The great thing about Paul C's writing in the early 1990s was his desire to bring Doctor Who back into mainstream pop culture. It was a bit of a shock to a mollusc like my late teenage/early twenties self, withdrawn in his shell who on one level was rather happy with JN-T/Cartmel Who's detachment from the contemporary, but when Timewyrm: Revelation referenced the Happy Mondays I also knew that it was right to pin Ace down like that.
Apr. 12th, 2010 11:08 am (UTC)
You wrote for Circus? Tremendous. I don't think I have that last issue, as -- aside from reading the NAs -- I put away Doctor Who when I went to university, and did other things for about five years. One of my more stupid decisions.

I still remember reading Paul Cornell's first book and feeling that shock of the new, of bringing Doctor Who right into contemporary life. I think it's the same trick that RTD pulled off with "Rose", siting it so firmly in the now now now, as he'd probably put it, that it was impossible for critics to write it off as irrelevant. Of course, that obsession with locking the show into the present is also one of RTD's greatest flaws. I liked how slippery Moffat was about precise timing in The Eleventh Hour.

RTD made Doctor Who personal, present and relevant again, and Moff seems to be shifting it toward the ancient and timeless again. In the balance of the two is the ideal.