Doctor Who Retrospective! Series 1, Episode 3, “The Unquiet Dead”

Ah yes… Mark Gatiss.

I don’t particularly have anything against Mark Gatiss, except for the fact that he probably told Steven Moffat that The Final Problem was a good idea, but as far as Doctor Who goes his episodes barely go above average. I didn’t even think his work on Sherlock was that great; The Great Game was Sherlock Holmes solving crimes off-screen where the audience couldn’t see it and The Hounds of Baskerville actually drove a friend of mine mad because of how predictable the gas twist was. This episode features heavily on gas too. What is it with Mark Gatiss and gas?

That being said, I did enjoy The Idiot’s Lantern and thought Night Terrors was okay, everything else is quite skippable but by no means abominable. The Unquiet Dead unfortunately is one of those lukewarm Doctor Who outings that Gatiss has contributed.

The Doctor and Rose visit Cardiff in 1869 and meet Charles Dickens. They also discover that a local funeral parlour has been having a bit of trouble with corpses that come to life, and a servant girl named Gwyneth who works there might hold the key to who or what could be behind it.

Positive things first, the best thing about this episode is that it includes my new favourite reaction to a zombie outbreak: “Gwyneth! The stiffs are lively again!”. Brilliant. I also liked Charles Dickens implying that Edwin Drood was actually killed by blue gas monsters, and Nine’s reaction to meeting Dickens. I also enjoyed the scene between Rose and Gwyneth, which I think may have inspired that beyond adorable chat between Martha and Chantho in the series 3 episode Utopia.

My main problem with this episode is that it strikes me as a bit of a cop out. Say what you want about Davies’ episodes so far, but he took risks. He showed the Doctor letting someone die, he had Rose question herself and whether or not she could handle time travel and he had the guts to have Rose’s first adventure less than whimsical but actually quite horrifying. The first two episodes might not have been masterpieces but they were rather heavy in tone and challenging to new viewers.

Gatiss sets up the alien race, the Gelth, as a dying species that are in desperate need of physical form. The Doctor and Rose debate whether or not they should use the bodies in the funeral parlour, with the Doctor being all for it and Rose insisting that it’s disrespectful to the dead. The Doctor wins because of course the previous owners of said bodies won’t be needing them anymore. That sets up that this episode will be debating morality surrounding respecting the dead and whether or not it’s the Doctor’s place to decide that humanity is going to share Earth with an alien race without any warning.

But by the end, it turns out that the Gelth were lying all along and now they’re going to kill everyone. That’s… really boring. The previous discussion between the Doctor and Rose suggested that we would be getting moral conflicts here, interesting ones involving how the Gelth and humanity would live together and if they could live together. But no, they’re evil and now we have to kill them all. And the Doctor and Rose literally just stand there while Charles Dickens saves the day. It’s the only really useful thing he does in this episode, he’s surprisingly sidelined.

I always enjoy the build up a bit more than the payoff in any case, but in this case the payoff was really disappointing. It was implied I would be getting a big old moral dilemma of an episode, but it turns out it’s just simple black and white storytelling where the humans are the good guys and we have to kill the evil aliens. I’m not saying I don’t enjoy watching people fight some malevolent aliens, but that’s not what I was told I was going to get here.

In short, I’d cut Dickens from this story and have a bit more of the Gelth. I don’t hate this episode, I don’t really hate any of the Gatiss episodes, they’re just never my favourites. The Unquiet Dead is decent enough, there’s nothing terrible about it, I just found it to be a bit of a letdown. Hey, at least I don’t dread it upon Doctor Who marathons, unlike the next episode.

Oh Russell, you were doing so well.

Doctor Who Retrospective! Series 1, Episode 2, “The End of the World”

Let’s get this straight once and for all; that gif of the Ninth Doctor dancing that’s floating around the internet isn’t him dancing to Britney Spears’ Toxic, he’s dancing to the classic Soft Cell version of Tainted Love. Both songs feature in this episode but in that gif he was dancing to Tainted Love. Stop getting your classic pop songs mixed up, internet. For shame.

Anyway, The End of the World, written again by Russell T Davies!

We pick up where we left off with Rose joyfully running into the TARDIS for a host of exciting adventures throughout time and space. But the Doctor decides it would be better to give her an existential crisis for her first outing instead, and takes her to see the day Earth is destroyed. That’s not all; he takes her to the observation deck where aliens from much more forward thinking and developed planets have gathered to watch it burn. These are my kinds of people!

Like in Rose, the best thing about this episode is the development of the dynamic between Nine and Rose. Rose realises during the course of the episode that she really doesn’t know anything about the Doctor, and that her spur of the moment decision to join him could have been dangerous. She becomes even more distrustful when she finds out that the TARDIS got inside her head and translated all the alien languages she was hearing without her permission. Most of the episode, Nine and Rose are apart, and when they’re together their relationship seems to be crumbling. Rose isn’t getting the answers she wants and Nine seems annoyed that he’s being questioned, which only serves to make Rose more suspicious. With all the companions that immediately become completely besotted by the Doctor, a group that would include Rose later on (you’re really not going to like my opinions surrounding Ten and Rose), it’s really nice to see the first companion ever be so quick to question the Doctor and call him out.

I admire the choice to take Rose to a location she doesn’t enjoy for her first trip. She finds it overwhelming, she doesn’t think it’s as amazing as the Doctor wants her to. Not everyone is a good companion, as shown in The Long Game with the character of Adam Mitchell who was created entirely to show what a Doctor Who companion should absolutely not be like. This episode serves as Rose’s test, not so much to the Doctor but to herself; can she truly handle it? Can she really be away from her family and in all these strange new locations with no familiarity? By the end she decides she absolutely can, but I really like that in the beginning, she’s not sure. It’s much more relatable and believable than just having her gaze in wonder at everything she sees from the very first episode.

Another thing I really like about this episode is the supporting cast. I’ve always enjoyed Russell T Davies’ characters, even if they’re only around for one episode. From really good episodes like Midnight to really bad ones like Love and Monsters, Davies always manages to bring memorable and believable one-off characters to life. The End of the World introduces the Face of Boe, who is at the centre of quite the shocking twist at the end of series 3, Jabe the tree woman and Raffalo the kindly maintenance worker. The last two would meet rather unfortunate ends, but don’t worry. Everybody lives eventually. (I can’t wait to get to The Doctor Dances!) There are also a group of guests at the Let’s Watch Earth Burn Party called Adherents of the Repeated Meme, who are clearly just a bunch of people on Facebook that still find Chuck Norris jokes funny. Ooooohhhhh!!!!!

The star of the hour in this episode is Cassandra, the so called “last human” that will do absolutely anything to live forever. She’s surprisingly expressive for a CG face on a stretch of skin, and I think she’s one of New Who’s more entertaining villains thanks to a very impressive Zoe Wanamaker performance. She makes an underrated reappearance in season 2’s New Earth and I actually think she got quite a moving ending. Whether or not she deserved redemption is up for debate though.

No really, it’s up for so much debate. I don’t understand what her evil plan was.

So the Chuck Norris Meme people turn out to all be controlled by her as well as the robot spiders because she needed money for operations? She was going to use everybody there for ransom? Are they all really worth that much? Was there really no easier way to fund her operations? What would bringing down Platform One accomplish? If everyone dies, how would that get money for operations? Wouldn’t there be millions if not thousands of races willing to pay for the last ever human being to stay alive–okay, probably not, the sooner we all die off the better. But the point still stands, her plan is quite confusing, not to mention flimsy.

While Russell T Davies has always been at least above average in the character department, I often struggle to get my head around his stories. They’re very complicated and at times I barely even follow them, I always forget what they were immediately after I understand them. I know Moffat wasn’t much better with this and it’s more a staple of Doctor Who than anything, but it’s still something I consider a weakness with Davies’ writing. Most of his episodes are fine and understandable and a lot of fun, like Smith and Jones, The Runaway Bride or in my opinion the series 3 finale, but episodes like this are just so unnecessarily convoluted. Davies’ best episode ended up just being “there’s a monster and we don’t know what it is or if it’s malevolent: what do we do?”, and sometimes that’s all you need.

However, all the problems I have with this episode are entirely worth it by the end. Rose walks out onto the street in present day London, knowing exactly what is coming and seeing everyone around her who will one day be dead. She has seen this very planet five billion years in the future and she has watched it burn. As she takes this in, the Doctor finally opens up to her, telling Rose that he is the last of his species and has no home to return to. Nine was clearly worried that Rose wouldn’t want to travel with him after experiencing the intensity that comes with time travel and knowing what is out there and what is to come. Instead, Rose suggests they go for chips before their next adventure. She’s content that the Doctor has finally told her the truth about himself.

I love this moment because both characters are so relieved by the end; Nine has found someone worthy of travelling with him and Rose can now trust her new friend. Their relationship continues to be challenged throughout series 1, especially in Father’s Day, but Davies really does an excellent job of establishing the dynamic between these two characters and what it will be in the new series. Nine and Rose’s adventures are some of my favourites in the whole show, and this scene does a great job in laying the foundation for them.

But really, you’re going to hate my opinions on Ten and Rose. If you’re a Ten and Rose fan, maybe skip the Doomsday review.

Doctor Who Retrospective!: Series 1, Episode 1, “Rose”

A very exciting announcement was made today – Jodie Whittaker of Broadchurch fame will be playing the 13th incarnation of the British pop culture legend, Doctor Who! Fans are more than hyped, people who don’t understand the concept of regeneration or waving pitchforks, and there’s no denying that this change will bring legions of new fans!

The show always made it very clear that literally anything could happen when the Doctor regenerated, with Nine even throwing out the possibility to Rose that he could very well complete the process without a head. So now that the time travelling alien has finally regenerated into something other than a human male and there’s going to be a big production team shake up, the show is bound to have a whole lot of new fans on its hands! So I thought it would be a good idea to do some quick, fun reviews of New Who, from 2005 until now!  That’s a whole lot of exclamation points, but it’s a very exciting day for everyone!

Let’s talk space, time, and human daaaaa-leks (I am not looking forward to watching that one again oh my), it’s time for a Doctor Who retrospective!

First up is the one that started it all, “Rose”, by Russell T Davies!

…I don’t like this episode.

I’m sorry. I know it’s popular, I know it brought one of the most beloved shows in the UK back on air but… I just don’t like it. If this show wasn’t a reboot of Doctor Who, it would have been laughed off the air, never to return again. Thank goodness for Midnight because Davies really wasn’t bringing his A-game to the table with this episode.

Okay. Synopsis. Excellent place to start.

Rose Tyler, a Londoner with a less than riveting life, meets the ninth incarnation of the Doctor, who introduces himself by blowing up her office. A threat in the form of… shop mannequins that come to life… is terrorising London and it’s up to the Doctor and Rose to stop them.

The best parts of this episode are undoubtedly Christopher Eccleston and Billie Piper as the Doctor and Rose Tyler. I often have mixed feelings on Rose as a character, but I only ever thought of Billie Piper as the perfect choice for the first companion of the new Doctor Who series. She’s a great performer and manages to make many people’s first companion relatable and charming, despite how much my opinion of the character herself varies in later episodes. Which is strange, I usually like morally grey characters. If anyone is up for starting a Bela Talbot fan club with me, please do. Everyone else I know hates her.

The Doctor is also reintroduced perfectly to a new audience in this episode. Eccleston captures all his most memorable qualities in his very first scene; infuriatingly vague yet obviously clever with a bit of a flair for the dramatic. It also helps that him and Rose have such a great rapport from the instant they meet.

So much is unsaid through the interactions between Rose and Nine; Nine’s struggle at the loss of his home, family and friends and Rose’s frustration with the limitations of her life on Earth and her need for something more. The best thing is that Davies realises that for now, these things are better left unsaid.  It’s obvious these two need each other in their lives without them having to say it. They work off each other perfectly, their senses of humour match and they are always ready to call each other out, but it’s clear that they respect and admire each other. Rose and Nine are one of my favourite Doctor-companion duos in the show, and this episode really shows why. Their fun but never too deep interactions in this episode lead to a beautiful scene in the next episode that I can’t wait to talk about.

The only problem is that I can watch Rose and Nine be entertaining in better episodes than this. I just think this episode has a lot of little problems that build up and build up until eventually it ends up infecting the episode overall. In short, this review is going to be really petty. Brace yourself.

First off, I don’t like the music. Which is very strange because one of my favourite things about Doctor Who is Murray Gold and the wonderful pieces he writes for the show. But I just found the music in this episode really invasive (pardon the pun. Get it? Invasive? Alien invasions?! okay). The first scene is a montage of Rose going about her daily routine, and there’s really intense, quirky music playing in the background, like Davies wanted a quick way to hammer in to the audience that they were watching a science fiction show about aliens. I’m watching Rose take the bus and I feel like I should be watching her pilot a spaceship because of the accompaniment. It takes you out of the moment and it’s really distracting. Thank goodness the beautiful music I know and love today is what colours the show, because I really couldn’t stand the constant “oh listen to that, it’s really weird isn’t it? By the way, this show is about aliens! In case you forgot!” noises that accompanied a lot of scenes. I feel weird insulting what is now my favourite part of the show. Go and listen to Madame de Pompadour’s theme from series 2, it’s beautiful. Oh, and The Long Song from series 7. Every track from Human Nature/The Family of Blood is worth a listen as well. Basically, just buy the soundtracks.

Also, I think a lot of this episode is just too silly. In a way that’s good, because it prepared new viewers for what they were in for. A big thing with Doctor Who is that when it’s good, it’s really good. When it’s bad, it’s laughably bad, and you have to put up with the laughably bad to get to the exceptional. But on another hand… a wheelie bin swallows Mickey and then burps. If I wanted to see that I’d watch an Adam Sandler movie, I’m sorry.

The dialogue gets really silly in this episode too. There’s a scene where Rose goes to visit a man called Clive who has been investigating the Doctor who, for some reason, did not make an appearance in Love and Monsters (Moaning Myrtle on a concrete slab. I didn’t forgive and I didn’t forget, Davies.). Clive tells Rose that the Doctor has “one constant companion”, and when Rose asks who it is, he takes a long pause and says, “death”. Clive, I’m not saying you’re wrong, but no one talks like that.

I’m also not sure how to feel about the Autons being the first villains the show presents to the audience. I’m not expecting Daleks or anything, in fact I’m thrilled they waited until halfway through the first series to re-introduce them because it was so much more powerful that way. But many viewers will have been brought up by their parents hearing stories about how they hid behind the couch whenever Doctor Who came on because it was that frightening. So it just concerns me that when people see walking clothes store mannequins threatening the human race, this episode may just be brushed off as part of a show that’s really not that frightening at all. Thank goodness for Blink.

That being said, every single problem I’ve listed here is improved upon in later episodes. Every show has something of a rough start, but this one was pretty rough. Thank goodness for Rose and Nine and for all the adventures they would go on to have, as series 1 really does show off some of the best New Who has to offer. I can’t wait to tell you about Rose’s dad, and the boy wearing the gas mask, and Harriet Jones, and Rose hanging out with a Dalek! I can wait to tell you about the Slitheen though.

The show made an excellent choice in making the companion an ordinary woman, in fact a woman that sees herself as less than average. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; Davies is better at writing companions than Moffat. Moffat has three personality traits each for his female companions, and they’re usually all the same but tweaked slightly; a super sexy but rather young woman with an answer for everything and usually overshadowed by the Doctor. Rose, Martha and Donna are all brilliant characters in their own right and Davies brings them to life beautifully. I am so excited to celebrate the Davies years with all of you. And of course, roast them a bit. Moaning Myrtle on a slab, Davies. I told you I’d get to it!

Before I go, I’m going to talk about Mickey for a bit. Mickey is Rose’s boyfriend, and I have the mixiest of mixed feelings on him. Sometimes, I feel he is genuinely mistreated by the people around him. Other times, I think he is very selfish and whiny. In this episode, he nearly dies and is abandoned by Rose with few words, and as a result of this he is later accused of kidnapping her. But he is also entirely willing to ditch his possibly traumatised girlfriend who nearly died in an explosion (as far as he knows) to go and hang out at a pub and watch football. I really don’t know how to feel about him. This will be brought up in future reviews so I thought it best to offer a brief explanation of my feelings on Mickey now. Again, I usually like morally grey characters so I’m not sure what the problem is here. Speaking of which, anyone up for a Snape fan club? Anyone? Please?

Ranking: 6/10

The Kristen Stewart Double Standard

I always roll my eyes whenever I see that an internet critic is going to review Twilight. Everybody and their mother has been criticising Twilight since 2009, there is nothing more to say about it. Everybody knows why it’s bad. The side characters are infinitely more interesting than the two leads, the relationship that serves as the focal point of the story is deeply unhealthy, the books inspired an entire sub-genre of bad novels in which the Most Ordinary Girl in America (TM) falls in love with a mysterious were-supernatural-ethereal-marble-faced-Michelangelo-sculpted-beautiful-but-dangerous-being-teenage-boy thing and vampires don’t sparkle. You don’t need me to tell you why it’s bad. There’s just no need to keep going on about it. Let it die.

But in those recent Twilight reviews I have noticed a disturbing trend: it is acknowledged that Kristen Stewart’s and Robert Pattinson’s performances in the Twilight films as Bella Swan and Edward Cullen respectively are less than stellar. Pattinson is excused for his. Stewart faces a parade of endless personal attacks for hers. Nobody who pushes these opinions seems to realise they are perpetuating a ridiculous double standard. So it’s time to open up all the cans of worms from 2009: today, we talk about Twilight!

Part 1: Role Models

First, let’s take a little detour and talk about the issue of role models in Twilight. This particular double standard appears prominently in the aftermath of the Twilight novels, and is less disturbing than the double standard surrounding Pattinson and Stewart as the attacks are aimed at fictional characters and not a real person’s personality. Bella and Edward are both criticised as bad characters, which is fair comment entirely. Bella Swan is infuriatingly cruel to everyone around her except the pretty people and Edward Cullen is a controlling stalker I’m supposed to find sexy. The strange thing is that Bella is also called a bad role model because of how much of a pushover she is and how much she lusts over validation through a relationship with a man. Edward is never called a bad role model.

Of course it’s important to teach girls that they can have lives outside of their romantic relationships and to make them aware of the signs of an abusive relationship, but Bella doesn’t really concern me in terms of impressionable young girls copying her. Young girls read Twilight and are easily influenced, but young girls grow up too. Almost every woman I’ve talked to that liked Twilight in their early teenage years now realises that Bella was not a good character, and sometimes even that they don’t like Twilight anymore, therefore proving my rather revolutionary theory that people can in fact think for themselves and aren’t going to do something stupid just because a fictional character did it.

Regardless, let’s go by the rest of the world’s theory that a character has to be a good role model. Edward is not a good role model. I’d go as far as to say he’s a terrible role model.

Hey kids! Did you suffer a tragedy in your life that changed you forever? You should mope for literal decades, never try and make a positive change to your life or anyone else’s and be extremely rude and condescending to everyone around you unless you fancy them! Why? Because Edward Cullen says it’s okay!

Hey kids! Do you have a crush on that new girl in school? Well in that case, you are 100% entitled to her! Remember though, she’ll only stick around if you ensure it, so make sure to be as controlling and manipulative as possible! If she has male friends, do whatever you can to stop her from seeing them, including tampering with her vehicle so she can’t go and see them! Why? Because Edward Cullen says it’s okay!

Hey kids! Did you hear the word “funeral” and immediately assume that someone you love is dead? You should kill yourself! It’s the only possible solution! Why? Because Edward Cullen says it’s okay! (I’m not denying that Bella Swan is also guilty of suicidal tendencies in the name of love. Why did Meyer want TWO characters who are so ready and willing to romanticise suicide?)

Do I think that because of Edward Cullen, we’re going to have abusive, horrible, faux-intelligent people running around causing havoc? No, of course not. But if we’re going to accuse Bella of being a bad role model, by that logic we should accuse Edward Cullen. He’s just as bad if not worse at promoting good life choices.

Or could it be that people think young girls need role models and young men don’t? That women have more of an obligation to be good people in the eyes of the public than men? That girls can’t think for themselves so they need fictional characters to see them through? Because if I didn’t know better, I’d feel like that’s exactly what people are saying when I hear all about how Bella’s a bad role model and complete radio silence about Edward Cullen’s awful life choices.

The point I’m trying to make here is that in double standards, it’s usually the woman on the negative end. It’s the woman that is criticised more. Hmm.

Part 2: Robert Pattinson Hates Twilight

The reason people are so quick to excuse Robert Pattinson for his performance in Twilight is because he is well known for publicly talking about how much he hates Twilight. He has openly criticised Stephenie Meyer, his character and the entire story of Twilight. To most, this is so endearing that they can’t bring themselves to hate Pattinson. He is just a young actor that needs work, and is not a horrible person just because he was in Twilight.

I personally find the way he went on about Twilight while the films were still in production quite unprofessional.

As a frequent cast member in amateur dramatics societies, I find it appalling the way Robert Pattinson went on about Twilight while the films were still being made. If I did that about the shows I’m in, it could potentially damage ticket sales and the committee behind the productions could end up losing a lot of money, good hardworking people that don’t deserve that. For one of the stars of Twilight to say in very public interviews that he hates the material he’s acting in, I find it shocking. How dare he potentially seriously hurt box office sales? How dare he put the people working on the films behind the scenes in that position? I don’t find it cute, I don’t find it endearing, I find it very immature and petty.

Furthermore, do people really think Pattinson is the only cast member that hates Twilight? Do you think Peter Facinelli liked that his character’s awesome backstory was entirely cut out? Do you think Taylor Lautner liked playing second fiddle to a dreadful romance? Do you think Anna Kendrick is going around saying her favourite role to play was the token best friend character from the Twilight movies? Of course not! I’m willing to bet very few Twilight cast members liked the material, but they were light-years more professional about it than Pattinson, who was willing to throw an entire cast and crew under the bus so people would think he’s funny. I have no problem with Robert Pattinson or any other Twilight cast member expressing dissatisfaction with the source material, but to go on like that while the films are still in cinemas, needing to make their budget back so no one goes bankrupt? It’s downright silly.

There’s also the fact that Robert Pattinson turned in a really bad performance in the Twilight films. I’m sorry, but he did.

Edward Cullen in the books is very old, often deceptively charming and quite the confident git. Robert Pattinson spends five movies looking like he’s holding in a gigantic dump and having a lot of trouble with it. That is not how the Edward of the books behaved. People will complain for days about how stone-faced Kristen Stewart as Bella Swan is, but not how utterly constipated Robert Pattinson as Edward Cullen is? If we’re going to say Stewart is bad for only portraying one emotion in Twilight, let’s say the exact same thing about Pattinson.

You might think I’m being a bit harsh on our beloved R-Pattz. But I’m being just as hard on him as you’ve all been on Kristen Stewart over the years. I don’t think he’s a bad person, I just think this behaviour is really quite ridiculous.

Robert Pattinson has given excellent performances in other films he’s starred in, and his role in Twilight has not tarnished his reputation. Kristen Stewart won the French equivalent of an Oscar and has given amazing performances, but people are willing to discredit her entire career and call her an appalling actress overall because of her role in Twilight. If you don’t think she’s a good actress, fine, that’s your opinion, but you can’t go around saying that if you’ve only seen her in Twilight.

Part 3: Kristen Stewart, The Lady in Question

People have a really hard time differentiating between the character of Bella Swan and the real life person Kristen Stewart because neither of them smile very often. Bella Swan never smiles because she’s not a particularly fleshed out character that shows any emotion other than, “I really fancy my super hot boyfriend”. Kristen Stewart doesn’t smile a lot (in public) because she suffered pretty severely from panic attacks and anxiety disorders in the past.

And honestly, it’s not that hard to pick up on the signs if you see her early interviews or presentations at award ceremonies. She’s obviously extremely uncomfortable and fidgety, and people saw this and thought, “I’m going to make fun of her for not being well equipped to handle an extremely publicised situation with a live audience”. The people that went on like that should be ashamed of themselves. I went on like that, and I’m ashamed of myself.

Now an argument I often see to counter this is, “if celebrities can’t handle the spotlight, they shouldn’t be there. They knew what they were getting themselves into”. I really don’t like that argument.

Do you like to act? Do you like to sing? Do you like to write? Do you like to do anything that may result in you becoming famous (which is a great many career options, including COOKING for goodness’ sake)? Well you’re not allowed to do it, because the paparazzi doesn’t respect privacy and people don’t understand that sometimes artists just want to work on their craft in peace and while they appreciate the fans that helped them get where they are, they sometimes have difficulty interacting with them.

If a celebrity is having trouble dealing with attention, don’t attack them for it. Attack the people being so inconsiderate of the celebrity’s personal space that they insist on taking sneaky pictures of them and making entire tabloid articles about them. Educate people on anxiety disorders like the one Stewart faced and show them how to identify the signs that someone might be struggling. Attack the machine that is celebrity hero worship, not the celebrities themselves.

Kristen Stewart was endlessly berated for not smiling enough in public, when the people that should have been criticised were the ones creating uncomfortable public situations for her. She was told she must be a horrible person because she doesn’t smile enough. Because she played a character that didn’t smile enough. That’s abhorrent.

Part 4: Conclusion

It’s okay to criticise Kristen Stewart’s performance in Twilight. It’s not a good performance. It’s bland and forgettable. It is not okay to criticise her entire personality because you didn’t like her performance in Twilight. It is not okay to demand that she smiles more or say that it’s her fault she got the unwanted attention in the first place because she’s a celebrity and not the fault of invasive interviewers or journalists. This is especially wrong considering that she behaved quite professionally about promoting the Twilight films, unlike Pattinson.

Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart are both excellent performers, but they were both bad in Twilight. However, it’s entirely wrong that Pattinson should be patted on the back for his performance just because he admitted to disliking the source material just as much as you and that Stewart should be lambasted both for her personality and for suffering from anxiety just because you didn’t like her performance in a movie.

In short, criticise the art, not the personalities. Respect people. Don’t perpetuate stupid double standards like this. And most importantly, let’s all agree that a novel series about the rest of the Cullens before they became vampires, particularly Rosalie, would be AMAZING.

 

The Moffat Problem: Sherlock Who

Oh my, that title is SO edgy!

Steven Moffat, the current show runner for Doctor Who (at the moment: best of luck Chris Chibnall!) is not a bad writer. I have to start by stressing that point. Steven Moffat has contributed some fantastic stories to the Doctor Who canon, including but not limited to “The Empty Child”/”The Doctor Dances”, “Blink”, “The Pandorica Opens”/”The Big Bang”, “The Girl in the Fireplace” and in my humble opinion,  “The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe”. You can pry that pure Christmas cheer from my cold dead hands. I’m not here to talk about Moffat’s personality or questionable opinions, I’m here to discuss his writing.

There is some debate over which of the New Who show runners was better: Russell T Davies or Moffat. Many people can agree that there are flaws in both, but I think it’s very simple; Davies is better at writing companions and Moffat is better at writing the Doctor and it’s all about personal preference. Both writers have a fondness of overly complicated story arcs which are now a staple of Doctor Who so as long as you enjoy those you’ll be fine.

I mean it, what Moffat lacks in companion writing (it will take me a long time to forgive sacrificing Clara’s personality for the “impossible girl” arc), he makes up for with the Doctor. Eleven, my personal favourite Doctor, was young, upbeat and quirky while Twelve is, for lack of a more dignified description, a grumpy old man. Yet both characters feel like they are the same age old time traveling alien and I love it. Although I feel like I’ve had enough speeches about how special the Doctor is to last me a thousand lifetimes, Davies wasn’t much better with that. You’re getting a post one day too, Davies. “I don’t wanna go!” Ugh. Don’t think I’ve forgotten Moaning Myrtle on a slab of concrete either.

In short, Moffat is good at writing alien characters in a human way. So I’m not sure in the slightest what possessed him to make a Sherlock Holmes adaptation.

Sherlock Holmes is my favourite literary hero, for very shallow reasons. I myself am a deeply unobservant person, and Holmes makes a living by being highly observant. Naturally a character like that appeals to me. Moffat seems to realise this too; in the Sherlock pilot penned by Moffat himself, there are a few fantastic sequences in which we get to see the great detective in action and how he came to all his conclusions, showing the audience all the same information presented to Holmes so that we may figure it out alongside him. “A Study in Pink” is, in my opinion, the best Sherlock episode. That being said, I haven’t seen series four and quite frankly, you can’t make me. I know what they did. I’m not watching it. Unless it goes on Netflix, which is looking pretty probable. Ugh.

There are elements of Sherlock as a whole that I really enjoy such as the modernisation of Doctor Watson and there are elements I really hate like everything about their version of Irene Adler, but there is a huge problem and inconsistency in how Moffat presents his version of Sherlock Holmes: according to him, Holmes isn’t up to speed on how humans behave, which entirely contradicts how he comes to most of his conclusions.

Most Sherlock Holmes stories come down to human nature and “whodunnit”, especially when it comes to the murder cases. For example, in “A Study in Scarlet”, Holmes comes to the conclusion that Jefferson Hope committed the murders in question out of revenge for the loss of his love. In order for him to realise that, he would have had to understand human emotions and how they can drive people to such desperate acts. Just because Holmes doesn’t participate in sentiment doesn’t mean that he has no concept of how humans behave, as most of his deductions come down to large assumptions based on his idea of how humans act and react.

The strange thing is, Moffat seems to know this, as his version of Holmes makes frequent comments on how humans act.

In “The Blind Banker”, Watson remarks that perhaps the resident of the flat with a new label by their buzzer just replaced it, and Holmes quickly states “no one ever does that”. In “The Empty Hearse”, he asks his client why he didn’t assume his wife emptied their joint bank account, to which the client replies it is due to his unwavering confidence in his wife and trust that she would never do that. Holmes quickly says, “no, it’s because you emptied it”. Holmes is completely confident that his deductions here are correct, and they are based entirely on his understanding of how people work and the social norms of everyday life.

Yet there are many, many moments where the show and the characters within it try to convince me that Holmes knows nothing about human nature. In “The Hounds of Baskerville”, Holmes joyously celebrates what a wonderful case his client has presented to him at the scene of an attempted murder and Watson has to point out that the timing is a bit off for him to be ecstatically dancing around. In “The Empty Hearse”, he seems to think it’s a great idea to come back from the dead disguised as a Frenchman after Watson has spent two years grieving his death. Not to mention the awkward best man speech in “The Sign of Three”, which in my opinion would have been a great episode had it been in place of “The Abominable Bride” as the special episode.

Not only would Holmes in the short stories know that this behaviour is unacceptable, but Moffat’s Sherlock seems to know this too, and it makes no sense for him to behave this way. If Sherlock Holmes ever defies a social norm it is not because he doesn’t know any other way to behave or because he is not as “human” as everyone else, it’s because he doesn’t care about social norms and is quite satisfied with who he is. He is a very dignified gentleman who sometimes likes to not talk to his flatmate for days on end. Also, he is confirmed aromantic. Fight me, Johnlock shippers, read “A Scandal in Bohemia”. Which most people seem to take as confirmation that Holmes totally fancies Adler. I don’t get it.

There are moments in the series three finale of Sherlock (and I am told moments throughout series four) which could very easily be replaced with Moffat in the middle of an empty field screaming “HOLMES IS HUMAN! HOLMES IS HUMAN! THIS IS SUCH A REVOLUTIONARY IDEA!”. For example, a massive deal is made out of Sherlock fighting for his life because he believes Watson is in real danger, as if this is a big character moment for Holmes. First of all, I think this show is heavy queerbaiting Holmes and Watson (if you’re not going to put them together, don’t. If you are, do it. Don’t waste my time). Second of all, get with the times Moffat, Holmes has been openly referring to Watson as his dear fellow since the 19th century. Doyle has always acknowledged the important roles Holmes and Watson play in each other’s lives, and he didn’t have to slap a big “no homo” label on it every five minutes.

Furthermore, all those moments with Sherlock as a little boy are just a bit too on the nose. “Oh look, Sherlock Holmes as a child! And he’s nothing like how we previously described Holmes as a child! He’s HUMAN! We are the first to ever suggest that Holmes is HUMAN!”

The thing is, we know Sherlock Holmes is human. Just because he is a character that doesn’t choose to partake in emotions and sentimentality it doesn’t mean he is a “machine”. The entire world isn’t enamoured with the adventures of Sherlock Holmes because we think he’s hiding a deep tragic element of humanity behind a cold exterior, we love them because Sherlock Holmes is a really cool human and that’s why he’s interesting. Moffat wanted to adapt Sherlock Holmes for modern audiences for reasons that really escape me because he seems intent on disregarding the characters in the original material entirely, particularly Holmes himself.

You may be wondering why I’ve been blaming Moffat for the butchering of Holmes’ character and not Mark Gatiss and Steve Thompson, the other writers working on the show. The reason for that is I am absolutely certain Moffat is behind this, because he’s writing Holmes the same way he writes the Doctor, and he really shouldn’t do that.

The Doctor is not human, so it’s fascinating to an audience when his human qualities and emotions are explored while also being mixed with the cynicism and excitement that comes from being an age old time traveller who still has so much more to see. Sherlock Holmes is human, so when his human qualities are explored in the same way the Doctor’s are, it doesn’t come off as complex or groundbreaking, it comes off as unbearably pretentious, not to mention contradictory as most of Holmes’ career depends on at least a basic knowledge of human nature. Moffat is quite good at writing the Doctor so has decided that the building blocks of this character(s) will work on any other lead character he writes for (unless they’re female, then they get the same two or three stock personality traits applied to Amy Pond, River Song and Clara Oswald). This is not so for Sherlock Holmes, and I have no idea why making a modern version of the famous detective’s adventures appealed to him in the slightest because he has absolutely no desire to bring the dignified, snarky detective who was not at all evasive about his close relationship with his flatmate to life.

And that is the Moffat problem: he finds a formula that works and sticks to it in places where it’s not required.

Sherlock seems to now be a show about Holmes’ family drama and his flatmate’s dead wife, and should it continue from where it left off I really hope it returns to its roots.  “A Study in Pink” was an extremely promising episode, from the clever introduction of Mycroft to the exciting new versions of Holmes and Watson and a well updated version of the classic mystery novel (with all those weird bits about Mormons cut out). Basically, I want Moffat to realise that the nation wants to see Sherlock Holmes solve a crime, not watch him cry over whether or not he’s a good man. If we wanted to see a clever man debate what it is to exhibit typically human qualities such as mercifulness and attachment to other people, we would watch Doctor Who.