Saturday, 24 April 2010

What if you were really old and really kind and alone? Your whole race dead, no future, what couldn't you do then?

The Beast Below maintains an honourable Nu-Who tradition. Specifically the second episode of any season being an absolute corker.

The Grand Moff once again goes to the RTD playbook and takes the new companion to a point far into the future of Humanity (presumable circa The Ark in Space time frame). In doing so he also FINALLY gave us a Space Whale in Doctor Who, some twenty-odd years after Davision was supposed to get one! That the Whale is also the Great Atuin is an additional bonus. There's hope for The Killer Cats of Gengh Singh yet (and no the cats of New Earth don't count, cool as they were).

The Doctor and Amy work far better in this episode too. There wasn't a whole amount of post regenerative trauma in the first episode, so the Doctor here is only subtly different from the Doctor of the Eleventh Hour. But we get to see him as the detective/problem solver that Moffat has always maintained the Doctor should be. Interestingly this is a Doctor who is a little more guarded around his companion than the nine and tenth Doctors were. Equally interesting is that this is a more secretive companion too. The Doctor once again hides and then brushes off the Time War (see The End of the World) and Amy has yet to reveal her impending marriage. Similarly they both hide their suspicions/knowledge of the enslavement and torture of the Whale from each other in order to protect each other. Amy certainly seems more like a person and less like a character description here. I also loved the Doctor's anger and his "you don't get to decide what I should know" bit.

The story is certainly stronger than The Eleventh Hour too, in that there actually is one to speak of. The only downside to this is that it once again taps into the Moffat trick of there not being a bad guy so much as a mistaken one and the Doctor saving the day by working this out. The Nanogenes in the Empty Child were trying to heal, but get it wrong. The Clockwork Robots were trying to fix the ship, but get it wrong. The Vashda nerada were displaced from their home and the library "saved" people to stop them dying. Here the humans misinterpret the action of the Whale and Amy works this out. This is no bad thing in as much as very few stories in Who's 40 odd years have played with this idea, but there is a risk of the Moff running it into the ground now that he is the head writer.

Moving on, I got a total kick out of the casting of this episode too. For a second episode in a row we got child thesps that can actually act, an Oscar nominee as good Queen Liz ten (gawd bless er) and Terrance Hardiman. The latter is the one I got a real kick out of as I have really fond memories of THE DEMON HEADMASTER. Sadly he didn't get a huge amount to do and wasn't the bad guy, but still THE DEMON HEADMASTER!

All in all a really good, if not quiet classic, episode.

Thursday, 22 April 2010

Doctor Who: Season Fnarg - The story so far

So we are now a few episodes in what is already the Moffat era of the show. It shows the way Who fandom thinks that its the "Moffat" era and not the "Smith" era, but there we go. On the other hand there is no real consensus on what to call the new season with there being 4 distinct camps: 1) its season 1, 2) its season 5, 3) its season 31, 4) its season fnarg/it doesn't matter. 3 and 4 are bollocks. I tend to alternate in my thinking between 1 and 2. Key thing is, contrary to popular opinion, is season 31 is nonsense. You cannot have a season 27 after a 15 year gap! Not to mention all the ongoing books and audios in between. Season 27 is the Timewyrm quadrilogy by the way.

Anyway onto The Eleventh Hour. Matt's performance was arguably the best 1st appearance since Troughton. If the series ended at this point you could build an ongoing series of books and audios for Matt much more easily that McGann. Obviously all the stuff with Young Amy was totally fantastic. I particularly loved the bit which culminates in the Doctor realising/saying that the crack in the wall must be well scary. Next up, I also loved the "14 years" and "2 years" gags. The new TARDIS control room is gorgeous, I grew to accept the RTD Era one, but I was never more than luke warm on it. This one is so beautiful I don't even mind the fact it isn't futuristic-white as tradition dictates! Plus it's got proper roundals! And I really liked the tapping into the Doctor's thought processes with the weird snap shot photography.

On the downside; the plot is a complete retread of Smith and Jones. Timey wimey meeting of the companion, alien coppers chasing a prisoner who is hiding out on earth and using disproportionate force to do so; the Doctor tricking the alien into revealing its species; setting the thing in a hospital. Secondly, if your gonna make porn jokes then you really shouldn't be coy in making Amy a "kissogram". Thirdly the effects were not good (although that may be an issue of high def effects being downscaled to standard def). Fourthly adult Amy was rather bland and Rory was Moffats typical "useless bloke" character (see Coupling for many more examples!). "Have you counted the doors, really counted them", how about Fuck Off I am not buying that at all!

Another problem I have is the introduction of the "arc" with all the subtlety of a wrecking ball. Which brings me to a more general point. I think that the show needs to shit or get off the pot with respect to Arcs. Bad Wolf was not an arc, it was somewhere between foreshadowing and a story thread. Torchwood was foreshadowing. The lost moon of bloody Poosh was foreshadowing. I'm sorry but you cannot call repeating a buzz word (or special effect) an arc. Babylon 5 had an arc, Buffy and Angel had arcs, Blakes 7 had arcs, Dawson's Creek had arcs. The nearest New Who has come is season 3 with the buildup of Saxon intermingling with the Face of Boe and Human Nature/Watch stuff. Rant Over!

Next up we will have The Beast Below, which long story short was fucking brilliant.