“You seem like an okay guy, Steve. Why did you decide to turn evil?”
I dropped the ray gun and stared at her. It was the woman of my dreams again, once again demonstrating that my dreams were way out of whack. I had no idea how she’d gotten here and had long since stopped caring how anything came to happen in this demented place. When I first saw her, I thought she was gorgeous. Just my type. As I’d come to know her, I’d come to think of her as the most alluring woman I’d ever met. But as I’d come to know her better, I was gradually forced to accept that she was the opposite of my type, was possibly the most frustrating, least lucid woman I could ever fear to meet. And I know from frustrating. I work — well, used to work — in customer service.
Okay, this is unfair. Let me set the scene for you so you can get the full force of this. I was infinitely far from home, infinitely far from the entire planet I’d grown up on, in a spaceship impossible to comprehend with what little science I remembered from high school. I had just brained an actual, honest-to-goodness supervillain (though one with more tentacles than usual) and saved him from pushing the button programmed to destroy the entire planet we were orbiting. A planet full of billions of people. And this woman, whose attention I’d been trying to get for days on end, had the gall to only now take a good look at me and innocuously ask this question.
Now, most people would get this far, assume they hooked you, and start way back at the beginning with the boring stuff, and leave you to wait until near the end to tell you what happened next. Maybe that’s the smart thing to do, the literary thing, but I’m not gonna do that to you. I’ll tell you what happened next.
I stared at her, too numbed by what I’d been through to yell at her yet again. She stared back, all innocence. Not even pointing her own ray gun at me. So I stared at her, and I looked out the window at that alien planet, so different and so like my own, and I looked at that fatal button, and I looked at the lever that would disable the gigatron flux laser that was pointed at that planet. I put my hand on the lever and looked square in her face.
“Maybe I was evil all along,” I said. And I pushed the button.
There was no way I was going to pick another header image for this one, right? What an iconic moment, and what a great episode title.
So we join a fancy costume ball at Versailles, with everyone fleeing from some unknown menace. A man tells a woman (you can tell she’s important because her gown is so big it needs a whole room for itself) that there are unstoppable creatures afoot. (We will see later a lack of anyone trying to stop them.) The woman replies that the clock is broken and that the only other man she’s ever loved is coming to defend her, as he has done her whole life. She takes her pneumatic bosom over to the fireplace and calls into the flames for the Doctor. That’s a lot of questions for a teaser to raise.
The TARDIS lands on a CGI toothbrush for spaceships. The Doctor prattles out his decreasing comfort with the situation, then pokes around while Rose enjoys Mickey’s enjoyment of the view out the window. The Doctor finds there’s nobody else on board, and that the warp engines are at full throttle but the station isn’t moving. In response, a wall slides open. On the other side, in another otherwise aggressively unremarkable room, they find an ornate fireplace with a fire going. Through the fireplace another room can be seen, and in that room is a little girl.
The girl identifies herself as Reinette. She lives in Paris in 1727. The Doctor warns her to stay inside during August and sends her off to bed. While Rose explains to Mickey that yes, the TARDIS even translates French, the Doctor deliberately triggers a Scooby-Doo mechanism to rotate the fireplace and take him into Reinette’s bedroom. The girl wakes up and tells him it’s been weeks since they talked.
The Doctor notices the clock by the bed is broken, but there’s still a loud ticking to be heard. He deduces that someone ticky broke the clock so they could hide in the bedroom with the girl. Naturally, he looks under Reinette’s bed, and there’s a jump scare as Ticky Person lashes out at his sonic screwdriver. And now it’s standing on the other side of the bed! The Doctor gets up to see it’s a humanoid with a white mask and fancy period hair and clothes. The Doctor takes a proper Time Lord look at Reinette, realizes her brain has been scanned, and indignantly wants to know how that was worth putting a hole in a perfectly good universe. Ticky Person declares the girl incomplete and cuts conversation short with a Ticky-Swiss Army knife. The Doctor draws it over to the fireplace and gets it back to the space station with him.
The Doctor disables Ticky with fire suppressant, then removes its head cover to discover clockwork. The Doctor puts on his glasses and gets super-nerdy with appreciation, but before he can take Ticky apart, the android teleports away.
The Doctor warns Mickey and Rose to stay put while he goes back to see the girl again. Rose likes it when Mickey takes the lead in exploring, tempted by an “ice gun” to call his own.
The Doctor returns to Reinette’s room to find she is now perhaps in her older teens, well into pneumatic womanhood. She gets up in his grill with gentle banter, believing that having met him a few times means they’re on familiar terms. Back-echoes of Amy here, in a different key. She sweeps the Doctor nearly off his feet with a kiss. It’s a wanting kiss, a this-is-mine-to-claim kiss. And the Doctor gets into it. A man urgently calls to her, alas, and Mademoiselle Poisson distributes herself out the door, a golden girl flowing through a gold-and-red room.
The Doctor can hardly believe it. He regales the man who appears in the doorway with Reinette’s future accomplishments as Madame de Pompadour, gleefully declares that he just “snogged” her, and sweeps back around the fireplace.
Frustrated that his companions have inevitably wandered off, the Doctor strides off to look for them or the “anything” that’s on the station . . . and finds a horse. That would count as “anything” indeed. He also finds a set of doors that lead to where he can spy on Reinette making plans to make a move on King Louis.
Mickey meanwhile seems to think a big gun makes him an action hero, aaand yes there he goes into a crouch-and-roll with an ending swivel-the-head-looking-for-trouble! Full marks on that one, Mickey. He tough-talks an eyeball wall camera, which is surprisingly good CGI for this show, but then they find a laughable heart in the wiring so it averages out.
The three friends meet at another portal, one that looks into a room where the King and Reinette first meet. The King leaves, and Reinette notices a ticking, then a broken clock, then finds the Ticky lurking in the room. The time travellers barge in to protect her. She orders it to answer the Doctor’s questions, and it is learned that Ticky is a repair robot that uses whatever it needs to repair the space station. It used all the crew, then scanned time and space to find the last part it needed in Reinette. It can’t use her just yet, but eventually she’ll mature and it can pluck her ripe brain from her skull.
Reinette orders Ticky to leave, so it teleports out. So the Doctor takes his crew back to the station, plus the horse. Rose is alarmed that he’s named the horse, saying he can’t keep it. “I let you keep Mickey!” the Doctor responds. Nice. He stays to mindmeld with Reinette, to figure out what the droid is after. Reinette keeps her chin up, there’s some mild humor, then Reinette starts looking at his mind and sees that he’s always been a lonely person. She talks him into a spin on the dance floor.
Meanwhile, Mickey is ragging Rose about the Doctor scoring yet another girl when the two of them get ambushed by repair droids. They wake up strapped to Standard Vivisection Platforms with a droid waving a clockwork vivisection probe in Rose’s face.
Mickey, gunless, wails about the Doctor being nowhere in sight. Rose tries to threaten the droids with the Doctor, only to have him waltz in singing showtunes. Not very helpful. Tennant, now wearing shades and a tie-hat, is just brilliant in this scene. He sweeps aside Rose’s disgust, blathers about bananas and French parties, then finally notices the droids and cheers up further, insulting the nearest one with just a hint of inebriation. He declares that the droids are waiting to strike until Reinette is 37, as old as their ship, then empties his goblet over the droid menacing Rose. The “anti-oil” in the goblet freezes the droid up.
The Doctor disables the other droids and tries to close the time windows, but one of the droids must still be in France because he can’t override. A ding! sounds, and all the droids present power back up and teleport away. It’s brain extraction time.
Rose visits Reinette at 32 and timesplains things as best she can. (I’m not sure what the costume department was going for here, but Reinette looks like she’s wearing a waterproof tarp.)
Reinette is disappointed the Doctor isn’t here yet, but perceives that the Doctor only exists where there are monsters. Mickey comes for Rose, and Reinette bursts through the time window he used to find a dark hall of machinery, but no Doctor. She hears screaming, then her own voice pleading desperately: her fated future. Reinette finally begins to lose it, but bucks up and returns to her time.
The screaming segues us back to the episode start, where several droids herd the partygoers together while three others escort Reinette and her king.
Reinette calms everyone down while the Doctor tries to figure out how to get to her. The TARDIS is timey-wimey counterindicated, and the time windows are sealed with nothing to smash through them with, and if we did that we’d be stranded in France . . .
Reinette tries to die with defiance, and then we hear an approaching horse . . . and the Doctor rides through a large mirror on the wall on Arthur. Reinette swoons and the Doctor winks at her. He one-ups Louis XIV dismissively and talks the droids into giving up: they can’t make a way back to their ship now. The droids actually accept and quietly power down, symbolically bowing to the Doctor in defeat. “They’ve stopped. They have no purpose now,” the Doctor says, clearly thinking of himself as well.
Back on the station, Mickey is at a loss while Rose silently stares at the lack of window and cries.
Reinette finds the Doctor staring at the night sky. He gently downplays his heroism and begins to face his new life, starting with the problem of what exactly “money” is. Reinette expresses regret that she won’t be living “the slow path” with him, before sadly leading him away from the conspicuously TARDIS-blue window (the only blue thing in all of France) into her new bedroom, which contains the original fireplace. The Doctor flimflams the fireplace portal into working again, then offers Reinette a chance to come along. Sadly he didn’t take her through, and by the time he returns to the fireplace she’s died. The King, a gentleman to the end, hands him an envelope. Back in the TARDIS, Mickey leaves the Doctor alone to read it: a missive of hope amid failing health.
One last detail as a grim Doctor flies away: the station is named the S. S. Madame du Pompadour.
I think it’s this kind of episode that makes Tennant such a popular Doctor, such a definitive Doctor. His unpredictability, whimsy, and gusto are on full display here.
This could have been a bad episode. The logic behind a future space station needing a famous French courtesan for repairs is fragile. If we had found that out quickly, and then focused on the fight to save her, the whole story would probably have felt stupid. But the fun surrounding the premise is the draw here, using the mystery of freaky robots spying on a girl centuries in the past to nudge the problem part of the plot forward until we get to the finish. Watching Reinette’s life progress adds to the sense of plot. It’s suspension of disbelief: I can accept a weak link if the results justify it.
Reinette is played well as a woman who knows what she wants and knows how to get it, without being made of steel. Such as you might expect of someone who ascended into a title and became lover to the King and friend to his Queen. Her occasional references to reason probably signal her living during the Enlightenment.
Rose is enjoying having Mickey along on her adventures. We’ll see how long this lasts.
Rating: 3.5 party bananas
Favorite dialogue: The Doctor: Must be a spatio-temporal hyperlink.
Mickey: What’s that?
The Doctor: No idea, just made it up. Didn’t want to say “magic door”.
How much red and gold is in this episode?: all of it
Fridge logic time: Did an ailing Reinette paint her bedroom blue in hope of a ride in the TARDIS?
Among my many minor creative endeavors is to contribute to a set of collaborative webcomics hosted by David Morgan-Mar, the guy behind Irregular Webcomic! and, nowadays, Darths and Droids. I’ve sent in a fair few comics to Square Root of Minus Garfield and, once it started, to iToons (much the same thing, but for non-Garfield comics).
I bring this up because, well, I don’t think I’ve mentioned here that Lightning Made Of Owls has a contest going on, so if you want to try your hand at one of these webcomic things, head over and give it a shot and you could win a prize. The other reason is I’ve just finished a goofyStar Warsminiseries with the characters in LMoO, and I think it’s really pretty good, so head over and check it out. And check out the other people’s work too.
As an amateur naturephile, I take pleasure in spotting and watching new flora and fauna in the world around me. I also like to know what I’ve spotted, so I can tell other people and in case it has a really cool name.
Unfortunately, the identification guides available for insects in particular, and especially caterpillars, tend to be spotty in their coverage or littered with large pictures of really icky spiders. Even the mighty Wikipedia does not have images or descriptions for all the butterflies it lists in its pages. So it is that I offer a little bit more knowledge to the Internet, in the form of this collection of caterpillars I have seen recently, gathered with what information I have been able to scrape together regarding them.
Tiger swallowtail (swallowtailus clawedfelinus)
Everyone knows this gal. Her durability makes her a solid pick for early fighting, but savvy players typically swap her out middlegame for the berserker’s OTT attack capabilities or for an extra cleric. Male players often leave her in the party because she’s just so easy on the eyes.
Tiger moth (arctiinae)
Image courtesy SayCheeeeeese at Wikimedia Commons. After taking this picture, SayCheeeeeese was immediately rushed to the intensive care unit, but survived with minimal scarring.
In caterpillar form, this cutie’s known as the woolly bear. How much wool it wears is traditionally believed to be proportional to the oncoming winter’s severity. Unlike most bears, it’s soft and ticklish and usually quite harmless, unless you start arguing with it about the Ramones or try to take its picture. Don’t try to take its picture, and definitely do not argue with it about the Ramones.
Frumious bandermoth (specklia carrollus)
Despite being a showy dresser, the mysterious bandermoth is taciturn and elusive, so little is known about it. It likes to nibble hands and is quite a poor Scrabble player. Retired bandermoths are often seen sipping tea at street cafes in Paris.
Old Wisconsin wives’ tales hold that crushed bandermoth cocoons sprinkled in your beer are an immortality elixir. Modern science has disproven such foolishness: the cocoons only cure cancer.
Murderous skipper (skipperus slayerus)
As a caterpillar, this guy is highly aggressive and should only be approached by professionals. Never look one of these in the eye, as it will interpret the action as a challenge to its dominance and bring out the steak knives in response. Mentioning the phrase “little buddy” in its presence also constitutes a death wish. Once it becomes a butterfly and settles down to raise a family, the aggression usually drains away and it becomes a productive member of society.
Giant swallowtail (swallowtailus hugeganticus)
Giant swallowtails are impulsive, hasty folk who like to be jerks just to annoy people. This caterpillar turned into a butterfly in the time it took me to get out my camera, turn it on, and point and focus. Jerk.
Some sort of locust? (cricketus ieatyourcropsus)
This is not a caterpillar. Note the disproportionately long legs. It likes to eat yellow flowers, so do not live in Wisconsin if you happen to be a yellow flower.
Bonus butterfly (mariposa cinmil)
This is also not a caterpillar, but memorize its appearance. One of these is hidden somewhere in Wisconsin at any given moment. If you find it, you get fifty thousand points added to your score and a chance to play a cheese minigame.
This is a woolly bear after it took a bet to watch The Ring all alone in an abandoned mansion at midnight. Don’t let this happen to you.
More hours, more money, back on my preferred career track. Huzzah!
Less time to devote to this blog for the immediate future. Boo!
I do have the next episode of Doctor Who partly done, along with a few other posts (including a Very Special Christmas Post), and I can put up some less time-consuming content like photography as well. So updates will certainly continue, they’ll just be even spottier than usual for a while.