elisi: (Bill (dark))
[personal profile] elisi
I feel this only addresses about three things, but it's already Thursday and my head just won't wrap itself around things the way they should. So further thoughts might follow. Please talk to me about stuff you think I should look at!

Weekly Meta Cafe is hereby open. :)

First of all, I feel I should point out that half my notes from this episode are just ‘I LOVE NARDOLE’.

He just has to open his mouth to make me smile. Honestly, Matt Lucas has the best job in the whole show. <3


STRUCTURE

I think the most surprising thing about ‘The Lie of the Land’ is how straightforward it was on a surface level. Drab authoritarian regime. The Doctor appears to be working with the Monks. Bill & Nardole go rescue him. He gets Bill to jump through hoops to make sure she’s not been brainwashed. The Doctor talks to Missy, who has information. Bill realises she needs to die. The Doctor tries to take her place. It doesn’t work, Bill goes to sacrifice herself, but her love for her dead mother proves to be an obstacle the Monks can’t overcome. Monks run away, world is saved, people barely remember a thing.

It’s almost Doctor Who by numbers: World in peril, love saves the day.

People have pointed out the similarities to the resolution in Rings of Akhaten - the Doctor giving his all, but it’s not enough. And then the companion steps up and (through her very particular history/her dead mother) saves the day.

There are also parallels back to S3, although this wasn’t ‘the Doctor Saves Us All’. The plan in the S3 finale was basically the same as Bill’s was here: Get the Doctor back. And it worked a treat then – they used the Archangel network to restore the Doctor, and then he dealt with the Master.

Here, however, ‘getting the Doctor back’ only works up to the point of ‘the Doctor can work out what’s wrong’. What he can’t do is save the world, as the structure is very different, and Bill – as the responsible party – has to be the one to undo the damage.

Since we’re talking about parallels, there is also Bill talking to her mother to keep sane, much like Oswin did in the Dalek Asylum.

And Bill ties the Doctor up so he can't keep her from sacrificing herself, much like River handcuffs him in the Library. Ditto the nice argument about who should have the privilege of burning their brain out…

But there is more to it than parallels to the past, so I am going to attempt look at the three-part structure.

Here’s what I laid out earlier:

Ep 6: Here is a concept
Ep 7: Now let's put it into action (the whole world in extremis)
Ep 8: The fallout (1984)

Looking at this episode in isolation doesn’t work. I shall hand over to [personal profile] promethia_tenk as she had an excellent insight:

The thing that really struck me is what a postmodern pastiche they are. The tone, the setting, and the storytelling devices jump around wildly both between the three episodes and within them. I mean, Moffat's writing is obviously . . . Moffat. So that's to be expected. But in Pyramid at the end of the world, not only do you have the long-unexplained juxtaposition between the army/pyramid scenes and the lab scenes, you also have the unique inter-cutting of the previously-on scenes with Bill's date and you have a classic Twelfth Doctor fourth wall-breaking soliloquy and voice over. I remember thinking how awkward it was to do both in the same episode--it was like getting two episode intros in the same episode. But I chalked it up to clunky writing. And then in this episode, I think I'm right, there are basically three distinct sections . . . and they don't quite fit together. They are all kind of saying different things, and they all feel quite different. And we start the episode watching one of the Doctor's broadcasts, which is kind of like . . . a nature documentary? Mixed with Mr. Rogers. And we have Bill narrating major parts of the episode, which is a very infrequently used device on Doctor Who. It rather jars, really. And that scene in the Doctor's broadcasting room on the ship is . . . it is *weird*. The tonal shift after the fake regeneration is just bizarre, and it feels highlighted by the white room. They were literally putting on a play for Bill and it feels like they are laughing about it 'backstage' afterwards. These are a weird pastiche of episodes that are doing everything they can to break our sense of narrative continuity.

… so you know what book does the same thing?

Moby Dick. Conveniently brought up by the Doctor in Extremis. Does all kinds of strange things. Chapters that are excerpts from nature journals, or written as acts of plays--that kind of thing.

I should probably go and look up what that book was actually about . . . it was all a bit of a blur by the end. Something about the struggle of the old world against modernity.

So that could work.

And, I mean, post-modernism is entirely appropriate to the challenging of reality and truth we get in these episodes. Tired, so copy/pasting from Wikipedia:

While encompassing a broad range of ideas, postmodernism is typically defined by an attitude of scepticism, irony or distrust toward grand narratives, ideologies and various tenets of universalism, including objective notions of reason, human nature, social progress, moral universalism, absolute truth, and objective reality. Instead, it asserts to varying degrees that claims to knowledge and truth are products of social, historical or political discourses or interpretations, and are therefore contextual or socially constructed. Accordingly, postmodern thought is broadly characterized by tendencies to epistemological and moral relativism, pluralism, irreverence and self-referentiality.

The baseline throughout is Bill’s question:

“I need to know what's real and what isn't real.”

The Doctor calls the Monks’ pyramid ‘Fake News Central’, and it’s interesting to note that the simulation in ‘Extremis’ was more true to the actual world than the broadcast version the Monks beamed out in ‘Lie of the Land’.

The kicker is the ending:

DOCTOR: This thing that we're sitting on. What is it?
STUDENT: Er, we thought they were just like filming something here or something?
DOCTOR: Thank you. Very helpful. Now go away, or something. You see? The Monks have erased themselves. Humanity's doomed to never learn from its mistakes.
BILL: Well, I guess that's part of our charm.
DOCTOR: No, it's really quite annoying.


Which ties in with the Doctor’s rant when Bill confronts him in the ship:

DOCTOR: Yes, well, I mean, you had free will, and look at what you did with it. Worse than that, you had history. History was saying to you, look, I've got some examples of fascism here for you to look at. No? Fundamentalism? No? Oh, okay, you carry on. I had to stop you, or at least not stand in the way of someone else who wanted to, because the guns were getting bigger, the stakes were getting higher, and any minute now it was going to be goodnight, Vienna.

Sci-fi always reflects current events. If people look back thirty years from now, these episodes will be as easy to place historically as The Happiness Patrol is for us. And – being human – might be battling the same issues all over again. (Humanity's doomed to never learn from its mistakes.) Just look at how Britain seems incapable of learning from what they went through under Thatcher…

Why do people vote the way they do? Fear? Strategy/ Self-preservation? Love?

(Take my rights, just keep me safe…)

What is real? What is real for me? Is there such a thing as subjective truth?

~

Finally, then both Extremis and Lie of the Land are resolved in exactly the same way:

DOCTOR: There's always one thing you can do from inside a computer. Even if you're a jumped-up little subroutine, you can do it. You can always e-mail!

DOCTOR: All those years you kept her alive inside you, an isolated subroutine in a living mind. Perfect, untouchable. She's a window on the world without the Monks. Absolutely loved, absolutely trusted. And that window is opening everywhere.


Which strikes a hopeful note – the systems can be practically perfect, but there will always be a way through. We might be stuck in an endless cycle, but it is a cycle. It will get dark, but then lighter again. Or in other words:

Intellect and romance triumph over brute force and cynicism.

(Now, as long as we don’t destroy the planet…)


MIRROR, MIRROR

So, for the past two seasons we had Clara as the main mirror. She was all the things and reflected all the things, and it was quite delightful. Missy was a dark Clara mirror (see this post), and the Doctor & Clara got caught in a reflective loop.

HOWEVER. Clara has gone off to be a Doctor all of her own, so what now? Bill is still much too fresh and innocent to go dark (and will hopefully never go as dark as Clara). So, where are our Doctor mirrors?

Well, they’re in the bad guys. And very disturbing mirrors they make, because they are so very accurate. You thought this was an episode/triptych about some aliens that started out promising but then had a mildly unsatisfactory ending? Well, let me pull back the top layer and see what lies beneath.

First of all, let me quote the following exchange from ‘Rose’. Clive is the conspiracy theory guy she finds on the internet and then goes to meet:

CLIVE: A lot of this stuff's quite sensitive. I couldn't just send it to you. People might intercept it, if you know what I mean. If you dig deep enough and keep a lively mind, this Doctor keeps cropping up all over the place. Political diaries, conspirisy theories, even ghost stories. No first name, no last name, just the Doctor. Always The Doctor. That's your Doctor there, isn't it?
ROSE: Yeah.
CLIVE: I tracked it down to the Washington public archive just last year. The online photo's enhanced, but if we look at the original
(The original is a picture of Kennedy's cortege going through Dallas. The Doctor is just one face in the crowd.)
CLIVE: November the 22nd, 1963. The assassination of President Kennedy. You see?
ROSE: It must be his father.
CLIVE: Going further back. April 1912. This is a photo of the Daniels family of Southampton, and friend. This was taken the day before they were due to sail off for the New World on the Titanic, and for some unknown reason, they cancelled the trip and survived. And here we are. 1883. Another Doctor. (a sketch) And look, the same lineage. It's identical. This one washed up on the coast of Sumatra on the very day Krakatoa exploded. The Doctor is a legend woven throughout history. When disaster comes, he's there. He brings the storm in his wake and he has one constant companion.
ROSE: Who's that?
CLIVE: Death.


Why am I pulling out that long quote? Well, allow me to do a little experiment. I am going to alter the Doctor’s documentary speech a tiny bit. Actually, I’m only going to change one word. Instead of 'Monks' I will use the word 'Doctor':

The Monks haveThe Doctor has been with us from the beginning.

BigBangTwoText

Doctor-EarthText

They He shepherded humanity through its formative years, gently guiding and encouraging, like a parent clapping their hands at a baby's first steps.

Hidex

Unearthlychildx

They have He has been instrumental in all the advances of culture and technology.

Mona_lisas

ForAmy

They He watched proudly as man invented the light bulb, the telephone and the internet.

Ten-Franklin1

Four-newton

They were He was even there to welcome the first men on the moon.

Martha1text

Apollo11

And they have he has defended us too. Who can forget the time the Monks Doctor defeated the Daleks, the Cybermen, the Weeping Angels?

exploding daleksx

cybermenx

Angelsx

Two species, sharing a history as happily as they share a planet, humanity and the Monks Doctor are a blissful and perfect partnership.

alotofwork3

How lucky Earth is to have an ally as powerful and tender as the Monks Doctor, that asks for nothing in return for their his benevolence but obedience.


Harriet Jonesx

Aswe'retoldx

Presidentx

I am sure you could suggest dozens upon dozens of other examples to add to this list. He is woven through Earth's history in ways that cannot be changed without dire consequences - f.ex. look at Pompeii, a fixed point, but one that the Doctor helped make happen. The Monks inserted themselves through lies, but the Doctor is embedded properly. We could even say that the Monks copied the Doctor.

(Again, this is where Clara is the fascinating flipside to the coin; as deeply enmeshed in the fabric of the Doctor's life as he is in the history of the world. If the Doctor shaped the history of humanity, then Clara shaped him right back. But that's a different topic.)

Of course the Doctor helps because he cares, and doesn't particularly want worship or anything else in return, but last week I noted the Monks' similarities to Time Lords (the outfits, the superior technology, their ability to change their bodies), but it's taken further this time, as I demonstrated above.

However the Time Lords always had a strict policy of non-intervention. But the Doctor - oh the Doctor just can't help himself...

OCTAVIAN: Two hundred years later, the planet was terraformed. Currently there are six billion human colonists.
DOCTOR: Whoo! You lot, you're everywhere. You're like rabbits. I'll never get done saving you.

Time of Angels

But being 'the Savior' can also be problematic. Look at the Doctor's initial idea for how he would save the day:

DOCTOR: Somewhere in there, the Monks must have some kind of a machine that creates and broadcasts the myths of their history. The ones that are powered by, carried by, fed by your brainwaves. So, we get in, I plug myself into it, and replace the signals that they are receiving with my brainwaves and beam out the true history of the world. Oh, yes! I could even throw in some other stuff. The things that I could change just by thinking. Racism. People who talk in cinemas.

'The things I could change just by thinking'. At the start the similarities are only inferred, but here they become literal. The Doctor will take the Monks' place and swap their input for his own...

Switch back to the previous episode:

ERICA: Oh, my God!
DOCTOR: No, I'm the Doctor, but it's an easy mistake to make. The eyebrows.


Humanity caught between the Monks and the Doctor. Between would-be rulers, and the appointed one. Remember, Twelve has gone Victorious before, that impulse is there if the need is pressing enough.

But then, the episode before that:

NARDOLE (dressed as a Monk): Greetings, sinner. Only in darkness are we revealed.

He then goes on to read from River's diary.

Words which Missy repeats a little later. (Missy thoughts later.)

And so, we have the two sides of the conflict - the Monks; using love in order to enslave, and River on the other; using love to remind the Doctor of who he is:

RIVER: Goodness is not goodness that seeks advantage. Good is good in the final hour, in the deepest pit without hope, without witness, without reward. Virtue is only virtue in extremis. This is what he believes, and this is the reason above all, I love him. My husband. My madman in a box. My Doctor.

And so it follows, that it is love which saves the world. Love for naught but love's sake. Not a tactical attempt at subverting the lies. (The intent has to be pure.)

Which is why it has to be Bill who saves the world, and we get not the Doctor's idea of what the world should be, but Bill's love for her mother.

And the Doctor gets a timely reminder...

DOCTOR: Look at that! All the pictures I gave you. I thought I was just being kind, but I was saving the world.

A random act of kindness can change the world, which is of course the point of all the best Doctor Who stories. In an three-parter where the Doctor has lied and manipulated and tactically maneuvered his way through the plot, this was a beautiful ending. And one the Doctor needed, I think.

As Angel once said:

"If there is no great glorious end to all this, if nothing we do matters, then all that matters is what we do. 'Cause that's all there is. All I wanna do is help. I wanna help because - I don't think people should suffer, as they do. Because, if there is no bigger meaning, then the smallest act of kindness - is the greatest thing in the world."

I think this is the most important thing we could possibly remember at this point (at any point) in time.



ETA: Make sure to check out Promethia's insightful comment here on DW, and also don't miss the quite ridiculously wonderful comment-fic on the LJ side: A Whale of a Tale.


PART 2

(no subject)

Date: 8 June 2017 08:13 pm (UTC)
promethia_tenk: (twelve time lord)
From: [personal profile] promethia_tenk
Sorry I didn't get back to you earlier--was at work. Totally understand the 'well, better post something' impulse, though. And it's all good, what you've got there, but as you say, it does feel incomplete.

I think right now the one big point that I would want to make about this episode is that I think it is doing exactly the same thing that all of Whithouse's best episodes do. Which is to draw for us the portrait of a monster within a context that mirrors, with incredible detail and subtlety, some unsavory aspect of the Doctor's behavior and motivation. And he is never pat about this. We don't leave The God Complex or Town Called Mercy feeling like we have all the answers or that something has been fixed. My sense is very much that Whithouse is there to dissect and understand; not to heal. And I think this episode is attempting the same thing. I'd say the majority of reactions I'm seeing to this episode fall somewhere along a spectrum between disgust and confusion. And the longer I think about it, the more I think that that is intentional. Especially because whereas God Complex and Mercy are both relatively self-contained, this episode is also serving as a mid-season climax. So not only are we getting a deeply ambiguous and unsettling portrait of the Doctor (which is, in some ways, being unconvincingly whitewashed by the episode itself), but it's also happening at a pivot point in the season, so that what we may or may not choose to think about the conflicts that have been presented to us are necessarily going to hinge on what happens going forward.

I suspect that anybody who has watched this episode and come away confused, scared, angry, or feeling in any way resistant or uneasy with our nice happy ending . . . has probably understood the episode perfectly.

You asked me whether I thought Missy could get her own post, and I think mostly yes? Except to the extent that she is serving the portrait of the Doctor's Monk-ish-ness. The Doctor talks about free will while he keeps a woman locked in his basement, trying to bend her to his own moral preferences.

(no subject)

Date: 8 June 2017 08:43 pm (UTC)
promethia_tenk: (Default)
From: [personal profile] promethia_tenk
There are SO MANY OTHER THINGS, that I figured what I had seemed vaguely coherent, so I'd rather discuss all the other stuff in more depth before trying to tackle it. So this is like 'part 1 of ongoing stuff'. ;)
Seems like a good approach. And I have this strong suspicion that this is an episode that we're going to end up having a lot more to say about by the end of the season.

It got hijacked by politics... If there hadn't been an election happening, I suspect my thoughts would probably have been more coherent.
*hugs fiercely*

This. Which I think I have sort of expressed, if a lot less coherently. (Brain like syrup.)
Yeah, major portions of what you've written are basically saying that, but over the course of today it kinda snapped in my brain: that's it. That's the one point I'd want to make about this episode, above any other.

And I think this is also an important part of it?:

It’s almost Doctor Who by numbers: World in peril, love saves the day.
Because it is Doctor Who by numbers. It is a very nice Doctor Who story. In an episode that explicitly tells us over and over to question the narratives we're being handed.

:D (I *do* like Whithouse.)
Me toooooooo <3 At this point I'm thinking he should probably never be given the reins of the show (waaaaay too depressing), but I think the show does benefit from letting him in to savage everything from time to time . . .

Yeah, there is so much there, but it seems... one step removed? Doctor-Clara-Missy was a three-way mirror, but here the Monks are reflections of the Doctor, and Missy is a reflection of the Doctor, and the Doctor is in the middle, but Missy is not reflecting the Monks in that sense.
Yes. Well put--I think that's exactly it. Whithouse has upped his game: two complicated, multi-faceted monsters to mirror the Doctor.

(*snort* just remembered Twelve to Clara: Why've you got three mirrors? It is because your face is so wide?)

(So tired. Stupid brain. Stupid worries about politics.)
One way or another, we are getting through this week!!

ETA: Btw check out the fic-comment on the LJ side. You will like. :)
Oh. I did. And I did =D

(no subject)

Date: 8 June 2017 09:15 pm (UTC)
owlboy: (DW - River grumpy face)
From: [personal profile] owlboy
>>I suspect that anybody who has watched this episode and come away confused, scared, angry, or feeling in any way resistant or uneasy with our nice happy ending . . . has probably understood the episode perfectly.

I'm *still* angry. lol.

(no subject)

Date: 8 June 2017 09:22 pm (UTC)
promethia_tenk: (river rory fraked)
From: [personal profile] promethia_tenk
Well. Whithouse is a very good writer.

(no subject)

Date: 8 June 2017 09:33 pm (UTC)
promethia_tenk: (Default)
From: [personal profile] promethia_tenk
"Whithouse brings not peace, but a sword."
OOooh! *delighted shivers* Perfect.

The exit polls are promising!! (And I shall now go to bed and SLEEP.)
Sleep well! And dream of Tories getting ousted.

(no subject)

Date: 8 June 2017 09:33 pm (UTC)
owlboy: (DW - Swagga)
From: [personal profile] owlboy
Yeah, every time I think about it I find a new reason to be mad at the Doctor. It's like an onion of hate

(no subject)

Date: 8 June 2017 09:36 pm (UTC)
owlboy: (Misc - Leopard heels)
From: [personal profile] owlboy
It's likely to be a hung parliament at this point, in which case there'll be calls for May to resign. And UKIP is finished as a party. Which is about the best we could have hoped for.

(no subject)

Date: 8 June 2017 09:39 pm (UTC)
promethia_tenk: (cj)
From: [personal profile] promethia_tenk
Huzzah!

(no subject)

Date: 8 June 2017 09:42 pm (UTC)
promethia_tenk: (twelve flowers)
From: [personal profile] promethia_tenk
Mmmmm hate onions <3

My current favorite detail is Bill's displaced anger over the Doctor tricking her. She's all like 'what the fuck?' until she finds out Nardole was in on it, at which point she immediately decides to beat him to a pulp.

Like, Bill, bb, go beat up the Doctor. No one will blame you <3

(no subject)

Date: 8 June 2017 09:47 pm (UTC)
owlboy: (DW - Lover or Killer?)
From: [personal profile] owlboy
My favourite bit is how the Dr makes people write essays on free will while keeping people locked up in his basement

(no subject)

Date: 8 June 2017 09:50 pm (UTC)
owlboy: (Default)
From: [personal profile] owlboy
The whole reason the election was called was so that the tories could cement and even bigger majority to push their brexit agenda through without a fight. Now they don't even have a majority. I'm fucking laughing. I love the parliamentary system

(no subject)

Date: 8 June 2017 09:56 pm (UTC)
promethia_tenk: (bill tardis)
From: [personal profile] promethia_tenk
I wonder if she uses that as, like, a passive-agressive hypothetical in her paper. 'Say, for example, that one person had another person imprisoned somewhere. A basement, hypothetically . . .'

(no subject)

Date: 8 June 2017 10:00 pm (UTC)
promethia_tenk: (Default)
From: [personal profile] promethia_tenk
Just occurs to me that the ending fits well with the postmodern thing: the people in the story end up thinking it was part of a movie.

(no subject)

Date: 9 June 2017 12:42 am (UTC)
owlboy: (Default)
From: [personal profile] owlboy
That's asking for a B-

(no subject)

Date: 9 June 2017 09:48 am (UTC)
promethia_tenk: (Default)
From: [personal profile] promethia_tenk
Sometimes there is justice in the world >:-)

(no subject)

Date: 10 June 2017 02:36 am (UTC)
enevarim: (twelve-that-betraying-me-would-make-a-di)
From: [personal profile] enevarim
Watched it a second time. Agree there are some very neat ideas in there, and I liked it better the second time than I did the first. And, primed by having read your post, I saw many more parallels to other older stories – the Monks pretending to have been there from the beginning the way the Silence had been. (Unless the Silence were lying too. It seems a long break from a war to go back to the beginning of human history and take over the race that would eventually give rise to the church that would create you, when arguably all they needed to do is keep out of sight and raise River Song to be a weapon in the mid-twentieth century. So maybe when they said they’d been there since the wheel and the fire they were lying just like the Monks are. Except that River’s scanner showed the tunnels being all over the planet, and having been there for hundreds of years, so maybe not.) But the scene of people raising their fists against a remaining Monk just before the spaceship left to Twelve’s intoned “What oppressors always do when they realise who's really in power. They run.” felt like a very efficient callback to Eleventy getting rid of the Silence in The Day of the Moon.

You keep reminding me not to ask “why?” and I keep failing to do that when stories don’t sufficiently distract me from it. We know from Doctor Mysterio that Nardole can pilot the TARDIS to pick up the Doctor, so the whole bit with the ship was unnecessary – Nardole could have taken Bill to the TARDIS (from which he got the tracking device) and they could have materialized the TARDIS around the Doctor, rescuing him that way. Bonus points if taking Bill into the TARDIS actually also breaks the Monks’ signal and stops the false memories being transmitted. Or if the Doctor can summon up regeneration energy to fake a regeneration, he could have healed his eyes long ago.

But I don’t like the Malcolm testing Macduff scene in Macbeth either, and even Macduff doesn’t seem terribly impressed with it when Malcolm explains that it was all a trick to see if he could trust him (“Such welcome and unwelcome things at once 'Tis hard to reconcile”), so, fair enough: maybe for that whole confrontation the answer to “why” can be “because”. But sometimes it’s really distracting. The humans on the supply ship are all in on the plot, so they can act in contrived ways and laugh about it later. Why did the Monk just stare at Nardole and Bill and then let the rescue continue to take place? The Monk isn’t part of the plot. It feels like Whithouse wanted a heightening of dramatic tension for a moment, and wasn’t thinking about whether it made sense or not. Also, if the Monks can simulate human history to the point of knowing when reading glasses breaking and a hangover make it most likely that the world can be ended, why can’t they also predict the plot that’s going to stop them? It feels like the plot needs them to be particularly good at seeing how time is going to work at some moments, and particularly blind to it in others. (And sure, it has to be like that because otherwise the Doctor can’t win, and I’m asking “why” again which you keep reminding me I shouldn’t do, but... it would help me if they lampshaded it, somehow. Because we saw in Extremis that the Doctor was part of the simulations that they ran, so they would have seen what he does and how he works. So do they just chalk “being booted off the planet by the Doctor like all the others” up to experience? Again, it feels like they need to be particularly not-rubbish right up until the moment the plot needs them to be rubbish.)

All that said, I love the idea of the Monks being a mirror of a problematic aspect of the Doctor, just as you once suggested the Weeping Angels were – it feels very Moffat-era. And I suppose my previous collection of things that don’t fit well together could just be more evidence for Promethia’s suggestion that this is some sort of postmodern pastiche. But I want at the end of it all to have a feeling for why it all happened the way it did. I suppose one could argue that we won’t know we’re at the end of it until the end of the season (the Silence came back, after all), so... maybe it’s premature to expect sense at this point and we’ll have to rewatch these episodes in the context of the entire series. Maybe The Lie of the Land was the Monks learning first-hand the way the Doctor works just as Pyramid was the Doctor learning first-hand the way the Monks work, and the Doctor thinks he has won and they have fled but it will turn out that’s not really what happened. Hmm. That’s deeply disturbing, not least because we might be three/four weeks away from knowing how this story “really” ended.

(no subject)

Date: 10 June 2017 12:39 pm (UTC)
enevarim: (clara-if-youve-ever-let-this-creature-li)
From: [personal profile] enevarim
The Daemons did it first!! It's a good trope.
– The Daemons, Scaroth, the Silence, ... someone must have written crack!fic about all the different alien species who have guided earth from the very beginning (arguably including the Doctor) meeting up from time to time and arguing about it, right?

Your explanation of the Monks being a metaphorical vehicle (engine?) rather than the main point of the story, like the Starwhale in The Beast Below, is very helpful. I can stop worrying about the details of the Monks. (If the point of the simulations is that the Monks learn what goes wrong with their plans in a less expensive setting so they can correct for it, it still seems odd that the Monks are fooled the same way the second time. But I get that that isn’t the point of this story.)

But it still feels... un-Doctor-ish for the Doctor to wait six months while people are being killed and taken to concentration camps. That kid whose mother was taken away at gunpoint... the human race may forget the Monks, but I don’t think that kid is going to forget that. Or the ones whose parents were killed. Yes, the Doctor waits a year in S3, but there’s a timey-wimey reset switch for most of that.

“So is this how it works, Doctor? You never interfere in the affairs of other peoples or planets, unless there's children crying?” There were children crying. And sure, the Doctor was a prisoner without his TARDIS (like that’s ever stopped him before: “On the run, no Tardis. No friends, no help. In other words, the Doctor, happy”, or, as his friend remarks, “I once built a gun out of leaves. Do you think I couldn't get through a door if I wanted to?”), and for the first six weeks Nardole was out of action and couldn’t have brought the TARDIS anyway, but the next four and a half months?

I get that we’re exploring a different aspect of the Doctor here, and his gruff irritation at humans not learning from their mistakes (“No, it's really quite annoying”) is entertainingly different from anything that Eleventy might have said. But allowing the world six months of hell to make a philosophical point to Bill about Free Will – I hope she writes a very shade-casting essay.

(no subject)

Date: 10 June 2017 03:16 pm (UTC)
enevarim: (oak-leaves)
From: [personal profile] enevarim
They're like Black Swans, unknown unknowns.
– But in Pyramid, the Monks were able to track the unknown unknown combination of Erica’s broken reading glasses and Douglas’s incapacitating hangover and unwillingness to take the day off. So it feels as though sometimes they can see the Black Swans and sometimes they can’t. Maybe they’re internally consistent in Pyramid and internally consistent in Lie, but not consistent between the two stories, which is at least a different category of problem.

And maybe, as Four said on another occasion, it doesn’t really matter anyway. (Or, in Moffat’s Corollary, “I prefer #3 [Oo, monsters]. It’s quicker”.) I’m not setting this out to be argumentative, I would far rather see it the way you see it. But that might involve relaxing a requirement for consistency (which, yes, fifty four years of stories about time travel in a magic box, bit of a ridiculous requirement from the get-go) that I’m still clinging to too tightly.

And yet, he has never killed Hitler.
– The Marble House problem, yes. Lampshaded in Last Christmas with “There are lots of dangerous things on this funny little planet of yours, Clara, most of which you eat. I'm the Doctor, not your mam”, but still a problem. We only interfere when children are crying for specific reasons involving alien interference? Except that’s already not what’s happening in The Beast Below, which is absolutely about interfering in human internal affairs. There happens to be an alien nearby, but... okay, had to stop thinking about that, it was so headache-inducing.

The Monks killed people. But they presumably stopped all the other problems. The net gain might have been *fewer* people dying.
– Now that’s a trolley problem. The humans are about to kill each other, Twelve thinks to himself, goodnight, Vienna. I can stop them from doing that – 

XIAOLIAN: The future we saw. Is it the war? Do we bring that future about?
DOCTOR: That would seem to be the most obvious conclusion.
XIAOLIAN: No. I say, no. Friend, I will not fight you.
ILYA: We are just soldiers in the field.
XIAOLIAN: Are we too afraid to disobey?
BRABBIT: I'm not.
(They shake hands.)
ILYA: Neither am I.
(He shakes Xiaolian's hand.)
BILL: This is amazing.

– but only by allowing aliens to take over the earth for a time. Since I have a Time Head, I can work out all the consequences to the end of the universe for both cases and come to the right decision.

Or in other words, this trilogy might have been a much more Time Lord Victorious moment than Ten ever had, and Missy may be the only person who will ever know it happened. Well twisted, as Ace might say. If this is actually what was going on, I emerge much more impressed with the ideas and the stories than I was before. And I wouldn’t have wrestled with it without you clearly taking it more seriously and enjoying it more than I did. So thank you.


(no subject)

Date: 10 June 2017 03:18 pm (UTC)
enevarim: (hourglass)
From: [personal profile] enevarim
Re your ETA: Huh. And if your / Promethia’s / Owls’s theory is right that S8 happens after S10 from Missy’s point of view, and Missy knows that the Doctor allowed the Monks to take over to avoid a bigger problem, i.e. he did use an army, then that conversation in Death in Heaven suddenly makes much more sense...
Edited Date: 10 June 2017 03:18 pm (UTC)

(no subject)

Date: 10 June 2017 04:04 pm (UTC)
enevarim: (hourglass)
From: [personal profile] enevarim
by sitting tight in prison he was being Victorious?
– By choosing not to be the person who stops the Earth from being invaded (which has recently been how he has defined himself: “The humans have no plan at all.” / “That’s where you're wrong. They have the same plan they always have.” / “What plan?” / “Me.”), because it’s actually the lesser of two evils for the humans to be conquered, it certainly feels more machiavellian / Victorious (from the point of view of a human who has strong feelings about free will, say) than pitching in to prevent the Monks’ invasion from happening in the first place.

Actually, the even more Victorious theory / possibility is that the Doctor invents the Monks to stop the humans from destroying themselves, but I get there is no support for that reading. (Although if the Doctor is trying to get the humans to decide not to destroy each other, being able to show them exactly what he needs the three generals to see to decide not to fight at that moment is... at least opportune.)

ETA: Sure, Missy appears to suggest she’s met the Monks before, but... we’ve already had Twelve and Nardole invent one play-acting scene in this episode. What’s to say that Twelve and Missy didn’t invent another one?
Edited Date: 10 June 2017 04:15 pm (UTC)

(no subject)

Date: 10 June 2017 05:13 pm (UTC)
enevarim: (Default)
From: [personal profile] enevarim
Ah, yes. Good points, well made. :)

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