Episode 20: Transcript
Our Opinions Are Correct Episode 20
Transcribed by: Keffy Kehrli
Charlie Jane: [00:00:00] Welcome to Our Opinions Are Correct, a podcast about the meaning of science fiction. I’m Charlie Jane Anders, a science fiction writer who thinks a lot about science.
Annalee: [00:00:07] And I’m Annalee Newitz. I’m a science journalist who writes science fiction.
Charlie Jane: [00:00:12] Today we’re gonna be talking about the new season of Doctor Who. It’s been really exciting. There’s a new doctor, played by Jodie Whittaker. Everything feels brand-new and spiffy. We’ve been just, like, super excited. There’s been a lot of ecstatic dancing around and whistling the Doctor Who theme to each other and bouncing, and…
Annalee: [00:00:30] Whoo-oo [Sings Doctor Who theme.]
Charlie Jane: [00:00:31] Whooo-ooo [Sings Doctor Who theme.]
[00:00:32] And so, we’re gonna talk about it. First of all, thanks to our Patreon sponsors. We’re almost half-way to our funding goal and we’re so grateful to all of you for sponsoring us. If you want to sponsor us, we’re at Patreon.com/OurOpinionsAreCorrect and now, get ready to enter the time vortex.
[00:00:48] Intro music plays: Drums with a bass drop and more science fictional bells and percussion.
Annalee: [00:01:13] So, I’m gonna confess something here, which is that before I met you, back in the mists of time, I had never really—I’d heard of Doctor Who, I’d never really watched it. I mostly knew it from a joke in the movie Sid and Nancy where they imitate—they go, “Exterminate! Exterminate!” And, I remember at the time being like, “What is that?” And my British friend explaining Doctor Who to me. So, everything I know about Doctor Who, I learned from you. And I feel really lucky, so, I want you to start us out by saying, you know, what’s different now? What are you thinking about this season?
Charlie Jane: [00:01:48] Yeah, I mean, I kind of grew up on Doctor Who. I lived in England when I was a little kid and I was obsessed with Doctor Who then, and then it was on PBS and I went to the Doctor Who Exhibition when I was a little kid and was like freaked out because they had actual Daleks there, and we went inside the Tardis control room and it was gonna take off and I ran out and hid under a car for like half an hour.
Annalee: [00:02:07] Really?
Charlie Jane: [00:02:08] Yeah. So, I was—I’m like an O.G. Old School Doctor Who fan, it’s true. And, I’m really loving the new season. I feel like it has all this energy. It has this freshness. It feels like, kind of in some ways a return to the kind of spirit of Doctor Who where everything is just like—super happy and action packed and exciting and full of wonder and full of just excitement at discovering stuff. It feels like the show just has a very kind of positive, happy vibe.
[00:02:37] And Jodie Whittaker who, you know, obviously, she gets a lot of attention because she’s the first woman to play Doctor Who, or to play The Doctor. I think Doctor Who fans would get very stroppy, even though—
Annalee: [00:02:47] To play the lead in Doctor Who.
Charlie Jane: [00:02:48] Yeah, to play the Doctor. Jodie Whittaker gets a lot of attention for being the first woman to play that role, but she just brings this lovely excited kind of positive joyful energy to it. And, it feels a little bit reminiscent of the early 1980s when you had a younger Doctor who was also very blond—Peter Davison—and he was a little bit more fallible than Tom Baker’s Doctor had been. And, you know, Jodie Whittaker seems to have the same kind of relation to the Peter Capaldi Doctor, who was very kind of haughty and also like, knew everything and was never wrong except for—
Annalee: [00:03:22] He had Answer Syndrome for sure.
Charlie Jane: [00:03:22] Yeah. He was definitely like the guy—
Annalee: [00:03:25] He was an explainer.
Charlie Jane: [00:03:25] —who would just lecture everybody about everything. And Jodie Whittaker doesn’t always know everything. She sometimes makes mistakes. She sometimes kind of blunders into things and it feels a lot fresher and more interesting. And she also has this sort of group of companions following her around the same way that Peter Davison’s Doctor did in the early ‘80s when he had Nyssa, Tegan, and Adric. And luckily none of the three current companions is even slightly as annoying as poor Adric.
Annalee: [00:03:50] Ugh, Adric.
Charlie Jane: [00:03:51] I mean, you know. Poor guy.
Annalee: [00:03:52] Alas, poor Adric.
[00:03:53] You know, one of the things that’s interesting. I was thinking about this as you were kind of comparing her to the previous Doctor, which is that one of the phrases or themes that she reiterates a lot in dialogue is that the whole point of her existence and her journey is to help people, to bring friends together, to make things better. I think she’s given, like, multiple pretty rousing speeches actually, about how we can change history, we can make things right. And, I feel like the Peter Capaldi Doctor who was kind of reeling from the PTSD of like his whole history, having lost his planet and his people, it was a much grimmer view. It was much more a, “Yes, we’re here to make things better but we’re just also here just to survive,” and like, “We’re just… you know, it’s kind of a grim business here.”
[00:04:48] I feel like with the new Doctor, with the Jodie Whittaker Doctor that there is more room for that kind of enthusiasm of, it’s not just about surviving, it’s like, no, when we see trouble, we’re gonna come in and make friends. The most recent episode for us, that we just watched, involves the Doctor making friends with a sad, lonely, outcast sentient universe. That’s kind of the whole point of the episode, is like, “You can even be friends with a sentient universe.”
Charlie Jane: [00:05:17] Sort of spoiler alert, that sort of looks like a cute, weird frog. It was like—that was adorable. Yeah, I feel like a big theme of the Peter Capaldi episodes from pretty much the entire run was that the Doctor is kind of a bastard and he has to be a bastard and that’s just the thing, and like, the first season of Capaldi, there’s a running thing where he lies to people and he manipulates people and he is kind of callous and cruel a little bit.
His companion, Clara, doesn’t understand and feels like he’s being needlessly mean, but over time she learns to appreciate the importance of lying to people and the importance of manipulating people and then she gets as good at lying and manipulating as the Doctor, himself. With kind of disastrous results. And then, in his final season, he has a similar kind of mentor relationship with Bill who’s like this very kind of cheerful young person who has to learn some hard lessons from Capaldi’s Doctor. And it’s sort of—he was sort of the grumpy old man who has seen things, who has all this damage and people don’t understand.
And, I feel like that’s all gone now. And that kind of grumpiness and that kind of weight—and you know, Matt Smith’s Doctor had it, too, and David Tennant’s Doctor had it. The kind of heaviness weighing me down that—and I have to do terrible things.
Annalee: [00:06:30] I want to say that I think—you said, “Oh, I think that that was true with the David Tennant’s Doctor as well,” and I didn’t think so. I think toward the end, yes, because he has been through a lot, but I keep thinking this season that the Doctor that Jodie Whittaker reminds me of the most is David Tennant. And I think partly it’s their acting styles. I think she kind of has taken a page from his book of the kind of wide-eyed, like, “Wow! We’re just gonna have some fun even though our legs are being ground up by space sharks!” or whatever, right? Like, “Here we go!” Like, “Let’s do it, gang!”
Charlie Jane: [00:06:58] Yeah—no, it’s true—
Annalee: [00:07:00] But there’s—it’s also, like, there’s a kind of innocence and playfulness there that I think she’s really working with.
[00:07:07] I just wanted to ask you a question about a hunch that I had about this season that could be wrong because I am not as much of an expert as you are at all. But, I know that one of the things that the BBC wanted to do with this season was have all new monsters. And, so, we’re not having a return to the Daleks, we don’t have the Cybermen, we don’t have the Santorants…
Charlie Jane: [00:07:28] Sontarans, yeah.
Annalee: [00:07:29] Sontarans with the like, “I am here to fart on your planet,” or whatever.
Charlie Jane: [00:07:32] That was—no, that was the Slitheen that are the farty ones.
Annalee: [00:07:36] I thought—well, no, they are farty. I meant, sorry, by “fart” I meant that more metaphorically. From when the Sontarans invade Earth and they’re going to turn it into their planet—
Charlie Jane: [00:07:46] With car exhaust or whatever.
Annalee: [00:07:46] —with car exhaust, and so… yeah.
Charlie Jane: [00:07:48] Oh, God, that was—anyway.
Annalee: [00:07:49] I kind of love that episode.
Charlie Jane: [00:07:50] [Sighs.]
Annalee: [00:07:51] It was actually—it was a two part—it was a very exciting…
Charlie Jane: [00:07:54] It was a lot.
Annalee: [00:07:54] —episode. Anyway, it was hilarious. So, the point is that because we’re not kind of going back to these staples of the series, these monster staples. Instead, we’re revisiting historical, like, well-known historical moments at a rate that I think is like, much higher than in previous seasons. Like, we’ve had so many… Here we are watching Rosa Parks on the bus. Here we are watching the division of India. You know, here we are watching—
Charlie Jane: [00:08:23] —the witch trials—
Annalee: [00:08:24] —the witch trials. And like, I feel like we’ve had a lot of, like, very specific history lessons. Especially, like, the division of India episode, I felt like was very, “And now we will recap what happened. Here is how colonialism screwed over a huge part of the world.”
[00:08:42] And, again, like, maybe I’m wrong but I feel like that’s not something that has happened a lot in recent Doctor Who. I think it happened a lot in the ‘60s and ‘70s, maybe. But, like, not in—what do you think? I mean, is that—
Charlie Jane: [00:08:53] Classic 1960s Doctor Who did have a thing where they would visit the French Revolution, they would visit the Roman Empire. It was always—usually Europe—and it was usually famous moments from European history, specifically. That was a thing that they did. They also did visit the Aztec Empire right on the eve of Cortez arriving, I guess.
Annalee: [00:09:10] Oh, no. I didn’t see that one.
Charlie Jane: [00:09:11] Which is one of their early episodes. It’s an interesting episode, but…
Annalee: [00:09:15] Didn’t they do a lot of Cold War and World War II, and, like…
Charlie Jane: [00:09:19] Right. Yeah, and actually, there was—there was some of that in the Matt Smith era. They visit the Cold War and they then—
Annalee: [00:09:23] That’s true.
Charlie Jane: [00:09:24] You know, there’s some World War II era stuff, but yeah, I feel like this—in general this season seems to be trying really hard for a different kind of accessibility. And there’s the accessibility of like, you need to know less about the history of Doctor Who to appreciate this season. You don’t need to know about like, all these monsters. You don’t need to know about Gallifrey. You don’t need to know about the Time Lords. I don’t even think the Time Lords have been mentioned once this season.
Annalee: [00:09:46] No, I don’t think they have. And, in fact, she—
Charlie Jane: [00:09:47] I don’t think the words “Time Lords” have been mentioned at all.
Annalee: [00:09:48] Right, and the Doctor is still re-learning what it means to be the Doctor. Like, she’s still, even now, like up to the point that we’ve gotten in the series, which is almost—this season is almost over.
Charlie Jane: [00:09:58] Yeah.
Annalee: [00:09:58] She’s still learning how to use the Tardis, you know?
Charlie Jane: [00:10:00] Right.
Annalee: [00:10:01] The Tardis—the Tardis UX… is problematic this season.
Charlie Jane: [00:10:04] Well, that’s—that’s always a running thing with the Tardis.
Annalee: [00:10:05] It’s true.
Charlie Jane: [00:10:06] It’s never—it’s not super user-friendly.
Annalee: [00:10:07] It’s always a little—it has a mind of its own. She has a mind of her own.
Charlie Jane: [00:10:09] But—yeah. And part of that accessibility is that it’s also sort of giving these interesting little history lessons. You know, the show feels a little bit more aimed towards kids than it had been the last few years. There’s a little bit less emphasis on trying to impress adults with cleverness or with cool ideas and much more just like, kid-friendly history lessons. Kid-friendly adventures, and like… it’s a kid’s show that adults can watch, which was what Doctor Who was a lot back in the day. It feels like it’s a much more accessible show, and it feels like part of the kind of running theme of it does seem to be that we’re kind of thinking about history, we’re thinking about progress and what progress means. And like, particularly, I keep thinking about the Rosa Parks episode where the villain of the Rosa Parks episode is this dude from the 79th century who was like imprisoned in some storm cage, I guess, which is the same prison that River Song was locked in, I think. So that’s like, one of the few call-backs we’ve gotten this season.
Annalee: [00:11:06] Mm-hmm.
Charlie Jane: [00:11:06] He has this whole tirade about how he was living there in the 79th century in this prison and he realized that this thing with Rosa Parks was when it all went wrong. And the idea that like—
Annalee: [00:11:15] Yeah, he’s this future white supremacist, basically.
Charlie Jane: [00:11:17] He’s a future white supremacist. But, the implication there is that Rosa Parks’ actions in refusing to give up her seat have consequences that still resonate in the 79th century and that that progress has never been undone or that it’s continued to kind of have knock on effects and that if you change that one moment—
Annalee: [00:11:39] White supremacists are still feeling sad and vulnerable hundreds and hundreds of years in the future, which—
Charlie Jane: [00:11:43] But, you know, that progress is durable and that progress continues, and that’s a thing that like, is really interesting.
Annalee: [00:11:51] It’s so utopian.
Charlie Jane: [00:11:51] It’s really utopian, and it’s this idea that it’s not just that progress is durable, but that progress has like, ripple effects through time. And that, you know, that far in the future, like—79 thousand years ago, or 79 hundred years ago, there’s not much happening back then that we still know about now. So, it’s like—it’s really utopian and really optimistic. And, I feel like that theme of progress and that idea of making small differences in like the witch trials, or in other historical moments can have effects that continue to this day is a thing that the show is kind of gently nudging at, which is interesting to me.
Annalee: [00:12:28] Yeah, and we see it again and again, and including in the sort of premiere episode, there’s a whole speech about how, like, we can choose now to be better people. We don’t have to be dudes who wear teeth on our heads or whatever. You know, it’s cool, we can do other stuff. But actually, it was a very moving speech, and I think that that is definitely a big feature of this season. Is sort of imagining how history has changed.
[00:12:52] Also, of course, I mean, I think this is sort of an obvious point, but it’s worth making, which is that this season, instead of going back to visit like, Charles Dickens or like other White Men In History, it’s like two of the most important characters we visit in history… one of them is Rosa Parks, through her we meet other Civil Rights activists who are black, and then we also meet Yaz’s grandmother. And not only is that great because we’re learning about her history and it’s a woman of color who’s from a colonized country and it’s really cool to see her perspective. But, on top of all that stuff, it’s cool to have this idea that an ordinary person can affect history and that her life is caught up in this really important historical transition and that what she does at that moment really matters. And so, it’s not even that we have to meet great people in history. We can also just meet ordinary people in history and, you know, which of course the Doctor does all the time, but like, in that episode it was clearly intended to be, like, what happens to these people at this moment is actually super important because they’re in the middle of this historical struggle.
Charlie Jane: [00:13:59] Which actually brings me to one of my complaints about this season, which is that you mentioned that there’s no returning monsters and that the focus instead has been on more history and more delving into different views of human progress, past and the future. The actual monsters that we have met have by and large been very forgettable and have felt very incidental to the stories, like—
Annalee: [00:14:18] Well, except for toothy face. Was creepy.
Charlie Jane: [00:14:20] Toothy face was creepy, yeah, no.
Annalee: [00:14:21] And funny.
Charlie Jane: [00:14:22] He was good. He was—T’Zim-Sha, I guess his name was. He was like—he was creepy and funny—
Annalee: [00:14:27] Tim Shaw.
Charlie Jane: [00:14:27] Yeah, but there’s, you know, in general, like, there’s been a thing where a bunch of these episodes have had creatures that either, like, for example, in the partition of India one, I don’t actually understand why there needed to be aliens in that episode. They turn up, it turns out that they’re not actually doing anything. They’re just hanging out.
Annalee: [00:14:43] There’s just some aliens.
Charlie Jane: [00:14:44] There are just some aliens who are hanging out and we didn’t even need to bother with them. They’re just not really there. And they’re incidental to the story. There’s other ones where the aliens kind of turn up in the last five minutes, and it’s like, “Oh, and there’s some aliens. Oh, now they’re gone.” And it’s like—
Annalee: [00:14:58] It has this weird Scooby-Doo feeling to it, where, this is one of the things that’s great about Scooby-Doo, is that it taught kids about skepticism. Right, like, it seems like it’s one thing, it seems like it’s magic, but actually it’s just science and mirrors and like it’s just a bad guy with some money. And so, what we see in the witch trial episode felt to me like that. Where it was like, everybody thinks there’s magic. There’s like weird tentacles reaching out of the ground, and then it’s like, “Oh! Actually it’s just aliens who were doing—what are they doing?”
Charlie Jane: [00:15:26] They’re like an alien army—
Annalee: [00:15:27] They’re trying to escape from a hill…
Charlie Jane: [00:15:27] —who were buried under a hill. It was—
Annalee: [00:15:30] It’s some like weird Scientology thing where they were stuck inside a volcano… I don’t know. It was weird. I was like—like, what is happening here? And it was just like, “I am an alien. You can tell because I have weird lines in my face.” It was…
Charlie Jane: [00:15:40] Yeah… that felt. They felt like an afterthought and they didn’t—and it felt like they were incidental to the story that was being told in a lot of ways. And that, it feels like, in general, the kind of—the villain reveals of a lot of these episodes. Like, I know you wanted to talk about the Amazon.com episode. And like, that’s one where—
Annalee: [00:15:55] I like how you say it as, “Amazon Dot Com.” Like, it’s not “Amazon,” it’s “Amazon Dot Com.”
Charlie Jane: [00:16:00] Yeah. That was one where the villain. It’s like, the Scooby-Doo-yness of it, where it’s like, it’s not the evil computer, it’s actually some dude. So, what did you think about the Amazon episode?
Annalee: [00:16:09] Yeah. Okay, so I had a lot of thoughts about the Kerblam! Episode. Because, as you said, it is about Amazon Dot Com, and it brings up—I mean, there’s a whole backlash against Amazon globally now. I feel like, especially in Europe and the UK where it’s viewed as this company that is destroying a bunch of other industries and also that it’s associated really strongly with automation and with kind of the idea of robots stealing our jobs. Whether or not that’s true, that’s what Amazon is sort of associated with. While, at the same time, being associated with the fact that they’re one of the largest employers in the world. They’re the second larger employer in the United States—private employer. So, they’re a scary company and they deliver things. And so then we get this episode of Doctor Who about Kerblam! Which is this company that the Doctor loves that has robots that deliver things to us, kind of the Amazon has been planning to use drones to deliver things to us and blimps, and if you look at Amazon actually has a patent on a system for delivering drones via blimp to people, which I have actually written about. Just Google on it. It’s fantastic. Amazon has some crazy patents.
[00:17:19] So, anyway. The episode starts out feeling like, at first, it’s a criticism of automation. We see that there’s all this anxiety around automation. And like, you know, we kind of get sucked into—I’m not going to go into the whole plot. But, then, the kind of switcheroo in the third act, or the fifth act—I don’t know how many acts that you think that these episodes have. Let’s call it a third act. The switcheroo is that actually it’s a terrorist who’s causing all the problems. It’s not automation, it’s like, a human and his goal as a terrorist is to kill consumers. So, he’s mad about Kerblam! Partly he’s mad about the automation, but instead of taking aim at the company, he’s sending bombs to consumers.
Charlie Jane: [00:18:02] Mm-hmm.
Annalee: [00:18:02] And, so… I don’t think that the show is trying to say that he’s confused. I think that the show is trying to say that there’s a legitimate grievance against consumers. And so it ends up being this like incredibly confusing allegory, because on one hand, it’s about automation, on the other hand it’s just about like how consumers are bad and you shouldn’t be buying things, or something?
Charlie Jane: [00:18:24] I mean, the Doctor…
Annalee: [00:18:25] And then the solution is to have less automation, right?
Charlie Jane: [00:18:29] Right.
Annalee: [00:18:29] And so that’s kind of the bow on top. Is like, “Oh, well we learned our lesson. We’re going to have less automation.” It’s like, how does having less automation solve the problem of bombs being sent to consumers? I don’t know.
Charlie Jane: [00:18:37] So, the thing that we’re told early on is—because it is true that it’s like a company that’s like 90% automated and the 10% human is only because of some law that says they have to employ humans, and it’s basically like, you know, a welfare program for humans that they get jobs that could have been done by robots but they’re being done by humans—
Annalee: [00:18:55] For sure, yeah.
Charlie Jane: [00:18:56] —as like, a welfare thing. And then the—at some point the—
Annalee: [00:18:58] It’s like affirmative action.
Charlie Jane: [00:18:59] —the Doctor kind of trots out the platitude that people always say, that it’s not the technology, it’s how people choose to use it. People choose to buy things from Kerblam! which means that they don’t get to have jobs. Like, they could be buying things from their little neighborhood shop.
Annalee: [00:19:14] Their CyberShop…
Charlie Jane: [00:19:15] They could be buying things from like, somebody who makes things by hand—
Annalee: [00:19:18] Cyber Holo Shop…
Charlie Jane: [00:19:18] —instead of buying a toy from Kerblam! that was made by, presumably some kind of factory. You could just buy a handmade toy made by some guy in your neighborhood who’s like whittling or whatever.
Annalee: [00:19:28] Find your local [crosstalk].
Charlie Jane: [00:19:30] And, so the idea is that it’s the consumer’s fault because the consumers choose to buy from this cheap convenient thing, which I think is definitely over-simplifying. A lot of people don’t have other options. Like, people who live in remote areas, people who—
Annalee: [00:19:42] What if you live in a remote planet, you know? Or you live in the Tardis, and the only way you can get your thing is if this hologram shows up with your box of stuff.
Charlie Jane: [00:19:51] Really, everybody should just start using replicators and then the problem would be solved.
Annalee: [00:19:54] Then we’d be sending bombs to the replicator.
Charlie Jane: [00:19:56] I think that that episode, because of the need to have a clever twist kind of becomes an incoherent metaphor because they want to have a clever reveal about who the bad guy is, and the bad guy has to not be who you expect, which is the computer.
Annalee: [00:20:09] I also just think that, like a lot of science fiction that’s responding to kind of immediate social anxieties, and in this case it’s automation and specifically Amazon. It kind of doesn’t get it right when it comes to the allegory. Like, it’s very obvious that it’s Amazon. You know, nobody thinks Kerblam! is anything but Amazon. But, at the same time, like you said, it’s like—they want to have a twist. They want it to involve some kind of terrorism but they also want it to be about automation, so everything gets kind of crammed in, like all of these social anxieties about basically mega corporations, get crammed in, and so we don’t get—I would have loved an episode that was just looking at automation. That would have been really interesting and there could have been a whole creepy twist or, like, terrorist thing that you could do that would be just like someone who’s coming in and messing up the robots, you know?
Charlie Jane: [00:21:00] Right?
Annalee: [00:21:03] As someone who loves political science fiction, I just get grumpy about that. It’s like, come on, you guys. You’ve got a really rich and fertile social anxiety here, just stick with that. Don’t like, throw everything else in there with like, “But consumerism is also the problem, and blahbity-blah.” And it’s like, well, no. I mean. That’s a separate problem, and like—and also, the other thing that pissed me off about that episode was that the Doctor loves Kerblam!, and it was like, really? Like, why does—so the Doctor’s shilling for Amazon now?
Charlie Jane: [00:21:28] Well, she just loves the cute robot.
Annalee: [00:21:29] She keeps saying—
Charlie Jane: [00:21:31] She loves the cute robot and then, I don’t know.
Annalee: [00:21:33] Yeah, I thought that was weird. Like, I felt like that was the thing—okay, that’s my final comment about that episode that I found problematic was the way that the episode was all about how the problem is this disgruntled anti-consumer guy. The company just needs to be reformed. We love the company. The Doctor loves the company. And then at the end, it’s like, “Oh, well, we’ll just have 50% humans and everything is fine.” And um… I mean, it’s not that I think that automation is bad in real life. I think that automation is inevitable and we’ll figure it out. Just the idea that it’s not the company that’s the problem, it’s that everything else and we can easily fix this problem. Okay. That was the end of my grumping.
Charlie Jane: [00:22:10] Yeah, and I feel like this season in general has sort of made very tentative stabs to kind of talk about capitalism. There’s like that one episode where due to capitalism, basically due to Donald Trump building hotels on top of toxic waste sites, you have giant spiders.
Annalee: [00:22:25] Yes.
Charlie Jane: [00:22:25] There—hotels on top of like, disused coal mines filled with toxic garbage leads to giant spiders and this is some kind of metaphor for capitalism that is never fully kind of like—
Annalee: [00:22:36] And industrialism—
Charlie Jane: [00:22:37] —it’s a tangled web of allegory.
Annalee: [00:22:39] Yeah, it’s sort of like, pollution and then climate abuse—
Charlie Jane: [00:22:43] Yeah, it feels like the show—
Annalee: [00:22:45] Environmental abuse, sorry.
Charlie Jane: [00:22:46] —has tried to kind of make a statement about capitalism but hasn’t quite been able to figure out what that statement is or how to make it.
Annalee: [00:22:52] Yeah.
Charlie Jane: [00:22:52] In a way.
Annalee: [00:22:54] Yeah, I had totally forgotten about the spider trash episode, but yeah, no, that was another—again, it was like the Kerblam! episode. It was like they had an allegory, they had a political thought, and then they were like, but what about this political thought! But what about this thing! Like, we can add that, too! What if it was a hotel built on top of it, and it’s like, okay…
Charlie Jane: [00:23:09] It was kind of a thinkpiece in the shape of an episode.
Annalee: [00:23:12] Yeah, but it was like—
Charlie Jane: [00:23:14] It was like—
Annalee: [00:23:14] —yeah, it was like a bad hot take.
Charlie Jane: [00:23:15] There were some hot takes. There were some hot takes.
Annalee: [00:23:17] The problem was there were too many hot takes. Give us just the one hot take. You only have an hour, people, come on.
Charlie Jane: [00:23:21] Yeah.
Annalee: [00:23:21] Like, you know… let’s like really delve into the spiders. We don’t need all of the other stuff.
Charlie Jane: [00:23:26] But I do want to talk about the theme of family before we move on. You know, with the latest episode, the one we just watched is about this weird family where this dude basically abandons his daughter in this house that he’s boarded up and put like fake monster noises outside of so that he can go off and like, live with his dead wife.
Annalee: [00:23:44] It’s like the Norwegian version of the movie The Village or something like that.
Charlie Jane: [00:23:47] Kind of, yeah.
Annalee: [00:23:48] It is The Village. It’s like—and it’s right down to having the blind daughter, so, FYI, M. Night Shyamalan, get your lawyers ready.
Charlie Jane: [00:23:54] It’s an homage.
Annalee: [00:23:57] It’s an homage, yeah.
Charlie Jane: [00:23:58] I feel like there’s been a theme of like weird family stuff this season. And like, particularly, we’ve delved a lot into Ryan’s family and Yaz’s family.
Annalee: [00:24:07] Yeah.
Charlie Jane: [00:24:07] But, you know, this whole thing of like, dysfunctional families. The witch trial episode was also at a weirdly dysfunctional family—
Annalee: [00:24:13] Yeah, it was…
Charlie Jane: [00:24:13] —where, you know, the woman leading the witch trials turns out to be the cousin, or the granddaughter of the person that she kills at the start of the episode. It’s like, I don’t know—I feel like the show is kind of driving toward something of like how families get broken and what you can do about it. I don’t know—what do you think about that?
Annalee: [00:24:30] I definitely think that having more of an ensemble cast allows them to tell kind of work family stories much better. The sort of one companion model winds up feeling a little bit more romantic and then once you start adding on more companions, it gives you that sort of work family feeling. And that’s been kind of nice. It irks me a little bit that once we have a female Doctor, suddenly family is a big thing. But you’ve pointed out to me that there have been these ensembles in previous seasons with male Doctors. So, I’m not gonna complain about that now.
Charlie Jane: [00:25:01] Right?
Annalee: [00:25:01] But, I do think that on the utopian side we’re also seeing the show trying to model families. Model families that we choose. I think we all knew from the very beginning of the season that one of the arcs would be eventually, you know, Ryan and his grandpa would have this moment where he was like calling him Gramps, or—
Charlie Jane: [00:25:22] Granddad.
Annalee: [00:25:22] Oh, sorry… Gramps. But you know what I mean, like he finally calls him Granddad and I knew that was gonna happen and I think that’s one of the things that’s kind of awesome about this season is that it’s imagining how families kind of come together in weird circumstances. People who wouldn’t necessarily have anything in common suddenly become allies.
Charlie Jane: [00:25:43] I love that, and I actually got a little choked up when Ryan called Graham, “Granddad.”
Annalee: [00:25:46] Oh, I totally. I was crying.
Charlie Jane: [00:25:48] I was totally choked up.
Annalee: [00:25:48] I was straight-up crying.
Charlie Jane: [00:25:49] I do think it’s a little weird that we keep hearing about Ryan’s dad who presumably is of African origin. We never get to meet him. We hear about him a bunch and how he abandoned—
Annalee: [00:25:59] He’s like a deadbeat.
Charlie Jane: [00:25:59] —he abandoned Ryan after Ryan’s mom died and left him with the grandmother who died in the first episode. You know, I feel like there’s this weird opposition where like Graham is like the father that Ryan deserves, or the father figure that Ryan deserves and meanwhile this black father who we don’t get to meet or really—we just hear about him is like the father that Ryan shouldn’t have or doesn’t want—
Annalee: [00:26:24] Yeah.
Charlie Jane: [00:26:25] And—
Annalee: [00:26:25] There’s some weird racial stuff. It was also really upsetting that the super badass black grandma has to die in the first episode, and I think many of us watching it were like, ugh, really?
Charlie Jane: [00:26:37] I still hope they bring her back. I mean, there’s a million ways to bring people back from the dead on Doctor Who. It happens all the time.
Annalee: [00:26:41] Well, they already brought her back as like a fake—
Charlie Jane: [00:26:42] I know, but…
Annalee: [00:26:44] —whatever tentacle of the sentient universe.
Charlie Jane: [00:26:46] I hope she gets to come back, like, properly. I hope that there’s some time bubble where she just is like, “oh, I’m alive again.” I really hope that they do. I think that that would be a good ending for them to be reunited.
Annalee: [00:26:57] I do too, because I have been feeling like, at various points, that Ryan gets to have not just a white grandpa but then the Doctor is kind of his grandma or his mom, right? So he—so it’s like basically rebuilding a family for two people of color with white parents this time.
Charlie Jane: [00:27:17] Kind of. I mean, you know, I think that—
Annalee: [00:27:18] Less so with Yaz, because Yaz we actually meet her family.
Charlie Jane: [00:27:21] And her family is kind of awesome. They’ve got issues but they’re loveable. And her grandma’s awesome, who we spend time with. The thing you said about work family and like chosen family is kind of—they’re friends. Like, I don’t think that the Doctor is anybody’s mom. I’m actually really glad that there has not been a single moment in this season where I felt like the Doctor was being turned into anybody’s mom figure.
Annalee: [00:27:43] No, actually, that’s really true. You’re really right, because I think she’s kind of, you know, she’s a leader, but she’s not parental.
Charlie Jane: [00:27:51] She’s not parental at all.
Annalee: [00:27:52] She’s too dangerous. She does dangerous stuff.
Charlie Jane: [00:27:53] She’s like your—she’s your kind of weird friend. She’s your weird quirky friend who shows up.
Annalee: [00:27:57] Or like your older sister, or like your… you know, young weird aunt.
Charlie Jane: [00:28:02] Yeah, she’s just this fun lady who shows up and takes you on adventures and like, you know. I was maybe a little worried that they were going to try and turn her into a mom, like, which I feel like happened—people used—
Annalee: [00:28:11] I was fucking totally worried and I’m still worried and get grumpy like—like I said to you, like, I was like, “Oh! They gave her a family, grumble-rumble.” And you’re like, no.
Charlie Jane: [00:28:21] I mean, you know. It could be worse. It could be Adric, but yeah, I mean.
Annalee: [00:28:25] No, I’m just saying, like, you know, it could be worse. They could have easily had moments where they were like, you know, either positioning her as a mom or even saying something like, oh, you’re like our protector, you’re like our mom. There’s so many shows that would do that. All right. So, I think we’ve dissected the show a lot and we’re gonna have many more thoughts ongoing in future episodes for sure. But, I’m curious what your hoping for, Charlie? Like, what do you want to see more of, what do you want to see less of? What is the show meaning to you, now?
Charlie Jane: [00:28:58] I really hope that the show keeps that sort of innocent sense of fun right now—
Annalee: [00:29:02] Same.
Charlie Jane: [00:29:02] —and keeps that kind of like, happy vibe. I feel like it’s—it’s actually, you know, feels just so refreshed and so much of a piece with like, Steven Universe and Super Girl and a bunch of the other shows that I’ve been enjoying lately. She-Ra. It has that same kind of feeling of like, happy up-beat optimism that just is what I need in 2018. And it doesn’t—I feel like I’m so relieved to have lost some of that grumpy foreboding darkness. I hope we don’t get back to that. At the same time, I would love to see the show kind of working in more darkness again. I feel like, if I was in the room where they were discussing the next season, I would be like, “Let’s have scarier creatures again. Let’s have baddies who are actually really bad and really not easily disposed of in like five minutes.” And you know, maybe don’t bring back the Cybermen and the Daleks, but make another really earnest attempt to create the next generation of monsters that would be like the next Cybermen and Daleks, like for another generation.
Annalee: [00:30:00] Yeah, like the Social Media Daleks.
Charlie Jane: [00:30:03] Oh God, no. No. Please, no. God.
Annalee: [00:30:07] I mean, the Cybermen are already kind of social media. They were like all about Bluetooth and stuff.
Charlie Jane: [00:30:11] Extirpate, I don’t know.
Annalee: [00:30:14] What I was thinking I would like to see more of and I think this fits in with what you were saying, is I’d like it a little more of—a little bit more serialization. I don’t want tons, like, this season was totally episodic. Like, you could watch it entirely out of order and it wouldn’t matter. And I think to develop a new big bad, you might want to have an arc. So, maybe we get three episodes that are kind of loosely connected that are dealing with the same dark force. Or conspiracy of some kind. Something, yeah. Creepy that is not—that we don’t get the Scooby-Doo ending, of like, “Oh, we discovered it was like a weird prison hill.” There was no—whatever the fuck that was.
Charlie Jane: [00:30:55] Yeah, I think that a little bit more serialization, a little bit—maybe not as much as Steven Moffat was doing a lot of the time, but as much as like Russell T. Davies used to do where he would kind of throw in little bread crumbs and then at the end, it’s like, oh, this adds up to this scary terrible thing. I think that, you know, a little bit more, like, part of what I love about Doctor Who in general is that it’s a show about this kind of eccentric weird character who travels around in a phone booth long before Bill and Ted did it, is just a total dorky weird quirky person who stands up to unthinkable evil and like terrifying, horrible monsters that are capable of like destroying whole planets and like—
Annalee: [00:31:39] And universes.
Charlie Jane: [00:31:40] Yeah, and just like, terrifying, awful, scary monsters, and I feel like that’s the bedrock of Doctor Who. And where Doctor Who, you know, sometimes falls down in my view is that the threats aren’t scary enough or big enough, or serious enough and it often—I’m really, really, really glad that it’s not all about people knowing the Doctor or everything is somehow the Doctor’s fault originally, or the villain is obsessed with the Doctor or everybody’s obsessed with the Doctor, or everybody’s—
Annalee: [00:32:09] Yeah, we don’t need that meta shit.
Charlie Jane: [00:32:10] Yeah, and like, there’s only been like literally one scene this season where somebody had heard of The Doctor and it was kind of played for laughs. I love that. I think that, you know, the villains can be scarier and more terrible if they have their own agenda and they don’t really care about the Doctor. The Doctor is just this annoying woman who keeps getting in their way. I think that’s great. But I think that a return to kind of like really insurmountable odds, really terrible threats would be a thing that the show could benefit from at this point.
Annalee: [00:32:36] Yeah, the thing I love most of about Doctor Who, and the reason why it’s my happy place and when I hear the music, like, my heart literally soars is because it’s about using rationality and humor in the face of evil. And, you know, we don’t need guns. We don’t—in fact, the Doctor often insults guns and weapons. All we need is to think about this problem and to have good friends. And I think, you know. And that’s where it’s kind of like Steven Universe, too. It’s just… it’s about how we can actually get through dark times without blowing shit up and burning it down. So, I am looking forward to more Jodie Whittaker.
Charlie Jane: [00:33:20] Yes.
Annalee: [00:33:20] And more Doctor Who. And I hope it lasts forever.
Charlie Jane: [00:33:25] Same. Same.
[00:33:26] Segment change music plays. Drums with a bass line including bass drops.
Annalee: [00:33:40] Here we are. This is a short little segment called What I’m Obsessed With. Charlie, what are you obsessed with right now?
Charlie Jane: [00:33:47] I’m kind of obsessed with the novel Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell. I finally just read it after hearing about it for years and it is so amazing. It’s the story of this girl who basically writes—it’s not Harry Potter fanfic. It’s fanfic for a made-up universe that’s very clearly Harry Potter influenced. And it’s about a wizard who has to share a dorm room with a vampire who’s kind of evil but in the fanfic they become like boyfriends. It’s this girl who writes this like slash fanfic who goes off to college with her twin sister who she’s inseparable with, and then they go to college and they’re no longer inseparable, and everybody thinks that, you know, that this girl just spending all her time writing fanfic is a mistake. And they’re like, you should be in the creative writing program, you should be writing serious fiction. And she just wants to write her Harry Potter fanfic and it’s like… it’s this beautiful, just like, super deep compassionate, amazing exploration of what it’s like to write fanfic. And to make it even better, after she published that novel, Rainbow Rowell went back and published an entire book of like, basically fanfic about her fic version of Harry Potter with the vampire boyfriend roommate. So… which is called, Carry On.
Annalee: [00:35:03] Really, that she wrote?
Charlie Jane: [00:35:03] That she wrote. That Rainbow Rowell wrote, and it’s like—
Annalee: [00:35:06] Okay, props to her. That’s amazing.
Charlie Jane: [00:35:08] —it’s just, I love that so much. And like, yeah. And it just like, I’m so in awe of her. And Rainbow Rowell is now writing Runaways and I just bought the first two trades and haven’t read them yet, but I’m so excited.
Annalee: [00:35:15] Yeah. She’s great.
Charlie Jane: [00:35:17] What are you obsessed with now?
Annalee: [00:35:18] So, I’m obsessed with this documentary that I saw a few weeks ago called Bisbee 17, which, I say it’s a documentary but it’s also about a town called Bisbee in Arizona that’s haunted. And it’s haunted by this horrific incident that happened—at the time that the documentary was made, it was 100 years ago, so it was in 1917 where the workers at a local copper mine were on strike with the IWW. And the owners of the mine got in touch with a sherriff in a neighboring town and told him that he could deputize anyone he wanted. We aren’t sure how it was that they gave him this kind of order or asked him to do this. It’s all lost to history, but we know that they were in touch with this sherriff. They said he could deputize anyone he wants and to put an end to the strike. And so, what this sherriff did was he literally deputized every single white man in town, in Bisbee and in some neighboring towns and took all, over 900 strikers out to a local baseball field. Loaded them into a train and drove them out to the middle of the desert to die because they just wanted to shut that strike down.
[00:36:43] What the film is about is how in 2017, the town of Bisbee decided to do a reenactment of this deportation of these workers. And one of the reasons why this particular strike was so threatening was that it was racially integrated. A lot of the workers were immigrants. This is a town that’s right on the border with Mexico. They weren’t just Mexican immigrants. They were central European immigrants. There were people from all over. And it was a very multicultural town, which it’s not really anymore because they got rid of most of their multicultural men.
[00:37:19] And so, as the town reenacts this, they build like a fake train, and they write some dialogue. They even write a song. Some of the people who were in the reenactment are the direct descendents of people who were involved in the deportation. And the way it’s filmed, it really captures what it means to have such a horrific incident in your city’s history and have it be covered up. And yet, people who are there are still, you know, they are the inheritors of this incident. I call it an incident, but it’s like, they were trying to mass murder. Apparently most of the men did survive. None of them came back to town. Some of them enlisted in the army, some of them you know, made it into other places. It’s such a great study of what it means to tell stories about history and our connection to history and how much it’s still alive around us.
[00:38:22] And also, it was just a really interesting take on historical reenactments because Bisbee is right near the town of Tombstone where they do constant—
Charlie Jane: [00:38:31] Oh…
Annalee: [00:38:31] We actually, in the documentary, they visit Tombstone and they recruit some of the people who do reenactments in Tombstone to be in their reenactment.
Charlie Jane: [00:38:38] Oh, wow.
Annalee: [00:38:38] And it’s so great, it’s, the film is funny and scary and dark. I just can’t praise it enough. So, if you have a chance to see it, it’s called Bisbee 17. B-I-S-B-E-E, and it’s playing in some small theaters and I suspect it’s going to be available streaming very soon. So, anyway. That’s my obsession right now.
Charlie Jane: [00:38:59] Yay. Well, thank you so much for listening to Our Opinions Are Correct. Thanks to Veronica Simonetti our audio producer. Thanks to Chris Palmer for the music.
[00:39:10] We have a Patreon at Patreon.com/OurOpinionsAreCorrect and please, please, please support us. Please find us on your favorite podcast places like Apple podcasts and review us and subscribe and tell all your friends, and please follow us on Twitter at @OOACPod. And, we’ll be back in two weeks with another episode.
Annalee: [00:39:28] Bye!
Charlie Jane: [00:39:29] Byeeeee.
[00:39:31] Outro music plays. Drums with a bass line including bass drops.