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fantasy without fantasy

(Game of Thrones 1×01: “Winter is Coming”)

Y’all hear about this Game of Thrones thing?

1 Autumn

“Winter is coming,” we’re told, twice, but we open on snow and ice. Boy, y’all really goofed it there, HBO, winter is already here! I understand, from pop cultural osmosis, that the land continent? planet? of Westeros has what is by our standards an unusual relationship with the seasons. People in this world, I’m sure I will soon find out, have unusual relationships to lots of things, including their own heads, their siblings…

The idea of winter is rich with potential for metaphor — everything freezing, stopping, dying, before the sun returns and thaws everything out, bringing life back. They should do something with that.

2 Spring

I’ve been here before. This having been the cultural juggernaut that it was, of course I tried to watch this, first when it first aired — didn’t really connect with it, made it maybe ten minutes — and then again once it had become that juggernaut — I made it… eight episodes, I wanna say?

What didn’t I like about it, and why am I trying again now? Well, I always hate missing a popular bus, but what I saw from my initial glance as it drove past me was a depressing world full of sad shit and boring fights, and riding along for eight episodes only confirmed that feeling. Watching this now, I suspect the reputation this show has for unnecessary explicitness1Look, what is “unnecessary,” right? is probably earned. But I’m older, and my tastes have matured. Maybe I can get into this now.

I only finally read Achewood last year, you know.

3 Autumn

Obviously this is going certain places. Uninterested in the show until now, I never made a point of avoiding spoilers, and I know the big one from the first season because I, well, I watched that episode, I’ve heard something about a wedding, and I know broadly speaking that once they run out of book they struggle to maintain a stable road under this particular car. There is, as far as I can tell from where I stand, no show that quite crashes and burns like this one.

But here the inciting incidents are simple — a report from the North, and at home a man is dead. I’m sure the fallout of these matters will be dealt with swiftly and effectively.

4 Winter

Ultimately, Game of Thrones is fantasy without fantasy. It’s fantasy for people who think laughter who should go back to where it came from.2Comedy clubs in basements. Everything light and fun has been stripped away. Where something like Wonka is magic for the sheer sake of whimsy, this is the opposite — it’s a fantastical world that can only imagine violence and viscera, filth and fucking, politics and pain. A Dothraki wedding is a funeral. In Westeros, people only smile when they conquer, when they scheme, when they sentence, when they kill.

All magic that remains here is out to hurt you.

  • 1
    Look, what is “unnecessary,” right?
  • 2
    Comedy clubs in basements.

Arc Watch: Doctor Who: “The Giggle”

Future Arc Watch posts, and most of my other Doctor Who blogging, will appear instead on my new dedicated Doctor Who group blog Planet of the Blog. This post and selected previous Doctor Who blogging are already on there — go follow it like you do this blog.

We take some money to the bank, but several bills are still left unpaid.


  • Why The Long Face: We’ve said goodbye to the Final Tennant incarnation, and Donna’s suggestion that the face coming back and immediately finding her was because of Dr Who’s deep-rooted need “to come home” feels right and true to me, even if some details never quite get ironed out. Resolved.
  • Still Figuring It Out: The Final Tennant incarnation’s personality is clearly also a thread we can set aside, because, well, one, it’s really the same question as “why did the face come back,” and two, clearly we’re never gonna deal with it again, because that story is over. Resolved.
    My guess that the Gatwa incarnation’s personality was shining through has clearly been disproven — there was no trickery, the Final Tennant was simply a totally legitimate incarnation — but clearly the Gatwa incarnation’s personality is gonna be building on Final Tennant’s increased emotional openness. Love it.
  • Couldn’t Keep It In: Donna’s exposure to Dr Who’s mind and memories comes to a head with her using it simply to accurately back up the feeling that the time has come for Dr Who to take a break, and he does so. Resolved.

The World Around Us

  • UNified Intelligence and Skyscraper-Building Taskforce: If Dr Who accepts the Vlinx, the Zeedex, Mel’s lift off the Zingo, so must we, but it’s quite a lot, isn’t it. I, too, remember when this organisation was secret. Companions are offered high-paying jobs at least in part on the basis of who they are to Dr Who, though Donna does have to show off her Mad Skillz first.
  • In Flux and It’s About Timeless get another round of shoutouts. The Toymaker references the Flux as part of a meticulous stage performance on the subject of the death and destruction Dr Who leaves in their wake. Later, he says “I made a jigsaw out of your history. Did you like it?” suggesting he’s either responsible for or at least taking credit for Dr Who’s messy history and the recent revelations about the Timeless Child.
    The Flux is still a likely candidate for being “the new Time War.” Even if, after the Final Tennant incarnation, Dr Who no longer carries the trauma of it with them the way they did that of the Time War, it’s a good, cheap motivation for antagonists, and an interesting new flavour for the universe — the actual narrative effect of the Time War was fairly limited to large military forces like the Sontarans, and to groups with access to time travel, we never really felt it the way you’d imagine “half the universe has been destroyed” might be felt. Curious to see how the Flux is handled in the 2024 series.

Backseat Stories

  • The Boss Is Not Rhetorical: Clearly the One Who Waits and the Toymaker’s legions are the same story as the Boss, clearly this is setup for a larger wave of antagonists in the 2024 series and beyond. All of this is only maybe two or three steps above Bad Wolf-ing, but still, it’s an arc, something to look for.
  • Guardians of the Playground and Black Cats and Ladders at the Edge: The universe is defined as not just being subject to the rules of order and chaos but the rules of play, too. I wonder what all those gods we’re thinking about now make of the reduced size of the universe.
    We get direct shoutouts to the Gods of Ragnarok (The Greatest Show in the Galaxy,) to the Guardians of Time and Space (presumably the White and Black Guardians from the 1978-79 and 1983 seasons,) and the line “I gambled with God and made him a jack-in-the-box,” and then the revelation that the Master is trapped in the Toymaker’s gold tooth. Does the Toymaker consider the Master up there with those other entities?
    Being a science-fiction show, of course none of these entities are gods — but a god is simply the only thing we can call somebody — something — with an amount of power traditionally only described by mythology.
    Invoking a superstition slash game at the edge of the universe is allegedly what let the Toymaker in, but it sets a stage eager for gods and goblins, magic and myth.

The Other Threads

  • The Pretenders: In addition to the previous two week’s big beats on this theme: The Toymaker appropriates German and French culture etc. like he did Chinese culture in The Celestial Toymaker. We all have internalised biases and bigotries, but who we are is what we let come out, the Giggle robbing us of that identity. Evil embedded in puppets embedded in all television, the thing we love being a cover for hatred. In the end, Dr Who gets to stop pretending to be okay. The line is never drawn this explicitly between them, but the Toymaker and Rose Noble, toymaker.
  • The Mavity of the Situation: No “mavity,” but there’s still a thread here of meddling in time and getting away with it — if all of the history of television had the Giggle in it, what might removing it retroactively do?

On the docket

  • No updates on the state of Gallifrey (The State of the Home Planet) or Rose’s toy-buyer (Gonkage).

Arc Watch: Doctor Who: “Wild Blue Yonder”

I love a bottle episode, I love a little creepy horror one. Is that good for Arc Watch? No. Low on arc stuff this week, I have no reason to believe the Not-things are anything but one-offs, but there’s still loads of stuff here. I clearly just needed time to get back into the swing of things.

The Bigger Picture

  • In Flux and It’s About Timeless: We pick up some of the detritus of the Chibnall era with an acknowledgement that, one, a significant part of the universe was destroyed in the Flux, and two, that Dr Who now no longer knows where they come from, doing more with the quite heavy emotional effect these things might have on Dr Who than the Chibnall era ever did.
    These acknowledgements come in the same scene and seem at first glance to serve more as a reminder of the current status quo than to make any kind of progress on them as ongoing issues, and there’s a real chance these are just the new “Time War” and “last of the Time Lords,”but I’ve put them on the docket anyway — if I were RTD I’d want to do something with them.
  • Why The Long Face: They don’t say it out loud, but speaking of the trauma of the Flux, perhaps there’s a reason for the face coming back in Dr Who trying to… you know, deal with the trauma of the Flux. The last time they had this face their personality and attitude were very much coming from trying to stop being the last one — to stop being the Survivor and to try living again. The sheer fucking scale of the Flux mirrors absolutely nothing if it doesn’t mirror the Time War. Maybe nobody is doing this. Perhaps the face is but a comfort face.

Character Arcs and Character Roundabouts

  • Still Figuring It Out: “Is that who I am now?” Dr Who again expresses much more open love and fondness for Donna than they would’ve ever been capable of the last time they had this face. They also notably express aesthetic attraction to a person of the same gender they currently are themselves, which I’m pretty sure is a first in a few ways. Is this the Gatwa incarnation’s personality shining through a face that doesn’t have it?
  • Couldn’t Keep It In: Donna clearly did get exposed to Dr Who’s history since she last saw them, though she denies at the end having meaningful access to the information contained therein. I suspect the truth is somewhere in the middle — she’d probably recognise, say, Bill, or the planet Akhaten, and emotionally she probably has some grasp on things like the Flux, because, well, it’s Donna, she’s savvy, but I’m willing to take her word for it that it feels like staring into an inferno. Probably does something to you to have or have had a window to that inferno in your head, though.
  • The Pretenders: The Meep pretends to be cute and harmless, and forces UNIT soldiers to serve a cause they don’t believe in. Donna is forced to live as a version of herself she shouldn’t be, and is infinitely better off for getting to stop, just like her daughter. The Not-things copy people but always let their true selves shine through. Dr Who… pretends to be okay, but you can tell they’re not. Even Destination: Skaro had that Kaled pretending to be good at his job. What might RTD, a queer man himself, be trying to say about what pretending to be something you’re not does to you? I reckon perhaps he doesn’t think it’s good for you.

The Little Things

  • The Mavity of the Situation: Dr Who creates the branding and final look of the Daleks in Destination: Skaro. Here, Donna invents the word “gravity,” which Isaac Newton mishears as “mavity.” Right now these are gags, but butterflies can stack.
  • Black Cats and Ladders at the Edge of the Universe: Speaking of stacking butterflies, an interesting idea in the way using a superstition like the salt-counting thing unsettles Dr Who here. Easy to connect back to the Wrarth Warriors knowing the Meep as almost mythological butchers, to Dr Who creating much of the branding around the Daleks, to “mavity.” Clearly that’s a thread that’s gonna take us to the Toymaker, but that’s the kind of thing you could spin whole seasons out of.
  • The State of the Home Planet: Gallifrey neither exists nor has it been destroyed — it’s just “complicated.” Like it’s in some sort of state of… hybrid flux.
  • Still on the docket: No updates on The Boss Is Not Rhetorical — the question is simply not brought up or even relevant, though the Not-things could of course turn out to have employers later, or something, I don’t know, probably not. No followup to UNified Intelligence and Skyscraper-Building Taskforce or Gonkage, either, because, well, UNIT and Rose don’t appear. Bottle episode, baby. But we’re keeping them on the docket.

Month of Sundays #2

I was a week behind on podcasts, and a month behind on TV, but I’m catching up.


  • Matthew McConaughey’s Greenlights came up on Remap recently, so I downloaded the audiobook, and, though McConaughey’s voice is obviously very good to spend six hours with, the book itself is, frankly, a rambling parody of both him- and itself. Except if you’d deliberately written a “McConaughey’s warrior poet autobio” parody book, it might actually be funny. Oof.

Desert Bus for Hope

  • It was a good bus.

Doctor Who

  • Children in Need special: Destination: Skaro.
  • First 60th anniversary special: The Star Beast.
  • Enjoyed the new McGann incarnation boxset Audacity. The stories are solid, and the inimitable Jaye Griffiths brings a lot of very compelling gravitas to an interesting new companion. Had heard about where it ends and worried what that meant for how much it’s actually setting up a fresh new part of Dr Who’s life, but who cares when it’s such a nice, fun place to get to. Very excited for that Christmas followup.
  • Started Enter Wildthyme!. Surrendered to the Magrsiverse hypercontinuity almost immediately. Never mind. I’ll get back to that one eventually.
  • Started Professor Bernice Summerfield and the Squire’s Crystal. All the body swap clichés you want from a 90s sci-fi novel and several you don’t. But you know what, they’re clichés because they work. Benny’s immense frustration at having to prove that she’s not just herself, but even a woman at all really got me.
  • Professor Bernice Summerfield and the Stone’s Lament is a good followup to Squire’s Crystal — it’s good to establish the deal between her and Adrian in both mediums.
  • I liked all of the Tales of the TARDIS framing scenes a lot, very charming, cried a bit. Great way to start the anniversary month.
  • The Zygon Invasion novelisation is mostly a fairly straight prose version of the two episodes, but where it thrives is, one, in its internal Zygon monologues, making even stronger the Zygon refugee metaphor, and two, in its addition of interludes featuring Zygon-Clara Bonnie and her accomplice Clyde, who we never knew about on TV, whose human appearance is based on Danny Pink. That would’ve been cool to see on TV.
  • Rogue Encounters. I’ve been saying this, but: The War Master range is so fucking carried by the Jacobi performance — sinister, dark, delicious — that barely anything else matters. Are these stories good? Yeah, sure. Does that matter? God, Jacobi is terrific, isn’t he.
  • Dudman-as-Tennant set Defender of the Earth sure is yet another Big Finish release recorded at the absolute start of the pandemic. Is it weird to record in your house? Tell me less. As Chronicles releases go, it’s fine, but the fourth story, The Siege of Shackleton, picks exactly two of the Second Tennant incarnation’s1The one the First Tennant incarnation turns into in the cliffhanger between The Stolen Earth and Journey’s End. tics, to derisively call humans stupid for their every bad choice, and to brag and hype himself up constantly, and has him either do 120% of one or 120% of the other at all times. Insufferable. Awful. I also still don’t think Dudman is that good as the non-Smith incarnations.
  • Which is convenient, because Broken Hearts dropped right after — the Dudman-as-Smith has been an absolute shitter to Valarie Lockwood, and this one-off story has rightfully been inserted between volume 4 and the impending volume 5 to put that right. Totally does it. Valarie is totally right to be furious, Dudman and Ingar sell both the heartbreak and the resolution.


  • Blank Check status report: Michael Mann still really hit or miss.
  • I don’t really mention this on Masto or Letterboxd, but there’s one specific way I thought The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Whatever the Rest of This Title Was Again really got something right — for, you know, being a YA dystopia thing that doesn’t have to go that hard on this stuff, I thought it was a really good depiction of how a relatively upstanding citizen in a fascist system can be demolished and crushed by that system until there’s nothing left but a shithead with a machine gun, and what it means to rebuild yourself inside that system after that.
  • Finished the Transformers films. Though the way the politics of these evolve is an interesting journey to have gone on, I think I might enjoy them more (significantly so) when they’re not made by Michael Bay,2I watched the two that weren’t made by him before, so this was me catching up. which is a lousy conclusion to come to after five Michael Bay films. It’s all just shallow, stupid nonsense, guided by no creative vision but a boomer’s idea of what’s “awesome.”
  • Finished the Shrek films. They stop being parodies and become their own thing, which would be good if that own thing wasn’t still dumb.

Bits from Letterboxd

Cube 2: Hypercube (2002):

a shame to get the fellas with the guns and the phone at the end — I really like the very silly idea from the first one that it’s just a public works project that got extremely out of hand, where nobody’s in charge, and it’s just freelancers and subcontractors all the way down.

The Keep (1983):

The low resolution of the LaserDisc rip I watched gives this almost a travel documentary vibe, it feels very real, very grounded, like it was filmed by enthusiasts on potato cameras. Hard to tell how much of that feeling would persist in a proper HD release, but it totally works for this sort of John Carpenter-esque foggy mysticism.

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (2009):

fuck, imagine dying and going to Transformer heaven where everything is pointy and miserable, I’d un-die, too

Words Bubble Up Like Soda Pop (2020):

it’s a chill vibe, all
light pastels and thin, soft lines.
a bit off-season.

it’s a cute romance
her with her friends, and
him, his mall walkers

i’d not seen before,
as cinematic climax,
some public speaking

Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs (2009):

thought I’d watched at least four of these but I guess this is the third one, a sentiment I’ll probably also feel when I put on the next Transformers picture

i guess the one thing these horrible ennui-inducing cretin pictures have going for them over the Transformers flicks is these are a firm 90 minutes instead of looking at a third hour like it’s a goal instead of a canyon

i thought this was miserable when daddification hit the crude animal movie for toddlers, but then a second daddification hit the crude animal movie for toddlers, and it did not improve after that point

God is a Bullet (2023):

I was vaguely aware 2023’s God is a Bullet existed, but it looked like one of those where every character has a Large Opinion about the American flag, and let me tell you, I would not endorse or even encourage any of these people’s (entirely unstated) Large Opinions that I am sure they all, every single one of them, have about any flag.

Twilight (2008):

shot like a dream sequence and colour graded like a Saw movie, everyone is so riddled with horniness a rhinoceros might take notes, it’s genuinely ridiculous from the first frame to the last

Transformers: Dark of the Moon (2011):

the stakes here can only be measured in quantities of 9/11s — and when the bad guys just moving down the street is like a crane falling over, we start the count at maybe 15 9/11s? how is a win condition even still on the horizon when you’re five of those 9/11s in?

The Twilight Saga: New Moon (2009):

Bella Swan is just a sadder Guillermo from What We Do in the Shadows

first vampires are real, then werewolves are real, and now Italians are real? really stretching believability here.

Transformers: The Last Knight (2017):

i’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe… four aspect ratio changes in twenty seconds of a shot reverse shot dialogue scene… I watched the aspect ratio touch the subtitles and then not even come close to it… all those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain…

time to die.

Shrek Forever After (2010):

having faced a world where he was happy, the ogre surrenders and submits to the heteronormative nuclear family forced upon him by the values of not his own world but the one that brought him into his horrible, miserable existence


  • Bodies never takes any huge turns I didn’t see coming, and I think the resolution to the central mystery is a little weak, but I enjoyed the journey.
  • Captain Laserhawk: A Blood Dragon Remix. You can’t open a show on a serious terrorist message, then cut to Rayman’s talk show, then to an over the top car chase that involves a gay kiss, and not expect me to be interested. It retains that wild tone the whole way through — there’s a whole FMV section?? — and I think it’s a really interesting… experiment? Truly nothing like it on TV.
  • The Curse is so deeply fucking haunted.
  • Finished The Fall of the House of Usher the day after Halloween. Like I said last month, great depiction of the extremely rich — even at their most sympathetic, with one exception, they’re largely gonna be awful, craven people, and you’ll always enjoy seeing them get offed one by one at least a little bit. …Oh, so the House literally Falls at the end of the– Okay.
  • Insane For All Mankind alternative history detail of the month: LaserDisc still the dominant home media format as of 2003.
  • Goosebumps still knows exactly how to deploy Justin Long.
  • Just impeccable quite how thoroughly the title Monarch: Legacy of Monsters fails to communicate literally anything about that show. It literally has the word “monsters” in there and you still turn it on unsure whether monsters will meaningfully feature. (Spoilers: They feature less than you want but more than you expect.)
  • The Morning Show gonna Morning Show.
  • A Murder at the End of the World is the new show by the folks who made The OA and I hope it goes places.
  • I no longer think Izzy from Our Flag Means Death is gonna lay claim to the Blackbeard name in the end.
  • Pluto asks the question “what if Astro Boy was a very serious murder mystery drama,” and it answers it “that would be pretty good.”
  • Scavengers Reign. Gorgeous animation. Not that much to it, though. Dropped it after three episodes.
  • Scott Pilgrim Takes Off. 💀💀💀 Terrific stuff.
  • Star Trek: Lower Decks. An easy nomination for Best Trek in a world where Strange New Worlds didn’t exist, though it’s really starting to make me feel like I should… actually start TNG/DS9 sooner rather than later.
  • Wolf Like Me. Fully forgot this show existed. Wish this second season wasn’t all so focused on the pregnancy thing — it gives them just a little too much “permission” to make her irrational, to have her make stupid decisions.
  • 1
    The one the First Tennant incarnation turns into in the cliffhanger between The Stolen Earth and Journey’s End.
  • 2
    I watched the two that weren’t made by him before, so this was me catching up.

Arc Watch: Doctor Who: “The Star Beast”

Oh, right, this is a thing we used to do.

The Big Ones

  • Why The Long Face: “Why did this face come back?” Such a specific way to phrase it that surely the answer must be very, very specific, too. In this episode, all we really get as answers go is, “destiny,” “to save Donna.” Everyone assumes it’s a ploy by the Toymaker, but that was never really his style — putting faces on people was more a Land of Fiction thing. (Obviously the face came back because everyone had fun livetweeting during the pandemic, but how would that translate to the screen?)
    I don’t think it’s the Toymaker, I don’t think it’s the Land of Fiction or any master thereof. You want the payoff to this to play emotionally — it shouldn’t just be “well the celebrity guest star did it.”
  • The Boss Is Not Rhetorical: “Wait until I tell the Boss!” The subtitles capitalise it and everything. But who’s the Meep’s the Boss? The obvious place we all immediately went to is, again, the Toymaker, but does the Toymaker have… flunkies now? He has toys he plays with, so if the Meep is in the pocket of Big Toy, “Boss” doesn’t seem like the relationship here.
    Plus, on the In-Vision Commentary, Tennant asks Collinson whether they know what that means yet, implying they didn’t while Tennant was actively involved in production. Perhaps the answer is in scenes that were shot much later.
    Really, all we have is the word “Boss” and set reports and casting announcements, so, a wild mass guess to the answer: Whoever Jinkx Monsoon is playing?1The rumour is the Terrible Zodin, but I dunno, is that where this is going? It doesn’t feel like that’s where this is going. Much of early days Arc Watch is gut-based.

The Small Ones

Who We Are
  • Still Figuring It Out: “Do I say things like that now?” Dr Who is still exploring their new personality. Clearly a big thing is that the vanity and egocentrism of the last time they had this face has cleared like bad acne, and their anguished cry of “Why did it have to be this?” when forced into a scenario not unlike the one that killed the last version of this face suggests that that well of emotion this face never would’ve been capable of before may be quite deep.
  • Couldn’t Keep It In: Much has been made of the ease with which Donna and Rose simply let go of the metacrisis energy. Is it that easy? Is that story over? Or is this just the start of its final chapter?
The World Around Us
  • UNified Intelligence and Skyscraper-Building Taskforce: Seriously, how is UNIT just fully back in business already again? I’m gonna assume this is just, let’s get this piece back on the board like usual and not worry about it too much, but there’s been quite a lot of shifting that kind of thing around a little too fast recently, and I wouldn’t mind if this one went somewhere.
  • Gonkage: Is Rose’s one customer in Abu Dhabi just one of those RTD background details, or something we should be keeping an eye on? Who would have reason to send money to Donna’s family? Or maybe, who would recognise what her toys were?
  • 1
    The rumour is the Terrible Zodin, but I dunno, is that where this is going? It doesn’t feel like that’s where this is going. Much of early days Arc Watch is gut-based.

“Then allow me to show you the future.” (Doctor Who: “Destination: Skaro”)

After a gruelling year-long hour trapped in the chaotic pages of Doctor Who Magazine‘s Liberation of the Daleks, Dr Who returns to the small screen by crashing into not just a lab on an obscure little backwater planet known to its inhabitants as Skaro — birthplace of the Daleks — but into his past, present, and future.

We have, of course, been here before. The crash itself is reminiscent of the Titanic slamming into the side of the TARDIS at the end of Last of the Time Lords, the gags remind of the banter from Time Crash mixed with the inspiring-the-famous-author gags from episodes like The Shakespeare Code. The way in which it fills in something we’ve never seen filled in on TV before even though non-televised Doctor Who has probably thoroughly covered the area, reminiscent of the way Sarah rattles off various companions’ fates in Death of the Doctor.

Speaking of contradictions…


Davros is depicted in Destination: Skaro as an able-bodied man at a point in his history where, historically, he’s been depicted as a wheelchair user with a severely disfigured face and body. This is a change made not for budget or time reasons1Though I’m sure Julian Bleach doesn’t mind not having to have the whole face put on. but because, and this isn’t speculation because Russell T Davies says as much in the Unleashed behind the scenes featurette, it’s the Year of Luigi 2023 and the harmful, hurtful cliché of using disability and disfigurement as a shorthand for evil has, in short, got to go. This, Russell says, referring to how Davros is depicted here, is how we see Davros now.

There is some ambiguity in what he says and how — clearly he’s saying, as far as he and the current team are concerned, Davros will not again be portrayed like he was in the past. But does that mean a total reimagining of Davros even in the part of his history we’ve seen before, or just that we won’t see that part of his history again? It may be some time before we find out — another Dalek story is an inevitability, but another Davros story might not be coming along for a while.

Either way, the message is clear: What makes Davros scary is the fascist fanaticism that drives him to create the Daleks — and not his face or his wheelchair. And that implies… other things.


Inevitably some of the kvetching online has included, why now and not in 2008? I can’t claim to know what was in Terry Nation’s heart when he created the character nearly half a century ago, or the hearts of anyone who’s contributed to the character since then. But I have a feeling I know Russell T Davies well enough to know that he just… wasn’t thinking about these things in 2008. Because, well, nobody involved who could’ve made this call was thinking about it in 2008. Nobody involved who could’ve made this call was thinking about it in 2012, 1975, or 2003, either. I’m really happy they’re having these conversations at Bad Wolf now.

When a silent film from 1924 employs, say, cannibal clichés to communicate that the island the characters have landed on is an easily recognisable dangerous situation, no matter how racist the effect of those clichés might then be in the Year of Luigi 2023, the intent at the time probably wasn’t to do a bunch of racism. They’re just using the toys that are in the toy box at the time. And those toys change as we wear them down, as we figure out they’re not equally fun for everyone.

Because the way we think about this stuff evolves constantly. It’s never too late to learn, to catch on, to say, the fun I’m having hurts you and it shouldn’t.

It’s never too late to fix your heart.2Or die.


Obviously this 5-minute comedy scene is just a drop in a thousand buckets. It “counts,” if such a thing matters to you, but its primary purpose is to have some light fun with silly Dalek jokes during a charity fundraising broadcast. My mom liked it, thought it was funny. She’s not thinking about these things at all.

But I think it’s a terrific shot from the second RTD era’s starter pistol: Here we go. This is what matters to us. Nothing is sacred. Let’s go have fun — together.

  • 1
    Though I’m sure Julian Bleach doesn’t mind not having to have the whole face put on.
  • 2
    Or die.

Some deleted drafts

A running thread you’ll notice in this selection of post I’ve deleted from my drafts tab in ClassicPress, thereby officially abandoning all pretence that I’ll do anything with them, is that these are all fandom or fandom-related essay ideas, really? Do I do that here? I did it once, I guess, though I feel like I kinda crapped out on the conclusion. There’s also a layer of a specific type of frustration to some of these that I generally don’t think lends itself to good writing.


From oldest to newest.

Who’s behind the mask? On identity concealment in “Star Wars.”

This one was just a title — I was annoyed Star Wars fandom took one look at a Stormtrooper with a cool gold mask and immediately decided they must be somebody1The emphasis was mostly on the idea that it was Ezra Bridger, but I saw several other names come up. hiding their face, and so I decided to write a rebuttal, because Star Wars doesn’t really… do that?

The Clones’ faces are never a secret, kindly old Palpatine being the monkey-faced hologram fella from the original films is only a twist if you’re watching for the first time in episode order, and Vader taking his helmet off is a serious health condition reveal, not an identity reveal at all. Phasma in the sequels never turns out to Be Somebody, The Mandalorian is about helmets and never, to the best of my recollection, pulls that type of twist at all.

In fact, it never really seems to happen that much in long-running sci-fi franchises at all — Doctor Who lets the Master do it sometimes, as a treat, but that’s a throwback to the 70s, Star Trek doesn’t really do it, it was very obvious on WandaVision it was gonna be Agatha all along, not fucking Mephisto, who would’ve come out of nowhere— *takes a deep breath*

But “Alex is annoyed with a fandom they’re not really in” makes for lousy writing, and also, I didn’t feel like doing the research, which I’d really have to do properly if I’m gonna pick a fight with nerds, so here we go — I didn’t write the post, and now I’m just doing the complaining, anyway, that’s that particular craving answered.

Interview with the person whose house the weary travellers stop at to recharge and eat a good meal

Inspired by a Mastodon post, this seemed like one I might get some mileage out of, but really, much like how I’m not really in Star Wars fandom enough to pick a fight, I’m just not in either fantasy or, like, longform profile pieces enough to really do this one justice. The joke would’ve been that the weary travellers stop at the interview subject’s house while the interview is happening, I think?

Doctor Who: 14 reasonable expectations for the RTD2 era

It was August, I saw a lot of people projecting their every hope and dream on the RTD2 era, and I thought I’d be a more reasonable voice in the discourse — but a week out from the first of the 60th anniversary special airing the vibe has changed a lot, and I no longer feel any need to try to throw a reasonable wrench into anyone’s spokes. I also remembered I simply do not wish to be part of The Discourse.

And anyway, I got to one (1) reasonable expectation and looking at it now I’d probably cut it if I was gonna try to finish it.

Notes on a Multiverse: “Iron Man” (2008)

For a while there I found it really frustrating to talk about the MCU on the internet2See amongst many other things the Mephisto thing. Exhausting., to the point that my Letterboxd reviews were just “Enjoyed it.” with a 5-star rating. I’m mostly over that frustration now3Leaving a certain web forum behind, and quite a lot of my exposure to clickbait and “look at this stupid opinion”-type posts with it, seems to have helped., and I can feel a substantial rewatch approaching at velocity. I wondered out loud on Mastodon if that rewatch might involve some kind of writing project, using the phrase “a Psychochronography in Spandex” to specifically evoke El Sandifer’s TARDIS Eruditorum as a model I was thinking of.

But, let’s be honest with myself here, that’s massively overestimating my current ability to commit to a long-term writing project of what would at the bare minimum be hundreds of posts.4How do you get to hundreds of posts from 35 movies? Agents of SHIELD ran for 136 episodes. The Netflix shows put out 161 episodes. Even doing some condensing this would be a massive undertaking. I’m very interested in finding an angle on the MCU from which to talk about it in a way that doesn’t drive me fucking insane.

I’m gonna do the rewatch at some point, and I’d like to do some kind of project around it? I like the title Notes on a Multiverse. But whatever shape that takes, it’s obviously not gonna be hundreds of essays, so the project I saved the draft for will not exist, and so — into the trash it goes.

  • 1
    The emphasis was mostly on the idea that it was Ezra Bridger, but I saw several other names come up.
  • 2
    See amongst many other things the Mephisto thing. Exhausting.
  • 3
    Leaving a certain web forum behind, and quite a lot of my exposure to clickbait and “look at this stupid opinion”-type posts with it, seems to have helped.
  • 4
    How do you get to hundreds of posts from 35 movies? Agents of SHIELD ran for 136 episodes. The Netflix shows put out 161 episodes. Even doing some condensing this would be a massive undertaking.

On long Mondays

I haven’t really done traditional journalling-style blogging here, so let’s find out if that’s a thing I do. Some things, maybe, aren’t best served by a weird joke on short text-based social media.

For the past… probably eight months1This started between semesters last year. my schedule at school has included a… very rough 9:30 to 21:30 Monday. Last year that last class was Art History, with just the six of us.2I’m in the short version of the art teacher course, because as a fully licensed cartoonist I’ve obviously already got a diploma for the art part and I just need to do the teacher part. This 2-year version typically picks up between six and a dozen people a year. Last year most of our classes were just the six of us — this year most of our classes are with the third years of the 4-year version. Come next semester we’ll legally be fourth years. That specific configuration, with a fairly relaxed teacher who had the whole year to convey information to us, worked pretty well. Acceptable execution of a shitty situation nobody was happy about.

But this year, that last class has been Education3Or “Onderzoekswerkplaats,” technically, if you’d like a great word for Hangman or Scrabble, but that’s really just the other half of the class we call “Education.”, which means, a lot of fairly heavy information in the philosophy and pedagogy zones, which means, class from a teacher who is great but also a sentient bouncy ball even at literal night.4Esther! Calm down! All of this, surrounded by 25 energetic third-years whose primary passion appears to be to generate with their mouths a bed of static noise that makes it impossible to think. If you’d ever wanted to experience cognitive overload, room 4.18 at my school was the place to be on Mondays from 18:45  to 21:30.

I’m not kidding when I say cognitive overload — it’s like it was scheduled specifically to totally fry my brain. The volume of the information we were supposed to take in ratcheted up through the morning and afternoon, then came essentially to a total stop for Media5For me, anyway, because, like, video editing and HTML, please, in my sleep, I’ve got an exemption, I could teach this class, but even if you’re new to all of that it’s honestly a fairly chill couple of hours. and a lengthy dinner break, only to then launch right back into the HARD KNOWLEDGE of yer BILDUNGS and yer GERT BIESTA and yer THE BANALITY OF EVIL. This didn’t do justice to the great, well-prepared, informative classes, and it didn’t do justice to us as students who would be eager to learn and work with all of this information under better circumstances. I’m sorry, but after a full day like that you were just never gonna pull anything meaningful about the banality of evil out of me at 21:00.6In the morning I’m a writer, in the afternoon I’m a poet, in the evening I’m a comedian — but at night I’m a haunted shell of a person, apparently.

But that’s all in the past tense, because as of next week7No regular classes this week. Media8And the third-years’ Music class, too, I… have to imagine. is moving to Tuesdays, which makes space for that late, late class to move to the much more reasonable 15:30 – 18:00 slot. And thank fuck for that. It’s a little like, and this is definitely a metaphor that’s way too heavy for this specific scenario, I’ve been told the war is over and I’m now just waiting to learn when we’re being shipped back home. This war, if you’ll continue to allow me the metaphor, has taken its victims — by what we now know to be the last battle9Last late class. half of my little Six of Us gang wasn’t showing up any more. One of us was approaching a burnout, one chose to prioritise their family. I was being a real trooper, but I’ll definitely need a real refresher on this info before the end of the semester, and, like, by that last class I was giving a presentation lying down on a table because that was the only way it was gonna happen. What would another few months of this have done to me?

  • 1
    This started between semesters last year.
  • 2
    I’m in the short version of the art teacher course, because as a fully licensed cartoonist I’ve obviously already got a diploma for the art part and I just need to do the teacher part. This 2-year version typically picks up between six and a dozen people a year. Last year most of our classes were just the six of us — this year most of our classes are with the third years of the 4-year version. Come next semester we’ll legally be fourth years.
  • 3
    Or “Onderzoekswerkplaats,” technically, if you’d like a great word for Hangman or Scrabble, but that’s really just the other half of the class we call “Education.”
  • 4
    Esther! Calm down!
  • 5
    For me, anyway, because, like, video editing and HTML, please, in my sleep, I’ve got an exemption, I could teach this class, but even if you’re new to all of that it’s honestly a fairly chill couple of hours.
  • 6
    In the morning I’m a writer, in the afternoon I’m a poet, in the evening I’m a comedian — but at night I’m a haunted shell of a person, apparently.
  • 7
    No regular classes this week.
  • 8
    And the third-years’ Music class, too, I… have to imagine.
  • 9
    Last late class.
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