Doctor Who & The Monsters Under The Bed

[Spoilers for "Listen", the fourth episode of Season Eight.]

"Fear makes companions of us all." It was the last line Clara said this week, but it's not the first time we've heard it. The Doctor said almost those very same words 34 seasons and two thousand years ago, in the very first Doctor Who story ever. He was still a young and inexperienced Time Lord back then — only in his early 200s. It hadn't been very long since he'd run away from Gallifrey, since he'd stolen the TARDIS with his granddaughter and fled into the vastness of time and space. But it looked like everything had already gone horribly awry. On what may very well have been his first ever adventure with human companions, things went very wrong very quickly. He'd barely stepped out of the TARDIS when he was captured by cavemen. He and his companions were held prisoner in a creepy, skull-filled cave. There didn't seem to be any way out. And for a few moments, the Doctor let fear overwhelm him. As his companions tried to escape, he just gave up. "I'm sorry, it's all my fault," he moaned. "Oh, it's hopeless, hopeless."

His companions back then, of course, were a pair of teachers from the Coal Hill School — the same school where, decades later, Clara and Danny would be teachers, too. And it was the teachers who managed to snap the Time Lord out of it. For the first time since Ian and Barbara barged their way onto the Doctor's time machine, he stopped being grumpy and threatening and started to help them instead. He pitched in. Offered advice. Tried to be kind.

"Fear makes companions of all of us," he explained to Barbara back there in that cave. "Fear is with all of us, and always will be. Just like that other sensation that lives with it... Hope. Hope, that's right."

Now, all these seasons later, we know where he learned to think that way. From a frightening night when he was a little boy. From a dream that wasn't really a dream. From a monster that wasn't really a monster, but another Coal Hill teacher instead. Clara teaches the Doctor something she learned from the Doctor in the future — the kind of beginning-less, time wimey event that Jenna Coleman says they call "a Moffat loop". Clara tells him fear is a superpower. It's okay to be afraid. Being scared can be a strength.

We've known for a long time now that the Doctor didn't have a happy childhood. In fact, as Alasdair Wilkins points out in his review for The AV Club, showrunner Steven Moffat has been hinting at it for years, since the very first episodes he ever wrote for the show. The Ninth Doctor tells us in "The Empty Child" that he knows what it's like to be left out in the cold. In "The Girl In The Fireplace," Madame de Pompadour can sense that the Tenth Doctor was once a lonely boy. "The Doctor didn't run away from Gallifrey because he fitted in perfectly, after all," Wilkins writes, "and this night—one of many, apparently—spent cowering in fear is just the beginning of the journey that led him to discover courage." Clara — so good with children, so good with the Doctor — teaches him that he can turn all those cold and lonely nights into a good thing. Fear can make him kind. And it does. Having been a frightened child himself, the Doctor can't help but come to the rescue of frightened children all over the universe.

That, of all the terrible things he did during the Time War, is what seemed to haunt him the most: the 2.47 billion frightened children he thought he'd killed. It's no coincidence that when the time comes to commit his most terrible deed, the War Doctor heads back to the very same barn where he was a frightened child himself. And Clara is there again that day — that monster who is really a teacher — to remind him of the lesson neither one of them knows she already taught him. Whatever he remembers of that night, it has clearly stuck with him. "Never cruel or cowardly," is the promise he says he has made — and those words echo the same words the future Clara whispered in his ear in that same barn when he was just a little boy. Another Moffat loop. And one that helped to define who the Doctor is: someone who strives to be a hero, someone who faces his fears, who stands up to the monsters under his bed every Saturday night while the rest of us hide behind our couches. A brave solider without a gun. And so, he puts The Moment away and decides not to blow up Gallifrey.

But there's a dark side to all of this. Clara has meddled in the Doctor's timeline — and in Danny's, too. The consequences are still being felt generations later, by a time traveller — maybe her own great-grandson — who carries the same toy solider the young Doctor and Danny Pink did. She seems to have helped inspire all three men to lead dangerous, difficult lives. Trying to be a hero means not only confronting terrifying things, but also making mistakes sometimes. Mistakes that haunt you. All three men have been scarred by what they've done — something Clara fails to recognize at first when she makes her insensitive comments to Danny — and she's partially responsible for those scars.

Their lives can be lonely, too. We see it in Danny Pink, who doesn't seem entirely comfortable in civilian life, who can't hold back the tears in his classroom. And we see it in Orson Pink, the time traveller who finds himself stranded at the end of the universe. All alone for six months. Letting fear get the best of him. Imagining monsters who probably aren't there.

The Doctor, of course, has been travelling much, much longer than that. And these days, he must be spending quite a bit of time alone — there hasn't been anyone else living on the TARDIS since Amy and Rory moved out all the way back at the end of Season Six. As a young Time Lord trapped in that cave all those years ago, it was his companions who kept him from being overwhelmed by fear. Alone, he seems to indulge it; it takes him to dark places. And by the end of "Listen" we realize that he, too, has started to imagine monsters that might not really be there.

Because the fear doesn't go away. It's still there whether you're eight years old or 200 or 2000. And that's a good thing. The key is knowing when to listen to that dark companion. And when to listen to your human companions instead.

Other thoughts:

- The big debate, of course, is whether there actually was a monster this week, or not. I fall on the "not" side, except in the case of the thing under the blanket. In the brief glimpse we got, that sure as hell didn't look like a kid. I wonder if Moffat might come back to it by the time all is said and done. Did it a look a little Sontaranish maybe?

- In his review for Tor, though, Chris Lough is convinced there is a monster: "Another nicely done twist. The Doctor imagines a monster under the bed and 2000 years later actually tracks down a real creature that matches the characteristics of his fear."

- On the topic of the Doctor's fear: it was only three weeks ago that the Eleventh phoned Clara to tell her his new incarnation was "more scared than anything you can imagine right now."

- The Doctor isn't the only one who has been driven to see patterns where there are none. I can't help but think Moffat was poking a bit of fun at Whovians who scramble our brains trying to figure out what he's up to.

- Some funny sound work this season. In "Deep Breath", the cloister bell sounded once when the Doctor passed out just before the opening credits. And there was a cartoonish "boing" when he knocked himself out doing the telepathic link with Madame Vastra. This week, a glass breaks in the restaurant at the very same moment when Clara says the words "Rupert Pink" to Danny.

- "Sontarans perverting the course of human history!" When the Doctor regains consciousness at the end of the episode, he says the very same words Tom Baker said upon regenerating into the Fourth Doctor. It seems to be a reference to the very first Sontaran episode (and Sarah Jane's first episode, too): "The Time Warrior" from the Third Doctor's run in the 1970s.

- The man with the coffee in the children's home where Rupert Pink lived was played by Robert Goodman. He also played two different characters in two episodes of classic Who from the '70s and '80s. 

- "I don't take orders, Clara." At the end of the episode, the Doctor vaguely echoes what he had to say about soldiers and Daleks during "Into The Dalek" two weeks ago.

- All season long, I've been feeling pretty uncomfortable about the Doctor's new habit of insulting Clara's looks — seems more than a bit worryingly misogynistic coming from a showrunner who hasn't hired a single woman writer in the four seasons since he took over the show. But it does, I think, make a lot of sense for the Doctor's character at the moment: overcompensating for all those years of flirting and leading his companions on.

- On a similar note, I love the moment when Clara does make a flirtatious remark this week: "Do you have your own mood lightning now? Because frankly the accent is enough." The Doctor literally does a double-take. As if she's broken the new code of conduct.

- I also love how, behind all the grumpiness, they've established that the Doctor still very much cares about Clara The look on his face after he tells her he's given Rupert the "Dan the solider man" dream and she crumples onto the TARDIS console is fantastic.

- Another great detail: Clara telling the TARDIS that she doesn't need a preview of her death.

- "The deep and lovely dark; you'd never see the stars without it." That line echoes the fear theme, I think. Something bad that allows something good. It also reminds me a little of a line that Susan, the Doctor's granddaughter, says in that very first episode of Who: "I like walking through the dark, it's mysterious."

- At first, I was confused about why the TARDIS took them back to the Doctor's childhood. But re-watching, it was much more clear to me. As Clara links up with the telepathic network, the Doctor gasps in his sleep. So: he distracts her and they head to his childhood in the same way that the phone call distracted her and took them to Danny's childhood.

- Same thing goes for Clara's decision not to tell the Doctor that she does have a connection with Danny. It confused me the first time, but she's trying very hard to keep a wall between her life on the TARDIS and her life outside it.

- In his AV Club review, Wilkins also points out how well the Wally/Waldo thing echoes the themes of the week: "a nice way of again acknowledging the Doctor’s tendency to go searching for things that may or may not be there."

- If you want to read more about "Listen", that review for The AV Club and the one from Slate are both especially great this week.


Read our previous recap: "Doctor Who & The Myth of the Hero" here.

This post posted by Adam Bunch, the Editor-in-Chief of the Little Red Umbrella and the creator of the Toronto Dreams Project. You can read his posts here, follow him on Twitter here, or email him at

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Outlander Episode Five: The Upcoming Stuart Uprising by Christina Ivanowich

Spoiler Disclaimer – I will be discussing the episode in detail, so I would stop reading now if you haven’t yet seen up to Episode Five. I will do my best not to include spoilers from the books, but that doesn’t mean I won’t make references to them. Now, on to Episode Five:

This episode takes us into the Highlands, and gives us our first real look at life outside the castle. Before I say anything else, just let the beauty of the scenery wash over you. I was lucky enough to get to visit the Highlands two years ago and it is majestic. Outlander's wide angles and sweeping cameras do an amazing job of capturing its wild and untamed glory. Love for their land flows through the veins of these men – the Highlands are not just the location where this story happens, but a part of who these people are.

There is a great deal of conflict between Claire and the MacKenzie’s in this episode, but much of it seems to be only due to their distrust of her, and her misunderstanding of their actions and motives. Claire is very judgmental of their behaviour, and frequently assumes the worst of Dougal and his men. She accuses them of being corrupt thieves, stealing from both their tenants and from his brother, not to mention accusing him of allowing a child to starve. Then The Watch is introduced, Scots who essentially patrol the Highlands looking for bounties, and they just seem to confirm her opinion that they are all barbarians. But as Jamie tells her, she shouldn’t judge things she doesn’t understand.

Since she doesn’t speak Gaelic, and since the men are specifically tying to exclude her from what they are doing, it takes her a while to understand that Dougal is not embezzling money from the clan for himself (not exactly), but in order to help fund the return of their preferred king, James III. What is not clear at this point is what the Laird, Colum, thinks of this, and whether Dougal is acting on his own. What is even stranger to me is this: if Dougal believes her to be an English spy, why allow Claire to witness these treasonous activities? Yes, he knows that she doesn’t speak Gaelic, but he also knows that she isn’t stupid. Is it a test, to see how she would react? Why did he bring her along in the first place?

This episode is specifically notable for introducing the Stuart Uprising of 1745 as a part of the plot. Diana Gabaldon places her characters in the real world as much as possible, and likes to have them interact with historical events (one of the perks of writing historical fiction that features time travellers!) I have faith that the show will establish the important events and players as they arise, but for clarity, here’s a brief summary of the ’45:

James II (or James Stuart) was the Catholic king of England and Scotland, but with the Glorious Revolution in 1688, he was deposed and replaced by a Protestant king, his son in law George II. He died in exile in 1701, and his son became known as James III, the Old Pretender (if you were English), and the King Over the Water (if you were Scottish). James III made at least three attempts to regain his throne, all of which failed. So, in 1745, his son Charles Stuart, known as the Young Pretender at the time and now colloquially as Bonnie Prince Charlie, decided to make another attempt to recover the thrones of Scotland and England (and Ireland, I think) for his father. Charles raised some money, mostly from France and the Vatican, and called his supporters (called Jacobites, after his father) to fight with him to reclaim Scotland. They did very well at first, and pushed the British out of Scotland, but an ill-conceived attempt to march on London was their undoing and the Uprising resulted in a complete defeat on Culloden Moor on April 16, 1746. Over the next few years, the British raped and pillaged, literally, across the countryside, leaving famine and suffering in their wake. The Stuarts died in exile and never rose again.

Now, what does all that have to do with Claire and her story? She arrived in 1743, about two years before the start of the war. Should she run, escape the destruction she knows is coming? Or should she help, try to change the outcome of the war? Can it be changed? Is this like Back to the Future, where the past and the future are easily altered by your slightest actions? Or is this like LOST time travel rules, where whatever happened, happened. Lots to think about...

Random Thoughts:

- Dougal uses and humiliates Jamie over and over again in order to illicit sympathy from his audiences and stoke the fires of hatred for the English, but why does Jamie allow him to do it? He is more than capable of defending himself, so what’s his angle?

- One of my favourite aspects of Diana Gabaldon’s writing is her attention to detail and thorough research. There are whole chapters dedicated to such seemingly mundane things as describing how to make blood sausage, or how one washes laundry in the 18th century, and I was worried that this would be an element lost in translation to television. So, the scene with the women waulking wool with hot piss made me deliriously happy!

- Doesn’t it seem crazy to give written receipts to people who likely can’t read?

- Don’t you just hate cliff-hangers??

This might have been my favourite episode so far – beautifully shot, wonderful music, and great performances all around! I can’t wait for next week’s Episode Six: The Garrison Commander!


Read our recap of the previous episode: Outlander Episode Four: The Gathering of Clan MacKenzie.

Christina Ivanowich watches television (and occasionally writes about it) from London, Ontario. You can follow her on Twitter: @civanowich.

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Doctor Who & The Myth of the Hero

[Spoilers for "Robot of Sherwood", the third episode of Season Eight.]

"There's no such thing," says the storybook hero to his sidekick just before his alien time machine takes them to a storybook forest to meet another storybook hero. "Old fashioned heroes only exist in old fashioned storybooks."

And the Doctor would know. After spending hundreds of years dashing around with a young face — trying to play the part of the gallant hero his companions wanted him to be — the Twelfth Doctor is resetting the clock. In this season's first two episodes, he's done pretty much all he can to remind Clara — and us — that he isn't always such a warm and cuddly fellow. He's not even entirely sure he's a good man. "I've made many mistakes," he told Clara in the premiere. He wants her to travel with him on the TARDIS, but he doesn't want her to be under any illusions. His new face, his surly manner, his matter-of-fact attitude toward the death of those around him: all seem like warning signs to put people off. The Time Lord equivalent of a snake's red stripes. A "snarl" the Eleventh called it when the TARDIS invented an off-putting cliff last year. After all, believing in the Doctor tends to get you stuck in an alternate dimension, or with your favourite memories erased, or zapped back in time by a statue. Heck, in Season Six we met a minotaur monster who devoured that kind of naive faith. No real person can live up to the title of "hero". It's a fantasy. If you get your hopes up, as the Doctor tells Clara on their way to Sherwood Forest, "You'll only be disappointed."

So when Robin Hood does indeed appear, it's a challenge to the new Doctor's whole deal. Robin seems to be the carefree hero that the Doctor spent so much of his last two incarnations pretending to be. (And the ridiculous Prince of Thieves annoys the Twelfth Doctor much like the Eleventh and Tenth annoyed the War Doctor.) Last week, our favourite Time Lord was eager to believe that Rusty the Dalek was evil — so he wouldn't have to confront the truth about his own genocide of the species. This week, he's eager to believe that Robin Hood couldn't possibly exist — so he doesn't have to confront his own limitations as a heroic figure. The whole storybook setting is an insult to him. He's played the role of storybook hero before and he knows how it ends: by losing Amelia Pond, that girl with the fairy tale name. He's relieved when he finally does discover that something evil and robotic has been lurking behind the scenes at Nottingham. "At last," he says, "something real. No more fairy tales."

But as the skeptical Doctor begrudgingly learns, Robin Hood really is real. The fairy tale hero is flesh and blood — even if the Sheriff isn't entirely. It's just that Robin Hood isn't quite the carefree hero he's pretending to be. Much like the Eleventh Doctor, his dramatic flair is something of an act. That trademark over-the-top laughter masks a deep sadness. And Clara, who spent so much time with the Eleventh, sees through the facade right away.

Robin Hood doesn't believe in storybook heroes any more than the Doctor does. But as he tells the Time Lord in their final scene together outside the TARDIS, he does believe in playing the part of a hero. "If we both keep pretending to be," he explains, pausing to demonstrate his theatrical laugh, "perhaps others will be heroes in our name. Perhaps we will both be stories. And may those stories never end." In Robin Hood's case, of course, it worked. Nearly a thousand years later, we're still talking about the heroic outlaw who steals from the rich and gives to the poor. Even if we only remember him as a story — and not as a real man.

The power of storytelling has long been a major theme of Doctor Who — especially during the Moffat era. It was pretty much the key to the main arc of Season Five; the way the Eleventh escaped oblivion when he reset the universe. "We're all stories in the end," as he told the young Amelia Pond at her bedside. And given that existential reality, the story is the most important part.

But that kind of thinking doesn't come quite as easily to his new incarnation. Storytelling is a social act; the Twelfth is more than a bit anti-social. "What the Doctor has forgotten," Emily Asher-Perrin writes in her excellent review of the episode, "is that people don't think of themselves as heroes—they are made into heroes according to the perceptions of others."

For Robin Hood, that person is Maid Marian. "It was Marian who told me that I must stand up and be counted..." he tells Clara. "It is beholden on me to be the man Marian wanted. To be a hero..." He might not believe that he actually is, but he does try. And as Clara pointed out last week, "I think that's probably the point."

For a moment, perhaps, Marian fills that same role for the Doctor. As they escape from the clutches of the Sheriff's robots, she gives the Time Lord a kiss on the cheek — and he lingers on it for a moment, surprised. But for the most part, of course, that role is played by the Doctor's companions. They've always been mirrors for him — a way for him to see himself. Even more so since this last regeneration, while he's struggled more than ever to figure out exactly who he is. And Clara is there all the way though this episode, reminding him of the way she sees him: as the stuff storybooks are made of. She has no problem believing Robin Hood is real — she's seen what the Doctor can do. She, we hope, will inspire him to keep trying to achieve that impossible ideal.

"When did you start believing in impossible heroes?" he asks her once they've met the famous outlaw and his band of merry men. "Don't you know?" she answers. And as she turns away, the Doctor takes a big bite out of a great red Biblical apple.

Then he immediately pulls out his sonic screwdriver and runs some tests on it, still not convinced it's real.

Other thoughts:

- The apple wasn't the only Biblical imagery to be found in "Robot of Sherwood." There were an awful lot of crosses, too. The robots shot lasers out of cross-shaped slits. And the light of a cross-shaped window bathed the three captives in the dungeon while the Doctor and Robin Hood bickered. I'm not sure if that's just what happens when you set a story in medieval England — but with the whole Missy/heaven/The Promised Land stuff going on, I wonder if it's more than just a coincidence. (There's also a way, I think, that the story of Robin Hood here echoes the story of Jesus — if there was a historical figure, the scientific details have been lost. But that, maybe, isn't the point. The point is a story to be told — an example to be aspired to.)

- Sensitive to all the beheadings in the news recently, the producers cut a scene from this week's episode. The Sheriff loses his head in his final battle with Robin Hood — then pops it back on cuz he's a robot. The spaceship apparently landed on him and he was repaired with mechanical parts. Knowing that helps to explain some of his subsequent lines and the reason the robots accepted him as their leader by making it clear that he's a cyborg — which, by extension, might have made it clearer that Robin Hood isn't.

- It's a fleeting moment, but as the Doctor puts on his glove to fight Robin Hood, he toooootally lets his middle finger linger in the "up" position. As evidenced by the first screencap above.

- Last week, Clara wasn't even sure the Doctor wass a good man. This week, she's convinced he's a hero. I'm loving all the depth they've given her character this season. But that particular arc seems a little rushed to me.

- "All property is theft!" Robin Hood foreshadows the slogan of the French anarchist Pierre-Joseph Proudhon from about 700 years later.

- The Doctor loves his spoons. Playing the spoons was one of the trademark quirks of the Seventh Doctor.

- The Doctor's doing lots of equations so far this season. Online consensus seems to agree that they have something to do with finding Gallifrey.

- In the spaceship's databases there's a shout-out to the Second Doctor, Patrick Troughton, who played Robin Hood for the BBC before he played the Doctor:


Read our previous recap: "Doctor Who & The Question of the Good Dalek" here.

This post posted by Adam Bunch, the Editor-in-Chief of the Little Red Umbrella and the creator of the Toronto Dreams Project. You can read his posts here, follow him on Twitter here, or email him at

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Outlander Episode Four: The Gathering of Clan MacKenzie by Christina Ivanowich

Spoiler Disclaimer – I will be discussing the episode in detail, so I would stop reading now if you haven’t yet seen up to episode 4. I will do my best not to include spoilers from the books, but that doesn’t mean I won’t make references to them. Now, on to Episode 4: 

Welcome to the Gathering of Clan MacKenzie! It's been thirty years since the last Gathering, and the MacKenzie’s are out in force, drinking and hunting and partying, strengthening bonds and pledging their loyalty to the Laird. It's a celebration, but also a political situation, as all the fighting men and upper-crust are together in one place. Colum and Dougal (as his Number Two) need to appear strong and united in order to keep the faith and support of their men, their family. And as thanks for their loyalty, the Laird hosts the grandest shindig most of them will ever see in their lives.

And while all that’s going on, Claire attempts, and fails, to escape.

Dougal is heavily featured in this episode, as we see developments in his relationships with both Claire and Jamie. Through Jamie's oath-taking, we learn a little more about the bad blood that clearly exists between them. But even after Jamie swears to be a good and loyal servant to his uncle, Dougal still tries to beat him to death during a game of shinty! In many ways, Dougal is the closest thing Jamie has to a father, and I think that comes through in the way they both hate and protect each other.

Dougal's relationship with Claire is at least equally complicated. He doesn't trust her, that's clear. He is also very attracted to her; his amorous attentions in the hall weren't just due to the whiskey, and his restraint isn't solely due to his already-stated disinclination towards rape in general. I think he is fascinated by her, and that expresses itself in either aggressive affection or violent outburst, much in the same way he interacts with Jamie, oddly. And while her treatment of Geordie as he lay dying may have earned her some small amount of trust, it also drew attention to another way in which she is different.

Random Thoughts:

- I’m not going to delve into changes between the book and the show (at least not yet), but I am struck by the many ways in which the show has upped the tension and conflict during these episodes at Leoch. For example, in the book, we have a sense of the strained nature of Jamie and Dougal's relationship at this point, but the show adds the shinty game, and it's all simply laid out in the open! As an avid fan of the book, I'd say that the changes being made all serve to better communicate the feel of the story, even if it means losing some of the exact detail. I think it's working brilliantly so far.

- This is the first episode that doesn't feature any scenes from the 20th Century. Instead, there are two scenes that feature the clicks and pops of records as Claire's mind wanders and she hears the popular music of her own time. For just a moment, I wasn't sure what I was hearing! Claire’s "ear-worms" again serve to underline her otherness, and feel as displaced as Claire herself. I love the use of music on this show!

- Jamie shows himself to be quite adept at disarming potentially dangerous situations. Even as the men are reaching for their swords to kill him where he stands, he is honest and respectful, but also just a bit cheeky. He has a cool head and a knack for making people like him. Look in those soulful eyes and try to not fall in love!

- Once again we see Geillis Duncan, and again it seems like she's interrogating Claire! She knows that Claire is planning to escape, and has her suspicions about Claire's "dead" husband. So why doesn’t Claire seem to notice?

- Also, if you have a keen eye, this episode includes appearances by both writer Diana Gabaldon and creator/producer Ron Moore! First reader to spot them both gets a cookie!

See you next week for Episode 5!


Read our recap of the next episode, Outlander Episode Five: The Upcoming Stuart Uprising, or the previous episode: Outlander Episode Three: Time Travel — Science or Magic?.

Christina Ivanowich watches television (and occasionally writes about it) from London, Ontario. You can follow her on Twitter: @civanowich.

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Doctor Who & The Question of the Good Dalek

[Spoilers for "Into The Dalek", the second episode of Season Eight.]

"A Dalek so damaged it's turned good," the Doctor says. And so begins the latest episode of Doctor Who to attempt something more interesting with the Doctor's archenemies than the just usual exterminations. This time it's a double-dose of the unexpected: not only is Rusty a "good" Dalek, but the Doctor is going to head inside the alien's metal shell, all tiny and shrunk, Fantastic Voyage-like.

But as we begin the episode, there's actually precious little evidence that Rusty is all that good. He hasn't exactly joined Oxfam or anything. He hasn't gone to medical school so he can cure AIDS. He hasn't expressed even the faintest hint of any love for anyone at all. In fact, he's still full of genocidal rage. The Doctor just thinks he's good because all that rage has been turned against the Daleks. In the Doctor's never-ending war against the evil salt shakers, Rusty is on the Doctor's side. On the side of the good guys.

And that, of course, is too often how people see things during violent conflicts: the good guys are the good guys because they kill bad guys. But it's not that simple — unless you're George W. Bush or Joseph McCarthy. That kind of thinking has led to some of the most shameful moments in the history of the democratic world. We're not the good guys because we don't torture. We're the good guys because we torture the right people. We torture bad guys to save good guys.

On the Doctor's darkest days, he too is vulnerable to that kind of thinking. In fact, in this episode we learn that it has been a central part of his concept of himself ever since he went to the Dalek home world all the way back in the second Doctor Who story ever. "I met you lot," he tells Rusty, "and I understood who I was. Who I had to be. I was not you. The Doctor was not the Daleks." He has spent 2000 years believing that his opposition to the Daleks makes him who he is.

And we already know that the Doctor's opposition to the Daleks tends to manifest itself in a genocidal rage. It's no surprise that Rusty finds a wealth of hatred in the Doctor's hearts. The Fourth Doctor seriously considered wiping out the entire species. The Seventh Doctor blew up their sun. The War Doctor planned to destroy them all. And when it turned out that a few had escaped, the Meta-Crisis Tenth Doctor — with help from Dalek Caan, another Dalek turned "good" — gave it another go. Even as recently as the 50th Anniversary Special, when the three Doctors teamed up to save Gallifrey from the Time War, they did nothing to undo their genocide of the Daleks. They chose to do it again. After all, Daleks are irreversibly evil.

Except now, maybe they're not. Rusty, with his capacity for change, shakes the Doctor's identity to the core. If his belief in his own goodness is deeply linked to the killing of Daleks, what does it mean if Daleks aren't always necessarily pure evil? No wonder the Doctor's first reaction to being confronted with Rusty is to go find Clara and ask her if he's a good man. No wonder he's not sure of the answer himself. No wonder he wants his companion along for this particular mission. And no wonder he's so eager to believe that Rusty's post-radiation return to murder-as-usual proves that Daleks are irreversibly evil after all. As Clara points out, if Rusty is evil it means, "Everything makes sense. The Doctor is right." But more than that, it would also mean that the Doctor is good. Not just this time, but ever since the beginning. It would mean that he doesn't have to question 2000 years of his own prejudice and genocidal hatred.

But he should be questioning them. Everyone should always be questioning their own prejudices. Even more so when you're a quasi-immortal Time Lord with a temper who makes life and death decisions all the time. In fact, the act of questioning yourself is a vital part of being a good person. Or even a good society for that matter: democracy is, in a way, an endless stream of questions asked in parliaments, in elections, in debates, in public inquiries, by ombudsmen and by the media... The Daleks don't question; they unquestioningly follow their orders like soldiers are supposed to — the Doctor hints at that while getting Journey Blue to question hers. That's why the Doctor needs Clara, after all, why he always needs a companion: to be "the asking questions one." Questions not just about the plot so the audience can understand what's happening. But questions about what the Doctor is doing. Whether it's good. Whether he is, in fact, being a good man. And so, the question "Doctor who?" isn't just a mystery to be solved some day. It's a continual process. A blueprint even. A guide to being good. Choosing to have a companion there to keep asking that question means the Doctor is — at the very least — pointing in the right direction. He is trying to be good. And as Clara tells him at the end of this episode, "I think that's probably the point."

Because, as we can see with Rusty, unquestioning hatred of the Daleks doesn't make you a good man.

It makes you a good Dalek.

Other thoughts:

- Rusty clearly needs a human companion

- Of course, Doctor Who has also never argued that it's as simple as believing the opposite of all this, either: that killing bad guys automatically turns you into a bad guy. And it looks like something along these lines might be a big theme this season. With the solider Danny Pink being a recurring character — and with Missy, who might be collecting characters the Doctor has sacrificed/convinced to sacrifice themselves. Plus, as was pointed out on the Verity! podcast this week, twelve episodes might potentially mean twelve dead characters in heaven by the end of the season. Twelve jurors?

- Pink and Blue? It is that just part of the metaphorical mirroring all over this episode? Or are going to learn more? Maybe, with it, more about the Combined Galactic Resistance? Could Danny Pink be a veteran of a interstellar war?

- I love the way the Twelfth Doctor has been casually flipping the lever the TARDIS — a stark contrast to the manic flourishes of the Eleventh.

- Fun callback to classic Who, when the Doctor says Clara is "not my assistant, some other word." The companions used to be called assistants. Between that and wanting more round things on the way of the TARDIS, the Twelfth Doctor seems to have a bit nostalgia for the old series.

- Mark Rozeman points out in Paste: "one of The Dalek’s initial phrases back in their '60s iteration was 'resistance is useless,' which was later re-purposed by Star Trek's The Borg as 'resistance is futile' in the '80s; The Dalek uses the 'futile' line… which can't help but feel like a betrayal..."

- Dan Martin points out in The Guardian: "Production geeks will notice a lot of co-writer credits this year, something we've not seen before. At first I wondered whether this was Moffat getting exasperated at rewriting everybody’s scripts. But it looks as if he's writing Clara and Danny’s love story on his own and weaving that into other people’s adventures. That stuff is very Coupling."

- He also points out that "in the Dalek’s memory bank is a sequence from 2008’s Journey’s End. So Rusty was in that battle."

- "The Daleks are exterminated." "Of course they are. That's what you do, isn't it?" Uh, kinda what you do too, Doctor.

- "Ah, you shoot people and then cry about it afterwards." Helloooooo Tenth Doctor.

- Lots of echoes, of course, to the episode "Dalek" from the very first season of the reboot. Including the Doctor being told by the Dalek that he "would make a good Dalek." 


Read our previous recap of Doctor Who, "The New, Dark Doctor Who" here.

This post posted by Adam Bunch, the Editor-in-Chief of the Little Red Umbrella and the creator of the Toronto Dreams Project. You can read his posts here, follow him on Twitter here, or email him at

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Meet The Band: Young Doctors In Love

Ask three different members of Toronto's Young Doctors In Love how they would describe their music to someone who hasn't heard them before and you'll get three different answers. And that's the way it should be. The band's songs bounce around from influence to influence. But all the answers will hint at the heart of the group's upbeat indie-pop sound. "Post-garage-indie-new-wave-surf-synth-art-power-pop-rock," is how guitarist Clay Puddester puts it, while vocalist Amanda Li opts for a slightly less complicated answer: "We're the Canadian version of God Help the Girl. Except Clay is our Stuart Murdoch." Bassist Jon Marck goes yet another route: "Like getting shot by a million Nerf guns, then having 4 gallons of purple paint dropped on you. Also cocaine."

The band have just returned from a big tour of the East Coast, while songs off their World's Greatest Rock and Roll Band LP have been popping up on charts and blogs across the county. Which makes this the perfect time to get to know the band — that is, if you haven't already got them stuck in your head:


Members: Lesley D'Souza, Amanda Li, Peter Gorman, Clay Puddester, Chris Hudson, Jon Marck

Hometown: Toronto


1. If you could open for one current band that you haven't played with before, who would it be?
Amanda: Bjork. Because she's the queen of awesome.

Clay: Crosby and Stills. If Nash is there we will NOT play.

Jon: Timber Timbre, just to see what he does when we make him join us onstage to sing the backgrounds to "10:35."

2. If you could play one venue you've never played before, what would it be?

Amanda: Royal Albert Hall in London. Or the Dakota Tavern in Toronto. Two vastly different venues, but each one has their own significance.

Clay: Thomas Pynchon's living room.

Jon: Jessica Alba

3. What’s the craziest live show you've ever seen?

Amanda: Girl Talk. I took a shower in more than 50 people's sweat. It was kind of glorious. But how weird is it that people go crazy while one person on stage just pushes buttons on a machine?

Clay: I saw some ants really get into a piece of leftover pizza once.

Jon: Jessica Alba

4. Say, for some strange reason, all the music in the world is going to be destroyed, but you can save all the songs from one decade. Which decade's records would you save?

Amanda: The 90s. Because Clay thinks it was the decade that had the worst music. Totally untrue, man!

Clay: Any decade but the 90s. Debussy's "Prelude a l'apres-midi d'un faune" is pretty good and Mahler wrote some nice pieces, but overall it was a really bad time.

Jon: It's between 60s and 70s, isn't it? I guess 70s. If I could pick a 10 year stretch: 1966-1975. Really, though, 90s.

5. If you could switch places with another musician in some type of "Freaky Friday" type incident, who would you want it to be?

Amanda: Bjork. Because she's an insane genius and no one in the music industry comes close to her talent and vision.

Clay: Ranking Roger from the English Beat. I hear he's teaching rollerblading lessons now. I've always wanted to teach rollerblading.

Jon: I'm a bassist so I guess I'm supposed to pick Flea but I'd rather pick a band that hasn't peaked yet. Arcade Fire? No… Well…maybe… but they definitely peaked early… Really I just want to be a dirty, homeless violinist with a gross beard and personality disorder. WHERE'S THE BIRTH CERTIFICATE HARPER???



Meet The Band is a regular feature in which we introduce you to bands we like.

Posted by Adam Bunch, the Editor-in-Chief of the Little Red Umbrella and the creator of the Toronto Dreams Project. You can read his posts here, follow him on Twitter here, or email him at

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Arcade Fire @ Molson Amphitheatre by David Ball

August 29, 2014 — Arcade Fire put on a fairly fiery show at the Molson Amphitheatre on Friday night, the Montreal indie rockers' second 2014 Toronto stopover in support of their hit Reflektor LP. The atmosphere in the outdoor stadium was fun; the capacity crowd was loud and clearly ready to rock. It was not as electric as the last time I saw the arty superstar ensemble — at Toronto's legendary Massey Hall during the Neon Bible tour — however, it was as good as a rock show can get at the cavernous venue.

Fans were on their feet for the entire 100-minute gig, singing along and dancing to anthem after anthem, with many dressed up for the occasion. Arcade Fire's ex-pat American band leader Win Butler challenged audiences on this tour to come to shows in Studio 54-inspired disco-themed costumes or formal attire. (I chose the latter and donned a nice black mod suit and tie.) The thousands who chose to play dress-up certainly added to the overall experience — and, perhaps by being included in the production, fans appeared more focused on the show (e.g. I didn't notice many people texting or chatting incessantly during songs; both annoyances plague far too many concerts nowadays). Although some did on this tour, I have no issues with the theatrical nature of the night: giant fake heads atop would-be group members miming two songs (one by Teenage Head); the overcrowded stage (I lost count at around ten musicians); people in the audience done-up like it was Saturday Night Fever-meets-Mardi Gras. The frenzied madness worked.

The flow of the set list was excellent, interwoven with new and old songs, all sounding more or less inspired. But I must admit the venue's sound-system didn't do anyone any favours: it was tinny for the first few songs, evolving, thankfully, into something more punchy by the night's fifth track (a memorable "Suburbs"). I asked my friends about sound quality up on the lawns, and even there it wasn't great, which it usually is. My wife also thought Butler and company looked a little drained during the set's beginning numbers — including Funeral hit "Rebellion (Lies)" and punky Reflektor standout "Joan of Arc" — but this was the group's second last gig of their long tour, so it can be expected. I didn't notice any fatigue anyway.

Although I love their folkier songs — such as RĂ©gine Chassagne’s Reflektor showcase "Empty Room" — Arcade Fire's biggest weapon is unleashing uniquely powerful, swelling anthems fuelled by vocals, lyrics, and band synergy (see: David Bowie's slow tension-build masterpiece "Heroes"). They rely on those far more on than the tried-and-true power-chords, jams, and stage antics. And they certainly didn't disappoint.

Even their choice of a local cover song was pretty darn anthemic: Ronnie Hawkins & The Hawks' rockabilly version of "Who Do You Love". Arcade Fire have been doing a cover song by a local artist from every city they perform in, and Ronnie Hawkins & The Hawks are Toronto area legends, even more Hawk's backup group since his Hawks went on to become The Band. Friday night's rendition sounded early-1960s authentic, which no doubt would put a smile on The Hawk's face.

The final tune was the truly awesome and emotional Funeral epic "Wake Up", which had fans singing together as multi-coloured confetti rained down from the rafters.

Too bad I missed the first warm-up act, Constantines, and too bad I caught some of the second opener Dan Deacon's DJ performance. A personal footnote: Am I nuts in thinking Win's band mate and brother William looks like an unsettling cross between Win and '80s sitcom oddball JM J Bullock from Too Close For Comfort?


David Ball is a Toronto-based freelance writer, long-time reviewer and quasi music historian for the late great SoundProof Magazine and past contributor to Along with submitting occasional articles for The Little Red Umbrella, David also writes for the US-based horror, sci-fi, cult website, Rabid Doll.

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Outlander Episode Three: Time Travel – Science or Magic? by Christina Ivanowich

Spoiler Disclaimer — I will be discussing the episode in detail, so I would stop reading now if you haven’t yet seen up to Episode Two. I will do my best not to include spoilers from the books, but that doesn’t mean I won’t make references to them. Now, on to Episode Three: 

The third episode of Outlander touched on a subject that I've been thinking about ever since I heard that Ron Moore (Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica) would be helming this series: does this story qualify as science fiction? Clearly the time travel element suggests futuristic technology or a rift in time, the kind of things one might expect from science fiction. But the main theme of this episode seems to underline the primitive ignorance of the locals and the strong elements of mysticism and magic of the times. Ghosts and witches are not just words here; people truly believe in them and are terrified of that reality. The introduction of Father Bain (a creepier religious leader I never hope to see!) serves to underline that faith is in charge here, not science. Claire's medical skills seem like miracles or the work of the devil, and she is faced for the first time with how dangerous life can be for a woman of above-average education who refuses to learn "her place". Even Mrs. Fitz, no mean healer herself, struggles against her own religious ignorance and intolerance and nearly lets her nephew die rather than admit the priest might be wrong.

Claire is ostensibly Catholic, but with a healthy dose of modern skepticism. She is often caught off guard by the blind devotion and literal interpretations of the people of the 18th century. In many ways, Jamie is becoming a bridge for her between her present and the future, able to translate the beliefs and behaviour of the locals in a way that she can understand. Jamie is an educated man; he attended university in France, he speaks several languages and is well-read. But as he points out, he is also a Highlander, raised on the myths and legends of ancient Scotland as well as the tales of his Catholic faith.

Folk tales of giants and silkies, magic, miracles, women vanishing through fairy stones, and Gwyllyn’s song telling essentially her own story — Claire is surrounded by things that she can’t rationally explain. So is it magic or is it science? Did she fall through a crack in time, or was she kidnapped by faeries? Is it the work of God or the Devil? At this point in the story, it seems to be all about your perspective.

Now, let's talk about flirting. It's been only a month since Claire last saw her husband in 1945, and while she definitely misses him, she also seems to be starting to enjoy herself; making friends and finding a productive way to contribute to the castle. Of course, she needs to fit in as best she can if she is to survive in 1743, but is she perhaps becoming too invested? Is her flirtatious behaviour wrong, a betrayal of Frank and hurtful to Jamie? Or is it natural, when so removed from reality, to simply fall back on old habits? She has an outgoing nature that is uncharacteristic for the time which draws attention to her, and clearly there is an attraction between herself and Jamie. And yes, he was kissing Laoghaire, and he knows that Claire saw them! But when presented with the option, he essentially ignores Laoghaire in order to spend time with Claire. She may intend only some harmless flirting with him, but is she risking hurting them both if she allows Jamie to fall in love with her?

Random Thoughts:

- Is it just me, or is Geillis Duncan trying as hard as he can to interrogate Claire without seeming to interrogate her? What is she after?

- We get a taste of Colum’s dark side here, when he pulls a knife on his tailor. Colum does not believe that his physical deformity is something to be ashamed of, and goes out of his way to show his strength. His position depends on his people seeing him “whole”, and he does all he can to maintain that image.


Read our recap of the next episode, Outlander Episode Four: The Gathering of Clan MacKenzie or the previous episode, Outlander Episode Two: Life at Castle Leoch.

Christina Ivanowich watches television (and occasionally writes about it) from London, Ontario. You can follow her on Twitter: @civanowich.

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The New, Dark Doctor Who by Adam Bunch

[Spoilers for "Deep Breath", the first episode of Season Eight.]

"I'm not your boyfriend." He's speaking to Clara when he says it, but the Doctor might as well be speaking to us. His incarnations have all been young and dashing since Doctor Who returned to our screens in 2005. And while his dark side has surfaced from time to time (helloooo "The Waters of Mars"!) for the most part he's kept it hidden beneath that veil Madame Vastra talks about. His youthful looks. His charm. His need for acceptance — especially in the wake of the terrible deeds he committed during the Time War — which just so happened to come at the exact same time he needed an audience to fall back in love with him after 16 years of being cancelled from television.

But now he and the show have spent the better part of a decade coming to terms with the Time War and establishing themselves near the top of the ratings. He doesn't need to flirt with us anymore. In the last few months, there's been lots of talk about a darker feel for Doctor Who this season. And the premiere certainly delivered it, along with a much more mature tone. The direction from Ben Wheatley let the story unfold at a calmer, less frenetic pace (maybe not surprising from a director whose most recent film was a black-and-white movie about guys in the 1600s getting stoned in a field) and the script was full of disturbing images. We'd seen the clockwork androids before, of course, collecting human body parts in order to repair a spaceship in Season Two's "The Girl In The Fireplace". But their return was even more graphic than that. This time, the androids themselves were a Frankensteinian jumble of corpse bits. Clara wore some dead guy's face. A hot air balloon made of human skin floated by St. Paul's Cathedral. A body was impaled on the tip of Big Ben. A dinosaur burned alive in the Thames.

Not only that, we also got the darker Doctor we've been expecting ever since Malcolm Tucker Peter Capaldi was announced as the man who would be taking on the role. Older. Greyer. Short tempered. Less immediately loveable. Doesn't like hugs. Even his accent marks him as an outsider. In his very first episode, he abandons Clara three times, insults her more times than that, intimidates a tramp — might even have stolen the man's coat — and in the end we're left wondering if he murdered a robot. (And not just any robot, either, but a droid the Doctor himself says is "barely a droid anymore... more human... than machine.") That kind of darkness has been a part of our favourite Time Lord since the beginning — he almost murdered a caveman in the show's very first episode — but the Twelfth Doctor is easily the most unsettling new face we've been... uh... faced with since the Sixth Doctor tried to strangle his companion in 1984 and began his slow descent into cancellation.

The Half-Face Man
For the first time in a long time, it feels like we don't know who the Doctor really is. He's truly unpredictable. In interviews leading up to the premiere, Capaldi talked about wanting to inject a sense of mystery back into the character. And so far, he's succeeded spectacularly. Even the Doctor himself seems thoroughly disoriented. In his last moments as the Eleventh, he promised, "I will not forget one line of this, not one day, I swear." But he's already broken that pledge. In "Deep Breath" he seems to have plenty of trouble remembering who he is. At one point, he accidentally raises the question of whether he can properly consider himself to even be the Doctor anymore. When he confronts The Half-Face Man with the paradox of The Ship of Theseus — "is a thing still the same thing after all its parts have been replaced?" — the question applies just as much to The Man With A Dozen Faces as it does to the man with half a face. "You probably can't even remember where you got that face from!" the Doctor declares, not realizing until the words are already out of his mouth that he pretty much said the same thing about himself earlier this very same episode. By the time it's all said and done, Capaldi's debut raises deeply troubling questions about everything Matt Smith said during the reassuring speech he gave in his own final moments.

And as usual, the questions you raise about the Doctor can apply equally well to the show itself. Is this really still the same show as when it first debuted? Is it still the same show it was at Christmas? "Doctor Who is changing, has changed," Chris Lough wrote in his review for, "and by the end of 'Deep Breath' is not a show you'll recognize as Doctor Who."  

A regeneration is unsettling enough as a viewer. With a change of tone and an abrasive new Doctor, it's even more disturbing. And this time, there's no charming fish-custard to ease us through it. Instead, there's a human skin balloon. As Lough says in his review, "you’re not going crazy, this is all really weird and kind of upsetting..."

But as he also points out, there is one source of relief: "Clara's there to confront it with you."

We spent half of Season Seven trying to solve one big mystery: who was Clara Oswald, the Impossible Girl? Instead of the companion being "the asking questions one," as the Doctor puts it, she was the question. And it was the Doctor who was asking the same questions we were. But his regeneration has reversed our relationship with the two characters completely. Now, for the first time, Clara is playing the role the companions usually play; in the blink of an eye, she's become the one we identify with. And while the Doctor disappears for a good chunk of the beginning of "Deep Breath", we get to know her a lot better. That one spat with Madame Vastra does more to flesh out Clara's character than ten whole episodes did last year. The Doctor is back to being the mysterious one.

And so, in the wake of the 50th anniversary, it seems that we've returned to the central question the show started out with all those years ago: "Doctor who?" That mystery was bubbling in the background for most of last season — and for a few brief moments in Matt Smith's final episodes, it seemed as if Clara might have finally found an answer. But then he goes and changes his face and it's like we're back in 1963 all over again.

Which is, of course, what makes it so much fun.

Other thoughts:

- Lough's review also nails many of the episode's weakest points: "Everything you dislike about Moffat’s writing is in 'Deep Breath,' unfortunately. Repetition of ideas, repetition of phrases to instill horror, stupid jokes about gender, needless insults about gender, etc."

- A disturbing number of internet comments are upset about a lesbian relationship being "inappropriate" for a quasi-children's show. Especially the kiss. Which makes me like Doctor Who even more for doing it. (Even if it wasn't a real kiss.) 

- The new credits! They're based on credits made by a fan of the show who posted them to YouTube, caught Moffat's attention, and then was hired to work on them for real. Which is so cool. You can check out the original version here.

- The tramp was played by Brian Miller, who was married to Elizabeth Sladen, who played Sarah Jane Smith.

- Exciting to see that the Doctor seems to recognize his face. He met a character played by Capaldi in Season Four's "The Fires of Pompeii" and Capaldi also played a character in the "Children of Earth" season of the spin-off series, Torchwood. Hoping this turns out of be one of Moffat's good mysteries.

- Mirrors! So many mirrors!

- "I'm not flirting by the way," the Doctor clarifies (to the dinosaur). After all the talk about how the Doctor wouldn't be flirty this time around, I loved that.

- I also loved the way the Doctor seems to identify with the dinosaur, slipping from his sleeping translation of the dinosaur feeling lost and alone into words that echo his own later lines about Clara not seeing him.

- And a third thing I love: that while the Doctor is trying to remember where he knows the clockwork androids from, he takes a long sniff of the blonde yellow roses he's holding. Doesn't seem to help. That companion was a lonnnng time ago now.

- I also really like that Vastra's anger at Clara can double as anger at us — but even more that Clara's outrage at Vastra can double as a defense of all the "fangirls" that people have been too quick to assume would fall out of love with Doctor Who now that the Doctor is played by an older actor. In fact, I saw self-described fangirls express those very same feelings in the comments to reviews of this episode.

- The Missy/heaven stuff at the end. It seems to be, interestingly, the exact same garden Amy discovers at one point in the Two Streams Facility during "The Girl Who Waited". And there's been lots of online speculation about who Missy is: The Master? River? Tasha Lem? Idris (the personification of the TARDIS)? Romana? The Rani? Someone new? (Which is pretty much what everybody wonders every time Moffat introduces a new female character.) In any case, it looks like whatever we think of the Missy storyline (and so far I think "ugh") this will definitely be the overarching plot of Season Eight. The name of the season finale is "Death In Heaven".

- "You've redecorated. I don't like it." Clara's line to the new Doctor echoes back all the way to the Second Doctor saying the same thing in "The Three Doctors" from 1973.

- "Well then, here we go again." Vastra's line echoes the Brigadier in Tom Baker's first episode as the Fourth Doctor: "Robot". (Has Vastra already met another incarnation of the Doctor?)

- "O Captain! My Captain!" The Doctor refers to the Whitman poem when he sees the Half-Face Man sitting on the buried spaceship. We know it best these days thanks to Dead Poet's Society (RIcoincidentalP Robin Williams), but the poem itself is pretty morbid: a ship returns to port after a successful voyage, but the Captain didn't survive. He lies dead on deck.

- Clara's first theory for the organ-stealing is Burke and Hare from space. The Burke and Hare murders happened in Edinburgh in the 1800s — they sold the corpses to a doctor to be used in his anatomy lectures.

- Lots and lots of Sherlock Holmes references (which makes sense given that Doctor Who showrunner Steven Moffat also runs Sherlock and that we've been told Holmes was based on Madame Vastra): the Pasternoster Irregulars, Inspector Gregson, "The game is afoot!", the peg board, Jenny's reference to the Conk-Singleton forgery case... all shout outs to the Great Detective. The BBC has a more detailed breakdown here.

- Lots of people seem to be disappointed that Clara seems so deeply thrown by the regeneration given that she has met so many Doctors before. We do know, though, from the anniversary special, that she doesn't really remember what happened inside the Doctor's timeline. And I totally buy that she'd still be thrown by the older, abrasive, seemingly broken Doctor that she gets. There was a fantastic discussion from both sides of the issue on the Verity! podcast this week. You can check it out here. Head to about the 38-minute mark if you want to skip straight to that bit.

- We were promised a feel more in line with classic Who — and even the Doctor himself makes a reference to wanting more rounds things on the walls of the TARDIS.
- By the way, I totally think he killed that clockwork droid. It seems much more likely that the Doctor is lying (rule #1) than the android is lying. And we know murder isn't against his basic programming: he's killed people as recently as, say, Solomon the trader in "Dinosaurs on a Spaceship".


Read our next recap of the next episode: Doctor Who & The Question of the Good Dalek. Or the previous episode: Memory & The Doctor Who Christmas Special

This post posted by Adam Bunch, the Editor-in-Chief of the Little Red Umbrella and the creator of the Toronto Dreams Project. You can read his posts here, follow him on Twitter here, or email him at

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Outlander Episode Two: Life at Castle Leoch by Christina Ivanowich

Spoiler Disclaimer — I will be discussing the episode in detail, so I would stop reading now if you haven’t yet seen up to Episode Two. I will do my best not to include spoilers from the books, but that doesn’t mean I won’t make references to them. Now, on to Episode Two:

It begins right where we left Claire in Episode One, upon her first arrival at Castle Leoch. Up to this point, I think it is fair to say that Claire has been in shock, and that two days and nights on a horse without sleep or food have not improved her mental situation. So this is the moment when reality starts to truly sink in — fear and panic are beginning to subside and she is faced with the necessity of simply finding a way to survive in her present situation. Even things as simple as learning the names of her erstwhile captors, as she realizes she must make allies if she is ever to find her way back to Craig na Dun. And so the story slows down somewhat; we start to see the simple details of life at Leoch: the clothes, the customs and the people, and how Claire will find a place among them.

But the more we see of the residents of Leoch, the more questions arise. Colum and Dougal MacKenzie, the ailing laird of Clan MacKenzie and his brother, both clearly have their own agendas and do not trust her. As Claire points out, Colum is unlikely to live much longer, and there appears to be some conflict between the brothers over how to share their power and position. Is this the source of the obvious awkwardness among them regarding Colum's son and heir, Hamish, or is there more to that exchange?

Then there is Geillis Duncan, a woman from the nearby village who identifies herself as a "witch". In their first conversation, she instructs Claire on how to kill her husband, as well as in the use of a local plant for ending pregnancy. She comes across as strange right away, so why does Claire seem drawn to her? (More on that later.)

But this episode focuses quite a bit on Young Jamie and his origins. As Claire looks for an ally, he is a natural choice, as they already have a forced intimacy after two days on a horse together. Jamie has also exhibited that he likes her (I don't want to go so far as to say they are flirting, but there is a sexually charged moment between them early in the episode), and Claire is not above taking advantage of that. He clearly trusts her from the first, despite the fact that he is wanted by the English and his two uncles both believe her to be an English spy. For a man with a price on his head and a family to protect, why is he so open with a stranger?

Then there is the incident at Hall, where he volunteers to take the punishment for Laoghaire (pronounced like Lheeree) MacKenzie, who is accused of loose behaviour by her father. Jamie claims to not know the girl, and tells Claire he did it only to protect Laoghaire from being shamed in public. From everything we've seen of him so far, we know that Jamie isn't afraid of a fight, but is that all there is to it? Is he merely gallant, or is it guilt? Also of note, why would Dougal and Colum allow Jamie to take the beating? He is their nephew, and clearly of value to them since having Jamie in the castle can only bring trouble from the English. So why have him beaten, and badly, in front of everyone? Is it a message to Jamie, perhaps, and to Leoch, about his position? Are they putting him in his place?

Despite the fact that they exhibit a mutual trust and openness, it's important to remember that Claire and Jamie are both using a pseudonym, a nom de guerre, to protect themselves and their families. There are many secrets between them at this point, but not yet lies.

Thoughts on the series so far:

* I have really enjoyed the use of colour to highlight the two different time periods. When we see 1945, the colours are muted, almost sepia, with Claire's blue coat allowing her to stand out. In 1743, the colours are richer and more pronounced, particularly when she first arrives surrounded by green grass and red coats. While Claire feels lost in a dream or a costume drama, the colour makes her present situation seem that much more real to us.

* I think the music for the series is wonderful, though I'm not certain about the opening credit sequence as a whole. The music is composed by Bear McCreary, who also provided the music for Ron Moore's amazing Battlestar Galactica reboot, and there are definite similarities. The music is appropriate in time and feel for the show overall and there have been a few excellent music cues that really added to the scene (I'm thinking specifically of the moment Claire is shot at by the red coats, and the lovely dance of the Druids on Craig na Dun in Episde One). However, shows like Game of Thrones have really upped the ante for what an opening credit sequence can do, and while they are very different shows, I don't think it can be denied that the opening for Outlander is minimal.

* Is it just me, or does Sam Heughan (Jamie) look like a cross between Henry Cavill (Superman) and Alfie Allen (Theon from GoT)?

That's it for this week! Can't wait for Episode Three!


Read our recap of the next episode, Outlander Episode Three: Time Travel — Science or Magic?, or the previous episode, The Outlander Premiere: Sex, Violence & Time Travel.

Christina Ivanowich watches television (and occasionally writes about it) from London, Ontario. You can follow her on Twitter: @civanowich.

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