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I rather liked most of this, mainly because I'm cheap for haunted houses. Yes, the hotel is a bit of a mash-up of the House of Leaves with the Overlook Hotel from The Shining, and the "faith" subplot was done better in The Curse of Fenric, but if you're going to steal, steal from the good ones. The visual design of the episode was mostly memorable and unnerving in a David Lynch kind of way, apart from the person in the unconvincing gorilla suit. It was also insightful enough to notice that one person's worst nightmare might well look a bit silly to an outsider; consider the Victorian girl with the horror of having her photograph taken.

Which is not to say that I don't have reservations about it, mainly down to the characterisation (or lack thereof). Rita was an interesting character, and it was rather cool to have a major role for a religion that wasn't Christianity. Still, the bit about the overbearing academically-pressuring father was a bit of a South Asian stereotype, and some of the handling of her religion felt a bit heavy-handed (like the whole "Don't be scared of me!" bit). It felt like she had a big sign hung round her neck with "DID I MENTION I WAS ASIAN?" written on it.

Then there's Tibbis the Surrender Monkey. There were a couple of good jokes there (my favourite being "Our anthem is Glory to [insert name here]), but that got run into the ground very quickly. Besides, Tibbis' world did seem to be a Planet of Hats, their hat being cowardice. This trope relies on the idea that it's possible for every member of a given culture to have essentially the same personality, which is lazy, stereotypical, lousy worldbuilding, and bloody dangerous when taken outside a ficitional context. If Tibbis had showed a little bit of cynicism about his people's track record, or conversely if he'd looked like a true believer in the power of appeasement and cowardice as a virtue (imagine Rincewind as an Aikido instructor), I could have got a bit more behind that. As [ profile] prochytes pointed out, though, it is rather clever that the worst fear of the perpetual collaborator is the Weeping Angels. They are quite literally unappeasable. Even the Daleks might be persuaded keep you alive as slave labour, but the Angels just want your temporal energy. And you have to take your eyes off them to grovel.

And then there's Amy. Since when has Amy had blind faith in the Doctor? The Eleventh Hour is all about him regaining her trust after he left little Amelia sat on her little red suitcase. She argued with him over the space whale, she called him on not being honest with her whilst they faced the Weeping Angels on the Byzantium. She knows for certain now that he couldn't rescue little Melody, and that he nearly left her alone in the hospital complex for 36 years and ended up wiping her future self out of existence. If you're going to convince me that Amy still thinks of the Doctor as her Fairy Godfather after all that, you'll have a lot of legwork to do.

Also, that final confrontation looked far too easy. Losing faith hurts, even if you do decide afterwards that you're better off without the faith in question. Amy barely seemed distressed or angry with the Doctor at all, and seemed perfectly happy to let him pack her off to her nice suburban existence with his farewell gifts (by the way, anyone else reminded of that bit in the first Spiderman film where Peter Parker dumps Mary Jane for her own good?)

Finally, "Amy Williams"? Amy made her call, after her wedding and again when naming baby Melody - she's Amy Pond, Rory is Mr Pond, her daughter is Melody Pond. Amy's surname clearly means a lot to her, and the Doctor seems to be dismissing her desire to hang on to it as an act of childish rebellion. I was worried right from the start that Amy had a character arc set out ahead of her in which her desire for excitement and adventure was something she'd have to get over, and learn to want nothing more than a nice husband, nice children and a nice little house. I had high hopes, after The Big Bang, that Amy would find some way to have Rory and adventure, and prove that getting married doesn't inevitably lead to Happy Ending but can open up More Story.

I do feel that peace and quiet is often underrated, and the unglamorous people who get on with making the lives of others worthwhile need more appreciation. I just don't like this current in NuWho that sees curiosity and adventure as fundamentally terrible, pernicious things, and can't see any middle ground between racketing round Time and Space fighting aliens and a suburban domestic idyll.

Phew, that turned a bit ranty. Have some Tori Amos:

Date: 2011-09-21 02:46 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I liked this one a lot, as you know. Mostly this was because of the Minotaur (and the continuity porn with The Horns of Nimon - yay!); another relevant intertext (which is very much worth a read if you have not read it) is Borges' "The House of Asterion" (of which there is a version here). And I do like the very characteristically Nu!Who sympathy for a monster that has essentially forgotten the reason for its own existence. I don't think the suggestion was that Amy's faith in the Doctor at this stage was "blind", as such - only that she continued to invest him with some qualities he doesn't have. (Similarly, Rita gives the impression of having been devout, but not fanatical.)

That said, the whole "Amy Williams" thing did grate horribly. Contrast Torchwood; Gwen would be "Mrs. Williams" too, but she does not use Rhys' surname, and all the other characters respect that (even the American ones who call her English). I think that you are right, too, about the rather distressing polarity between stay-at-homeness and adventure (although the touch of having Rory worry that he is starting to forget about the existence of small triumphs such as successful speech therapy beside the grand drama of saving the Universe was a nice one). It would be good to suggest that there is a via media, as pursued in the SJA. I think that playing up the horrors of becoming too enraptured by the Universe is probably better left to Torchwood, which is confessedly the dark end of the continuity. To take the example of Gwen, again, it is clear that her relationship to her work is at times a less than healthy one, but it is also clear that this is partly because Gwen herself is an addict who needs a war, and it doesn't necessarily work like that for everyone.

I also think that you are right about the suspicious angstlessness at the end. Quite apart from the Parting of the Ways, what about Melody? Rory and Amy have been mysteriously chipper in the continuing absence of their daughter for the last three episodes.

I suspect that the Doctor's Spiderman moment also needs to be viewed in terms of the ongoing plot-arc, and that the foreknowledge of Lake Silencio is screwing him up a bit at the moment. With any luck, he and the Ponds may yet resolve their issues. I think that his decision to drop in on Craig is a good sign. We can but wait and see...

Date: 2011-09-21 03:36 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I hadn't actually read The House of Asterion before. Many thanks for linking me to it - it's rather splendid. I can see that as an influence on House of Leaves too.

I take your point that the Minotaur didn't actually seem to need blind faith, and that Amy did still adore the Doctor rather more than was warranted. Perhaps her lack of angst over the disappearance of little Melody is down to believing that the Doctor will still sort it out somehow? But then you would have expected her crisis of faith to be even worse.

It's possible that the events of Let's Kill Hitler brought it home to Rory and Amy that no, they won't ever get to bring little Melody home and bring her up, because that would require rewriting their own past and River's. If their child grows up to be Melody Wiliams, geography teacher, then River Song never saved Amy from the Weeping Angels, or the Dalek in the museum, or the Silence. If that is meant to be the case, though, then the breakneck pace of the episode did the plot even more of a disservice than I'd thought. I don't see how a realisation like that could not have been an emotional kick in the teeth for them both, and that would have made for more angst rather than less. Possibly there's a cunning explanation for the lack of Melody angst coming up in the last couple of episodes. I do hope so.

The "Amy Williams" bit made me so cross, especially with the way the Doctor packed her off home at the end without so much as a by-your-leave. It felt like some kind of couverture-style transfer of ownership from father to husband.

I think it is mainly in the SJA that we have seen a middle ground between domesticity and adventure, although we do have Martha and Mickey doing their best Nick and Nora Charles impression and Wilf's Silver Cloak Home Guarding it up. It's not like there's no way to have adventures on Earth - Amy could always train as a real police officer, or an investigative journalist, or go and work for Medecins Sans Frontiers, if the whole adrenaline-junkie-with-a-social-conscience thing is what floats her boat. I am rather hoping that Amy will kick back against being Mary Janed and decide to go and make her own adventure, specifically rescuing the Doctor from Lake Silencio whether he likes it or not. We shall have to see.

Date: 2011-09-22 01:17 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
yeah, I was a bit unsure what happened to Amy in this episode. I really likd the end of the last season; the whole Amy's choice thing for me in part relfected the 'choose between etling down and having your own life/career' that women are often still to some extent expected to make, and I loved the conclusion that they found a compromise in order to have both. The idea that she's now having that choice taken from her, and the men in her life are forcing her to go for domesticity, not to mention that she placidly accepts it, was kind of annoying. The name thing was part of that whole thing for me; she can't choose her own identity anymore.

But then, I think the Ponds (I'm still calling them that) are coming back for the finale. I'm hoping she'll still be the smart, strong, free young woman I remember from last season.

I've been a little ambivalent about the last two episodes, actually. On the one hand, I#ve really liked and enjoyed the stories, and they've been well realised. On the other hand... I'm not sure I really liked the final message of either of them. Pathos is ok sometimes, but I prefer Doctor Who to end with at least *something* achieved. I feel it shouldn't be a show that leaves me feeling on a bit of a low all day.

Date: 2011-09-22 07:16 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
The end of this season has a lot do to convince me that they haven't screwed up Amy's characterization big time.

Conveniently, I think it's been fairly heavily foreshadowed.

Given enough time, Amy made a sonic probe. River really really doesn't want the Doctor to die (how did he make her break her programming quickly enough to give him her regenerations? Surely we must find out). This whole season has been about dopplegangers and doubles and the power of our beliefs/imagination.

So, really, I think we have to have River showing up at chez Pond (I am retconning that 'Williams' out of existence, your 'couverture' analysis is spot-on), resolving the emotional stuff with her parents, and having the three of them save the Doctor at Lake Silencio (by creating a flesh Doctor themselves? Or discovering that the Doctor has been setting his flesh-self up for death all along? Something double-y, anyway).

And maybe, if we see Amy and Rory being all kickass from the base of their suburban home, I won't feel quite so strongly that Amy's Choice is being taken away from her...


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