Friday, 29 June 2007

Doctor Love

It's the obligatory long Doctor Who posting- look away now. Look again, when you've managed to close the page with your eyes shut.

So here we are coming to the end of another season of Doctor Who, and well, it wasn’t my favourite.

David Tennant continues to please me, and the scripts have ramped up the damaged loner aspect of his Doctor this year, this seems to be the Doctor now, one part guilt-ridden survivor to one part reckless liver in the now. Works for me, anyhow.

Freema Agyeman’s done very well filling the hugely expanded audience identification role that the companion has become since Rose, John Barrowman's Captain Jack's cheered up a bit now he's not in Who's adolescent younger brother show any more and John Simm’s Master is a pleasing counterpart to the hyper-kinetic Tennant. I’d rather they’d left the character in the past to be honest, but the new take on him is at least refreshing.

The only problem is I’ve only whole-heartedly enjoyed 4 out of the 12 episodes so far, which is a worry when it’s your favourite show.

Smith and Jones, the season opener was great, well-paced and with just enough explanation, character work, incident and plot, supremely confident and layered in audience appeal.

The Shakespeare Code I found just a little dull, sadly. Some good jokes in there, but not enough sense of adventure for me, somehow. The threat such as it was, was a bit cartoon, and hadn’t started properly until the climax, which also rather let the 'words as numbers' concept down by erm, having the important word-numbers being erm, some numbers. Annoyingly Gareth Roberts did a much better take on this in A Groatsworth of Wit a comic strip for Doctor Who Magazine. This is clearly the wrong way round!

Gridlock had lovely set pieces, but really didn’t gell, I didn’t feel. It felt a bit like Season 1’s The Long Game in the sense of having all the elements you wanted for a story but coming across more like an expanded prĂ©cis, where some of the important bits had been accidentally dropped in the process of making it.

Daleks in Manhattan/Evolution of the Daleks, well it just didn’t work for me, obvious, stupid and old hat not the best combo really, particularly when coupled with slow. I can only really honestly praise it for the pig elevator etiquette scene and some pleasant music.

The Lazarus Experiment is an okay run-around, action story, if a little simplistic, and you know if the monster hadn’t ended up being a bit rubbish because of over-ambition, it’d be okay B movie fun stuff like the hugely enjoyable Tooth and Claw which it so obviously took as a production model. The TS Eliot quotes felt distinctly out of place amongst the rest of the whizz-bangery on display I thought.

42- yeah, okay in a dumb action way again, I guess, annoying reuse of Satan Pit music cues, nice airlock scene, central threat a bit dull and best not to apply any science brain to the eyes that shoot heat rays, hardly inspiring. Ho hum.

Human Nature/The Family of Blood- lovely really, and I think probably better than the book. Scarecrows a bit pants, bar that smashing Singing Detective arm wave from the horizon and the suggestion of blood around one’s eye sockets, but the Doctor’s judgement sequence as suggested for mature Vertigo readers was worth the journey on its own. The romance was well handled too, it felt real in a way that I just didn't think last year's in The Girl in the Fireplace didn't.* I really thought Cornell would have been winning all the gongs going for this one except that next week we got…

Blink- best Doctor Who episode ever. Damn. Funny, scary, mind expandy, domestic, it’s all in here. It also undoes a bit of Paul Cornell’s good work on getting kids to see war memorials as important in that final montage, but hell, if it gives the tinies a new irrational terror, great!

Utopia- bit dull to be honest, though it does perk up for some reason towards the end (and has some lovely character/continuity stuff for the regulars, and one suspects a lot of set up waiting to be paid off). Who’d have thought the audience of Blue Peter was composed of so many wooden children, though? He was the best?

The Sound of Drums- well, Lord only knows, it’s all over the place, but enjoyably so, skirting between control and reckless silliness like the Simm Master. Shame Tennant’s old Doctor looked like Catherine Tate of course, but you have to love the cheek of the behind the door mincing scene, the gassing and the climax being built around a bit of linguistic pedantry. I never expected that from modern Who.
I punched the air when I saw a black Time Lord, and of course, you always feel pleased when you sing the pop hit being cued up in advance, but I won't know if this one's going to fall apart or snap together until tomorrow...

Really loving a third of the show isn't bad, of course, I'd have killed for that in 1986, but being a bit take it or leave it about half of it, and actively disliking a further sixth, definitely is.

Don't go dumb on us Doctor Who or we might sudenly realise you're a show about a monster basher in a time travelling 'phone box.

*whereas the Sarah Jane romance in School Reunion felt totally real to me despite being based on a relationship in which we'd never seen a hint of it before, possibly because Sarah was standing in for old fans' love of the show.


Stuart Douglas said...

Seems a fair appraisal - I was keener on Shakespeare Code and less keen than you on Gridlock, but generally I'd agree. That said, this season murders last in terms of quality and the run from Human Nature on has been the most consistent since the series returned.

RJW said...

Pretty much spot on all that. What an up and down season it's been - so just like Doctor Who I suppose...