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 22:41 on 03-01-2013, Wardog

I don't think I'm ever going to get bored of being called Wardog...
at 19:55 on 03-01-2013, Axiomatic
People don't buy me books any more because I'm generally accounted to have read everything. :(

There is just something insanely funny about hearing that from someone called "Wardog". I get a mental image of Private Joker from Apocalypse Now, sitting in an armchair in front of a fireplace with his BORN TO KILL helmet and a pipe.
at 19:20 on 03-01-2013, Wardog
No, no, being GIVEN things is perfectly permissible in the current system!

People don't buy me books any more because I'm generally accounted to have read everything. :(
at 14:02 on 03-01-2013, James D
It doesn't help when your friends/family/partner always get you books for gifts and are damnably good at knowing what sort in particular you like...don't get me wrong, I'm grateful they're getting me something I actually want, but at the same time it feels a little like they're enabling an addiction.
at 22:16 on 02-01-2013, Melanie
I am now allowed

Freudian slip? ;)

Anyway, I was going to recommend, both for getting rid of old stuff you don't want* and for getting new stuff for, effectively, mailing cost, but the site seems to be down.

*Because there's a significant difference between "I still want to read this, just haven't gotten around to it" and "I bought this and I feel like should read it even though I don't care anymore"....
at 21:38 on 02-01-2013, Shimmin
Funny thing, I'm doing something along those lines, only softer. Turns out I have my own height (scroll down for English) in unread books at the moment :S

I'm only doing mine for physical books, though. Getting through that lot is quite enough, thanks.
at 18:26 on 02-01-2013, Wardog
*laughs* Like a really popular nightclub :P

If it makes me miserable, I'll obviously stop.

This is the good thing about new year's resolutions - there's basically no reason to keep them ;)
at 17:49 on 02-01-2013, Andy G
I think a quota system is probably more sustainable: read three books I already own for every one I buy, or something like that.
at 17:46 on 02-01-2013, Andy G
I've done that a few times, and I always end up getting miserable and resentful towards things that take ages to get through (Deadwood!), but also end up reading/watching great stuff I wouldn't have done otherwise (Deadwood comes in this category too despite the torturous effort involved).
at 17:12 on 02-01-2013, Wardog
Wah :/
at 17:00 on 02-01-2013, Arthur B
Theoreticlaly, I support you in this endeavour and should probably do such a thing myself.

Practically, I give you until the next Steam sale, tops. :P Dare you to prove me wrong.
at 16:07 on 02-01-2013, Wardog
Happy new year everyone :)

And congratulations to your friend, Cammalot - I think, under the circumstances, sentimentality may be permitted ;)

Also I have made a New Year's Resolution and I feel that if I publicise it here, in the playpen, you can all shame me into keeping it.

I am now allowed to buy anything new - books, movies, DVD box sets, computer games - until I have read, watched or played everything I currently own and haven't read, watched or played.

So mote it be.
at 09:12 on 02-01-2013, Arthur B
But more importantly, the author links to Arthur's massive Conan article.

Oh blushes, it's even in the context of a discussion featuring Epic Pooh.

I'm so thrilled I won't even rag on you for using my real name in the middle of a black op and blowing my cover. ;)
at 07:58 on 02-01-2013, Neal Yanje
Strange Horizons, knowing exactly the sort of things that interest me, has a good article on Wagner's Ring Cycle, its political messages, and how both apply to Tolkien as well as the fantasy of today.

But more importantly, the author links to Arthur's massive Conan article. Man battlestations and prepare for incoming fanboys.
at 23:20 on 01-01-2013, Cammalot
Sneaking this in under the GMT wire, I think: Happy New Year, Ferretbrain! You remain a positive thing in my lurky life, over here.

(Pardon; a friend just had a baby and I've come down with a severe case of the sentimentals.) :-)
at 18:06 on 31-12-2012, Robinson L
All right, I've now seen "The Snowmen," and despite all the annoyances we've been over these past few days (and enough lost companion-angst to fill all five 2008-2010 specials crammed into a single episode), overall, I enjoyed it. Enjoyed it much more than last year's special, and at least as much as if not more than Moffat's debut Christmas special ("A Christmas Carol.") Nice to see he's finally managed to write a Christmas special where the fact that it's Christmas is incidental to the plot. Mostly agree with Andy (and how could you fail to mention Sir Ian Freaking McKellen as the voice of the Great Intelligence?)

I now see what you mean, Jamie, about the Doctor's companion being part of the puzzle the Doctor has to solve, rather than helping the Doctor to solve the puzzle. Must admit to being mighty interested by the puzzle, though.

@Solo 1) good point about the new format actually making the Doctor Who 'verse seem smaller rather than larger; 2) mostly agreed, although I'm pretty sure I caught a glimpse of all three of them in the trailer for the second half of the season, so it looks like we're at least in for another cameo; 3) pretty much agreed; 4) agreed in theory, although personally, I so far find Oswin pretty enjoyable - unlike River Song who irritates the crap out of me. I also think we haven't seen the last of River Song yet - remember, she debuted almost two years before the Ponds, and the central mystery surrounding her has arguably not been solved (i.e. the Doctor still hasn't told her his real name). On the other hand, she wasn't in the trailer, and since they like to make a big deal out of her appearances, this may mean we're going to be spared her participation for a while; 5)-6) pretty much, yeah.

Shim: the string of young, attractive female companions who fall in love with the Doctor, and have it somewhat reciprocated, really cheesed me off.

Me, too. Just when I thought we might've gotten away from that nonsense, here's Clara Oswin coming in for a snog. Yeesh. Somewhat agree on your second point, and here Moffat is definitely more guilty than Davies - the Doctor's all-pervasive importance was a major plot point of the series five finale, a recurring theme throughout series six, and (according to the series six finale) a linchpin of the Moffat Masterplan, whatever that turns out to be. Double yeesh. Pretty much agreed on third point except for Midnight. Ambivalent on the fourth point - you're right about it being most geared towards an episodic format, but I am enthralled by Moffat's take on arc plots, although his execution has still been pretty hit-and-miss. Also mostly concur on the consequences of writing out Gallifrey.

And now for something completely different:

I appreciated this comment on Macbeth.


And since I've no idea when I'll be posting again, let me just take this opportunity to wish everybody a very happy new year.
at 09:29 on 31-12-2012, Shimmin permalink
at 08:52 on 29-12-2012, Andy G
Donna is sort of a mix of both. She acquires her quasi-Timelord powers as a result of travelling with the Doctor, but actually prior to that there are lots of strange coincidences around her that convince the Doctor she has some sort of cosmic significance.

In defence of the xmas episode (which I re-watched last night and very much enjoyed a second time):
* There was some great dialogue (loved the "one word" scene and "the dream outlives the dreamer and can never die")
* In terms of how the characters are written, Clara and Amy are basically indistinguishable, but I really enjoyed Jenna-Louise Coleman's performance, which fills in the template differently than Karen Gillian.
* I thought the pacing and plot were handled deftly, helped along by Richard E Grant adding enough menace to make his character work despite very little screen time, and the awesome alien extras.
at 20:45 on 28-12-2012, Jamie Johnston
I can agree with pretty much everything being said here!

Andy & Robinson: I agree that cosmically important companions of all kinds are a bit tiresome, but if I have to have 'em I'd rather have the Davies kind than what seems to be emerging as the Moffat kind. The crucial difference is that the Davies companions (if I recall aright) acquire their cosmic importance as a result of stuff that happens to them while they're knocking around with the Doctor, whereas the cosmic importance of the the Moffat companions seems to be a pre-existing condition. @the_admiralgee's responses on Twitter (one, two, three) helped me figure out why that difference is important. If the Doctor starts travelling with someone and then they become super-important to the fate of the universe, that's sort of incidental to their relationship. But if the Doctor starts travelling with someone because they're super-important to the fate of the universe, it undermines the sense that the Doctor likes people for their inherent value and turns him into a sort of Moffat avatar within the story, only interested in the elaborate plot and not in the characters. Meanwhile, the companion's fundamental role in this set-up is to be part of the puzzle the Doctor has to solve rather than an independent agent who helps the Doctor solve the puzzle. If you get what I mean.

Strongly agree with Solo-Arthur's points 2 and 3, Shim's secondly and thirdly, and Andy's reference to Moffat's 'twee retro aesthetic' (the word that always springs to my mind is 'parochial').
at 17:24 on 28-12-2012, Shimmin
I gave up on New Who some time ago - mid-Tennant as I recall - though I end up watching the specials with the family, as it's not like I actually object, I just can't be bothered.

Partly it's the companions issue that everyone's picking up on. I can see that people are keen to have a female companion because it adds a bit of balance. But the string of young, attractive female companions who fall in love with the Doctor, and have it somewhat reciprocated, really cheesed me off. I find it really clashes with my Old Who-based image of the Doctor, and it detracts from the alienness of him. Also maybe a little bit skeevy.

Secondly, there was a string of plotlines that were actually about the Doctor. I don't mind a little bit of that, but it turns him from a spanner in the works of a massive universe into What It's All About, and that's much less interesting for me. Similarly, the Doctor as a terrifying legend or a dreadful force of nature (Family of Blood) bothers me when it's a regular thing, though I wouldn't mind people very occasionally knowing something about him or Time Lords. I just think it's far more interesting to be the unexpected wild-card that stirs up a situation and finds out what's going on. And enemies laying plots against someone who can travel through space and time derailed my credibility, because he can travel through space and time: it's really hard to plan for that convincingly.

Thirdly, too much ratcheting up. I personally get jaded by constant world-shaking threat, and by the time we'd got to Daleks plotting destruction of the entire space-time continuum... Small is interesting too. There've been some great small-scale episodes, like Midnight. Old Who was mostly small.

Fourthly, the restructuring of things to have season arcs didn't do anything for me. Having the occasional one, fine, but Doctor Who is pretty much the perfect episodic show, because of the whole 'travelling anywhere in space and time' thing. It doesn't make much sense to have episodes form plot arcs except when the Doctor's actually following up a mystery.

Oh, and it irritated me that they'd written Gallifrey out so definitively, rather than leaving it open. Limits future writers, doesn't achieve much, and just invites further questions.

This episode was okay, but it seemed a weird choice for a special because it's really not self-contained. Having not seen Who for a while, I missed some things and I won't be around to see the Clara 'plot' resolved (probably for the best).
at 15:12 on 28-12-2012, Arthur B
I was talking about this with my brother after we watched the Christmas special and between us we had the following conclusions:

1: Moffatt seems to be writing two shows at once - Doctor Who, and Show That Moffatt Actually Wants To Make But Knows The Beeb Won't Let Him Make, So He's Going To Hammer Doctor Who Into A Shape Vaguely Resembling That Show Instead. This is of course something RTD did as well and seems to be an inherent risk of the auteur showrunner model the BBC seem to have clung to for New Who. (It's also something which probably isn't actually important for those form whom Old Who isn't of particular importance, but if you have seen a reasonable amount of Old Who the difference is jarring. Old Who was gloriously heterogeneous because it was never married to one maker's personal vision, which on the one hand made it a bit designed-by-committee but on the other hand meant that you did have feeling of a genuinely big universe where Anything Can Happen, whereas in New Who there's some stuff which Can't Happen because it'd conflict too much with the showrunner's particular schtick.)

2: We were both glad to see more of the Sontaran nurse and the Silurian lady detective and her ninja spouse. We were also disappointed that they're not going to be full-fledged companions. An ensemble cast of companions is something we both kind of miss from the Tom Baker/Peter Davison era and would also make a welcome and refreshing change from the current companion model (which is getting rather samey).

3: Speaking of samey companions, could we have at least one who doesn't hail from contemporary Earth? If you go with an ensemble cast of companions then you can still have someone from modern-day Earth to be the "Where are we? What is this place? Please explain it to me in such a way that it will also be nicely explained to the audience" character, but even then you don't actually need someone from contemporary Earth to do that, or for the audience to identify with. Victorian-era Oswin would have made a fine companion. Also an irritating one

4: Throwing in a female character who can out-smartypants the Doctor at every turn is a good way to make the whole Who thing a wee bit less patriarchial. Trying much, much too hard to make that character super way coolio results in River Song, who is profoundly irritating and makes me roll my eyes whenever she comes on the screen. Luckily, I suspect River Song is not going to be appearing much any more - if at all - since in the absence of Ponds her presence becomes largely pointless. Unluckily, the new companion seems to be River Song by other means. Ugh.

5: Speaking of companions who are a) a bit of a break from the general pattern they've had for most of New Who and b) able to undermine the patriarchal structure of Who a bit more, how about a companion who doesn't hang on the Doctor's every word and is a bit more willing to talk back to or outright defy the Doctor? (They've flirted with this possibility before but ruined it by having the Doctor usually turn out to be right, prompting the companion to back down and behave by the end of the episode.)

6: For that matter, how about a companion who's travelling with the Doctor not because they are in love with the concept of travelling in time and space (which often but not always is tied in with implied love of the Doctor, and always ends up with Moffatt or RTD gushingly celebrating the fact that they are writing Doctor Who rather than knuckling down to the process of writing Doctor Who), but because they have... well... any other motive at all? For instance, have an episode where the Doctor screws up and a world is destroyed, and a lone survivor stows away on the TARDIS. Bam!, suddenly you have a long-term consequence which isn't resolved in an episode and a companion whose relationship with the Doctor is likely to be a little bit complicated but at the same time kind of has to stick around until they find a place the companion thinks can make a reasonable substitute home or get revenge on the villain who wasted their old world (which is the perfect get-out-of-contract clause for both the actor playing the companion and the Beeb).
at 15:00 on 28-12-2012, Robinson L
Can't say I'd noticed the first point yet, though I did find the Silence awfully repetitive (haven't gotten to The Snowmen, yet).

Mostly agreed on the second point, although I was just as happy to see the back of some of those plot points (e.g. Amy and Rory's dissolving marriage) sooner rather than later. Also, I think both Moffat and Davies have been guilty of dangling potentially game-changing plot developments and then snatching them away to restore status quo numerous times.

And I think I'm going to concur with Andy in finding Davies' use of the cosmically important companion about as bad as Moffat's. I mean, you have a point about the active versus reactive, but I think it's a bit overly-reductive to characterize Amy's situation as the latter, and the Davies trio as the former - I think the circumstances are more complex than that on both sides of the equation. Also, I think with Amy, at least, Moffat constructed a better justification for the cosmic companion, whereas with Donna and Rose it just felt forced (I could probably forgive making Martha the Wandering Prophet of the Doctor in isolation, but taken along with the other two it feels like more of the same).

But yes, definitely, please can we have more companions who are extraordinary on a relatable human level rather than being effectively demigods of some sort or another?
at 13:06 on 28-12-2012, Andy G
Very much agree with 1 and 2, but think you're underplaying the extent to which RTD was guilty of 3 as well. I actually really enjoyed the episode (certainly more than last year's xmas special), but one point a friend made that I agree with is that all Moffat's women are the same character (and his male characters are often rather one-note too for that matter). His twee retro aesthetic is starting to grate too.
at 01:01 on 28-12-2012, Jamie Johnston
Today in 'blog-posts that could have been Ferretbrain articles if I were more energetic and rigorous': Three things I would likeDoctor Who to do less of please.