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The actor (or actress) playing the thirteenth incarnation of the Doctor will be announced on the BBC after the Wimbledon final on Sunday. (There is no truth to the rumor that Doctor #13 will immediately go to work fighting sentient, table-sized blancmanges from the planet Skyron who have threatened to hijack the tournament...)
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(Spoilers for "Better Call Saul" s3 finale ahead.)

This is the story of either an odd coincidence, or something weirder and deeper. You decide.

It all started yesterday morning at the bank, when I was taking my favorite customer down to the vault. (A short digression: I work in an Orthodox Jewish neighborhood, and most of the bank's customers do not share my interests. This gentleman is different. He's an illustrator, a bit of a bohemian, and we have many interesting conversations about literature and comic book artists.)

So I took him down to his safety deposit box and he started to talk about Ray Bradbury. (I love Ray Bradbury. I blazed through most of the Bradbury catalog when I was a kid.) I asked him if he'd read any of Bradbury's stories that were outside of RB's usual SciFi/fantasy pigeonhole.

I mentioned two: "The Watchful Poker Chip of H. Matisse" (a surprisingly nasty social satire) and "The Fruit at the Bottom of the Bowl," which I guess you could call a crime story, but it's really about madness and obsession.

[The premise couldn't be simpler: a murderer stops to clean up his crime scene, but slips into (deeper?) madness, obsessively cleaning every inch of his victim's apartment. It's much darker than Bradbury's usual fare, but his command of language and pacing remains unbeatable.]

Last night, I watched the season finale of Better Call Saul. The dramatic center of the episode was when Charles McGill, the protagonist's brother, spiraled down into insanity, ripping apart his beautiful home to find the last trace of electricity that was slithering under his skin from behind the walls. (Michael McKean took you completely into Chuck's head. I know it's silly to call this a career-defining role for McKean, because he's literally been in everything over the last 40 years. But Chuck McGill is right up there with Spinal Tap for me. Just give him the Emmy already.)

In the post-episode discussion on AMC, McKean joined Saul co-creator Peter Gould in breaking down the episode. Gould said that Chuck's demolition derby was inspired by the scene in Francis Ford Coppola's "The Conversation," when Gene Hackman destroys his house looking for a bug that may or may not have been planted. But McKean said he used a literary source for inspiration:

"The Fruit at the Bottom of the Bowl."

I hadn't thought about that story in years. I was completely unspoiled about the episode. Odd coincidence? Or is it, like my wife said, that sometimes ideas are just hanging in the air, waiting for someone to pull them down.

In "The Girl Who Died," the Doctor said that deja vu is you remembering something that hasn't happened yet. Do we have flashes that break us out of linear time? Do we all have the capacity to see beyond the illusion we've created for ourselves?
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I've been saying all year that Peter Capaldi and Pearl Mackie have been one of best Doctor/companion duos in recent memory. Their chemistry is absolutely crackling, and this episode had some truly gut-wrenching and heartwarming scenes between Bill and the Doctor.

When the Doctor told Bill he was joining the Monks to save humanity, you could see and feel Bill's anguish. And when the Doctor told Bill that people like her are why he tolerates humanity, Bill's smile made you feel good all over.

Mackie and Capaldi are killing it...

Too bad the plot made no sense.

For a near-omnipotent extraterrestrial race, the Monks went down way too easy. Yeah, I got a fairly good answer to the "consent" question from last week, but a million other questions popped up in its place. To wit:

When the Monk scanned Bill on the boat, why didn't it recognize the linchpin of its invasion? And, as one critic pointed out, why are they allowing a precious asset like Bill to wander around in the first place?

Why couldn't the Monks stop the Doctor's aquatic battering ram after they stopped missiles and jet aircraft last week? Why wasn't the broadcast station better protected? (There should have been a thousand troops loyal to the Monks ready to blow anybody approaching the building to the gates of Hell.) And while I'm glad Bill's brain didn't get fried, I don't think the Power of Lurve ending worked nearly as well as it did in "Closing Time."

(I do think the regeneration was "too much." And a waste of life energy.)

There was no explanation as to why the Monks were interested in the Earth in the first place, and they did a piss-poor job defending their territory when the lie faded. The whole Monk invasion seemed strangely airless -- in a sense, almost abstract. Instead of an alien invasion, I felt I was watching an installation at the Museum of Modern Art entitled "Alien Invasion."

[cjlasky steps back to study the installation, strokes his chin and mutters "Interesting," then wanders off to find the Picassos.]

But if nothing else, we got some great Missy out of the episode. (Guess that was her in the vault after all. Huh.) Michelle Gomez keeps working new shades of ambiguity into what was once a two-dimensional supervillain. She's the best version of the Master since Derek Jacobi's oh-so-brief appearance in S3. (I'll leave it to expert Whovians to argue if she's the best since Delgado....)
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What's gotten into Steven Moffat?

After five seasons of brain-twisting plotlines filled with temporal loops and paradoxes, DW Season 10 has kicked off in a style that could almost be described as... minimalist.

New companion (hi, Bill!) and she's not a big, cosmic mystery for the Doctor to suss out, she doesn't have a crush on the old bugger (yay!) and Time hasn't edited her family from existence. She's just the Doctor's student, asking all sorts of neat questions about the weirdness of the Doctor's universe, questions any veteran Whovian would love to ask.

Pearl Mackie gives Bill a warm, friendly presence and an appealing curiousity that just makes you smile when she's on screen. She's not a drama queen like Rose, brittle like Amy, LOUD like Donna, moony like Martha, or intense like Clara. She's her own thing, mostly free of baggage. It's refreshing.

The Doctor, too, has stripped down to a simpler lifestyle. Considering Four's declaration at the start of Tom Baker's run that "I am a citizen of the universe!", it's remarkable that he's stayed on Earth and in one spot for so long. What could possibly be in that vault to warrant such a radical curbing of his wanderlust? Who means so much to him that he would keep his promise to stay put for 50 years? (River? Clara? Susan? Mommy? Your guess is as good as mine...)

I like this mystery much better than Moffat's other attempts at a season-long mystery... because it's simple. "What's in the vault?" Boom. Almost none of his previous attempts, all too clever by half (e.g., The Hybrid, The Impossible Girl) have worked out to my satisfaction, but this seems virtually foolproof. (I know: famous last words.)

You'll note that I haven't mentioned the plots of the first two episodes, mainly because there wasn't much plot to speak of. The wafer-thin premises of 10.1 & 10.2 were mainly there to get Bill and the Doctor together and have them exchange highly entertaining banter. (Probable moment of inspiration: Moffat was on his way to the studio one morning and stepped in a puddle. "Eureka! I have my season premier!")

But if the banter stays this witty, and the chemistry between Mackie and Capaldi stays this good, I'm okay with it for now. Moffat can short-circuit our brains later on in the season...


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