Series 6A – Let’s Get Speculatin’

6th April 2011 • Blog Post by Seb Patrick •

And so the dance begins again. With the launch of a new series of Who a matter of weeks away, suddenly we’ve been hit by all manner of promotional images, blurbs, video clips and so on – making the urge to sit and figure out what it all means an irresistible one. It’s often a futile game, and there’s an argument – one that I’m sort of coming around to – that it’s better off just to keep away from the forums, the set reports and the endless fan-fictiony predictions of what the plots might be that litter Gallifrey Base around this time of year, and instead just sit back and enjoy the episodes as they come. It’s especially pertinent when it comes to Moffat, who’s already shown a singular inclination towards wrong-footing the viewers, and building complex and misleading plots that can’t be pieced together simply by people standing watching location filming with a camera phone.

Nevertheless, it can be fun, particularly if you lay down various predictions about what things mean and they turn out to be utterly, utterly wrong. With that in mind, I’m laying on the table everything that I think is the case about the first seven episodes of the series, and I fully expect to be proven wrong on most of them. But to enjoy being proven wrong and having my expectations confounded. Because there’s only one prediction that really matters, and that we all know will come true: MoffatWho is going to be bloody spectacular.

Note of course that after the jump there will be spoilers – nothing much that hasn’t been seen in trailers, mind (if I end up getting anything right, I assure you it’s a lucky guess), but if you’re sensitive to that sort of thing you might want to avoid reading any further. And I’m also aware that the opening two-parter has now been seen in its entirety by a number of people – so please, if you happen to be one of those people, don’t spoil the game by giving away anything that’s either right or wrong out of the below. With that in mind, and with a healthy pinch of salt at the ready, let’s see what we think we know…

1. The Impossible Astronaut &
2. Day of the Moon (Steven Moffat)

The story about which, it seems, we simultaneously know the most and the least. The most, because about 90% of trailer footage so far seen has come from it – and the least, because there seems to be so bloody much going on that it’s hard to know what the hell to make of it all. Heck, we don’t even know whether or not both parts are going to be broadcast over the weekend.

What we know: That it’s set in America, in the late 1960s (and, if all the US-based shots in the trailer are from it, it’ll hop between Washington, Utah and New York). That it’s got an “impossible astronaut” in it. That River Song is in it. That it features some quite scary aliens in suits, who from a distance look like classic “Greys” but closer-up seem to have more weird and detailed features. That – according to the latest issue of DWM – one of the Doctor, Amy, Rory and River will actually, properly, definitely die. And that stetsons are cool.

What we think: That the “Greys” are either called Silents (individually) or The Silence (as a group), and that they’re the recurring monster for this series (or, at least, this half of the series, but more from me on that later). That the Silents/Silence share a characteristic with the Floofs, from Moffat’s “Corner of the Eye” story (published in the 2007 Storybook), in that they apparently reside… well, in the corner of one’s eyes, and can’t usually be perceived. That there’s also a healthy dose of The Gentlemen in there as well. That a long period of time will elapse between the first and second parts of the story. That the beardy imprisoned Doctor, seen in the trailer, will be the character to die – and that he’s a future version of the character, thus meaning the rest of the series will be spent leading up to that moment and trying to avert it. And that, whatever happens, this might just turn out to be the most brilliantly epic timey-wimey non-finale story that the show has had to date.

Reports from the press screening also suggest that the story is heavily time-travel orientated in some way. Of which, of course, I approve heartily.

3. The Curse of the Black Spot (Stephen Thompson)
The calm after the storm, from the sounds of it. Parachuted into the early-season running order to add a bit of light relief, this is a pirate story written by the guy who did the middle episode of Sherlock – hopefully the fact that that ep was the weakest of the three shouldn’t bode too badly, however. What I’d like to see from this, although I’ve no idea whether it’ll be the case, is the classic Who “base under siege” setup, only on a Ye Olde Ship instead of a spaceship. Could be fun. As well as Hugh “I Play Posh Blokes Quite A Lot” Bonneville, this story guest stars Lily Cole, who looks sort of like Karen Gillan might if she’d been hit in the face with a perfectly smooth frying pan. And immediately stopped ageing.

4. The Doctor’s Wife (Neil Gaiman)
Remember when the title of one of the episodes made it sound like it was going to be about the next incarnation of the Doctor, and it turned out not to be? Or when the title of one of the episodes made it sound like it was going to be about the Doctor’s daughter, and it turned out not to be? This episode is definitely going to be about a woman that the Doctor has married. Definitely. It won’t just turn out to be referring to the TARDIS. That would just be silly.

Written by Neil Gaiman, a cause of considerable excitement in this household due to the fact that he is The Best Writer Ever. It would appear that the majority of this story features Amy and Rory running around the TARDIS interior – you know all those shots from the trailer where they’re running through dark corridors? Yeah, we reckon that’s all TARDIS stuff, we do. We also think this is where the NOT AT ALL PLACED THERE TO SCREW WITH PEOPLE’S HEADS trailer shot of the Eccles/Tennant console room comes from, along with the shots of an Ood (hologram-based TARDIS security system? Our survey says YES). And it would certainly explain why the episode was, as Gaiman has said, too expensive to do last year. Gaiman is indescribably brilliant, and a story set mostly in the TARDIS, finally showing more of its rooms, is something we’ve wanted since Day Zero – so frankly, if this isn’t the Best Ever New Who Ep Not Written by Moffat, we’ll be very surprised.

5. The Rebel Flesh &
6. The Almost People (Matthew Graham)
Because apparently writing a crap one-part story in RTD’s second series gets you the chance to write a two-part story in Moffat’s second series. Hopefully this one will be better. We know very little about it, beyond snatches of clips in the trailers that probably come from it as they don’t seem to come from anywhere else. It’s probably about clones and such. It’s also probably this year’s “Hungry Earth”/”Cold Blood”. Shudder. Nice title for part two, though, and a considerable improvement on the previously-mooted “Gangers”.

7. A Good Man Goes To War (Steven Moffat)
The half-season finale. We’ll probably have a better idea of what this is all about once we’ve seen the opening two-parter, as it’s extremely likely that big threads and cliffhangers planted by those episodes will be picked up on again here. River’s back for this one, as is the blue-skinned alien that she got her vortex manipulator from in “The Pandorica Opens”. I would also expect that the shots of the ersatz TARDIS from “The Lodger”, spotted in the trailers, are from this episode (or its sequel) rather than the opening story.

My guess for this, as it goes, is that the majority of the plot stuff from the first half of the series – and indeed from series 5 – will actually be wrapped up here, before a new plot arc (either entirely separate, or spinning out from it in some way) is set up by whatever the Big Massive Series Break Cliffhanger is. We know, for example, that there are Cybermen (and Cybermats!) in the second half of the series – will we see them here? Or will we have to wait until Autumn?

And the rest
I don’t really want to speculate too much about the second half of the series, because significantly less is known about it – the focus of the trailers and publicity so far has, of course, been on the opening seven episodes. As it happens, I do know a little more than most about one of the stories – although I assure you that it’s an entirely standalone story with little to no immediately apparent bearing on the series arc – but of course I can’t say anything about which one it is or what I know.

As far as guesswork goes… well, as mentioned above, I believe the whole “Silence Will Fall” arc will actually be less relevant to this half than to the spring series – I’d be very surprised if, after going to the trouble of finally “doing” the Cybermen, Moffat doesn’t make them the Actual Big Bad of the series. I’d expect that the main plot point of “Who set the TARDIS explosion in motion in series 5?” will be wrapped up by the end of the “bridge” two-parter, but that the early part of series 6 will set up a new plot thread to be carried up to episode 13 (and possibly beyond). My other main prediction is that, although they’ll be using the New Series design, Moffat’s Cybermen won’t be the parallel universe versions – and that he’ll throw in little touches (as he did in “Pandorica”) that bring them a bit closer to their original stylistic intent and methods (in other words, they’ll go back to being “cybernetically augmented humans” rather than “human brains in robot suits”). Beyond that… well, I haven’t got a sodding clue. And it might just be more enjoyable to stay that way.

Seb Patrick once met Paul McGann, who immediately pretended to be Mark McGann. He writes for Den of Geek, BBC America, Film4 and the official Red Dwarf website, among others. He owns over thirty toy Daleks and wishes the Dapol factory tour was still open.

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17 Responses

  1. si

    Re Transmission of Episode 2 – The new DWM lists the airdate as 30th April – no ‘TBC’ at the side – so the whole Easter weekend idea looks like it’s not happening.

    Still, I am *really* excited about this series. The next two and a half weeks are going to be murder.

  2. Andy M

    Is “The Death” definitely in the opening 2-parter then? News to me, I’d assumed it was the mid-season cliffhanger.

    You probably have more info than me, but I think you’re way off on the Gaiman episode. The synopsis has it set on a junkyard planet which I think is why it cost so much: an actual proper alien world. Why would a load of corridors make it expensive? Also if you’re going to do a TARDIS security hologram it should OBV be footage of the 1st Doctor cleverly CGI’d together (would work in the style of the b/w 9th Doctor one). If it’s an Ood instead of my marvellous idea I don’t think my TV will survive the attack.

  3. – Corridors are famously cheap, that’s why there’s so many of them in the old series.
    – CYBERMATS YAY!!!!! Miss Holly loves Cybermats.
    – “the guy who did the middle episode of Sherlock – hopefully the fact that that ep was the weakest of the three the most racist sexist and classist piece of white male wankery recently shown on TV outside of Midsomer Murders shouldn’t bode too badly” – corrected that for you ;)
    – I don’t go to Gallifrey Base because it’s full of misogynistic arseholes who heap personal abuse on characters – mostly female ones, but also my favourite Doctor – for their perceived physical flaws on a depressingly regular basis. They also heap personal abuse on each other, and the moderators are the worst for it in my experience. Life is too short to have one’s psyche crushed by that place. It’s just infuriating that the beeb thinks Gallifrey Base to be the be all and end all of Who fandom.

  4. Ridley

    “the most racist sexist and classist piece of white male wankery recently shown on TV outside of Midsomer Murders”

    Ooh, elaboration please?

  5. Dave 2

    ““the most racist sexist and classist piece of white male wankery recently shown on TV outside of Midsomer Murders”

    Ooh, elaboration please?”

    Yes, please do explain!

  6. “the most racist sexist and classist piece of white male wankery recently shown on TV outside of Midsomer Murders”

    Ooh, elaboration please?

    Oversensitive original poster is oversensitive.

    Here’s a litmus test: Take everything that bothered you about the episode, and transfer it to another ethnic group/gender/social class. If it still bugs you, you have a legitimate grievance. Otherwise, chill.

  7. Take everything that bothered you about the episode, and transfer it to another ethnic group/gender/social class.

    That only works if you also translate the things which offended you as well – because different groups have different histories of oppression, and thus different lazy stereotypes or problematic tropes which will make audience-members like me twitchy..

  8. different groups have different histories of oppression

    That’s kinda my point. Let’s say Character A is portrayed as Chinese, and is also portrayed as extremely stupid. Barring actual ethnic caricature, does his stupidity hinge on his being Chinese, or would that carry over if he was French/Oklahoman/Martian? If the answer is “no” — if the negative quality is tied to ethnicity/class/what-have-you — then you’ve got a racist character. Otherwise, lighten up, Francis.

  9. Seb Patrick

    This episode is definitely going to be about a woman that the Doctor has married. Definitely. It won’t just turn out to be referring to the TARDIS. That would just be silly.

    Ahem.

  10. Hendiadys

    You didn’t guess every single detail so that doesn’t count.

  11. Seb Patrick

    Pfft, someone dug out Julian’s theory that RIVER was the TARDIS and applauded him for it… mine was closer!

  12. Hendiadys

    I never applauded that. And I never will, as well. Only Emma Kennedy as Nostradamus is allowed to win at it.

  13. > Pfft, someone dug out Julian’s theory that RIVER was the TARDIS and applauded him for it… mine was closer!

    That was me! I wasn’t applauding it for being right – just pointing out that Neil Gaiman had spoiled it. :)

  14. Andy M

    This episode is definitely going to be about a woman that the Doctor has married. Definitely. It won’t just turn out to be referring to the TARDIS. That would just be silly.

    Ahem.

    You said it definitely wouldn’t be the TARDIS though! The fence is not on offer.

  15. Hendiadys

    That was me! I wasn’t applauding it for being right – just pointing out that Neil Gaiman had spoiled it. :)

    If by “spoiled” you mean “hopefully prevented a stupidly contrived idea from coming into being”, then yes. Moffat seems to be smart enough to keep certain things simple; if he can let River Song just be somebody to whom the Doctor became attached because of the unusual temporality of their meetings, then he’s done the absolutely correct thing. All we need of River Song’s story is what seems obvious already, and what’s beautiful is the simple way Moffat’s letting it play out. Just because we “get” the way they’re not meeting in the right order doesn’t mean River Song should end up being the TARDIS or the Rani to surprise us. It was RTD who couldn’t resist turning Captain Jack into the Face of Boe or whatever it was. I’m holding out hope that Moffat can deliver nicely-wrapped gifts without feeling the same urge to squeeze little turds on the packages before delivery.

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