Doctor Who: Boom
May 18, 2024 2:45 PM - Season 1, Episode 3 - Subscribe

The 2024 soft re-boot of our beloved show continues with Ncuti Gatwa's Doctor and companion Ruby Sunday finding themselves in a war-zone.

In which the Doctor is placed "on his back foot". The space marines are Anglican and the Military-Industrial Complex is problematic.

Former show-runner Stephen Moffat returned to write this one. Interesting clip of Russell T Davies and Stephen Moffatt chatting about writing Who in the beautiful new console room.

Behind the scenes.

(I was tempted to write (2024-) after the show title but that would stuff up the sequence with the last two episodes. A wibbly wobbly conundrum!)
posted by Coaticass (21 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Are these Anglican Marines the same as the ones in Season Five's Time of the Angels/Flesh and Stone two-parter? It's a while since I watched that.
posted by Coaticass at 2:53 PM on May 18

According to the TARDIS wiki, they are the same Anglican Marines - which makes sense, because this is Moffat. Also, this is set before that episode.

Moffat dropped in lots of references to his own stories - see the BOOM page at the aforementioned wiki.

I loved this in much the way I loved all of Moffat's stories under RTD as showrunner the first time around. It's basically standalone (there's more snowflakes and references to Ruby's mysterious heritage/lineage), and it is high concept and Moffat goes full force toward his themes but it's also very plotty. There are a lot of his tropes, too. Ghosts in the machine and viruses and saving people after they've died. But it's also about algorithms and capitalism and faith and religion. And Ncuti gets to be very dramatic, but also babble a lot.

As much as I enjoyed the first two of the season and the Xmas special, Boom is closer to what I want from WHO. It can't be this every week. Like I used to say - they can't all be Blink. But they should tackle serious topics and be a bit dark sometimes and have a plot that makes the Doctor work for it. RTD likes to solve a lot of his stories with feelings - and sometimes that works. But I liked this a whole lot more. Because it made me tense and it made me cry.
posted by crossoverman at 6:23 PM on May 18 [6 favorites]

I realize this is ostensibly more serious than Space Babies and The Devil's Chord, it really, though? I defy anyone to explain what exactly what happened with the holo-dad and the ambulances at the end in a way that doesn't sound completely ridiculous and full of shit, honestly. I'm not mad about it, but still. This may be tonally different, but it's still pretty goofy.

I liked The Doctor getting angry and pacifist and socialist. That's the Doctor I like! I was less sold on the "google me, I'm awesome" stuff that felt like a callback to everything that made me stop watching this show somewhere in the middle of poor Peter Capaldi, who deserved much better scripts.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 7:28 PM on May 18 [3 favorites]

Ah, I see the wiki linked above solves the numbering issue by referring to the current show as Doctor Who (2023), which makes sense.

(Also apparently I can't spell Moffat, or at all. One "t", I have fixed the tag.)

I liked The Doctor getting angry and pacifist and socialist- me too.
posted by Coaticass at 7:34 PM on May 18

I thought this was weak, in the way that Moffat tends to be: too many ideas (many of them good! even great!), rushed sloppy payoff that doesn't really add up. High concept that seems better on paper than on screen, takes itself waaaaay too seriously. It had some great lines, even tucked into bombastic speeches. This may still be some people's favorite flavor of Who, and I get it. You can trace the DNA all the way back, and a lot of the elements I pointed out are just as true of the first caveman episode back in 1963. But it's been my least favorite so far, by far.
posted by rikschell at 8:00 PM on May 18 [2 favorites]

I realize this is ostensibly more serious than Space Babies and The Devil's Chord, it really, though?

For me the subject matter of this episode (war/faith/capitalism/everything designed by algorithm) is lot more rich than say than The Devil's Chord - an episode I liked - which basically just says "music is important to humanity". Like, sure? But how exactly does No Beatles lead to the End of the World? It's an idea I like, but RTD sort of elides an explanation for time and also feeling. And the resolution of which is Lennon-McCartney playing the right chord, which is just "isn't it fun to have John and Paul save the world". It's a pay-off with very little set up.

Did dead digital dad infecting the abulances to stop a war make more sense than that? In a way, yes. If everything is designed by the algorith, sure, maybe? It's a little bit wild and also a kind of magic solution that is at least set up throughout the episode. But for me it makes more sense than the Doctor and the Beatles pulling some musical notes out of their arse/heart/whatever.

This is not Blink level of clever. It's not Forest of the Dead/Silence in the Library. Both of them resolve themselves without too much over explaining or speechifying. But it's an improvement on the Clara Era (because I think Matt Smith pre-Clara and Capaldi post-Clara) are Moffat's strongest as Showrunner.
posted by crossoverman at 8:59 PM on May 18 [2 favorites]

Well I loved it and none of the moons hatched at all, always a plus IMO.
posted by Coaticass at 11:24 PM on May 18 [8 favorites]

Watched this with friends, and we all wondered where the Doctor’s sonic was during this. There wasn’t even a “I can’t reach for my sonic because movement will detonate the mine” explanation as to why he didn’t use it on the mine.

Enjoyed this one quite a lot, especially the single set aspect. I did think the Doctor was wayyyyy too talkative and babbling for a guy stuck on an “any movement sets it off” mine.

The “caskets” were an interesting and kinda gross idea that I really liked, especially how they were unnecessarily clear, so you see the compressed flesh. Ew, lol.

The snow is already starting to grate on me a bit. Dunno why.
posted by Thorzdad at 4:04 AM on May 19 [3 favorites]

I now believe that Ruby is her own mother in a Dark (the TV show, not the adjective) sort of way. She's an ourobouros.
posted by Mogur at 8:07 AM on May 19 [4 favorites]

For previous example, see Ethan Hawke's portrayal of man who is literally his own father and mother thanks to being intersex and also owning a time machine.
posted by Mogur at 9:46 AM on May 19

The last few episodes with David Tennant implied that an ominous power was on its way and that it was related to games and magic and story-telling. While I can kinda make it work, I rather think it has gotten lost as a connecting thread.
posted by beaning at 11:29 AM on May 19

I'm pretty sure the "Villengard Weapon Factory" was name-dropped waaaaay back in the Ninth Doctor episode "The Empty Child". They were the manufacturers of that square-ray disruptor gun that Captain Jack wields, until it gets turned into a banana because a certain someone went back, blew up the factory and replaced it with banana groves.

"Good source of potassium!"
posted by The Pluto Gangsta at 3:49 PM on May 19 [5 favorites]

I thought the Doctor did a better job of pronouncing it vill-EN-gard, while I think the ambu-bot was a little too on the nose with villain-gard. Still, a nice solid episode. We're going to have to get a proper Dr. Who 2023/2024 "show" on FanFare so the episode threading isn't a chaotic mess between 2014 and 2024 episodes, somehow.
posted by Kyol at 7:07 PM on May 19 [1 favorite]

This episode reminded me that I like Moffatt a lot in small doses.
posted by maryellenreads at 8:13 AM on May 20 [4 favorites]

I noticed how much the Doctor cried in this episode. Combined with how he fled the Bogeyman in "Space Babies" and the Maestro in "The Devil's Chord," it seems like this Doctor is being written as much more emotional and/or aware of his mortality. Even though he's much more openly cheerful than other post-Time War Doctors, he still seems to be very traumatized by both 1) being a foundling, and 2) being ripped in half from David Fourteennant.
posted by Saxon Kane at 1:18 PM on May 20 [3 favorites]

I kind of wonder if the Doctor knows whether he'll regenerate if he's killed. (Of course, I think it's safe to say he wouldn't regenerate if he had exploded.)
posted by kittens for breakfast at 4:21 PM on May 20

I'm starting to feel like this season really isn't for me. This was the most Moffat episode of Doctor Who that ever Moffated, and not in a good way. Both the setup and the episode title felt like a cheap attempt to recapture the magic of Blink. Kill off a few characters we haven't had time to actually care about to up the emotional stakes, obviously-not-really-kill the companion, and then tie the whole thing off with some handwavey power of love bullshit. I think I would had a better time sitting through a 45 minute extended remix of the wretched song from the end of the previous episode.
posted by jordemort at 8:57 PM on May 20 [1 favorite]

If the planet is empty what killed the soldiers ? The mines ? Don't they recognize their own weapons ? I found it a bit strange....
posted by Pendragon at 10:18 AM on May 21

Yeah, it was all a little hand-wavey, the message of "war profiteers profit from and want war" apparently intended to cover any gaps in the narrative explanation.

But yes, my understanding was that the soldiers were being killed by the mines and perhaps other unknown weapons, which they assumed to be deployed by the Kastorians. I think they didn't recognize them as their own because it's commonly known that Villengard supplies pretty much everybody with wars, so they thought that the Kastorians were buying from V-Corp, just like their Anglican Church Militant was. But it was essentially Villengard itself, via the algorithm, keeping up enough of a death toll on the planet through the automated Smart weaponry (and, more importantly, through the ambulances that euthanized soldiers unnecessarily) they were selling the Church, so the Church would keep buying.

So, yeah, typical Moffat recursive/bootstrap paradox style story, but now with AI instead of Time Travel!
posted by Saxon Kane at 11:42 AM on May 21

Kill off a few characters we haven't had time to actually care about to up the emotional stakes, obviously-not-really-kill the companion, and then tie the whole thing off with some handwavey power of love bullshit.

I dunno, I think Moffat is really effective at creating characters that are easy to identify and empathise with before bumping them off. I think RTD is also a master at a character introduction just for different reasons. I could see the machinations of the writing because I've seen so much of Moffat's DW work now but that doesn't stop me from connecting to people in dire situations.

I guess the ending isn't exactly Hard Sci-Fi (even if RTD thinks it is), but it's not exactly the Care Bear Stare. If you're going to digitally replicate everyone after they die, why not allow them the agency to stop a war? It's such a SF trope to have viruses make things go crazy, why can't this time the virus make sure that Everybody Lives (TM, Steven Moffat).

The premise of the show means we have to meet different people every week and that neither the Doctor nor Companion will die until their contract has expired. Are you saying that you feel no tension in this episode because you know it's going to work out okay in the end? Maybe most narrative TV isn't for you.
posted by crossoverman at 7:37 PM on May 21 [3 favorites]

I dunno, I think Moffat is really effective at creating characters that are easy to identify and empathise with before bumping them off.

These characters felt cheap to me because literally everything we learn about them is a pile of shorthand intended to make us feel bad when they die. They don't have any depth to their backstories; every element is just a sweetener for the inevitable pathos. The deaths are telegraphed within seconds of the characters appearing on screen.

The premise of the show means we have to meet different people every week and that neither the Doctor nor Companion will die until their contract has expired.

Yep, which is why I find it extremely hacky and lazy to "kill" a character that obviously has plot armor. We know they're not allowed to leave her dead, so why bother? If they left her dead at the end of the episode and immediately brought her back at the beginning of the next, that would be at least a little interesting.

Maybe most narrative TV isn't for you.

There is television I enjoy. This isn't it. I liked the previous episode. This one just didn't feel like it had any substance to me. Oh no, the Doctor stepped on a mine! What will we do? A lot of shouting! Throw two fistfuls of war movie tropes at it! Paper over the gaps with references to my previous storylines!

It came off as very lazy to me. If it came from anyone else, I would say "oh, they're trying to write a tribute to Moffat here," but he wrote it himself. It felt like going to see one of those bands that's still touring even though half the original lineup is dead. Did they play all the old hits? You bet! Was it as good as it was the first time around? Well...
posted by jordemort at 10:17 PM on May 21 [4 favorites]

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