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The Ravages of Time (and Egomaniacal Writers)

tardises

I still call myself a “Time Lord” (“Time Lady” when I’m being accurate with another fan), but I no longer call myself Whovian. And the period of time when I did call myself such was very small.

Mostly I blame Steven Moffat.

moffat

Pictured: The Face of Evil, collapsing under the weight of its own ego.

He wound us up with episodes like Silence in the Library, and Blink, which single-handedly (together) convinced us that his takeover as head writer would herald an age of darkness (in the good way), and Gothic horror.  You know, like that episode written by Neil Gaiman.

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The Doctor’s Something-Or-Other.  Wife.  That’s it.  (But which is what?!)

Instead, we got darkness (in the sad way), and a horrifying dismissal of all pre-established lore in the Whoverse, including things he, himself, established in the episodes he wrote under Russell T. Davies. And all of it executed in such a short-sighted infantile fashion — why, the first three seasons under his reign played out more like the convoluted fever dreams of a child-fan than an accomplished, professional writer. I actually accused him (though not to his face, because we’ve never met — and ONLY because we’ve never met) of using his own childhood fan fiction (complete with hand-decorated giant binder) as the basis for every episode he wrote.

Back Camera

And this is just what he wrote in third grade!  He really is a genius.

Every episode was an extreme; going from “How’s your tea?” to “WE’RE LITERALLY ALL DYING RIGHT THIS SECOND!” and back down to “What do you suppose you’ll wear for dinner?” by the end, you were either exhausted, or completely disengaged when the credits rolled. And, where before you could track the progress of tension through an entire season (with peaks and valleys for each episode), a Moffat season told you in the beginning what the Big Bad would be (or at least what to look out for), and then spent very little time laying actual groundwork for it. His energy went into packing a season’s-worth of excitement into a single episode. Every episode. And everything was wrapped up by the end in a tidy little ribbon. I’m sorry, Steven Moffat, but there are only so many times you can threaten me with the Doctor’s “super-for-reals-this-time-you-guys” death before I stop caring about it, or any danger you try to make me believe he’s in.

Seriously. You’ve proven he’s basically invulnerable and he’s never going to die, so it doesn’t matter what kind of danger he’s in. Yawnsville all the way.

Defeating the Silence

Because, honestly, it was never about whether or not he COULD die. It was about our emotional connection with him in the moment.

With Russel T. Davies and David Tenant we cared that enough damage to his body meant he wouldn’t be Ten anymore, because the Doctor spent so long being desperately afraid of it.  He dreaded this thing — this prophesied thing– so much, he fought as hard against its inevitability as he fought against anything threatening the universe. He went out of his way to put an end to it, to fight what he thought was it. Avoiding the “end of his song” consumed him. So when it finally came and it wasn’t even the apocalyptic scenario he’d spent so much time and energy fighting, we all cared.  Our stomachs plummeted with his when we all realized what it meant.

A lot of that came from within. The Tenth Doctor wanted to remain the Tenth Doctor. It wasn’t the idea that the Doctor was dying and would never live again that made us cry so hard; it was the fact that he so desperately didn’t want to go, and that he had no choice. We mourned that Doctor, because we also knew it was inevitable and unstoppable, because we spent a season fighting his demons with him, and we saw it catch him anyway. He’d cheated regeneration once! But that window had well and truly passed.  There was no way out, and we all knew it.  We spent a whole episode saying goodbye to everyone he loved — everyone we loved — with him.
And then we all cried our hardest when the regeneration finally came.

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When Ten arrived, he taught us that the Doctor is always the Doctor, no matter which Doctor he happened to be at the time. But when he left, he taught us that the Doctor dies every time he’s born again.

All of this mattered, because they took the time to connect us to the moment, and that moment was telegraphed through time with the beating of two hearts heard as drums in the Master’s mind, and four innocent knocks on a simple radiation-proof glass door, specifically so that moment would punch us in the collective gut.

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And it worked.

But, in the Moffat seasons I see episodes that establish an enemy as being the single worst thing to ever happen ( … to exposition). Because that’s how we learn how terrible they are. Not through reactions, or behavior, or casual mention in any moment before, but exclusively in the episode in which they’re meant to be a threat, and exclusively in the Doctor reciting a galactic Wikipedia entry about the threat.  All of time and space to pull from (all the 50+ years of history), and even if the enemy is brought in from the past, there’s a mountain of exposition to contextualize the encounter just for that episode, because it has no greater impact on the rest of the season more often than not.

That is, if it’s not one of the Big Three.

I see convoluted plots attempting to blow our minds with the level of their creativity, but it all means so little to me. It’s all so much “look at what I’ve built!” that I’ve mostly written it out of the lore in my head; it was too damn awful to acknowledge.

River Song

Pictured: As much context per moment as I felt from Moffat’s writing.

 

The final Matt Smith season saw improvement, and a lot of that came from the fact that Moffat was no longer the lead writing name on EVERY of the episodes. Other writers were allowed to take the lead for different episodes, and it got so much better.

Though for me, sadly, it did not improve enough.

For now, when I see promotional pictures, or even something as iconic and once-beloved an image as the TARDIS … I just scroll past. I want nothing to do with it.

The same three enemies recycled endlessly. Dalek, Cybermen, The Master. Dalek, Cybermen, The Master. Eventually, they’re all meaningless; the punchlines of jokes people stopped telling a long time ago.  We don’t believe you when you say they’re defeated.  It worked in the beginning, because we legitimately weren’t expecting them.  Now we know they’ll always be there, so there’s no point pretending they’re gone, even for a minute.

Everything about the show is meaningless for me, now. They don’t give me time or a reason to care about anyone or anything in that universe, anymore. And what reason they do provide, they give through exposition, informing me why I’m SUPPOSED to care, instead of giving me the opportunity to want to care.

I made myself watch the first Capaldi season, as I made myself sit through the terrible Matt Smith seasons (terrible for Moffat, not for Matt), but I finally had to give up.

There’s only so much that love of the Davies years can overcome, and I have gone well past that limit, already. I’ve been clinging to the love of something already gone, and the hope for something that can never be under this Moffat regime, and, as with any relationship with people who have grown too different, there eventually comes a day when you have to admit that what you loved and what you cling to are no longer the same, and it’s time to let it go.

I used to be a Whovian, and for Nine and Ten, I shall quietly remain a fan, but my love ends there. As, sadly, does any last trace of interest in the show.

 

—-

Adalind Monroe is a writer in the Pacific Northwest who is very sorry to end on such a sad, sad note, but it couldn’t be helped.  If you made it this far, she rewards you with a sleepy puppy sticking his tongue out.

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Skyrim Has Really Complex Politics [Spoilers?]

[DISCLAIMER: This post deals with the history of the Nords in Skyrim, and briefly about events surrounding the Stormcloak rebellion, as well as speculative lore regarding elves.  I try to keep vague about any details specific to quests and outcomes, so I don’t think there are any actual spoilers.  But that depends on how much information you think counts as a spoiler.  You can probably read on safely without risk, as long as you’re not super uptight about what constitutes a spoiler, and really, if you ARE that uptight, why are you reading a blog post about a game you don’t know anything about in the first place?  Anything could be a spoiler!  THERE ARE ELVES! =o  Now you hate me. 😦 ]

Hello, my name is Adalind and I finally got a copy of Skyrim.

Initially I made an Altmer (High Elf) mage whom I named Kivara, who– no, that’s wrong.  I made a Bosmer (Wood Elf) archer named Malloriel, but that was on Amy’s console, so I don’t know how much she counts except to say that she, too, was entirely the wrong first character to make.  Why? Because I quickly found that while adjusting to the setting and storyline, choosing a character that might require a little focused dedication instead of natural inclination in order to play well might not have been the best plan.  I discovered THAT by watching my brother play HIS first character and remarking to myself how useful a shield was for hiding and bashing people in the face, both of which are activities I knew were lacking in my life.  With that little realization under my belt, I set to work creating a character as applicable to the events in Skyrim as possible without imposing any unnecessary racial bias I wouldn’t know was even implied, because, yes, I am THAT player.

Thus was born Cordelia (because I swear to Dibella she looks just like Charisma Carpenter when she was on Angel).  She’s a Nord because the main conflict in Skyrim revolves around the Nords, thus

My TV doesn’t have Print Screen. Shut up.

she would potentially have a vested interest in Nord affairs, not because of the wide-reaching effects the way the Aldamari Dominion would be interested, but because it is her home and her people fighting each other.  She came in as unbiased as I did, which is to say leaning slightly toward the Stormcloaks, because, c’mon!  Down with the Imperialist pig-dogs!  But it’s not really that simple when you take the time to read the books you find scattered throughout the land.  Which I do.  Because I am THAT player.

Here’s what I’ve learned.

Skyrim was, as was the rest of Tamriel, the land of the elves. Mortal, human settlers filtered in and for the most part managed to get along fine with the native elves, sharing their toys and everything.  The Bretons even became nearly indistinguishable from their elven hosts with the high level of commingling (that’s sex), but this was not the case for Skyrim.  When the proto-Nords, like blobs of Nedic plasma, crossed the sea from their original land, which was locked in some kind of civil war, they saw the elves and decided they didn’t like the cut of their jib.  The proto-Nords said “GTFO” and started a new war, because the old one didn’t have any elves, which is probably why the Nords hated it and left.  The elves, understandably, were less than cool with this.

There was a great war between man and elf (believed to be the now extinct Snow Elves), with the Nedic army headed by Ysgramor and his five hundred Companions, which he insisted on calling Companions even though I doubt he knew any of their names personally.  The Snow Elves were led by their forever nameless Snow Prince (which supports the idea that Ysgramor was terrible with names).  The short of it ends with humans winning the battle with many a touchdown dance and thrusting of hips, the Snow Prince slain by a little girl, of all things, and Ysgramor becoming a big fat hero.  Now, even if the conflict was started because the elves were like “GTFO” when the Nords stopped by looking for a kegger and maybe a cup of sugar, the Nords’ answer to the native population’s “We want to keep our homes, thanks,” was to invade and obliterate them, so I’m not seeing a whole lot of nobility in the motives for the war in the first place.  Add to that the speculation (lore speculation, so probable in-game fact) that the Snow Elves descended into the bowels of the earth to seek refuge with the Dwemer (Dwarves) who poisoned them blind like the jerks they were, indentured and then enslaved them for fun, and then, just to make sure they never had any trace of self worth again, they bred them into the cave-dwelling Falmer everyone loves to encounter at night.  By “love” I mean I don’t hate them like I hate undead Draugr warriors, but I wouldn’t mind not hanging out with them ever again.

I now see the Nords as being single-handedly responsible for the total destruction of the native population of elves, not just in having killed them, which they totally did, but in being the catalyst that would also rob them of their sense of identity, history, and self.  Because fuck elves, I guess.

Repeating the pattern is Ulfric Stormcloak — leader of one of the two faction options you’re given as you play through– with the native people of Markarth.  Markarth has a lot of history behind it, but all you need to know is that those Dwemer  jerks who turned elves into mutants built it and then up and left like it was Roanoke (but probably with a far less plausible explanation than Roanoke’s), and humans live there now.  Built into the rocky face of a mountain, it would resemble Rivendell if not for all the hard angles and beds made of stone, which are wicked comfy if you hate yourself and all the joys life has to offer.  The people of the Reach, that is the humans who first settled there, were ousted more than once, the latest occasion being when Ulfric Stormcloak decided to kill the High King for ending a war by saying Nords couldn’t worship their man-god, Talos, because it upset the Thalmor of the Dominion.  To be fair, though, the Thalmor look really terrible when they cry, so it was a pretty big issue.

Until recently, Skyrim didn’t even have an issue with the Empire.  The problems started when the Aldamari Dominion decided that a mortal can’t become a god, so if Skyrim didn’t want to find out what “cleansed by fire” meant first hand, then worship of Talos would have to be outlawed.   Actually, no, that wasn’t even the problem.  The problem was when the High King made the Jarls (kings of individual Holds/cities) actually enforce the law.  That’s when Ulfric threw his dinner across the room and put on his fighting breeches, and a bunch of other people went “YEAH!” and joined him.

In this initial uprising, Ulfric removed the remaining native born people of the Reach from their homes allowing Nords to completely supplant them, so those who remain, now called The Forsworn, hate all Nords.  I can totally sympathize with that, especially when all those who remain in the city from the original blood are enslaved in the silver mine/prison by their friendly Nordic hosts.  Playing a Nord, though, I don’t really appreciate their tendency to still try to kill me even though I helped them this one really important time.  My ability to sympathize with their cause is also hindered somewhat by the way they insist on terrorizing the citizens of Markarth who had nothing to do with the uprising, but are apparently evil because they’re Nordic.  Very much a “Sins of the . . . That Guy You’ve Never Personally Met are the Sins of the . . . Everyone Else” situation.

With all this, you might wonder why it’s not an obvious choice to go with the Imperials, then.  Well, I mean other than because they’re obviously pig-dogs.  Partly I can say it’s because I haven’t met an Imperial who isn’t a douchebag and/or royal tool (ha!) except for the first one you meet at the beginning of the game. (I call him Smelly.)

All the Thalmor I’ve met have been super mean, too.  Just all kinds of arrogant.  Also, they’re trying to kill me.  I mean, Cordelia.  Apparently helping  Forsworn is a no-no in their book worthy of clandestine assassination attempts that aren’t even officially sanctioned.  Not the kind of people that encourage me to encourage Cordelia to join them.

I can’t get behind the Imperial army because they’re under the boot heel of the Dominion, the aforementioned arrogant meanies, and from a personal standpoint I’m really not into one religious view dictating to entire races and countries of people what they are and aren’t allowed to believe based on what does or doesn’t offend them, so while I may not fully support from where the Nords have come or their inherent attitude of Right by Conquest, if I were going to pick a cause it would be to fight against religious oppression, but dang, Bethesda!  You didn’t make them a very sympathetic people!

So, no one’s right, everyone has baggage, and I AM THAT PLAYER!

—–

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Adalind Monroe is a writer and gamer who listens to Malukah sing The Dragonborn Comes on repeat because it’s pretty much the coolest arrangement of a Skyrim song ever.  She is an avid reader and writer of fantasy fiction, and feels much inspiration coming to her revolving around conversations she pretends happened between Cordelia and the NPCs.  Currently, she swears a lot at Lydia for getting caught in a glitch at Sungard and pretends her mercenary in full Dwarven plate is an Animunculus.  Cordelia’s second horse is named Artax.

Check Adalind out on Facebook or Twitter for all the fun, and don’t forget to stop by her Smashwords page to get all the reading.

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