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Touch Not the Cat, 1976, Mary Stewart
Because, seriously, you don’t know where it’s been. Have you seen the way they clean themselves, or what they eat?

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That is quite possibly the creepiest look I have ever seen on Aquaman’s face.

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The first big two-parter of the new season of Doctor Who comes to an end, and there are two notable things about it. It’s a slightly odd set of episodes, because the two-part format feels slightly off for it, like it would be better served as one extra-long story. But, at the same time, it’s one of the most continuity, season-story-plot dependent episodes we’ve had since the season opener.

While the first episode featured multiple and visually varied locations, the second consists mostly of the Doctor and company either running down corridors (even if one of those corridors is a forest on a space-ship, one of the best ideas served up in the show in terms of world-building in years) or standing around in control rooms. It’s like part four of a seven part Pertwee-era story. It’s almost as if Moffat, after spending all that time the previous week to introduce and establish new characters, reintroduce older characters, and give us a visually interesting setting for a story, decided that this week all he really needed to do to keep the audience engaged was, well…have Amy walk through a forest.

It’s dangerous to let expectations for episodes build up too much, and the two-parters are a good example of why. In the first part, the Weeping Angels have their abilities and nature expanded into something quite powerful and quite sinister. Here, when it is explicitly explained that the whole point that they are hiding within Amy’s eye is to scare her to death, because it is fun to do so, comes off not as evil so much as petulantly bullying. There’s nothing wrong with having a bully as a villain, but when the bully is a creature that can’t move when you look at it and kills you by sending you back in time and can steal your voice…it’s a bit banal.

The method used to defeat them is also a bit underwhelming. They all…fall down. Yes, on the one hand, it’s a clever use of the fact that space is not two-dimensional and “up” in a space-ship is relative. But on the other, the Doctor doesn’t have to outwit his enemies…he just has to wait for them to fall into a big glowing time-space energy crack thing. As far as left-field, deus ex machina endings go, it’s not “Tinkerbell Doctor” but it’s still awfully convenient.

And about that crack…this is the first time since the first episode that it has actually featured as a significant plot point. The use of “story-arcs” within seasons of the new series of the show has been controversial with some fans, not least because when every single program on the air has a season long story-arc, it becomes less of an original, unifying element and more of a tedious box that needs to be checked off to make sure that the audience is still paying attention. Apart from the conveniently eating the enemy of the week, the crack’s appearance and Amy’s realization of its significance is well used. That the Doctor is taken aback by it, and by Amy’s behavior at the end of the episode, is at odds, though, with the suggestion in the first episode that the Doctor is aware that something involving Amy and the cracks is afoot, when he turned off the TARDIS scanner before Amy could see it. I think we also witnessed a significant clue for the story-arc in the forest, with the easily missed clue when the Doctor returns to console Amy.

Speaking of Amy’s behavior, it’s a little hard to tell what precisely the final scene, when Amy makes sexual advances on the Doctor, is meant to mean, exactly. The simplest, and most likely, is that it’s the final clue the Doctor needs that something is manipulating Amy, and the date of her wedding is an element of that manipulation. To go further into that invites discussions of fan angst, fan rage and the dreaded “shippers.” I’m not of the subset of Doctor Who fans who think that the Doctor should never ever have any suggestion of a sexual identity. I’m on record as thinking that “Looms” were the single stupidest idea to ever crop up in connection to the series, after all, even worse than “half human.” Heck, it’s pretty much impossible to read the Doctor’s reaction to the departure of Jo Grant as anything other than that of a jilted not-quite-boyfriend. But since I’m also of the school of Doctor Who fans who think that the primary in-story reason why the Doctor keeps traveling with young girls is because they’re Susan substitutes, it was nice to get even a brief in-story suggestion that the Doctor is put off by the suggestion of having a physical relationship with a companion.

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Adventures in the Rocky Mountains, 2007, Isabella Bird
(originally published as A Lady’s Life in the Rocky Mountains in 1879)
I had a teacher in high school who had apparently done his thesis on frontier narratives, as they seemed to be about all we read for a quarter. They almost all seemed to be about white women getting kidnapped by native Americans, with lots of salacious innuendo for the folks back east.
This one is actually good, though, because there’s none of that. Just a woman riding around on a horse, hanging out with cowboys and fighting bears.

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