Welcome to the Playpen, our space for ferrety banter and whimsical snippets of things that aren't quite long enough for articles (although they might be) but that caught your eye anyway.

at 19:27 on 06-01-2012, Ash
Steven Moffat has responded to criticism of his/BBC Sherlock's sexism.

It goes about as well as you'd expect.
at 11:07 on 06-01-2012, valse de la lune
It amuses me that he changed the "It" in the last line to "he" after the wank exploded. Too late, goatfucker.
at 08:38 on 06-01-2012, Arthur B
That story is terrible on so many levels. I like how he even manages to get in whining about how use of mobiles on planes is a matter of democracy or something idiotic like that. I also like how his defenders keep trying to make out that the story's meant to be a snapshot of a homophobic character's point of view which doesn't condone it when more or less every line of the story is constructed from the assumption we're going to sympathise with the homophobe and his viewpoint is never seriously challenged.
at 05:53 on 06-01-2012, valse de la lune
I didn't know about this. I do now. Link for anyone interested. This is the story he put up. In which he refers to his "queer tormentor" as "It." A lot. Very much a lot.
at 05:02 on 05-01-2012, Sister Magpie
Speaking of pros causing wank and being authors, is anyone following the story of the Merlin actor who apparently put up a story online that was considered homophobic and was also called out on Twitter and then defended by fans on Twitter? Apparently he in turn called out slash fiction in defense at some point. The actor is Eoin Macken.
at 01:42 on 05-01-2012, Michal
Who wants a bit of pro author wank to start the new year with? I know I do.

Some authors really need to take Martha Wells's advice. Then again, it's more entertaining if they don't.

"And if you do bad things online, contrary to popular belief, it does make you a bad person in real/offline life, too."
at 01:25 on 05-01-2012, Dan H

So if Moffat made her a lesbian, then why... would she... crush on Holmes? Who is not a woman?

Because lesbians aren't "women who are sexually attracted to other women, and not sexually attracted to men" they're "girls who will totally do other girls".

Plus I'm not sure Moffatt can imagine *anybody* not crushing on Holmes.
at 18:03 on 04-01-2012, Fin
wow, that dan krokos guy seems like such a wonderful human being.

it never ceases to blow my mind that there are published authors out there who think "it's just a book" is a valid argument.
at 17:33 on 04-01-2012, valse de la lune
Who wants a bit of pro author wank to start the new year with? I know I do.

(Synopsis: reader criticizes a book by Julie Cross harshly for the presence of "man-hating feminazi" stereotype, a male writer who's represented by the same agent as Cross appears and whines, the agent turns up and whines, and a bunch of stuff was said on twitter by other writers, like "goodreads? Just like 4chan!")
at 16:38 on 04-01-2012, Arthur B
Because Holmes has a penis, and penis trumps characterisation?

It's like rock-paper-scissors only there's a lot more screaming and crying when someone picks rock or scissors.
at 15:46 on 04-01-2012, valse de la lune
More troubling still, Moffat's Adler blatantly fails to outwit Holmes. Despite identifying as a lesbian, her scheme is ultimately undone by her great big girly crush on Sherlock, an irresistible brain-rot that leads her to trash the security she has fought for from the start of the show with a gesture about as sophisticated – or purposeful – as scrawling love hearts on an exercise book.

So if Moffat made her a lesbian, then why... would she... crush on Holmes? Who is not a woman?
at 06:13 on 04-01-2012, Ibmiller
So, anyone see "A Scandal in Belgravia?" For the last half hour I was fuming, thinking "This sheries keeps getting more and more misogynistic," but I'm not as firmly in that feeling anymore...
at 03:15 on 04-01-2012, Robinson L
Shimmin: I didn't even get on to why Madge had a pistol or why "my husband is a pilot" translates into "I can drive a mech from 2000 years in the future"...

Yeah, in an episode stuffed with "just go with it" material, that one still stuck out for me.

And yes, the police box we see them break into is a genuine police box. When the Doctor goes in we get a glimpse inside and there's just a bare wall, and the Doctor says something to the effect of "wrong police box," and the implication is they have to find another one.
at 20:52 on 03-01-2012, Shim
Just to be clear, I don't always object to dodgy science in sci-fi, because of the fi. The problems there were that not even a token effort was made to mask any of the technobabble, the wrongness wasn't particularly necessary to the plot (a different favour and plausible harvesting methods could be substituted) and it was one more broken element in a string of incoherence. Basically, story collapse set in and I ended up picking up on every little problem, even non-plot ones and givens of the series/format.

In summary: the foresters' commercial plan makes no sense; the preposterously convoluted magic-forest-plan makes no sense; the behaviour of the humans rarely makes sense; and the Doctor's behaviour makes no sense. I got a very slight sense at the end that just maybe this was meant to be the Doctor's way of solving the whole problem, except he already said he had no idea what was going on and it would be a dangerous and cruel way of doing that, so that also makes no sense. So all I can conclude is that every character in the episode is a complete moron, except possibly the children. As the authors don't seem to be supporting this reading, I'm forced to extrapolate that they, too, are morons.

I didn't even get on to why Madge had a pistol or why "my husband is a pilot" translates into "I can drive a mech from 2000 years in the future"...

@Robinson: there was another police box? I must've missed it, but I'll cheerfully withdraw that criticism if so.
at 12:26 on 03-01-2012, Andy G

I think a lot of your concerns (hokey pseudoscience, the Doctor's attachment specifically to Earth) would apply to more than just this one episode of Who! I think what went wrong in this particular episode was that everything was just put together badly: it had a beginning, a middle, and an end, but the middle was compressed and had little to do with the meandering, pointless beginning. And the less said about the end the better!
at 22:57 on 02-01-2012, Michal permalink
at 20:36 on 02-01-2012, Robinson L
My mother, younger sisters and I watched the Christmas special on New Year's Eve, right after watching the season finale. The special was indeed made of silly, and had disturbing gender politics (apart from the pedestal business, this is the second time this year Moffat has made a great big Women Are Hopeless Drivers joke). All of which said, it was kind of nice, and the ending was refreshingly non-angsty.

@Shimmin: As far as picking the TARDIS' lock goes, I thought that was just for the one that turned out to be an actual police box, and the implication was that the Doctor found his key by the time they got to the real thing. Can't argue with the rest, though.

Arthur: Moffatt seems to like his Christmas Specials to be Christmas stories first and Who stories second.

I think this neatly encapsulates something that niggled me about both Christmas specials. Thanks, Arthur.

there's a whole lot of stuff which happens for the sole purpose of hammering it into something which might look a bit like Narnia if you squint at it, and a whole lot of other stuff which happens for the sole purpose of shoehorning some SF action in there, and the stuff in column A and the stuff in column B don't work well together at all.

I'd say that's a good way to describe it. It's kind of nice, but by no means smart.
at 13:48 on 02-01-2012, Arthur B
Moffatt seems to like his Christmas Specials to be Christmas stories first and Who stories second. I think this kind of worked for the last one because whilst it was clearly a riff on A Christmas Carol, the incorporation of the show's existing SF elements into the concept was well handled and the time travel angle was genuinely clever.

This time around, Moffatt seems to have decided "OK, we're going to do Narnia this year" but the episode doesn't do a good job of adapting that concept to Who - there's a whole lot of stuff which happens for the sole purpose of hammering it into something which might look a bit like Narnia if you squint at it, and a whole lot of other stuff which happens for the sole purpose of shoehorning some SF action in there, and the stuff in column A and the stuff in column B don't work well together at all.
at 00:27 on 02-01-2012, Shim
The trouble is, I think you'd have to pick one thing you want to include and basically ditch the rest, because it's more or less completely incoherent. Sorry, this will be long!

  • The Doctor survives in hard vacuum long enough to put on a spacesuit without help. Okay, a technobabble explanation is possible (but missing); the ship has an atmosphere field, or something.

  • The spacesuit protects him from all the passing explosion debris, from re-entry, and from impage with the planet at terminal velocity, despite being on wrong.

  • Madge calmly accepts that the stranger in a bizarre suit who crash-landed in wartime is an alien who needs a lift back to his magic box, and doesn’t feel the need to report this to the authorities, even though her husband is a pilot.

  • The Tardis door can be picked with a hairpin. There's a lot of antagonists would have loved to know that, given how much effort they've put to breaking into it over the years.

  • The Doctor mystically knows Madge has made a wish and comes back to help.

  • The problem is that her husband is dead. Solution? Get rid of the people who’re supposed to host them for Christmas (what about their Christmas?) and redecorate the house with anachronistic tech so the children will be more distracted, though probably not enough to stop wondering where their dad is! Apparently just going and rescuing said dad is too clichéd.

  • He decides it’s a good idea to give someone an active interplanetary portal as a present. Despite being aware that most people open their presents early (allegedly), he doesn’t stick a child-lock on it or anything. This is a safe and available enough thing to provide as a kids’ toy, but prominent elsewhere in canon mostly by its absence, despite how amazingly useful it would be.

  • The boy, who they seemed to be trying to show was fairly savvy, discovers a magic portal. He doesn’t tell his sister, or get any equipment despite the snow. He doesn’t mark his track or unroll a ball of string, nor take scientific notes (which would seem appropriate for the character and explain his distraction). For the rest of the episode he behaves oddly and acts woodenly for no apparent reason, being basically unphased by either alien weirdness or noticing that he’s locked into places. There’s no indication that he’s been hypnotised or thinks he’s dreaming.

  • A metal ball grows on a tree, hatches into a giant wooden being immediately recognisable as a medieval Western human king, and wanders off towards a magic tower, where he has no purpose whatsoever. Other metal balls grow, but do not apparently hatch into kings. On the other hand, a wooden Queen is in the tower with no sign of having hatched from anything.

  • The Doctor is inexplicably doing engineering at midnight, which doesn’t bother the girl. On finding that the boy’s gone through the portal they just follow him fairly ineffectually; though they’re just racing after him and he’s gawping, they don’t catch him up or call for him.

  • Madge then discovers the magic floating portal and wanders through it looking for the children. She is stopped by people. They are military enough to have heavy armour and guns, let alone a mech and teleportation. On the other hand they’re incompetent and silly. Are they useless recruits posted to a backwater where there’s nothing to do, or over-budgeted foresters playing at soldiers? They make weird feminism references and then leave.

  • It turns out the trees are an amazing fuel source, and humans are harvesting them! They do this by triggering a massive acid rain storm to destroy the trees. The solution, contaminated by whatever else is around, will then seep away into the soil, where it is useless to everyone. Step 3: Profit?!?

  • But the trees are intelligent and have a plan. They exude “pure life energy”, which is apparently now a canon thing in Doctor Who. The cunning plan is to separate their life force from their bodies, then have themselves carried away from the planet by a human female who they lure into their pseudobuilding in pursuit of her son (who has also been lured there after climbing through an intergalactic window carelessly left lying around by an alien time traveller responding inappropriately to a psychic message from the bereaved mother) and who then narrowly avoids death by acid rain by hotwiring a giant mech and intuiting how to pilot it, just in time to be crowned with a telepathic device by two rapidly-evolved wood-beings corresponding closely but bafflingly to quite specific human stereotypes, whose purpose is largely a mystery. Despite only being on the planet at all because she has an intergalactic portal, the human female will not return through it, but lift off from the planet in a spaceship and travel through a temporal rift, which she will only successfully navigate if a Time Lord happens to be on board to tell her how. At some point in the process the Pure Life Energy of the trees will dissipate amongst the stars, which is in some way more of a win than being melted by acid rain.

  • The plan would have been a lot smoother if their flawless ability to translate Tree into whatever the humans are understanding had not mysteriously broken down at the concepts of “male” and “female”.

  • Bizarre gender essentialism interlude!

  • Luckily, Madge thinks so hard about her husband that she takes the ship to his crashing plane. While she tries to pilot the ship and angsts, her children pester her constantly about their father’s death and the Doctor doesn’t bother to shut them up despite the risk to life and limb. Happily, her husband follows her through the time tunnel and lands safely. On landing, the noble and dedicated officer forgets his badly-wounded colleagues, who have apparently all died on board peacefully in their sleep, because they’re never mentioned again. The family have a Happy Ending, apart from the ones who the Doctor has magicked away from the mansion so he can take over Christmas, who are probably dead by now.

  • Meanwhile, the immortal alien time traveller is So Overcome by the thought of a festival practiced in one era on one planet across all the universes that he gets all dewy-eyed and runs off to see one set of the old friends he’s abandoned across time and space. Unfortunately, he has no time to respect the 48,902,770 other known festivals that fall on this Earth day! Maybe next year.

at 17:24 on 01-01-2012, Cammalot
Oh, definitely, I was completely manipulated and that fairly hamhandedly. Also, I'm extremely prejudiced in favor of Christmas scenarios that do not include imagery of the Doctor being borne aloft in angsty superiority on actual angels' wings.

I keep wanting to do counterfactual analysis on the thing (bad girl!); how could this have been made to work? Because I think it could -- I can accept twee-ness, and oh-so-convenient plotting, and saccherine at Christmas, but it was the icky gender essentialism that kept stubbing my toes.
at 09:09 on 01-01-2012, Shim
Oh yeah, it brought tears to my eyes a good few times, but cheaply.
at 05:07 on 01-01-2012, Alasdair Czyrnyj

"I said come in, don't stand there! I said come in, don't stand there!"

Don't know why I had to post this. I am tired. And tipsy. And sitting in front of a computer on New Year's Day.
at 04:08 on 01-01-2012, Cammalot
at 04:07 on 01-01-2012, Cammalot
Despite the creepy pedestal business and the creepier marrying-your-stalked business, by the end I found myself crying for fifteen minutes. With out-loud sobbing and shit. I could be in a mood.