Doctor Who: Lying, the witch and wardrobe malfunctions

Review: The Witch’s Familiar 

I think the Dalek loop is complete for the moment thanks to Steven Moffat. The Doctor has killed them, refused to kill them, transformed them, saved them, run away from them, and helped in a way, to invent them. Davros and The Doctor are the same and different. Scientist geniuses, the products of wars with special abilities and drawbacks. It was chilling and a relief to see them laugh. Meanwhile, The Doctor uses the expectation of his compassion as a weapon, while Davros and the Daleks persist in their single-minded goal to survive, which is always their greatest weakness. Davros too, strangely never expects the Doctor to lie, which is odd for mortal enemies with a long history.

There are real problems in depicting ‘evil’ or bad guys as always ugly, or disabled, or both. That’s a trope that ends a thesis or two, and also to end. Yet, the contrast between young Davros and old Davros is interesting and something I’ll have to go back to old episodes to explore.  The concept of his chair too, is intriguing. It’s a prison and a shell, a defence and a life support and seeing The Doctor in it was freaky in the extreme. The joke about a chair being rare on Skaro was quietly hilarious too.

In the old days, The Master's Tardis was some times a grandfather clock. Be worried it's still out there somewhere.

In the old days, The Master’s Tardis was sometimes a grandfather clock. Be worried it’s still out there and Missy’s looking for it.

This episode felt tighter, with more at stake than the previous one. While I didn’t like Missy and Clara being ‘killed’ last episode, the explanation of how they were not, was excellent. I appreciate the tension and weird camaraderie when Clara and Missy are together. Even though they kinda fail the Bechdel test, because when together they mostly discuss The Doctor.  Or Danny. Still, the lil comments Missy leaves about her past lives are fascinating. Like the fact she had/has a daughter. Or did I miss-hear that, did she mean the Doctor’s daughter?

Leaving that aside, Missy and Clara compliment each other. Clara with her hatred of Missy, but inability to actually kill her, versus Missy’s knowledge that if she did ‘really’ directly harm Clara she wouldn’t last very long. Even though she’s not averse to threats and getting The Doctor to kill Clara. This incarnation of the Master feels more dangerous than John Simm’s (for instance), but just as unstable. If Missy is the witch, Clara is fast becoming her student, as well as The Doctor’s.

Clara on the inside

So, the obvious links to episodes include The Dalek Asylum, and Missy’s stunt with Clara felt dangerous because from that episode we know what’s at stake. Clara, one of a million faceless crazed machine-animals, could easily have been lost or killed or transformed. It was claustrophobic and eerie, seeing (yet again) Clara squeezed into an armoured death chair that rewires her brain and emotions.

And I wonder what the implications of regeneration energy are for her, since she too may have had a dose while inside the suit?

The other episodes was Inside the Dalek (of course), Dalek featuring Rose’s mercy towards one, and then The Big Bang, where a Dalek asks River Song (foolishly) for mercy. Now we know how that Dalek and Clara, trapped inside the metal box, could ask. Because, always, Doctor.

With Mr Moffat, no thread goes unexplained, eventually. It could be a link picked up from decades ago (Genesis of the Daleks) or a couple of episodes ago. It all gets worked out, never quite in the way you expect (defeat by sewer anyone?) but always with a mind to how every time the Doctor arrives somewhere he is changing his own story.

Never forget that Daleks, inside their shells. are basically on eye monomaniac hate squids. Clara was nearly that again.

Never forget that Daleks, inside their shells. are basically immortal one-eyed, monomaniac hate squids. Clara was nearly that again.


Unlike previous Dalek/Time War episodes, The Witch’s Familiar didn’t see Mr Moffat unwrite anything that went before, but just made it clearer. Once involved in a timeline (like that of Davros), there is no way of escaping it. The Doctor knows this and chooses neither to attempt to kill Davros, or leave him (again), but teach him the word exterminate, while demonstrating mercy. It’s the circle of the Time War.

Mostly though, I say no to the really big change of the episode. Remembering that The Doctor lies, and knowing that wearable tech is so early 21st century human, all I want is the sonic screwdriver back.

I’m guessing at least one screwdriver will return, when River does.




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Authors Answer 47 – Portraying Cultures in Fiction


I’ve been thinking about this and it’s more complex than we realise. Every setting in a ‘real’ place has its own culture. I mean local customs and language idioms and expectations for behaviour and that’s even within one country or larger area. Then if we write historical fiction of any kind, the past is also a different culture, because simply, they did things differently back then, and believed in different things, and worked in different ways. I see the USA ‘South’ has having a different culture to other parts of the US. Where I grew up had different slang and mannerisms to where I went to university – so much so that some thought I was from a different country. Yet, there are enough similarities between groups that remind us that culture is overlaid across human experience. It enables us to imagine aliens of different species or to anthropomorphise animals. It’s because imagination is inherent to humanity (and who knows perhaps all life).

Originally posted on I Read Encyclopedias for Fun:

If you want a novel to come alive, you don’t want a generic group of people. You want some culture. Culture is an important part of life, and different cultures are often shown in novels, whether real cultures or fictional ones like in fantasy. But how do authors handle cultures?

320px-Modern-ftn-pen-cursiveQuestion 47 – How do you portray different cultures in your writing?

Linda G. Hill

I don’t. I like to know what I’m writing about, so if I was to include another culture in my fiction, I would demand extensive research of myself. Research takes a lot of time, and time isn’t something I have a lot of… so… I haven’t, really, had any cultures in my writing that aren’t my own.

Allen Tiffany

Great question. Doing this is tough. You have to be judicious and clever as you share aspects of different cultures, especially if you created them (such…

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Doctor Who: Told You So

AKA remembrance of things that might be retconned

So yes, it’s just like I said in my last review. Lo and behold, with The Magician’s Apprentice we get the double bill return of Missy and of Davros. No sweating on slow burn mysteries, Steven Moffat is leaping straight into the big themes of the season: reaping what you sow and a variant on Hitler’s murder paradox. In saving a boy does he help create Davros and the Daleks? Or, The Doctor, by leaving him to his fate,  does he do the same? Is there any interference he can run, which wouldn’t create the person we know as Davros the Dalek creator?

Skaro, the pock-marked damaged from eons of war, not to mention hand mines.

Skaro: the pock-marked damage from aeons of war, not to mention hand mines.

If last season was about demonstrating how war shaped Danny Pink into a regretful, but ultimately heroic teacher/warrior/ saviour type who also saves the boy, then this series or at least this episode, suggests war can result in the opposite too. For every hero created, war also deeply damages people, and would particularly traumatise a small, lost boy. This episode explicitly demonstrates how Davros’ fear created the Daleks.

Danny and The Doctor, faced with similar situations must make difficult choices that change their lives and the lives of others.

Also, I don’t believe for a second that Missy and Clara are dead. Because time can be rewritten and because, basically, no.

Skaro, the last place you want to be if a Timelord. Or actually anyone else.

Skaro: the last place you want to be if a Timelord. Or actually anyone else. Khaled Dome in the background, (pre-1975).

So many shout outs

Alien bar with call backs to all sorts of aliens, well that’s a shout out to Star Wars, but also A Good Man Goes to War (2011).

Looking for The Doctor by stealing/following his companions – happened with Rory and Amy with Asylum of the Daleks (2012), but also with The Stolen Earth (2009) and pretty much any episode with Daleks – like Parting of the Ways (2005).

Speaking of which, the Judoon and the Architect of the Shadow Proclamation, also appear as a call back from The Stolen Earth (itself part of the Time War).

Then Davros starts playing his own call backs, to Tom Baker’s fourth Doctor describing implications of the Grandfather Paradox as applied to the destruction of the Daleks, from Genesis of the Daleks (1975).

Then there’s UNIT, (whose name dropping Kate Stewart somehow needs Clara to explain how dangerous planes can be as weapons). Nice to see them anyway, suppose.

The gravity question was a call back to The Beast Below (2010) with Amy – the water didn’t move so there were no engines. On this ‘ship’ the gravity was like that of a planet. And so it came to be.

Who is which, or is Missy the which? 

The question is who is the magician and who is the apprentice? Is the Doctor the magician, with his forced anachronisms and abilities to muck up time lines? Or is he the apprentice, learning to do bad from Davros, who perhaps, learned to do worse, from his saviour, The Doctor?

Missy escorts some chums around the Skaro Death Rays. See the Khaled dome in the background.

Missy escorts some chums around the Skaro Death Rays. See the Khaled domes in the background (destroyed 1975).

Apprentice and Magician – could they be Missy and Clara? The school teacher and the basically immortal psychopath. This relationship is fascinating, what with being mortal enemies but also reliant on each other, and brought together with their connections to and history with, The Doctor. We’ve seen that Clara has graduated – she can be the kind of Doctor type leader without him now. I wonder what she can learn from Missy then?


The clever writing regarding Hand Mines (did Moffat miss-hear some kid talking about land mines?). But I love even more the performance of them and how they look, and how terrifying they were.

I liked the set up. The war with laser biplanes and bows and arrows. Could have been a messed up Earth in a wonky version of WWI. But no, it was scarier.

I liked the snake emissary. Weird, scary, odd and snake-like. The art department gets a big well done for this episode.

I like Karn and the Sisters of the Comfy Sofa or whatever. More of them, more Timelord Lore.



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Doctor Who: Prologue-ic

The Doctor is almost here. It’s been an epic wait. And for that we get a prologue.

I have all the thoughts and no thoughts about this development.

As a writer, I suspect prologues are for the artsy bits authors believe are too well written to throw out when editors demonstrate they’re not needed for the meaty part of the story. In a thesis, the prologue is a bit the supervisor thinks is too controversial for the main argument for examiners. With Who it could be either or neither or a bit of both.

This prologue links directly to the Time War and The Night of the Doctor mini-prequel to Day of the Doctor. Excellent.

So he’s back on Karn, attending some kind of counselling confessional thing with Ohila (the terribly good Clare Higgins) one of the Sisters of the Flame of Eternal Life, (or as he called it back in the day, Keepers of the Flame of Utter Boredom).

Players of the Music Accompanying the Keepers of the Sofa of Reasonable Comfort.

Players of the Music Accompanying the Sitters on the Sofa of Reasonable Comfort, two planets over from the Sisters of the Flame of Utter Boredom.

And, it was a bit artsy, a bit introspective, and self-indulgent, what with Ohila and the Doctor talking in riddles and offering throwback lines to the Curse of Fatal Death (oh for a sofa of reasonable comfort). However, given the links to the Time War and mention of an enemy, and, also given the YouTube comments, this could all indicate an around about way to involve Davros. And maybe to end Clara’s run too?

If you were thinking this was a Master/Missy mention, praps not. M was a friend and colleague as well as enemy. Davros has always been an enemy, but he’s also dead. But dead don’t mean a thing with our Doctor.

Then there are threads to take up from last year.  Missy being one of them. And the spoilery news of the return of Osgood, the Unit side kick. Apparently not as killed as she got during Dark Water. Or is she? Zygon-it?

Then there’s the unseen nemesis of the train episode from last year. What of him? Hey? Also what of those beings littering the Earth with cubes. They just disappeared. What about the return of them? Huh?

And then there’s River.

But before all that, there’s this.


Use this star map to find the coordinates of Gallifrey.

Use this redundant star map to pinpoint the coordinates of Gallifrey, before the Time War.

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A room right with WriteSpace

Part One

WriteSpace: it’s everything I had imagined a day devoted to writing to be. There were desks, comfy enough chairs, food and beverages, natural light, power, a thoughtful selection of writing resources for inspiration, and much kind service from our host.

Quiet tapping on laptops is comforting. We happy few are getting work done, or at least our fingers are getting a work out. The view from the high windows is distorted by the old glass, but no fly screen, so the building next door glows white and bright and wavy in the morning sunlight. Above the roof line next door, the sky is the deep azure of early spring. Other buildings are glimpsed through the arched window, older red brick and also concrete and glass.

Our host is convivial in her whispered efficiency. The atmosphere is welcoming and everyone respects the hushed ambience. I imagine this is a little like what quiet convent/monastery would feel like, if we were all religious folk 1000 years ago, only with less dying of the plague and more of the slightly too effective air conditioning, handy sources of electricity and free wi-fi.

View through my wavy window

Partial view of wavy red brick through part my wavy window

Today wasn’t meant to be about embarking on a new story, but I had a very clear dream the night before, inspired by recent news reports and my own memories all jumbled up, as brains are wont to do. It began as a mystery or literary adventure, but quickly became a bit of a horror-mystery. By 11am I’d written more than 700 words, had a cup of tea and enjoyed some very enticingly scented toasted fruit loaf with butter.

I want every day to be like this.

So far, so productive, including the first draft of this very blog entry.

See! I told you, it is all about new environments stimulating creativity.

Part Two

Sandwiches and also a tasty quinoa salad are revealed for a quiet lunch; no one seems to stop working. Too focused.

I haven’t looked out the window in a couple of hours. But there are clouds that make the white building opposite wavy and grey, instead of wavy and glowing. During, and also after lunch, I happily stop on my new story, to complete another which has been a bit of a hurdle for me. I had left its ending in forlorn notes, but now it is all resolved in actual sentences.

As for the new story, I have 1300 or so words, but I don’t know where it’s going yet or how. Not sure where it will end, apart from darkly.

When the sun breaks through the clouds, the stone of the building I’m in that surrounds my window is golden in the afternoon light.

I don’t know if it’s significant but both stories have their source in dreams. Weird hey?

Three floors below us, the muted noise of city diners enjoying their CBD al fresco lane way dining experiences floats up. I am not jealous.

The main flaw in today’s effort was I forgot my mouse. I do prefer a mouse when on a lap top.

I am suddenly aware of a clock ticking.

Part 3

It’s mid afternoon, which means home-made biscuits and hot English Breakfast to dunk them in, as sounds from a singer and her electric guitar climb together to reach us from the restaurant, or perhaps just busking on the lane. She sings a plaintive Sweet Child of Mine. Later in the day, others reveal they heard her sing a different song repeatedly. I hadn’t noticed.

My new story is stalled, so I go back to an ancient story that needs a good rewrite, edit and perhaps more words, to become the scaffolding of something else.

How the time flies, as the room’s ticking clock fades in and out of my consciousness.

It’s strange how things disappear and reappear.

I realise leaving my mouse behind was a blessing in disguise. My laptop became more like a typewriter. I made myself consider one document at a time and there was less fussing with folders. If I needed to check anything online, I used my phone.

There's my wavy window. Up a bit, over a bit. That's the one.

There’s my wavy window. Up a bit, over a bit. That’s the one.

Through the other large window, the sun, in reflecting the dirt and smog, now obscures the view.

My window (I now think of it as my window), remains faithful by providing me a view of the changing façade next door. Now in shadow, it is multi-toned. It has creamy walls above and below, punctuated by darker grey ledges. The view remains wavy though, through the natural distortions of the aged and smudged, clear glass. I wonder how old it is.

Nothing is ever as it first seems, is it?

There is both more and fewer people here than when I arrived. None of us speak. We don’t need to. I like this most of all.

Apparently, there are regulars. I like this idea as well. Regular strange familiars sharing the silence.

By  4pm-ish, the Great Silence is broken-ish by the remaining writers.

Things have been achieved. By me, these things include:

  • the first draft of this post.
  • 1400 words of a completely new story. That’s a long story for me for something totally new, and it’s not even half way done.
  • Rewritten and edited an old unpublished flash fiction that was 800 words. Now, it’s 1700 words, I reckon it needs another 400 words or so add some extra emotional and symbolic ‘meat’ on the bones and for me to consider it done. But I am very happy with its progress and I know where I’m sending it when it is thoroughly cooked.
  • Finished a 3000 word story – probably added some 500 words and edited it. Now I need to find it a forever home.

The upshot

If you think changing where you write might help you kick-start something, DO IT. Even if its rearranging the room you write in, or moving from a study to the lounge, or outside, or a cafe or a local library. Try it and see. Set a time and a day and make it about the writing. If you are in a writing group, try it with them.

If you are particularly interested in Melbourne’s WriteSpace, I do recommend the experience. Please check for the next lot of dates at the website here. Jen Squire, the host, is friendly and can help with any questions or dietary needs, as refreshments are provided.


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Changing spaces

I’m going to a writing retreat. I won a place, which is nice, and I’m looking forward to it. Not sure of what to expect, or what I’ll gain from it, but I hope something a bit writing related.

Pretty sure the room we'll be in won't be like this.  But I won't mind if I'm wrong.

Pretty sure the room we’ll be in won’t be like this. But I won’t mind if I’m wrong.

It shouldn’t matter where we write, but it sometimes it might. Sometimes, the household is full of chores that need doing, emails, social media, phone calls, and animals that need attention or distractions that weave their magic, so very little writing gets done.

Other times, sitting in the usual place, in the same old room, writing the usual way, results in, well the same old writing. It can go a bit stale.

I should remember this, now the weather is getting nicer. I can and should sit outside for a bit, or at least in the kitchen. Or maybe go round to the bakery across the way for a while. It shouldn’t take winning a place like this to remember, but then, it’s easy to fall into habits. It’s just harder to change them.

So, I’m excited – a whole entire day, for me (and others) in a special room, set aside for writing.

Sounds like a lil slice of a writing heaven.

At least I hope so.

I’ll let you know:)

Hopefully, this retreat won't be full of weird distractions.

Hopefully, this writing retreat won’t be full of weird distractions.

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Equivocating, writing and a review of The Heretics

I’ve just finished Will Storr’s The Heretics: Adventures with the Enemies of Science. Mainly because the medication and the agony of my swollen face with sinusitis won’t let me sleep, but that’s a digression.

I think the book is an exploration of how humans come by opinions and beliefs using contrasted interviews of climate denialists and scientists, creationists and evolutionary biologists, Storr and his own father. Storr presents his flaws and at times I found him unlike-able, while his book explains both his behaviour and why I felt that. I became suspicious of his motives. Was he being honest, or trying to get me to go along with his premises? By the end, because of his conclusions and through my own efforts at self appraisal, and due to of my own biases, his book was reconciled to me. His enemies of science are not just touters of homoeopathy or faith healers, but also those sceptics who are as dogmatically tied to their stances as those they debunk. He explains it is because of our individual histories,  neurology and youthful emotional triggers by which we convince ourselves we are the heroes of our own stories and therefore can’t be wrong.

Thus, he explores placebo effects, miracle cures, recovered memories and how those diagnosed with schizophrenia can be helped by non-psychiatric methods. I could do with a placebo effect or miracle cure right now (#justsaying), you know, in addition to the three types of medication I’m on.

Anyway, I wasn’t sure what I wanted out of this book, except I know because of my own history and biases that I often feel I fall between systems. On many issues, I am neither adhered believer or avowed sceptic. Things others may not accept –  I may – provisionally. Not because of evidence, but because I think they make the story of the world – our own stories, richer. This is my own bias towards Storr’s conclusions about the importance of stories, and how the mind constructs narratives to survive trauma and heal. As a story-teller, his conclusions support my own valuation of stories. I didn’t know the direction of his argument until he got there, but because of him, I understand more about why he became pretty convincing to me.

It's not aukward for me to support the notion of evolution, and also folktales.

It’s not ‘aukward’ for me to support the notion of evolution, and also the poetic truth within folktales.

Before I read this book, I was going to write about my stance on balance. Writers need balance. Writers require a healthy dose of self belief to keep writing amid rejections, being ignored and being criticised. But writers also need to be willing to accept criticism, and to see the flaws in their works, to learn and grow. They need to balance esteem and clear sightedness about themselves and their work.

After reading Storr’s book, I realise this balancing act can be as difficult as seeing your own flaws. It’s tricky. It’s tempting to fall into your own hero myth and be grandiose about failure as a sign of unrecognised genius, or dismiss the success of others as accidental, just as it is easy to quietly accept the stories are rubbish and chuck them aside. No belief is the truth.

Now, I can see how balance can also be construed as fence-sitting, and equivocation. In short, it is a weakness to those whose sides are always clear.

I can only say, where some see lies, and others see literal truth, I can see poetic truths. If I am someone who wants to believe, but can’t let go of doubt, then poetic truth is the edifice I cling to.  I’m neither Mulder or Scully but appreciate each. Even if it’s just another way my brain/mind works to assert the correctness of my ego. I know though, if pushed, I would harden my stance, as most people do and as Storr described.  I would cling to the fence like a clam. And I would do so in full awareness it’s futile trying to convince others who are always on one side or the other.

But just consider, in terms of writing, an ability to see different sides, or accept competing world views could be seen as useful in lending complexity to created worlds and characters.

I can suspend my disbelief in pursuit of a richer narrative, but probbaly not to the extent of pigs playing musical instruments traditionally made from them.

I can suspend my disbelief in pursuit of a richer narrative, but probably not to the extent of pigs playing musical instruments traditionally made from bits of them.

I like to think I’m flexible in my thinking, but it’s how I like to think. On some matters, such as Holocaust denial, there can be no flexibility. It happened and those who deny it are wrong and dealing in dangerous delusions.  Similarly, science supports climate change and it shouldn’t be about ‘belief’. No one says they believe in gravity, it’s accepted.

But then, Douglas Adams described Ford Prefect wondering why we can’t see the garden is beautiful without inventing fairies at the bottom of it. I suspect Adams knew why, and the answer was his stories. His love of fact and science and technology didn’t stop him inventing. So, sure, gardens are beautiful, but with the addition of fairies, there is a fence to climb up and perch upon to write a story. I don’t deny horticulture can’t be fascinating, but to my mind, fairies are a portal to a kind of poetic depth that I will always head towards to lend my imaginary garden a grander mystique. I see no problem being a fabulist and a science fan.

You can argue with me, but as Storr demonstrates in his book, it won’t do you any good. Plus, one ear is blocked and I’ll not hear you.

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