DNF: Castleview, Gene Wolfe; and what I thought about the new kid

The jacket copy on the Gene Wolfe books at the library assured me that Gene Wolfe’s most famous books are a series with the word Sun in them, but failed to explain to me which book was the first of that series.  Yes, I could have looked it up on the library computers, but I was only getting his books in the first place because he was right there under W, and Sexing the Cherry was not, so I couldn’t be bothered expending a lot of effort.

Again I say unto you: It is not a good strategy to get a book by an author you have heard a lot about just because you happen to be standing in that section.  I picked up Castleview because, well, because it had a castle, and figures from Arthurian legend.  I like a castle.  I like figures from Arthurian legend.  I read two-thirds of it on Easter Sunday, and seriously, you could offer me a million dollars right now and I would not be able to tell you what was going on in that book.  Characters come and go with terrifying rapidity, and I lost the thread of the plot after about two chapters.  By chapter three my only reaction was: “What?  What?  What?”

With which convenient segue I turn to the subject of Matt Smith and his Saturday debut as the Doctor.  I am happy to report that my not inconsiderable efforts to come to terms with David Tennant’s departure have worked brilliantly, and I was hardly at all resentful of Matt Smith for dashing about being the Doctor.  I didn’t even get that feeling with Matt Smith that I had when David Tennant first showed up, that he was only pretending to be the Doctor.  He was the Doctor straight away.

I liked (’ware major spoilers):

  • How they’ve made Amy such a perfect stand-in for the audience, with her years of dreaming about the Doctor, while also giving her a backstory that provides a good reason for her to go with the Doctor when he asks her to go.  Plus I just love it that she’s from a small town where everyone not only knows her but knows about “the raggedy Doctor”.
  • The Doctor treats little Amelia exactly the same way he treats grown-up Amy, Geoff, Rory – everyone really.  It’s easy to win viewers’ sympathy by being extra nice to a lonely little kid, but it wouldn’t make sense for the Doctor to be different with her than he would be with a grown-up human.  He’s over 900 years old, for heaven’s sake: All the humans he meets would be like children to him.  “Do everything I tell you, don’t ask stupid questions, and don’t wander off.”  Yup, those are the rules.
  • We still don’t know what was going on with the crack in Amelia’s wall.  Scary scary.  I like ongoing plotlines.
  • The Doctor’s about-faces on the question of back-up and whether having it or not having it meant they were safe.  I do enjoy undercutting of tense moments.
  • “This matters, this is important.  Why did you say six months?”  “Why did you say five minutes?”  Quite right too.  Poor little sausage, waiting for her magic Doctor.  Grown-ups are so disappointing.
  • “I’m the Doctor; I’m worse than everybody’s aunt.”  Love it.
  • The Doctor rings up the aliens on the phone and makes them come back.  To fuss at them for threatening Earth in the first place.  I could not possibly be happier about this.  I was so happy about this that I felt only a small amount sad to see David Tennant’s face in the Doctor Montage, and didn’t mind at all the new kid walking through his face at the end.  It didn’t feel dismissive.  And I always like it when the Doctor can stand there, all human-looking and alone, and intimidate the hell out of a massive alien threat.  You know if he had to, he could put paid to those eyeball aliens forever.  “Basically – run.”
  • “You kept the clothes?” “I just saved the world.  The whole planet, for about the millionth time, no charge.  Yeah.  Shoot me.  I kept the clothes.”  “Including the bow tie?” “Yeah, it’s cool.  Bow ties are cool.”  Can I just say again that I love the clothes?  I love the clothes.  Including the bow tie.  I have long been a secret fan of bow ties, on people who can carry them off.  The Doctor and Justice Stevens are two people who can absolutely carry them off.

I did not like:

  • (Here is where that segue comes in.) When the Doctor said “What? What? What?” in that blatantly David Tennant way.  Did not like, do not want.  That marked the only time in the whole episode that I got truly cross at the new kid.  I snarled, BACK OFF, YOU.  AND GET OUT OF HIS CLOTHES.  (Not, um, not in a dirty way.)
  • “Who da man?”  Bleargh.
  • The new TARDIS.  I am surprised at how much I miss the old TARDIS.  I do not currently like the new decoration, but I am curious to see some of its other rooms.  The only time I can remember seeing any other TARDIS rooms during Russell T. Davies’ tenure as showrunner is when David Tennant was picking out his clothes. TARDIS rooms, please.  I would like to see the library.
  • The fact that we didn’t really get to see the layout of Amy’s house before the extra room showed up.  Or did we, and I missed it?  I think it would have been creepier if we had had to make note of there being only five rooms, before the Doctor makes Amy count and realize there are six.

I have concerns relating to:

  • This being a rather by-the-numbers Doctor Who episode.  As first outings for new kids go, this episode is shades of “Smith and Jones”, “The Girl in the Fireplace”, “The Christmas Invasion”, “42” – oh, well, you know.  I’m not fussed about it as long as the others aren’t the same way.
  • Steven Moffat’s apparent penchant for swooshy romance.  I don’t want River Song back (for four episodes), I’m not convinced there was any reason Ten had to fall in love with Madame de Pompadour, and overall I would prefer it if Amy and the Doctor were just very, very, very good friends.  The nice thing (for me) about Donna and Ten, and Rose and Ten even, was that they were really good friends having a fantastic time together and enjoying each other’s company.  Martha kind of brought me down, moping around all the time.
  • In a related note, the executive producer Piers Winger said this about Amy: “The whole kissogram thing played into Steven’s desire for the companion to be feisty and outspoken and a bit of a number. Amy is probably the wildest companion that the Doctor has travelled with, but she isn’t promiscuous. She is really a two-man woman and that will become clear over the course of the episodes.  Sci-fi has a long and happy history of sexy female characters and long may that continue.”  Oh, really, she’s not promiscuous?  THAT IS SUCH A WEIGHT OFF MY MIND.  Dear Piers Winger, We are at least temporarily not friends anymore.  Kisses, Jenny.

THE END OF THE SPOILERS.

Overall I was solidly in favor, and now I wish it were Saturday again.  I only started watching Doctor Who after the fourth series had ended, so I’ve waited for the specials but never for a proper season.  It is strange and wonderful that there will be new episodes every Saturdays for the next lots of Saturdays.

Did you like it?  If you haven’t watched Doctor Who before, may I suggest you start?  This episode isn’t a bad one to be your first: plot a bit thin but the characters get nicely introduced and the Doctor is classically Doctory, and if you’ve never seen the TARDIS before you might like it even though I do not.

Shriek. Squee. Fangirl delight.

I know!  I’m so fickle!  But:

This does seem to be the pattern with me and the new kid.  My heart is hardened against him like the Pharaoh against Moses, and I watch the clips with glowery eyes and my arms crossed, and I think angry thoughts about the new kid and his myriad inadequacies.  And then, in the midst of all this, he goes and does something really Doctory and causes me to love him (briefly).  But I think this clip from “Vampires of Venice” has put paid to all my negative expectations.  Well, that, and the fact that Matt Smith came up with the tweed and the bow tie himself, and he prepared for the role by writing stories about the Doctor, and Patrick Troughton is his favorite Doctor from the classic series.  How could that fail to win me?

Besides, unfailing sign: I have started feeling defensive of him.  I read something negative about Matt Smith on the internets the other day and I was all, Step off the Doctor, internets!  Show some respect!  Have you no sense of history?

Which is hardly fair for me to say, given that a year and a half ago, I said I didn’t care that much that David Tennant was leaving, and I was only interested in this news because it meant Paterson Joseph might be the new Doctor.  Oh, Past Jenny.  (Then I went on a week-long Doctor Who and cross-stitching spree, at the end of which I remembered that David Tennant was leaving and nearly burst into tears.)

Can it please be Saturday?