Sunday, May 12, 2019

Finding Mothers

To-day's Mother's Day in the U.S. so for my Saturday night Doctor Who fix I ended up watching "The Doctor, the Widow, and the Wardrobe", the 2011 Christmas special. I wish I hadn't. It was my least favourite of the Christmas specials the first time I watched it. I thought maybe it'd be better upon revisiting and while I think it hit some of my more sentimental receptors of my eight years older self, I still hated all the fisheyed closeups of the little boy and the unexplained plot conveniences, like Claire Skinner's character hearing a transmission of her kids and the Doctor talking or her suddenly knowing how to pilot a huge, futuristic machine.

I remembered her character being the best part. I do kind of like the part where the Doctor (Matt Smith) observes that she's being irritable with the children because she's chosen to keep their father's death secret from them, but the Doctor playing zany tour guide of the kid's dream house still seems an example of Eleven's worst qualities. I started thinking of all the episodes I should've watched instead, maybe something featuring Jackie Tyler, maybe Echo and the Bannermen (though I wrote about it pretty recently) or even Curse of Fenric. Jean Marsh plays a pretty memorable mother in Battlefield. Funny how I keep thinking of Seventh Doctor serials.

Anyway, I also wanted to talk about Peggy Lipton, who passed away yesterday, as she was a big part of one of the other shows I'm fixated on, Twin Peaks.

On the original run of Twin Peaks, she was beautiful and subtle. She was also great in the 2017 revival where David Lynch made really effective use of her face which had become much more expressive. He would cut to brief reaction shots of her to easily convey or underline the emotions in a scene, like in episode 11 when she's watching the Briggs family conference at the RR.

But she was always great. Her character's, Norma's, storyline over the course of the series since 1990 had a lot to do with carrying on while repressing her own needs--her love for Ed, which she couldn't openly express, and her uncertain feelings for Hank, her criminal husband. Lipton's slow burn performance conveyed a peculiar combination of fragility and strength. Twin Peaks' recurrent theme of characters with double lives manifested in Norma in several ways, and Lipton made it intriguing and plausible that her complicated personal life informed the grace of Norma in her role as the proprietor of the RR diner. I'm sorry to see her go.

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