Wooooohooo! Now we’re on fire… Neil Gaiman is back at the keyboard and applying his Midas touch for a second time. And as long as you weren’t expecting another The Doctor’s Wife (he did tweet that he didn’t even try to top it) I’m hoping you enjoyed it as much as Hat Jr and I did.
One of my favourite things about Neil Gaiman’s writing is his gift for deception. He has a sleight of hand that is breathtaking (Neverwhere is a classic example, and I can’t recommend it highly enough, by the way) and immensely satisfying. It also makes rewatching a special joy.
[Spoilers below the line]
There are spaceships that get you from A to B, spaceships that are sci-fi icons (the Enterprise D, the Millennium Falcon, Red Dwarf, to name but three), and then there is the Tardis. The greatest spaceship in all creation. She’s not just bigger on the inside, she’s “infinite”. She has a heart, soul and personality – she is alive. She is, as Neil Gaiman showed us so exquisitely, to all intents and purposes the Doctor’s wife. So the very idea of her being salvaged as scrap is anathema. But that is exactly what this episode promises. Hold tight as the Doctor’s oldest and best companion is put in the gravest of danger…
[We get spoilery below the line…]
When I watched Neverwhere for the first time in 1996 I hadn’t learned to pay attention to television writers in the way I did with authors. So much as I was hooked on this small but perfectly formed drama, I didn’t realise it was my first introduction to the wonderful words of Neil Gaiman.
And as such it is full of wonderful things – comment on the way society treats the homeless, dark riffs on famous London place names (you will never be able to look at Blackfriars, Knightsbridge, Earls Court or the Angel Islington in the same way again), and Paterson Joseph to name just three.
Most of Neverwhere is set in the magical realm of London Below, which coexists with London Above (London as we know it). We discover it through the eyes of young businessman Richard Mayhew (Gary Bakewell), who stops to help a young, blood-covered woman called Door (Laura Fraser) lying on the pavement, after his dreadful fiancee Jessica (“Not Jess, Richard”) commands him not to get involved.
Neil Gaiman made me cry. He also made my heart soar and my brain whirr. The Doctor’s Wife is a masterpiece. It is Doctor Who at its very best and further to this week’s Spoilergate conversations, if you haven’t seen it at least once (and you might need to watch some bits twice), then don’t blame me if reading this first ruins it for you. Continue reading
Pirates! How come Doctor Who hasn’t done pirates before? (Forgive me if William Hartnell buckled a swash, but despite watching Tom Baker and Peter Davison, I really am more of a modern Who girl than a Classic Canon one).
Steve Thompson has given us Pirates of the Caribbean meets House via Greek mythology (with allusions to Coma and Star Trek Voyager to boot). It must be horrible to be given the episode between a Moffat two-parter and a Neil Gaiman story (especially one called The Doctor’s Wife), but I think Mr T can give himself a pat on the back.
From the atmospheric opening on a becalmed pirate ship (complete with introduction to the idea of a deadly Siren and a black spot that marks you as a wanted man) onwards Thompson repeatedly pulls the rug from under you – though more gently than his evil overlord Steven “Doctor Who fans are my playthings mwahahahah” Moffat. As the Doctor is forced to keep saying: “I was wrong. Please ignore all my theories up to this point..”
The reason he’s theorising is because pirate captain Hugh Bonneville’s ship is not just becalmed, but ‘cursed’. The slightest injury to a crew member will see them marked by the black spot and then lured by a glowing green singing ‘mermaid’ (Lily Cole – already quite alien looking in a pretty way) who atomises them.