Saturday, 21 June 2008

Dull Thoughts from a Fan

One of my legion, well phalanxes, well tiny little patrols of legionaries like in Asterix, of readers has just commented on my recent lack of posting here. This is because I don't have a humorous cat, and am currently mainly concentrating on writing stuff about big media corporations it is quite important to do adequately, so I can get both paid and not sued.

However, there is time now as I sit on a railway platform (well a bench thereon) to prattle about Doctor Who which is my inner comedy feline. Yes, it's partway through review of the year time again.

Partners in Crime
I seriously adored, apart from a sequence with the Doctor trying to counter the baddies' plan by messing about with their computer, his sonic screwdriver and two beacon devices. This sequence lost me because the desire to fudge through the technological bit as quickly as possible meant while the stakes were clear the actual logic of what was going on was just one magic wand stroke too many for me, your mileage may vary. This was compounded by an annoying Hitchcock zoom in the same scene, which we get again in The Unicorn and the Wasp. I think it's a device that's become a little cheapened by repetition in adverts and sitcoms etc., and is so anti-naturalistic that I think it should really be saved for really earth shattering moments of revelation. It is of course best employed by Scorsese very very slowly in that diner scene in Goodfellas.

Fires of Pompeii was good too but marred by the fact that I found myself preferring the audio story Fires of Vulcan with Bonnie Langford and Sylvester McCoy and no monsters, which looks frankly absurd written down but is true all the same. I also wish it hadn't had the line about the people of Pompeii turning to stone too early. Seems a shame that Doctor Who Confidential now has to be the source of more accurate factual info about what happened to the Pompeiians rather than the parent show, and I couldn't help feeling there was something poor taste about populating this genuine disaster with alien fire beasties, this is almost certainly just me. Nice twist that to save the world, you kill the city though.

Planet of the Ood
, I enjoyed a lot, apart from the singing, which I wish had been, if not more alien at least less Western. Poor old Ood with their wireless broadband networked brains, lucky they'd evolved somewhere without natural predators, really.

The Sontaran Stratagem/The Burning Sky were largely inoffensive, except for the frankly rubbish use of last minute noble self sacrifice sequence 71a, which actually worked better with Pex in a fumbled long shot on tuppence happenny twenty years ago (then, it was merely ghastly), and the implausible hundred mile an hour winds of flame, which sadly resulted in no incinerated birds (good job the bees had already vanished eh, kids?). Didn't hate it and liked Christopher Ryan a lot, but a bit so what? All just a bit predictable and probably only really enjoyable for me while Donna wanders about the Sontaran ship (well maybe until she hides in the convenient alcove, why do alien ship designers insist on including these?).

The Unicorn and the Wasp, was enjoyable enough while not really emotionally involving, as in Christie you never quite believed any of the characters were real people whose passing you should mourn, but I did like the nesting flashbacks (how I wish they'd been old optical film ripples rather than video though) and the handling of the Colonel's big reveal moment. The big mystery unanswered of course is why Christie appears to have vanished in the Summer in Doctor Who land (answer- so we can have tea on the lawn and wasps).

The Doctor's Daughter
, strikes me as a basically sound script, apart from one slightly overwrought speech, in which the Doctor blatantly lies about whether he'd use weapons or not, which is let down by editorial decisions- I think the planet's situation can only begin to make sense on screen if the guns used are seen to either vapourise or turn bodies to dust or skeletons, and we see explicitly the replicator turning people out at different ages.
Real shame, missed opportunity, and a real letdown to find we're not getting an actual proper daughter either. Liked the Martha and the bubble dialogue sequences a lot though, even if I'm puzzled at how easily a water breathing fish man drowns.

Silence in the Library/ Forest of the Dead
are a pair of interesting and ambitious episodes, but with possibly one plot strand too many and which are slightly undermined by the solution to much of the mystery being a bit too obviously seeded in episode one, even more so than in The Empty Child. The slightly lame bit where the unstoppable baddies are talked down, is a bit of a swizz too and it doesn't help that the Doctor spends a bit too much time being thicker than the viewers either, but there's a lot here to make one very excited about the show's future. Loved Donna's dream life, particularly the jump cut and the self aware fake kids, and liked Miss Evangelista's death a great deal as well, even if was just a tad too long drawn out for me to accept the crew saw this as a normal part of life in their time.

Midnight, was very enjoyable too, and it was great to have both a proper RTD story again, and a no monsters episode at last. I really hope this rule can be further loosened in years to come, they are the biggest limitation on the show's format at present.
Obviously, the whole thing makes no real sense other than mythically, and the self sacrifice resolution is as annoying as ever, but it's so nicely done and well acted, and technically the sound work is brilliant. I once had to synch up two actors speaking at once at hideous length, and it's damn hard work (particularly because half the time they weren't in proper synch, were misreading the lines, skipping bits, or pronouncing them differently, but that's another story. Unsurprisingly it was hard for people to tell how long I'd laboured to get anything approaching the desired effect!)
I think if it had been me writing this, I might have attempted to resolve the climax with a 'phone call from Donna- the outer world breaking in with something that couldn't be repeated and controlled, and maybe even climax with Sky forced to lip synch along to 'Do It Again' forever. However, if it was me it would all have been even more rubbish than that getting there, so be thankful.

So, this year so far I think only once truly short of competent, when The Doctor's Daughter is undermined by its presentation, some genuinely spooky, funny, exciting, and moving bits, but not, Partners in Crime excepted, getting me up and cheering yet. So not as good as the best of last year's yet (the Cornell Moffat three in a row) or as unsatisfactory as its worst (hello 42).

If only there was to be some kind of epic, bombastic finale, with lots of crying, and fan pleasing nonsense and general public pleasing bonkersness to give the season a final dramatic push.
I'm so pleased we all know so little about what's to come. I might be exploding with excitement if there were lots of intriguing rumours flying around and press releases talking about Davros etc.