I had plowed through series six and seven in the run-up to Capaldi's debut and gotten a bit burned out. I still have some series issues with how he talked about the women characters, turned making fun of them into a joke and not even a particularly good one, but I think a lot of that was just getting a belly-full of it too quickly. Also I've always liked the stand-alone episodes much more than the ones trying to develop some deeper plot, which the end of S7 definitely trended toward. The upshot being I watched "Deep Breath" and was just so burned out I never pushed forward.
WHat is it now, two years away, and it's a bit like a field lying fallow. "Into the Dalek" was just wonderful! Campy sci-fi fun, it had something of the feel of "The Unquiet Dead" (the Charles Dickens episode fro way back in series one), but with some really deep moral quandaries too. It was dark, really dark but without feeling dark, or at least without feeling heavy, leaden. It's our Doctor the eternal optimist facing some really dark material, and it's brilliant. Even if te ending left me a bit uneasy. I'd love to dig into that, but I'm not quite sureow you could without "breaking" it.
And yes, I'm trying to avoid spoilers here. Are spoilers a concern so far out?
"Robot of Sherwood" is magical in another way. It's a history episode, filled with all the romance of an Arthurian legend. I say romance and think other people hear, you know, love story in the modern romcom sense, but what I really mean is a tale of sentiment and idealism, something that gets the spirit moving. Romance in the older sense. And this just had me smiling from start to finish, because it's such of all of that. There' beauty and light and adventure, a tad overtold in parts (it is writtten by Mark Gatiss, and it shows in the best way) but really just a rich character story. Reminds me a lot of the S5 theme of "we're all just stories in the end," and that being enough to conquer something even more final than death. About being a legend vs. being "real."
Which got me thinking about Sherlock, and something I've bemoaned a bit since the last series there: Mary's "who you really are, doesn't matter" line. Because I think this episode gets at a lot of what Mark and Steven were aiming for in that comment, and in a way that seems much more satisfying to me. In the DW episode, Robin Hood is supposed to be just a legend, not real, to the point the Doctor can't believe he's not an illusion or some sort of alien deception. A real Robin Hood is impossible to him. The episode ends with Robin challenging him on this point: they're both "the story behind the legend" in a sense, both are being mythified, and that myth serves a bigger purpose than reality. And in Sherlock we've seen that happened not once but twice in S4: Mary's post-mortem "life" standing in such stark contrast to the character we got to see when she was alive, and John's and Sherlock's increasingly dark and even abusive relationship being repurposed a the final cout of appeals, the heroes bursting forth from Rathbone Place in those final frames.
What puzzles me is why I find the Whovian version so encouraging and upliting and even beautiful, while the Sherlockian version just depresses me. Is it level of investment (me personally, I mean) in Sherlock and John as "real" people rather tan just as an encouraging myth? Is it genre, fantasy in the truest sense versus the hyper-realism of the detective/mystery genre? Just the fact that this is one beat in a show I enjoy as opposed to the final beat in something I probably loved in a much truer, certainly deeper sense? I honestly don't know, but that distinction still fascinates me.
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