Doctor Who Discussion: Mysterious Tea, Lige, and (in a shocking twist) actual Writing Advice

Posted: September 27, 2015 by J.A. Prentice in Doctor Who Discussions
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Image is BBC

Image is BBC

Well, Doctor Who is officially one full story into its 9th series. And Joshua (JA) and Jaden (JC) are continuing their long-standing tradition of two weeks by posting our post-episode discussion. This week: “The Witch’s Familiar.” And, as a certain archaeology professor would say: “Spoilers.”
JC: Thoughts?
JA: I really, really liked it. It was much more focused than the first part and had a lot of excellent scenes. It pulled everything together better than I thought it would. 8/10 at least.
JC: I’m debating on 7 or 8. Thinking 8. Liked the acting, liked how pretty much everything made sense, and Missy was again delightfully evil.
Though I’m not sold on the Doctor’s “oh no! Don’t do this! No! Stop!” thing when his regeneration energy was being sapped and then being all “lol jk I planned that.”
JA: I thought it was fine. The Doctor wouldn’t want Davros to know he planned that.
JC: Maybe, but it felt more like Moffat going “well crap, if the Doctor celebrates than that ruins the twist.” But I DID like practically every other moment between him and Davros.
JA: Davros was great in this. Just amazing.
JC: I felt bad for him… I was about to be all “yes! you’re a good man!” then I remembered he kinda created the daleks…
JA: It reminded me a lot of the Big Finish Davros stuff, where he’s a more complex character. (Most of which is on sale right now on their website. They should pay me considering how much advertising I do for them.)
JC: If the world worked like that Tangled would’ve paid me half their gross by now.
JA: The only issue I have is that Davros says the Daleks had respect for him programmed into him… which does not even slightly connect with about half their Classic Series interactions. Especially Genesis.
 But perhaps he was lying. Or exaggerating. Who knows?
JC: Missy also said she had a daughter, which does not fit at all with canon. She also said the doctor had been a little girl
no wait that’s stupid
Is it? (editor’s note- yes. Yes it is.)
JA: TECHNICALLY, it doesn’t conflict with canon for the Master to have a daughter.
But considering that the Master is a liar…
JC: I want to believe everything Missy says. Which I think is a compliment to Michelle Gomez’s acting
JA: She’s a very good liar.
Speaking of which, that scene with Clara in the Dalek and the Doctor was incredibly tense.
JC: That was actually one of few moments I was “meh” on. A good idea, Missy trying to get the doctor to kill clara while she can’t say who she is… but Clara’s inability to think the words “open shell” is a bit annoying.
JA: The scene was so tense that I forgot she could do that. And she was actually there. Considering that she’s trapped inside a Dalek, unable to communicate with her friend, a city falling apart, and she’s not even really sure how to operate it, it’s understandable that she’d panic too much to think clearly.
JC: I can accept that mainly because I don’t really see another way to do the scene. And the scene itself was a great idea.
I’m seeing on the internets some mixed reaction to Davros playing the doctor all along, instead of having a sincere send off. Not sure I agree, but I see the point
JA: Eh, it’s Davros. I think there WAS some sincerity there. He’s just really twisted.
JC: Pretty much what I think. He meant it. But he also wanted to do Davros-y things
JA: Exactly. There are quite a few Big Finish stories that are similar. Davros has genuine feelings… but he’s also a sadistic lunatic who wants to be a god.
JC: Oh, also I find the idea of the daleks decaying in a sewer, terrifying. Skaro is apparently the Flying Dutchman.
JA: That was a great, very Moffat idea. It’s genuinely disturbing.
JC: And yet Missy’s all chill about it because she’s a badass.
JA: Is badass another way of saying sociopath?
JC: It’s a polite way to say it.
Image is BBC

Image is BBC

JC: It’s weird though. I know I liked this episode but I don’t know if it had a ‘wow’ moment for me. Maybe Davros’s heart to heart with the doctor.
JA: I though it had a few “wow” moments:
  •  The mercy speech.
  • Clara and the Doctor. The “I am a Dalek” scene.
  • All of Davros and the Doctor’s scenes.
  • Briefly seeing Tom Baker at the beginning when Missy is telling her story.
JC: Totally forgot about that. I think this one is going to be an episode I like more on a rewatch, perhaps back to back with part 1. but I still thought it was solid. One thing out of the episode’s control that bugged me was how there was commercials like every five minutes
JA: Yeah. Especially since it was made to be shown without commercials.
There were two big mysteries Moffat brought in here that I need answers to: 1) What’s up with the Hybrid prophecy? It seems like it’s going to be important… 2) Where did the Doctor get the cup of tea?
JC: I do like how the main thing that didn’t make sense was just that cup of tea. But correct me if I’m wrong but didn’t they already do a dalek hybrid prophecy thing? In Daleks in Manhattan?
I think the hybrid is Clara/Oswin or Missy btw
JA: I am convinced it’s Missy.
Especially given her last line.
We’ll see her again and she’ll be controlling the Daleks.
JC: It seems too obvious though unsure emoticon
JA: Yes, but the Master controlling an army of Daleks would make for a good “blockbuster” season finale.
Although I’m kind of over those.
JC: I want a finale one of these days that’s pretty much about one dude. That’s it. He’s got to save one dude. No world/universe wide threat or anything.
And it’s super personal and feelsy and tense.
JA: Speaking of which, that reminded me of one thing I liked about this episode which actually ties in with WRITING technique.
The whole thing took place on Skaro. Every single scene.
There were only three characters other than the Daleks.
I think that “smallness” helped it feel more personal and intense. It was the polar opposite of last week, where we went across the whole universe as if Moffat had ADHD.
JC: I noticed and liked that too. Part of what made me want that sort of finale was watching this episode and how it was approached. One of the doctor’s greatest and oldest enemies, and they handle it by mainly having them have a human (heh heh) conversation. Not guns blazing or anything.
JA: Exactly. Moffat relies on tension rather than action.
The conversation was far more interesting than any shoot-out.
JC: It reminded me in many ways of “Dalek” which is still the best dalek episode. But it was small scale and had lots of intelligent conversationy bits.
JA: I think there’s almost a sense of claustrophobia that comes from staying in one place and that makes it feel tense for the characters, especially in a shorter story. Hence why many of the good Doctor Who stories follow the “base under siege” formula.
In this case, the base itself is full of the enemy and the Doctor, Clara, and Missy are trapped in with them.
JC: Midnight too. That one is basically one scene.
JA: If you really want to ramp up tension, one of the best ways to do it is to have the characters trapped in one place. It really amps up the sense of danger.
JC: You hear that guys? If you want to write a good story, make it as small as possible! Only one character! Wait- no characters! Only a vacuum!
JA: Not sure if you mean a vacuum as in emptiness or a vacuum as in a household appliance used for cleaning floors.
I recommend making stories about the latter.
JC: You know what I find ironic about this conversation?
JA: What?
JC: We’ve talked about the importance of keeping stories small in scale and how sometimes conversation is more tense than violence… and your latest novel is an epic world-spanning tale with many characters and my novella is much more action packed than philosophical
JA: I’d say that there’s no such thing as a universal rule in fiction.
Sometimes small scale benefits a story and sometimes it doesn’t.
I think all my SHORT stories take place mostly in one location.
JC: Important to note that we are also both hypocrites. But yeah, I think a lot of it is figuring out how “big” your story is. Pandorica opens? That has to be big. Midnight? Has to be small.
JA: Exactly. It’s all about what works for the story. Don’t cramp a story that doesn’t need to be cramped, but don’t inflate a story that should be smaller.
JC: And with that I think we’ve summed up pretty much why this story worked. Anything left you didn’t care for?
JA: I was really excited by the idea of the Doctor getting rid of the sonic screwdriver, because it was becoming way too much of a saving-the-day device…. And then we saw the sonic sunglasses and I really, really, really hope that the sonic screwdriver isn’t gone, because while those were cool for one scene, they would be absurd longterm.
And I felt the mixing of Dalek props without explanation was a little odd, although I did love seeing the classic Daleks again.
JC: Agreed on the glasses… Hoping the TARDIS spits out a screwdriver next episode. I’m also too invested in each doctor having their own unique screwdriver. Though I think the mixing of Dalek props is really Moffat’s thing. Been doing it since series 7 I think?
JA: Well, then it was the New Paradigm as “officers,” the regular RTD Daleks as “soldiers,” and the handful of classic ones as inmates of an asylum. That made sense. Hartnell-era Daleks just being around on Skaro makes less sense.
I appreciated Moffat explaining why Skaro was back. That bothered me at first.
JC: I guess I missed that explanation, though I don’t remember questioning it
JA: It was just one line about the Daleks rebuilding it.
JC: Oh, as I said I wasn’t really looking for one. BUT I MISSED MISSY’S “The Bitch is back” LINE
JA: That line was great. I read people whinging about the use of language in spoiler-free reviews before it came out, but I wasn’t expecting it to be in such a fantastic line.
JC: Also, Rose already dropped the b word like ten years ago. In another fantastic line
JA: Yes, but people like being outraged.
JC: Strange but true.
All right, looks like we covered everything… any last thoughts?
JA: Don’t think so, but I’m sure I’ll remember something later.
JC: Yeaaa me too. Such is lige.
i meant life
JA: I’m sure lige is also like that.

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