I went to bed at 1am, but somehow woke up before 8am and couldn’t get back to sleep. I guess it was because I slept so much during the day. Anyway, I got up early, which was good, as long as I’m not sleep deprived tomorrow (I’m likely to go to bed late tonight because I speak to E late because of the time difference. And also because there was a feature-length episode of Doctor Who on this evening). It was good to be up early and to daven more of Shacharit (say more of the Morning Prayers) than I usually manage.

I looked into the demand for a tax return for the tax year ending April 2021. From both the dates and the reference number, I’m pretty sure that this is the tax year for which I submitted a tax return less than a month ago on the HMRC website. I do have an email receipt for that form, but it doesn’t specify the year, it just says that a copy was received. I don’t have a copy of the form itself, because it was all online (the problem of the all-digital approach). I will have to phone on Tuesday and find out what is going on. Worryingly, the tax return I filled in doesn’t seem to be on the ‘track progress’ page. Why is bureaucracy such a pain?

My alexithymia post on the autism forum met with some positive responses. Someone said that they try to identify their emotions by “birdwatching”: noting all their physical traits and working out what emotions they would indicate. It did make me think that, having to deduce my own emotions logically or empirically, and do the same for other people’s emotions, which I also struggle to read, then it’s no wonder I find personal interactions so draining! I spent quite a while responding to the comments on that post and reading and contributing on some other interesting/relevant posts.

It was quite a busy day besides this: my sister and brother-in-law came for lunch, I went for a walk and did some Torah study. I thought maybe I should try to see what I enjoy, in terms of recent thoughts here about trying to understand myself and what I would like to do better, and I enjoyed the walk (listening to a podcast) and the Torah study. I didn’t really get any new insights, but I think I found some good questions to think about in the future. It’s that kind of engagement with Torah that I enjoy, rather than passive reading. This was the fairly quiet day I hoped for last week and didn’t think I was going to get (I don’t think I could do literally nothing all day). I wanted to do some writing too, but ran out of time.

***

As a rule, I don’t get into political discussions online, but I read a blog post on The Times of Israel about a panel discussion by a couple of academics about the rise of Hitler, which inevitably concluded that “OMG, the USA today is like Germany in 1933!!!!!!!” This angered me so much that I wrote 500 word comment, which I had to halve because of a word count limit in comments, pointing out how wrong this is (I’m not linking as I commented under my real name). I know I’m bound to be criticised, but I just could not stand such ridiculous alarmism. Saying “There was inflation in the 1920s, there’s inflation now, IT’S THE SAME”is just nonsense. The hyper-inflation of Germany in the early 20s was much worse than today’s inflation: prices in stores rose hourly and people’s life savings were wiped out over night. That’s not happening today.

I said more and would have said even more if the word count had been longer, but the bottom line is that the world is bad enough as it is without make-believing that it’s much worse. I recommended people read The Coming of the Third Reich by Richard J. Evans to learn what Weimar Germany was really like. There seems to be a certain type of person who loves to feel that the Fascists are at the door, and only they can save civilisation.

***

The rest is about Doctor Who, feel free to skip.

In the evening, the BBC Centenary special episode of Doctor Who was on. I feel that the BBC celebrating itself is rather arrogant. I’m not feeling particularly well-disposed to the BBC at the moment, not least because The Jewish Chronicle has just submitted a petition to Parliament asking for a parliamentary inquiry into reporting of Jews, antisemitism and Israel at the BBC,  but also from a broader feeling that the BBC, for all it plugs itself as “for everyone” is actually for a very particular subset of the population: middle class, centre-left, secular, probably Boomer, culturally bourgeois, with some quite rigid views while preening itself as tolerant and cosmopolitan.

Moreover, I’ve lost a lot of interest in new Doctor Who over the last couple of years as a result of some uninspired episodes. I don’t even care enough to hate it, it’s just there. It’s clearly not made for someone of my aesthetic tastes any more, and I can’t even be bothered to complain about David Tennant and Russell T Davies coming back. Some things are just inevitable.

I found tonight’s episode badly-plotted, confusing to the point of unintelligibility, focused on spectacle rather than content, and loud and sentimental, but that’s par for the course. I liked some of the references to the past, but thought the sheer number of them was overdoing things. I don’t think that any of the three new series era Doctor Who showrunners have particularly liked science fiction or shown much interest in science fiction-based stories, although Steven Moffatt was clearly fascinated by time-travel stories, and all three are long-term Doctor Who fans. This lack of interest in science fiction among the showrunners for the BBC’s flagship science fiction show perhaps seems strange to non-fans, but Doctor Who has never been a straightforward science fiction show, more a genre hybrid with science fiction trappings, and many of the most avid fans (and some of its past creatives) have little interest in the genre as a whole. Even so, some affinity in writers is useful, to put it mildly.

In the twentieth century, Doctor Who was made on a relatively low budget and prioritised plot and character over effects and spectacle. In the twenty-first century, that situation is reversed, perhaps inevitably, as the show competes with TV and film blockbusters in the CGI era, working on a much smaller budget than the likes of the Star Wars and Marvel franchises. Even so, some of the greatest episodes of the new series era have been relatively low key in terms of effects, and probably filmable fifty or sixty years ago without too much rewriting concentrating on character and suspense, not spectacle (e.g. Father’s Day, Human Nature/The Family of Blood, Blink, Midnight, The Doctor’s Wife, Heaven Sent, Rosa).

Chris Chibnall’s first season as showrunner was oddly low-key and had no absolute classics, although Rosa (about Rosa Parks) came close. But it had a number of stories that made me think, “I didn’t know Doctor Who could do that” and left me interested and hopeful for the future. But since then Chibnall has mostly focused on spectacle with only Flux: Village of the Angels really standing out in my memory, and having only seen it once, I’m not sure how much of that is my memory cheating. The scenes in the later episodes of Flux with Yaz, Dan and Professor Jericho having fun, clever, adventures left me wishing that the whole series could be like that, but now Doctor Who is made by fans, for fans and the series thinks that Time Lords, Daleks, Cybermen and the Master are inherently interesting on screen without doing anything interesting. This was how I reacted to the programme as a child, but then I grew up and found secondary layers of meaning. But, with a budget twentieth century Doctor Who producers could only dream of, twenty-first century Doctor Who doesn’t need to grow up, it can show us that Dalek-Cyberman-Master team up that the twentieth century version would never have dared show us (I guess The Five Doctors is the closest). The problem is for those of us who want something more, some original ideas rather than plot contrivances or eerie atmosphere rather than wall-to-wall explosions.

I feel I’ve written this review a lot over the last seventeen years, and I don’t want to upset or offend anyone, as I’ve got to a point where I realise this (Doctor Who, but popular culture generally) isn’t really made for me and I have to find my entertainment elsewhere or make it myself. I don’t privilege my opinion any more or feel any more that there’s some kind of “spirit of Doctor Who” that has been betrayed and that I am more in touch with it than other people. It’s just not really made for me any more, although I still watch out of a mixture of curiosity and hope. I feel better knowing this, less bitter and rejected.

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6 thoughts on “Come Back Bill Hartnell, All is Forgiven

  1. I think that idea of getting clues on emotions is a good way to figure them out but also exhausting. I have no diagnosis of alexithymia but I have often thought it tends to describe me. I actually love to *talk* about feeling but have real trouble sensing my own feelings. Anyway, my eldest also has the same issue (in addition to autism and some intense mental health challenges) and one of the things providers tell them is to connect emotional feeling with body feelings. I usually also don’t connect with body feeling very much 😜

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I don’t have a diagnosis of alexithymia from a psychiatrist either, although it was pointed out to me by a previous therapist. Even though I’m usually reluctant to self-diagnose, it does seem to fit and as there’s no treatment or support I don’t feel that it does any harm to self-diagnose in this case.

      Yes, I don’t connect with body feeling much either. I’m sorry your child has similar issues.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Not exactly like Germany or Hitler but there are some similarities including a large rise in antisemitism, mostly from one party. And blatant lately. I admit to being extremely worried.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. There are many worrying things, but to pretend that the country has seen the kind of political, social and economic dislocation of Germany in the thirties, with a punitive military defeat, people’s savings wiped out by inflation, a third of the workforce unemployed, and armed paramilitary groups engaged in constant street fighting, does no one any favours, particularly when the significant differences are totally ignored in favour of playing up similarities.

      Like

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