Doctor Who: XI and the Buxom Fish from Space‏

June 2, 2010 at 12:10 am (BBC, Geekery, TV) (, , , , )


Episode written by Toby Whithouse, who also wrote “School Reunion”. There are some superficial similarities here, but … On surface, this was a great episode. The Doctor, er, arrives at Rory’s bachelor party (“Could someone let her in and give her a jumper?”), partly because of the snogging incident last episode, and partly because once you’ve traveled space and time your outlook changes – and if they’re going to get married, it would help if Rory (the lovely Arthur Darvill) had the same point of view available to him as Amy. So off they go on a “date”, to – I didn’t write down the year?  1480?  (ETA: “Venice, 1580”)  Lovely, romantic, perfect. Except for the small fact of something very strange about Signora Calvieri’s school…

Rory!  That’s a relief – I thought I’d burst out of the wrong cake.  Again.  That reminds me, there’s a girl standing outside in a bikini, could someone let her in and give her a jumper?  Lucy – lovely girl – (whispers for some reason)  Diabetic.  Now then.  Rory (claps) we need to talk about your fiancee.  (Rory ducks his head, laughing, embarrassed)  She tried to kiss me.  (There is a gasp from the crowd.)  Tell you what, though, you’re a lucky man – she’s a great kisser.  (Someone drops a glass)  (pause)  Funny how you can say something in your head and it sounds fine…

Life out there, it dazzles.  I mean, it blinds you to the things that are important.  I’ve seen it devour relationships.  (>spark!<) It’s meant to do that.  Because for one person to have seen all that, to taste the glory, and then go back – it will tear you apart.  So I’m sending you somewhere.  Together.  … Think of it as a wedding present.  Because frankly it’s either that or tokens. 

(Only thing is, if this was meant as, as Amy put it, a date, why didn’t he drop them off and go in a different direction?  Talk (as they will in the next episode) about gooseberry …)

(ETA: I just corrected a typo in that quote, but I have to note it because it’s so stupidly apropos:  “will teat you apart”.  Heh.)

Doctor: It’s a lot to take in, isn’t it – tiny box, huge room inside, what’s that about?  Let me explain –
Rory:  It’s another dimension.
Doctor: It’s basically another dim- what?
Rory: After what happened with Prisoner Zero, I’ve been reading up on all the latest scientific theories.  FTL travel, parallel universes …
Doctor: I like the bit when someone says it’s bigger on the inside.  I always look forward to that.
— I hope they do some capitalizing on Rory’s intelligence, and the fact that he’s swotted up.  This was interesting, because it was something of a challenge to the Doctor in a few directions.  Rory wasn’t overtly impressed by the TARDIS, and gypped the Doctor out of the chance to wow him.  Kinda sets the tone for the relationship …

Interrupting the recap, I have to say – I forgot all about it when I wrote up “Flesh and Stone”, because I was so horrified I didn’t make a note: I hated, absolutely hated that little postscript. I thought it was stupid, and out of character for Amy in every possible way (though if it had to happen at least the Doctor actually did handle it in an appropriately Doctorish manner), and made her look like an adrenaline-slut.  As did this one.

At the very beginning of the ep, we meet Guido (Lucian Msamati), a boat-builder, whose daughter Isabella is lovely, smart, and deserving of something more than her unwealthy father can give her.  “I believe protecting the future of one’s own is a sacred duty,” she explains.  Indeed.  “She is my world!” he pleads; he wants the best for her. “Then we will take your world,” Signora Calvieri responds.  And they do.

The TARDIS arrives, and all is merry and bright – “You owe Casanova a chicken?” “Long story. We had a bet” – until they witness an unpleasant scene as Guido tries to reclaim his daughter. Naturally, the Doctor is involved from the moment he sees human pain. 
Amy: What was that about?”  (turns to the Doctor – and he’s gone) (*sigh*) I hate it when he does that! 

The Doctor flashes the psychic paper (“Checking for aliens!” Amy: *snert*) and is called “Your Holiness” – so, is he the Pope or the Dalai Lama? Amy is a Viscountess, which I suppose would excuse her odd garb (what, does no one take advantage of the vast TARDIS wardrobe? Give me half a chance and get out of my way), and Rory … is her eunuch. “I’ll explain later”, says Amy – explain what, the psychic paper (when did the Doctor explain it to *her*?)? Or the eunuch-ness?  Two things none of them have to explain, to anyone: their clothing from almost 500 years in the future, and the “tiny box” sitting in the middle of the marketplace.  People just kept walking past it, and never gave it a first glance, much less second.  What’s that about?

In a fascinating little scene, Signora Calvieri’s son Francesco interrupts something to tell her about the incident Guido caused. “Mummy’s hydrating, Francesco!” We never interrupt while Mummy’s hydrating. It’s lovely – it could have matched up with the vampirism. And we never see what it is she is being hydrated with. Nice.  Something odd: Francesco says “We’ve already converted more than enough”, but later Rosanna mentions 10,000 husbands.  I never saw more than 10 – 12 girls, and there were no more, since they were all killed in the explosion.  How is 1 – 1.000 good odds?  Or do these folk practice extreme polyandry? 

Girls (in creepy unison from behind the Doctor, mugging in the mirror): Who are you?
Doctor (spins, and spends the next several minutes comparing what’s in front of him to what can be seen in the mirror): How are you doing that?  I am loving it!  You’re like Houdini, only five slightly scary girls and he was shorter, will be shorter – I’m rambling. 
Slightly Scary Girls:  I’ll ask you again, signor, who are you?
Doctor: Why don’t you check this out?  (holding out his billfold. When he sees puzzled expressions on the pretty faces, he flips it round)  Library card – of course.  It’s with – (fingers nose: apparently the universal symbol for “Rory”) I need a spare.  Pale creepy girls who don’t like sunlight and can’t be seen … Huh – Am I thinking what I think I’m thinking? But the city – why shut down the city?  Unless –
Pale Creepy Girls: Leave now, signor, or we shall call for the steward.  (all smile)  If you’re lucky. 
Doctor: Ooh!  (as they start to advance)  Tell me the whole plan! (they continue toward him, now with all teeth showing)  One day that’ll work … I would love to stay here – this whole thing, I’m thrilled, this is Christmas! – (flees)

The psychic paper got quite a workout in this one – including an uncharacteristic loaner by the Doctor to Rory, leaving him to, in extremis, pull out … his library card. With a photo of William Hartnell on it. For that alone I love this episode forever.

The internet is so reliable
Guido’s plan for extricating his daughter includes a bit of something he’s gradually lifted from on the job: “Gunpowder! Most people just nick stationery from where they work!” The Doctor: not a fan of explosives. One of the many reasons Who unique – there aren’t nearly as many large bangs as there could be. The Doctor’s plan starts out with the idea of passing Amy off as his daughter – “Your daughter! You look about nine!” I love you too, Amy. Though I gave him seven more years than that.

Guido: I thought you were her fiance.
Doctor: Yeah, that’s not helping.

Rory: They’re vampires, for God’s sake!
Doctor: We hope. … Makes you wonder what could be so bad it doesn’t actually mind us thinking it’s a vampire…
Oooo.  Nice.

Why would the Calvieris care if Amy had references from the King of Sweden?  Or was it the steward who put that there, for some reason being impressed by Swedish nobility?  And Francesco really should have thoroughly recognized Amy, at least – he looked her right in the face in that alley.  (In which Rory, the nurse: “She’ll be okay.”)  So the plan proceeds, and Amy is introduced into the school (“Cheers”) – and I guess Francesco (Alex Price) was a bit near-sighted.  “There are 10,000 husbands waiting for you in the water”, she is told. Sorry – kind of engaged.

“And you kissed her back.”
“No, I kissed her mouth.”
!  Truly, that is not a conversation I ever expected – EVER – to see the Doctor involved in. Not even 10.  Talking to a Companion’s fiance about a kiss… Yikes. Dunno.  Just … Dunno. 
“She kissed me because I was there.  It would have been you – it should have been you.”

“You know what’s dangerous about you? It’s not that you make people take risks. It’s that you make them want to impress you. You make it so they don’t want to let you down. You have no idea how dangerous you make people to themselves when you’re around.” He knows what he’s talking about. He’s known Amy all her life, just about, and sees the reckless streak in her just widening exponentially while she’s acting as a Companion. And he’s seen it in himself – I think he did impress the Doctor by coolly commenting that the inside of the TARDIS was in another dimension. He didn’t quite seem to know what to do with that one.  Fortunately he was saved from having to answer by six creepy pale girls.  And buxom.

“Cab for Amy Pond?”

The Doctor confronts Rosanna Calvieri, who is (played by Helen McCrory – oh! Narcissa Malfoy!) absolutely stunning. She’s gorgeous; she’s dressed gorgeously (the ruff! Oh, my. Want) – and she hit every note from flirtatious to frightened to determined protective mother: pitch perfect. She was a wonder. (All of the actors, and all of the Venetian costumes, were wonderful – and I loved the incongruity of Guido the 15th century Venetian in Rory’s bachelor party t-shirt.)

“Long way from Saturn 9, aren’t you? Sister of the Water?” – was what I thought the Doctor said. What he actually said, apparently, was “from Saturnyne”; they’re Saturnynians. Interesting; saturnine means “Having the temperament of one born under the supposed astrological influence of Saturn: Melancholy or sullen”; “Having or marked by a tendency to be bitter or sardonic”; or “Produced by absorption of lead”.  ‘Kay.  These folk were more mercurial. 

Rosanna: We ran from the Silence.” (Oh dear. Here it comes.)  Why are you here?
Doctor: Wedding present.  The Silence?
Rosanna:  There were cracks. Some were tiny. Some were as big as the sky. Through some we saw worlds with people. And through others we saw silence, and the end of all things. We fled to an ocean like ours and the cracks snapped shut behind us.  And Saturnyne was lost.
— Uh oh. Another remnant of a race, trying to survive at the Earth’s expense.  (But wow, is she gorgeous, especially in this scene)
Rosanna: What do you say?
Doctor: Where’s Isabella?
Rosanna: Isabella?
Doctor: The girl who saved my friend.
Rosanna (completely matter-of-fact): Oh, deserters must be executed.  Any general will tell you.  I need an answer, Doctor.  A partnership.  Any which way you choose. 
Doctor:  I don’t think that’s such a good idea, do you?  I’m a Time Lord.  You’re a big fish.  Think of the children. 

This scene was excellent. The volley of answer-for-answer was adroitly handled by every party, writer and actors both.  I want to go track down every performance on video by Helen McCrory, and as for Matt Smith … well, thank God. 

“I will tear down the House of Calvieri stone by stone. … You know why? You didn’t know Isabella’s name.”
– – OK – but if she hadn’t killed Isabella, or had known who it was she was killing, would it have made a difference? The Saturnynians needed a habitat more like their own (why not, you know, the open oceans?), so they were going to fix it. And would they have stopped with Venice? And did they just prefer humans to eat, or had they hunted out the canal systems?

On that subject, my note to myself was “back to the virgin sacrifices”. For much of the first new season, in every single episode there was a lovely young (-appearing) female who died heroically: Kylie Minogue, the tree, the blue girl (that was two in that ep: properly, Jabe and Raffalo), Gwen’s great great aunt… It’s a very Who thing, the death of someone you didn’t expect; I only wish it didn’t happen *quite* so often…

— Didn’t notice before:  that’s two maids’ costumes up there.  Huh. 

That steward has a lot to answer for.  I’m going to assume they were paying him very well indeed.

The sonic screwdriver can heal puncture wounds?  Is that new? 

Back at Guido’s home, they are gathered in the kitchen planning. Well, the Doctor is trying to plan; everyone else ends up, adorably, with their mouths covered.

Amy: If they’re fish people, it explains why they hate the sun.  (It does?)
Doctor:  Ah ah ah – stop talking, brain thinking, hush.  (covers her mouth)
Rory: It’s the school thing I don’t understand …
Doctor:  Ah ah ah – stop talking, brain thinking, hush.  (covers his mouth)
Guido: I say we take the fight to them!
Doctor: Ah ah! 
Guido: What?
Doctor: Ah!  (having run out of hands, nods at Rory, who obliges)
And from upstairs there is an almighty crash.
The Doctor (with a hopeful expression): The people upstairs are very noisy.
Guido: There aren’t any people upstairs.
Doctor: I knew you were going to say that, did anyone else know he was going to say that?
–(*raises hand*)

“Blimey. Fish from space have never been so … buxom.”  Where did they get the bits for perception filters for all the girls?  And where did the girls hide them? 

Amy and Rory are banished back to the TARDIS out of danger, so of course they don’t go (which would be part of the wanting-to-impress-you thing).  There’s a sort of a swordfight with Francesco (whose dive into the canal was absolutely beautiful – and also beautiful was the cut away just before he hit the water), and the most unique taunting ever – “You … big stupid Spongebob!” – and Amy saves the day again, and Rory’s hide, and Amy goes adrenaline-nympho again. No wonder the Doctor wanted to go pick up Rory – he wanted to redirect the snogging. Really, though, was that what it was at the end of F&S? It didn’t follow directly upon the danger, or the defeat of the baddies and resolution of the situation. To me it seemed more like she had had the Raggedy Doctor as her imaginary friend or the memory thereof for twelve years, had the imaginary fleshed out, literally, by an actually rather cute reality which looked about her age two years ago, and now she’s gadding about space and time with him, alone. And now that she has what she’s always wished for she’s none too sure about the contingency plan she made, the getting married. He is fathoms deep in love, but she’s odd with Rory, punching him on the arm when one would expect a conventional fiancee to be a little cuddlier (Rory: “Did you miss me?”  Amy (*thwack*): “I knew I’d be coming back.”), and on the whole treating him as if they were ten year old buddies. I look forward to seeing more of them together (though the next episode’s either not going to allow for much of that, or will allow for a very great deal. Oh! It’s “Amy’s Choice”, isn’t it! I get it. Oh!! Does she have to choose between the Doctor and Rory? I wish there was a way to spell out the sound Lucy Ricardo used to make…)

Rosanna:  Such determination just to save one city!  Hard to believe it’s the same man that let an entire race burn to cinders and ash.
Doctor:  I told you, you can’t go back and change time!  You mourn, but you live!  I know, Rosanna, I did it!
Rosanna: Tell me, Doctor, can your conscience carry the weight of another dead race? Remember us. Dream of us.
— And she dives into the water to be eaten by her sons. It’s over very quickly.  She was cruel to him – but she can’t be blamed, really. She was referring to the loss of the Time Lords; she  doesn’t know about all of the other weight he carries around with him, so she was even more cruel than she intended. She would be delighted.

Amy: I will pop the kettle on. Hey, look at this! I got my spaceship, I got my boys – my work here is done!
(she dances into the TARDIS)
Rory: Uh, we are NOT her boys.
Doctor: Yeah we are.
Rory (taking it back so fast he overlaps): Yeah we are.

– And from the silly to the scary:
Doctor: Rory, listen to that.
Rory: Uh, what? All I can hear is silence.
– Yup. Silence. Not the sounds of the marketplace, or of the water in the canal, or even of the TARDIS door closing behind them. Silence.

This is going to take some fixing.

At the end of the trailer for the next episode: “This is gonna be a tricky one.” And the Doctor smiles happily.

I saw a review somewhere out in the ‘verse in which the blogger waxed a bit rhapsodic on Matt Smith’s acting ability. I’m not at the rhapsodic phase yet, but he is extraordinary, beyond what I dared to hope.  He’s entirely believeable – and I never let myself hope for that.   Great face, great voice, taking little thing altogether.  (Sorry, slipped into Mikado there a sec.)  I can almost relax and enjoy the ride.   As long as all snogging for the foreseeable future is restricted to the betrotheds.

6/7 ETA, among other things, after a second viewing (because the “Amy’s Choice” post was quite long enough and I’m not posting twice about the same episode):  the blurb on OnDemand reads:

The House of Calvieri protects the city of Venice but when blood-drained corpses show up in the streets, the Doctor suspects something is not right with the beautiful Calvieri daughters.

Did anyone there even glimpse part of the episode?  In passing?

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