New Doctor Who! It snuck up on me a bit, hadn't realised it was quite so soon this autumn - but found out in time. Tho it feels weird having half a series now and half a series next year, even if that is just the same as they did last time. Many spoilers ahead, read at own risk. (And kindly don't spoil things for later episodes in comments here or facebook/G+ coz J's extremely spoilerphobic.)

Hover mouse over text to read, or read on entry page:

Not a review, more rambly thoughts.

I'd managed to be almost completely unspoiled for this, so I wasn't expecting Daleks & I'd forgotten that they'd shown pics of the new companion who arrives later in the season so I wasn't quite as "wow" about that surprise as I think the showrunners would've liked ;) Presumably it's not been an elaborate fake-out & she actually will be the new companion later. Hopefully with (some of?) the same personality coz I quite like the idea of shaking up the Doctor/Companion dynamic a bit in New Who by having a non-21stC Earth companion & someone who considers herself as clever as him. (Yes, I know that River & to a lesser extent Jack probably fit into that category but I mean a full time longer-lasting companion.)

The plot itself was nicely creepy, I thought. Particularly when they're first on the planet & they find the shipwreck. And with some well-done foreshadowing, like the eggs->exterminate bit.

I did like the twist about Oswin being a Dalek in one sense - once J'd reminded me she's the next companion I really wasn't expecting her to be converted & then exploded. But that whole side of the plot doesn't really fit with Daleks - aren't they all about race purity? So while I could buy into them converting people into tools & security systems (coz that's not really a Dalek) I didn't really buy that they would do a full conversion of anyone even a genuis. I'd think they'd be too blinkered to consider that someone of another species would be capable of being in any way as good as a Dalek. Effectively it felt Cyberman-y rather than Dalek-y.

I liked the Daleks thinking of the Doctor as "the Predator" and kidnapping him to deal with the problem they were too scared to deal with. I also liked the asylum idea & the finding hatred beautiful idea. Although perhaps I'll not consider too closely how it fits in with previous Dalek stuff ;)

I also liked how the Daleks were made to forget the Doctor, yet more unravelling of the "Doctor is a universal celebrity" concept we'd ended up with. And because of how they were partly what they were through fear of/fighting the Doctor (but then don't poke to closely at that, as they were genocidal pre-Doctor I thought). Though of course time travel makes that "forgetting" fairly useless longterm because he'll just meet earlier Daleks, or given Daleks can time travel too (presumably) then earlier Daleks will tell later Daleks & the status quo will be restored.

Overall I was rather "meh" about the Amy/Rory plot, tho nice to see some sort of consequences of the stolen baby part of the plot from last season. And the bit near the start where Amy gives a running commentary on what's going through the Doctor's mind was rather neat.

I'm not really going to speculate about how we get that actress playing the Companion later - last season's finale felt a bit limp to me coz I thought I'd come up with cleverer ideas to resolve the dangling threads of the season arc than we actually got on-screen. I suspect it'll just turn out to be someone that looks like Oswin, not Oswin herself (which would be a shame in some ways).

Yesterday we went to the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge to see their current exhibition of items from the tombs of Han Chinese royalty, which runs until November sometime.

Context

In China: The Han dynasty ruled China from approximately 200BC through to approximately 200AD. Most of the items in the exhibition were from the Western Han period, which was the first 200 years of the Han dynasty. China had been unified about 20 or so years before the Han came to power, under the Qin emperor who ruled for 10 years. After he died there was a period of civil war, followed by the first of the Han emperors taking power. Prior to the Qin emperor was a time called the Warring States Period.

Around the rest of the world: In Egypt we're in the Ptolemaic period, so into the decline of the ancient Egyptian civilisation. In Europe the Romans are doing their thing - the Han era covers the time from around about the end of the wars with Carthage through to the end of the Republic (approximately the same time as the end of the Western Han period). Then the Eastern Han period is across the same time as the Roman Empire proper, until approximately the time of the reign of the Emperor Septimus Severus (about 50-100 years before the Roman Empire splits into Western & Eastern parts). Cribbing heavily from Wikipedia here for the Roman bit.

The Exhibition

No illustrations, coz the Fitzwilliam Museum don't let you take pictures in the museum :(

The items on display were nearly all excavated either from tombs of members of the Han royalty or from the tombs of the royalty of the nearby kingdom of Nanyue. Nanyue was semi-automomous in this time period (but assimilated into China later), and their stuff was very clearly modelled on the Han items, but generally not quite as good quality.

The exhibition was laid out roughly following the layout of a tomb - so first was an antechamber with model warriors to protect the occupant. I was particularly struck by these - they even had some that were still painted & each was apparently made as an individual, because they believed that they would come to life in the afterlife so needed to be "people". This area also showed how the tombs were intended to be protected from looting (including door locks & tales of killing all the workers on the tomb to protect the secret).

Next were a couple of rooms that contained items from the "palace rooms" part of the tomb - each tomb contained kitchens & entertainment rooms and even toilets with proper lifesize toilets in. Which I think was the most mindboggling part of the whole thing - their life in the afterlife clearly wasn't going to be idealised, they were still going to need to do the less pleasant parts of real life like excretion! This area of the exhibition also included a lot of kitchenware, including ginger graters as well as several differents sorts of pots. Some of the pots were clearly heirlooms, as they were of older styles than the Han era, which was kinda cool :) Also in this part of the exibition were models of entertainers - dancers & musicians - and models and/or real musical instruments and games. Also in this area of a tomb would be buried servants of the king, like his Food Inspector (and they had their own toilets in the tomb).

The next two rooms were "burial chambers" - one contained some of the funerary goods of a king of Nanyue (including his seals, some of which claimed he was Emperor, which probably didn't go down that well with the Han Emperor who thought Nanyue was a vassal kingdom). The main item was a jade suit, which had contained the body of the king. Jade was both precious & symbolically important. It was thought to interact magically with the spirit world, and to protect the corpse from corruption. As well as this jade suit there were various jade ornaments around the body (and out in the first room there had been jade weapons for the tomb occupant to protect himself against the spirit world, as well as bronze & iron weapons for more mundane threats).

And the final room had the jade suit & jade coffin of a Han Emperor - good to see them in this order, as it immediately became clear that the Han items were much better quality. I admit I was a little underwhelmed by the jade coffin - I think for the Chinese of the time it would be more impressive because it was both magically and extremely expensive, but to me it looked like a tiled box. There were also more funerary goods - like jade ornaments, jade covered "pillows".

I'll criticise a bit here about the labelling - I thought the labels were often not obvious to find & weren't always particularly informative. This is partly my fault, as I'm sure the audio guide had more info but I really dislike audio guides so I don't use them. (Pacing is the problem, mostly, and often it seems to be only extra info on the stuff I wasn't intrigued by.)

Overall a very interesting exhibition, I learnt a lot about that era of Chinese history that I didn't know before & there were some very impressive items. I think my favourites were the painted terracotta warriors & some of the beautifully carved jades.

Other Stuff

Retail: I picked up the book of the exhibition (only available in hardcover, a shame), and some postcards. There were also quite a lot of classy souvenirs too, tho mostly out of my price range for a whim :)

Stuff I should know more about: Chinese history in general - I need to get a book covering the whole sweep of it, I know very little & it's pretty patchy.

Other exhibits: I also went to look at their small exhibition of pottery from medieval Cyprus. Which generally wasn't to my taste, but I thought the display of how the patterns were made and what the glazing techniques were was interesting.

We also looked at the Egyptian stuff (surprise surprise) - in particular the lid of Rameses III's sarcophagus (the base is in the Louvre), and a coffin set from the 21st Dynasty.

Other places: A trip to Cambridge isn't complete with some nostalgia side-trips ... so lunch in Tatties (not the same as it was when we were there), a drink in The Mitre & dinner at Browns :)

Pages

Subscribe to