Saturday, May 20, 2017

Doctor Who: Down The Rabbit Hole

There is seriously no way I can discuss this episode without going into spoiler territory. This is the only warning you get. Anything past here and you risk spoilers. If you want the non-spoiler version, here it is: This episode is good. Very good. And you should go watch it, right now.

Elon Musk has posited before that there's a very good chance that we're all living in a highly sophisticated simulation during a talk. I've included an embedded link to a relevant video below, as the themes of this episode tie very closely into that theory. The misdirection and slight visual cues this episode uses to link that theory and give us clues begin with the opening title and continue at strategic points throughout the episode, until the moment where (with some great deal of satisfaction on my part) Narwhal is literally removed from existence. I suppose you could say that this is the first episode in which he doesn't appear at all, technically speaking. Which also explains why he was so much less annoying than usual.

Also, a tip of the hat to Stephen Moffat, who has finally justified the Sonic Sunglasses in my mind. In the Doctor's current blind state, the sunglasses provide him some form of mobility and sense, not quite on par with, say, Daredevil, but definitely in the same vein, as well as the perfect Chekhov's gun in the form of an electronic recording to send to himself. Well, his real self. Which we see happen in the beginning, but the interruption of the title sequence acts as a misdirection to pull our attention away from the giant EXTREMIS display.

Being a gamer myself, I was fascinated by this episode, and the usage of Grand Theft Auto and Super Mario Bros as analogy to explain to Bill what's going on was quite apt. Subroutines advanced enough to realize that they are in fact subroutines and not flesh and blood rebel against the simulation and "glitch." Having played quite a few games in my lifetime, I've seen a number of instances where an artificial intelligence for an non-player character will act in a manner seemingly outside of its programming. One can't help but wonder if it's some crude version of this happening. As for the Veritas itself, can this be the explanation of game-breaking bugs? An NPC realizing during the coding process that it's not real and sabotaging the code to the point that the game cannot be completed?

Harry Potter is blasphemy. Twelve said so.
This episode was very clever. It's full of little callbacks, references, visual cues, red herrings, and other such things that are meant to lead you to the conclusion while at the same time leading you away from it. It was the first time this year I wasn't just watching and was actively trying to figure out what was going on. There's occasionally digital artifacting that happens after the Doctor activates the Extremis file. The Pope traveling in person, which the Doctor remarks upon. Bill's outfit, as seen above, actually being modern and tasteful. Someone in the wardrobe department really hates her, as she's back in an ugly sweater by the end of the episode. The "portals" which are not unlike the windows Madame Kovarian uses to spy on Amy's flesh avatar. CERN somehow having a stockpile of Looney Toons dynamite on hand. The resolution also was quite satisfying, as even a copy of the Doctor ends up being clever enough to overcome his programming and sabotage the simulation enough to send a warning to his real-world counterpart, even if it's more evidence of how stultifyingly arrogant and confident in himself that he is.

Additionally, the monsters revealed in this episode may be alien, but they look like proper zombies, which is refreshing after the disappointment of the zombies in space of last week's episode, and they're promising as a series arc villain. Anyone else noticing that Bill is making quite the habit of dying, though? She's going to give Rory a run for his money if she keeps this up.

The vault's secret has been revealed. Missy, under guard for one thousand years, as per the Doctor's oath to the executioners, as shown in the flashbacks. How long has he been guarding it? That's what we're unsure of at this point. We know who is in the vault, and why she's there. What we don't know is how much longer she'll be there, and what will happen when she's out. The appearance of John Simm's Master will surely tie into that.

We all have that one friend we can't help but forgive. 
This one is a definite must-watch. The first definite must-watch of the season. I am outright impressed, and I urge you to watch this episode, and if you already have, watch it again with a more critical eye and foreknowledge. You'll see the clues that are leading you both on and off the path and just how well-crafted this one was.

Also, for the record, Penny is most certainly *not* out of Bill's league. If anything, it's the other way around.

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