THE DOCTOR DANCES

First of all, sorry about the delay to this blog. I trapped a nerve in my neck, which is a lot more painful than it sounds, believe me. Also, do you remember how Nicol promised to watch this episode with us? Well, she buggered off to Norwich instead, which is almost as bad as going to Ipswich. Kids today, eh?

The Doctor DancesAnyway, after a fairly lengthy recap, the Doctor thwarts last week’s cliffhanger by taking on the mantle of an angry parent. He’s especially relieved when “Go to your room!” don’t turn out to be his last words.

Sue: Those wouldn’t have been his last words. His last words would have been “Are you my mummy?” Sorry, but it’s true.

Cue titles.

Me: That tactic never worked with Nicol. You had to threaten to take the plug off her telly if you caught her being naughty.
Sue: The Doctor’s solution makes sense, I suppose. But it’s still a massive anti-climax. I would have cut from the recap to the title sequence. That way they could have used the cliffhanger twice. And The Doctor Dances is a stupid title.
Me: Tell me about it.
Sue: The Dancing Doctor would have been much better.
Me: ????

The Doctor doesn’t like the fact that Jack is packing a ray gun.

The Doctor DancesSue: Says the man who blows up planets. Not including the planets he just thinks he’s blown up. He can be such a hypocrite, sometimes.
Me: Yeah, what about that time he shot an Ogron in the face?
Sue: Yeah, exactly. Whatever that means.

The Doctor locates the room where the authorities took Jamie after they recovered him from the crash site. A tape recorder has documented the boy’s plaintive cries for his mummy.

Sue: This is so sad. I’m filling up already. I think my mothering instinct has kicked in.

Nancy is apprehended when she tries to leave the house she’s broken into. But Nancy knows that Fat Hev’s husband has been playing away from home with the local butcher, so she blackmails her way to freedom.

Sue: So he’s the one who’s been getting an extra portion of meat, then? Ha! Are you sure Russell didn’t write this episode?

The Empty Child is still crying for his mummy, even though the tape ran out ages ago.

The Doctor DancesSue: I don’t think Doctor Who has ever been scarier than this. It’s because it’s a child. That’s what makes it so terrifying – you want to cuddle him, even though you want to run away from him.

The Doctor replaced Jack’s gun with a banana when he wasn’t looking.

Sue: If Russell T Davies had written this episode, he would have replaced it with a cucumber.

Sue laughs her head off when the Doctor and Jack compare their sonic devices.

Sue: They work so well together. And the script is hilarious; it’s practically a sitcom at this point.

Jack teleports back to his ship and the Doctor and Rose are left to discuss the finer points of dancing.

Sue: Dancing is a euphemism for sex, isn’t it? They aren’t even trying to hide it. Basically, the title of this episode – in the Moff’s head at least – is The Doctor Shags. And by Shag, I don’t mean the stupid dance craze.

Captain Jack’s ship is full of nanogenes.

The Doctor DancesSue: It’s the same fairy dust we see when the Doctor regenerates. It’s exactly the same thing. So what’s Captain Jack doing with it? And why is he allowed to travel in time? And why has he got a gun that’s more impressive than the sonic screwdriver? Who the hell does he think he is?
Me: Yeah, the next thing you know, he’ll have his own show. And that would be silly.

Captain Jack can’t remember two years of his life.

Sue: Wait until you get to my age, pet. I’m losing track of decades.
Me: They’ve never did explain what happened to Jack during those two years. Ten years later and we’re still none the wiser.
Sue: Maybe no one cares. And if someone does care, then maybe they should write it. Fifty Shades of Grey started off as fan fiction, you know. Come on, Neil, this could be our ticket out of here. How hard can it be to write some porn featuring Captain Jack? It’s probably harder to write something with Captain Jack in it that isn’t porn.

Nancy is locked in a shed with a soldier who is on the verge of becoming an Empty Child.

The Doctor DancesSue: Michael McIntyre is shitting himself.

It isn’t long before the soldier can’t even remember his own name.

Sue: This will probably go to his head, but the Moff is a ****ing genius. Nicol’s definitely missing out tonight. I’m going to make her watch it when she comes home. I won’t blog it, though. Blogging good television like this would be a complete and utter waste of time, wouldn’t it, Neil? I mean, what do you want me to say about this, exactly? It’s brilliant! All of it!

The Doctor tells Rose that humanity will eventually venture to the stars, where they dance like rabbits.

Sue: Quick question: why doesn’t the Doctor use his paper thingy to get past those guards? Surely it would be a lot quicker than waiting for Jack to tempt them away with a quick blow job.

Captain Jack’s greed has condemned Earth to a bizarre and stupid death.

Sue: Send the Captain to his room. He’s been a very naughty boy. And take the plug of his telly, too. Not that it will make any difference, because he can Rom-Com.
Me: You mean Om-Com.
Sue: I know what I mean, Neil.

It turns out that Nancy isn’t Jamie’s sister, after all. She’s his mummy.

Sue: If she hadn’t given up acting, she’d probably be a regular on EastEnders now. Even the plot is a classic EastEnders plot (they’ve done it at least twice), so this role would have ideal practice.

When Nancy hugs her son, Sue’s bottom lip begins to quiver. Thankfully, I’m too busy tutting at the magic pixie dust to join her.

Sue: I don’t know why the Doctor doesn’t carry a jar of Tinkerbell dust around with him wherever he goes. He could do this at the end of every episode. Actually, forget I said that. That would be shit.

Jack straddles a German bomb before it can ruin the happy ending.

The Doctor DancesSue: Nope, this isn’t phallic at all.
Me: Look, Sue, the words ‘Bad Wolf’ have been stenciled on the bomb – in German. Oops, too late, you missed it.
Sue: How the **** is Rose supposed to notice something like that in the middle of something like this? She doesn’t half pick her moments.

Just this once, everybody lives.

Sue: Aww, that’s nice. I’ve never seen the Doctor look so happy, God love him.

Jack has saved the day, but he’s condemned himself to an explosive death in the process.

Sue: It’s okay, he’s invincible.
Me: No, he isn’t. That happens later.
Sue: Oh yeah… that’s right. Maybe that’s why Captain Jack is so cool in this story – it’s because he’s still vulnerable. He’s never this cool again. He’s far too cocky when he can’t die.

The Doctor DancesThe Doctor suddenly remembers how to dance. “I can dance! I can dance!” he declares, gleefully.

Sue: Er… He could have fooled me. In fact, he’s so bad, he makes Neil look like John Travolta.

The episode concludes with what looks like the beginnings of a dance-off.

Sue: Your fan fiction could start here, Neil. What are you waiting for?

 

The Score

Sue: Guess.
Me: (In my best Len Goodman voice) SEVEN!?
Sue: Don’t be stupid.

10/10

Sue: What can I say? It was perfect. The script was hilarious and terrifying at the same time (the whole thing was ridiculously clever), the direction was incredible, the period setting was perfect, and the actors were fantastic. Even John Barrowman. The Moff went for it, didn’t he? He probably thought he’d never get a chance to write for Doctor Who again so he just ****ing went for it. You can tell.

 

Next Time

 

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Comments

  1. Dave Sanders  May 30, 2015

    “That tactic never worked with Nicol. You had to threaten to take the plug off her telly if you caught her being naughty.”

    And that didn’t work either, as the book goes into at length. πŸ™‚

  2. Dave Sanders  May 30, 2015

    The crowning moment of genius in this story is the slight-of-hand misdirection, teasing you along to solve the puzzle of the nanogenes before the characters do, because you have access to all the facts haven’t shared among themselves yet. Then you sit there feeling smug through the second episode, until suddenly you’re utterly broadsided by the *real* crucial piece of data around which the resolution pivots, the Doctor’s ‘oh shit’ expression of realisation perfectly mirroring your own. It was right there all along for you to spot if only you’d been paying attention, and it’s a bait-and-switch tactic that’s never, ever handled this well in the series again.

    Glen, you really are a complete bugger, aren’t you. πŸ™‚

  3. Sean Alexander  May 30, 2015

    While many claim this is series one’s highlight – the Hugo award certainly didn’t harm its reception – I still think it contains many of the tropes that have ultimately become faults under Moffat’s own stewardship of the shop – the malfunctioning tech explanation, the catchphrase monster and the idea that no one actually dies (though on this occasion the sheer joy in Eccleston’s performance makes it bearable…if only that were the case when Amy/Rory/River/Clara keep snuffing it and pop back with increasingly predictable ennui).

    Who as sitcom does seem to be Moffat’s angle here – despite the scary and grim notion of a child transformed into a gas masked zombie, The Doctor Dances almost demands a laugh-track on occasion – but there’s enough charm here to make it palatable in ways that again would become more and more indigestible from 2010 and Matt Smith’s ADHD performance. The scene where Jack abandons the Doctor and Rose to their concrete resonance and romantic dallying is perfect, and Eccleston and Piper play it perfectly. Nice jump cut to Jack’s ship too.

    Great, but for me still not as memorable as either Dalek or Father’s Day. And Moffat himself would go on to write much better (and much worse) than this.

    • Dave Sanders  May 30, 2015

      Moffat’s ‘better’ (citation needed) scripts are those that concentrate on actual plot rather than just being glorified puzzles – to subvert an About Time line, ones to actually like rather than admire for their intricacy. It’s certainly arguable that he took away the wrong lessons from this one for a while, the belief that making the audience go ‘ooh, that’s clever’ would be enough to win all the plaudits in the entire world. No, no it isn’t – you may have fooled the masses with Blink, but you never fooled me.

    • Chris-Too-Old-To_Watch  May 31, 2015

      With respect to “….the tropes that become faults…” It seems fairly obvious when something that hasn’t happened before is novel and great, but when it happens 37 times in succession, with virtually the same wording, it becomes bl**dy annoying. If we can see it, why can’t the Moff? I think he’s looking for that one perfect way to tell “his” story, that is the story he’s envisioned. Why he keeps trying, I don’t know, because this is it.

      • Nick Mays  June 2, 2015

        I think you nailed it right there Chris.

        I have to say, I prefer Moffat as an occasional writer rather than as a showrunner.

  4. Bernard  May 30, 2015

    My friends’ daughter was The World’s Creepiest Child and she spent months doing the “are you my mummy?” thing after this. It wasn’t as creepy as her other game, which was to take grown-ups aside and whisper a random future date in their ear, like March 12, 2037, for example.

    When the grown-up would ask what that date meant, she would stare at them with her huge blue eyes and say, “that’s the day that everyone dies.”

    World’s Creepiest Child. She was basically a Moffatt character herself.

    • Tom  June 1, 2015

      I’m so going to teach my niece to do that.

  5. Frankymole  May 30, 2015

    So Jack was in Pompeii on “Volcano Day”, was he? I wonder if he had anything to do with those Pyroviles…

  6. Frankymole  May 30, 2015

    Glen’s “Next Time” trailer – flipping Ace. No, it was ace as in great πŸ™‚ I was just in the mood for that!

    • Nick Mays  June 2, 2015

      PMSL, as they say, at Glen’s Trailer! πŸ˜‰

  7. David Cole  May 30, 2015

    ‘The Dancing Doctor’ conjures up an image of Dr. Beverly Crusher.

  8. Dave Sanders  May 30, 2015

    Some of us only wish we couldn’t remember two particular years of Captain Jack’s life. πŸ˜›

    • Andy Luke  May 30, 2015

      Captain Jerk of Torchwouldn’t.

  9. Mike Bond  May 30, 2015

    Jack obviously spend two years hanging out with the Silence (they are from his timezone), that’s why he can’t remember.

  10. Lorcan  May 30, 2015

    Couldn’t Nicol just put the plug back in
    -_
    . .
    _

  11. Jon  May 30, 2015

    Good on Sue. Another well earned 10. Despite Barrowman, who never fails to irritate.

  12. Andy Luke  May 30, 2015

    Why did all the bees puff towards Jamie?
    They didn’t want to forget the honey, mummy.
    My coat, back of my seat.

    Like yourselves, I was too entranced with this to make much in the way of notes! I love the scene were Nancy and Jamie hug. Asides from being a proper tear-jerker, it taps the old rule about how the Doctor shouldn’t be the story. He’s an observer, sometimes facilitator, but piecing together the clues and prodding Nancy in the right direction. Though he’s the catalyst to the turning point, and enhances that, it’s Nancy who saves the day. What a high!

  13. Anniew  May 31, 2015

    Oh if only they hadn’t cast Barrowman as Captain Jack or had done away with the pain in the neck altogether. (Sorry! Bit tactless there.)

    • Andy Luke  May 31, 2015

      No. I found your comment showed both care and sensitivity.

  14. Chris-Too-Old-To-Watch  May 31, 2015

    WWII…..check
    Interesting story…….check
    Good Doctor/companion chemistry…………check
    Humour…………check
    Horror…………check
    Satisfactory conclusion……………check

    Yes, Sue, 10/10. I love this story as well.

    Notice the dislike/hate/implicit homophobia already starting against John Barrowman. I like him and Capt Jack throughout DW and Torchwood. The character isn’t always used properly (oo-er missus), but when it is, it’s brilliant.

    • Sean Alexander  May 31, 2015

      Why is it implicit homophobia if you don’t like a character on the basis of smugness, arrogance or just general irritation? Surely the assumption that anyone is being homophobic without any overt suggestion that they are being homophobic is itself a judgmental and discriminatory stand to make?

      • Chris-Too-Old-To-Watch  May 31, 2015

        Yes it is judgemental and discriminatory, but in my experience this type of criticism of any out gay man starts with these sorts of comments, and progresses onto the homophobic kind some time or another. Barrowman is neither more smug or arrogant as many other people involved in the series. Irritation I find to be a very personal thing and shouldn’t really be used as the basis for such unpleasant comments.

        • Sean Alexander  May 31, 2015

          It may be your experience but that doesn’t mean it’s the universal case – like many I loved the Captain Jack character in these five series one episodes and the way an omnisexual character was both integrated into and largely accepted by the Who fan fraternity (indeed, for those who feared RTD’s involvement in resurrecting Doctor Who would, in tabloid rhetoric, ‘make the show gay’ it’s the perfect response – children loved and accepted him, which should be reason enough for his creation). But come Torchwood a year and a bit later not only is Jack now a angst-ridden immortal making the kind of judgmental calls critics of his own character would have made, but he’s also the aresehole leader of a bunch of largely arsehole characters tasked with being Earth’s saviours when ‘everything changes’. And I think people’s perception of Jack are now largely tainted by the abrupt change forced upon him in the attempt to differentiate Torchwood’s ‘adult’ audience from the family friendly one of Doctor Who.

          But then there’s John Barrowman himself, who went from former Live and Kicking presenter to one of the most ubiquitous faces on TV in the space of eighteen months. Familiarity breeds contempt, and Barrowman was more than entitled to ride the crest of his newfound popularity – though even his most hardcore fans would admit that a time when you could barely switch on the TV or open a magazine without seeing his pearly whites promoting anything from Who, Torchwood, a new album or his own song-and-dance persona was bordering on (and probably exceeding) overkill. Interesting how when he did briefly return to Who for the trio of late series three episodes people started to remember what had made the character such a charming rogue in the first place.

          It’s also only fair to say that Barrowman himself has acknowledged the slightly overt persona he helped create, whether that be as gay-and-proud-of-it celebrity or the variety figure of ubiquitousness he helped cent between 2095 and 2009. One cursory look at The Fiveish Doctors, where Barrowman happily pokes fun at both his very public sexual identity and the promotional juggernaut that followed his Who-led breakthrough, is proof enough of that.

          • Andy Luke  May 31, 2015

            I found it very difficult to watch Torchwood with any affection after Episode 2, which like Episode 1, seemed fixated on rape as entertainment. Perhaps several of you have a different perspective. The subject was very much on my mind at the time and I found it’s handling of sex abuse as thoroughly vile. Any advances for LGBT identity rights were over-written with trauma-flashbacks. Did this get discussed with realism on the forums?

          • Chris-Too-Old-To-Watch  June 1, 2015

            An opinion is an opinion. I have mine, you have yours. Experience over 56 years has taught me one thing, your experience have taught you other things.

          • Nick Mays  June 2, 2015

            I seem to recall an interview with RTD when he said about introducing Captain Jack as a character, he said he was written “so that you didn’t like him” to start with, then show him gradually becoming a more heroic person.

            I don’t think that Jack is supposed to be “nice” or “appealing”, especially by the time Torchwood comes around. His experiences throughout his life before he became ‘immortal’ have made him the way he is… then his whole involvement with Torchwood adds a whole extra layer of nasty.

            That said, John Barrowman comes across as a pretty likeable guy, who enjoys what he does. Over-exposed yes, but not a bad person by any means.

            As to this two-parter which introduces Jack and has one of the creepiest set-ups in the whole of Dr Who’s long history, well, they don’t come much better than this. 10/10 from me too, Sue!

    • Harriet  May 31, 2015

      Bother, I thought I’d posted this earlier, but it doesn’t seem to have gone through…

      I remember finding Jack rather irritating in this first two-parter, though it was good to see such a prominent bisexual character. (I was disappointed that in the final dancing sequence he merely looked on, rather than all three of them swapping partners – this was better handled in The Parting of the Ways when I remember Barrowman saying he took care to kiss Rose and the Doctor goodbye in exactly the same way.)

      Having recently seen a couple of episodes of Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries I think I can pin down what irritated me – several of my friends love that show, but so far the Phryne Fisher character puts me off with her strong aura of “I’m richer and cleverer and sexier than you are, and don’t I know it!” Jack Harkness isn’t quite so annoying – maybe because it’s just “I’m sexier than you are” – but it’s the same kind of effect. Also, I couldn’t understand why, at the end of The Empty Child, he suddenly started blabbing about being a conman and what the con was for no very obvious reason rather than because he’d been caught out, but I think that was just awkward writing – they needed an infodump at some point, and didn’t have anywhere better to put it.

  15. Richard Lyth  May 31, 2015

    “How hard can it be to write some porn featuring Captain Jack? It’s probably harder to write something with Captain Jack in it that isn’t porn.” Neil and Sue should write for the new Big Finish series of Torchwood, it can be as pornographic as they like on audio! I’m sure there’d be plenty of volunteers to do the sound effects…

    • scribbles  May 31, 2015

      Every time there’s an audio with a lot of running in it, I always mistake it for sex. All that panting…

  16. Derek Handley  May 31, 2015

    Sorry to hear about the trapped nerve, Neil! That is a very painful thing to go through. I hope it got sorted out.

    Great blog as usual! Very enjoyable.

    It is strange that no later appearance – even spinning off Jack into his own series – would answer any of the questions that were set up here. The whole expected storyline is never re-visited.

  17. Flynn Sullivan  May 31, 2015

    Hey, Neil, would you ever consider a “The Wife Who Loved Me” blog? You know, the Bond movies? I’m doing a marathon on them myself and the idea just kind of hit me.
    I’m sure it would be quite harder(honestly, why do you still write down what Sue says instead of typing it into a laptop or something with notes on what exactly is going on on the screen?), but you could do it in parts, maybe or just leave longer pauses between updates. Like, do one once a month.

    I’m sure Nicol would get a kick out of the old Q Branch too… and you could get away with saying the words “Pussy Galore” for a whole month.

    • Matt Blanchette  June 2, 2015

      It’d be more fun if she read the books first — and then maybe watched the films in book-order. (Then again, maybe that last step might be a bit TOO sadistic. :-P)

  18. Andy Luke  June 3, 2015

    There is something refreshing about 1st year Captain Jack that is rarely seen again. The costume is simple, and Barrowman plays a great alien or lost look. Despite all the showing off the part requires, the character also wants to shift into the background. He affects that with a sort of facial blandness that I find quite likeable and effective. It makes for a very humble and modest performance.