Now it’s my turn to be the contrarian.
I really didn’t like it.
I actually nearly switched off after the resolution to the multiple cliffhanger. Sorry, I said resolution, I was aiming at cop out and accidently said resolution. No one was in any danger at all. Come ON! I lost count of the number of characters in there, shoe horned in like Old Mother Wotsit and her shoe. Davros did practically nothing, what a waste! A new Doctor was grown so Rose could have him, blergh. It was all, oooooo we are in danger!!! Oh, no we are not so that’s all right then.
Towing a planet through space? No, come ON! What would happen to the gravitational forces and therefore the atmosphere? Someone tell me if that’s possible?
You had to have some knowledge of the Christmas Invasion (the hand and Harriet Jones) and Doomsday (Rose, Bad Wolf Bay, Jackie and Mickey). You had to know who Captain Jack and Martha were. If all those companions hadn’t been involved then we might have had more plot.
What a build up to Davros’ end of series entrance only for him to do almost nothing. The comparision of the Doctor and Davros as the two destroyers of worlds was interesting and I was surprised that it wasn’t explored further.
One thing did work for me! (Hooray!). The Doctor Donna. Nice idea; the companion that becomes the Doctor but cannot ‘take’ being part Time Lord. (Loved the opportunity to show that Doctor could fix the chameleion circuit if he wants to). How sad that this wonderful hero will never know what she did with the Doctor. What a down beat ending too. I hope Donna does make something of her life now. But then, it’s only a story.
Oh well…. I love Doctor Who. And I love what Russell T Davies has done with it. It’s just this time I didn’t.
I find straight-up horror films pretty boring these days. I almost think its fair to say that if a film states that it is a horror film, and is not made in Japan – its probably not very scary unless you’re a horror virgin or too young to see one. They generally end up in three categories, in my experience – the unheard-of, non-english-language original version, the plastic-bimbo-populated Hollywood remake, and the half-baked predictable teen-horror.
What’s impressive with Doctor Who at the moment, is how far they seem willing to push the boundaries for the timeslot they’ve been shoved in (I say shoved in: series 1-3 were all shown in a slot an hour later – and all pulled in roughly a million more viewers per week).
But this hasn’t quietened down the ambition of the production team. This series has had a feel of the inevitable about it – a kind of running dread that has wound its way around the storylines. But – no stories that have tried to freak viewers out with “scary” CGI monsters… Not that spring to mind, anyway.
And RTD’s episode, Midnight, seems to be the pinnacle – so far, anyway.
I’ve said before that I have my doubts about some of RTD’s episodes. In fact, I wasn’t overly impressed with Partners In Crime – although I enjoyed it…
I have found some of his other episodes a bit suspect – especially with Rose and the 10th Doctor. My personal view being that series 1 served Rose better as a character than series 2 with all the will-they-won’t-they rubbish that came along with it… A main culprit of that must have been RTD, being in charge of the overall “story arc”, and it seemed to be his episodes where that whole romance thing was dwelt on. I was disappointed with the start to series 2 – in particular New Earth, and I really wasn’t sure about the Peter Kay monster and pavement-love in Love and Monsters.
But, with Martha, his writing seemed to hit the mark more. And even more so with Donna. Or in the case of Midnight, without Donna…
This showed how far Doctor Who has come, I think. It wasn’t a monster-fest. It wasn’t a space war. It wasn’t an invasion. We didn’t even see the monster or get to hear what it was. And that was its strongest hand. Something that particularly Steven Moffatt has played on regularly is what people genuinely fear, and RTD has just pushed on into the psychological territory with this episode. People have an amazing talent by blowing fears up to huge proportions just by talking themselves into believing it… Just like this group of tourists.
Opinion seems divided with the newspapers, anyway. The Times were broadly critical, the Guardian were extremely enthusiastic. Out of the two, the Guardian had the better-written review, even if that’s because the reviewer seems to have approached the episode in a better frame of mind. The Times had a point, possibly, about the episode being a bit wordy, but it the reviewer was needlessly cynical, and doesn’t seem to have bothered either doing any research on this year’s series or taking a sense of humour to the sofa with him.
I agreed with this:
“Midnight felt too much of a writing exercise to be really scary”
Well, to an extent. I think its proved with the moment when Sky looks up at the Doctor for the first time after she is possessed. Her head movements and the way she looks through him really was frightening.
I don’t agree that Tennant’s Doctor is becoming irritating, though – in context of the whole series, he’s not been short on confidence (after all, why should he be?), and I personally found the arrogant comments funny.
But on the whole, Midnight was great. RTD may well have been watching the Horror of Fang Rock when writing – the claustrophobic atmosphere is every bit as good, and its well-realised without going OTT with the effects.
There is just one thing though. I don’t see why the “hostess” would do what she did. She seemed far more concerned with rules and regulations than the good of her passengers…
Strong performances from another really good cast made this even better. And at least this monster wasn’t unrealistic!
There was a time – the late 80s spring to mind – that Doctor Who wasn’t really viewed as, you know, “proper acting”. The Doctor was arriving in places filled with Comedy double-acts trying to stretch their careers for a bit longer, the cast of Cats and actors that people had assumed were already dead…
If there was any doubt to the quality of this show by now, I point you in the direction of The Doctor’s Daughter. This is, seriously, the best thing I have seen in a long time. Ok, so being daddy to a small boy, TV isn’t exactly something I get to experience all that much anymore. But the point still stands. This was brilliant.
That Tennant bloke is a master of his craft. In theory, I think its perfectly possible to play the Doctor by hiding behind the huge character and equally massive back-story and still do a fairly good job of it. But he packs so much into these performances – I’m sure that this isn’t the biggest acting challenge he will ever take on – but from the way he rollocks through these episodes, it looks like the most enjoyable.
Georgia Moffatt was superb – equally as subtle and deft with looks and facial expressions that echoed the Doctor. The beginning is a prickly one, and I felt a little nervous about where this would be going… But it becomes very obvious very quickly that the connection between them is real and from that moment on it was impossible not to warm to her.
In terms of characters, Donna showed a bit of intelligence here – and managed to think about puzzles in a completely dispassionate way, bypassing the confusion that the Doctor was going through. Martha was her usual bold self with firm morals. And the Doctor…? That scene where Jenny dies is the single most affecting thing I’ve seen this series. The pain and the emotion were real, and my goodness we felt that hole reopen inside him. A huge wow-factor.
It was hardly completely unpredictable. But I didn’t – and still don’t – care in the slightest. Like I said before, way back in my post about Partners In Crime I think, being a Doctor Who fan, its more about escapism than gritty reality. I don’t (usually) care whether the plot is water-tight and the visual effects are accurate, spot on or even good. It doesn’t matter if the cast contains more wood than a 16th century Galleon being studied by a group of hormonal 15 year olds. This isn’t Eastenders – this is meant to be entertaining.
And this was magnificent. I loved the similarities with classic stories – particularly Genesis of the Daleks sprung to mind a few times – the multi-generation race war just about to come to a horrible, destructive head and the surface scenes in particular helped that image.
And you know, even though I knew the end was coming, I loved it. Even though I was sitting there, waiting for it, I still bounced off walls with joy. The Doctor isn’t the only Time Lord any more. And he’s not the only one of him around. I really hope Andrew’s right and she returns some day…
I’m really really looking forward to next week. Not least because the writer of one of the best Series 3 episodes (The Shakespeare Code) is back with a new story, but also because its allegedly written as a more straight-up comedy episode, and that its about Agatha Christie – an author that I have disliked and been bored rigid by since I was little. I now sit here impatiently fidgeting waiting for Saturday…
Do you remember that feeling when you were little, when Christmas came round, and you got exactly what you wanted in every way… and then discovered it wasn’t quite as brilliant as you thought it would be?
I don’t know whether I should be disappointed. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the story – and I think the Sontarans are a wonderful baddie. I am, and always have been, a UNIT fan. DT was brilliant as usual, Donna bearable, and Martha was excellent. But I feel cheated. I went on a nostalgic trip after I saw The Poison Sky, and it only made things worse, and because I particularly like the Sontarans and I want to share my pain, I’m going to go a bit geeky on this episode’s ass.
After I saw this episode, I watched the first ever Sontaran story. A real cracker starring Jon Pertwee – The Time Warrior. Then I sat, and I thought back to classic adventures, including the first two or three Sontaran stories, and I feel like they’ve missed something big with the new one. A classic story – particularly of the 4-6 part Pertwee stories would consist of the first part being the Doctor and Liz/Jo/Sarah investigating something – just like the ATMOS device – and then calling UNIT in as they think there’s something suspicious.
We didn’t get that. The Doctor and Donna turned up halfway through the UNIT investigation.
We’d then be treated to a final part full of suspense-filled, thrilling denoument, topped off with a moment or two of humourous banter or slower reflection.
Out of two 45 minute episodes, we got about ten whole minutes of conclusion. One short, sharp UNIT assault, using amour-piercing bullets. One hastily-assembled atmosphere changer to fix the earth. One teleporter, and one more explosion. That’s it.
Ok, factor in the surprising change of heart from Luke Rattigan, who finally made something of his genius and sacrificed himself to save the Doctor and protect the earth. And because I don’t want Andrew to be wrong – maybe that was the comuppance he deserved for throwing his lot in with some squat Mr Potato Head alien types.
Despite that, I really enjoyed it. It was pacy, suspense-filled and good fun. But I do think it was badly-structured. Its the first time I’ve had the inclination to criticise the new series, and I feel awkward. But it was too-weighted on setting-up the end and had a storyline that didn’t entirely add up.
Let me explain: The Sontarans are cloned war machines, basically. They are totally focussed on war. They do anything and everything they can to fight – and ultimately to die. The term “one-track-mind” was invented for them, I’m sure. So would they really have decided to take some time out of their war to come to a planet like earth, team up with a teenage genius to gas the world’s population so they could use it as a clone-production world? Surely that’s far too crafty for Sontarans?
This is the trouble with bringing back older monsters. Its like the myth about Daleks not being able to climb stairs (they can – watch Rememberance of the Daleks if you don’t believe me – the cliffhanger to episode 1 is the Doctor being chased up a flight of stairs in the school basement by a dalek.), the Sontarans already have attributes and characters to fall back on. Their behaviour in the story was fine – and the two commanders were brilliantly written – and performed… Yet another blast from my comedy-watching past in Christopher Ryan making the small leap from Mike in the Young Ones to a Sontaran Commander… But it all worked well, and I absolutely loved it. Except for the mind-bogglingly layered “Stratagem”…
But I tell you what, if you either a) don’t have a clue about previous Sontaran stories, and/or b) are able to watch it all and keep your geeky tendancies quiet – like I had to – then this is brilliant. My reflection on it might be a bit lukewarm after I’ve had time to think about it a bit, but my reaction when I saw it was complete joy – and I’ll be happy to see this again (and again)!
Oh, and the icing on the cake… Martha’s in the next one too! Hurrah!
I learnt something very insightful and rather frightening about my future at the weekend. Let me briefly explain. My parents have been watching the series of Doctor Who. On Sunday, when Luke and I went to visit them, my dad said that he didn’t understand that week’s episode. “It didn’t make sense,” he said. “Why? What was wrong with it?” He looked up and replied “It had no end – it was confusing…” Everyone turned to look at him. “Dad, you did know that it was the first part of a two-part story, didn’t you?”
“Ah. Now that would explain a lot, wouldn’t it…”
Let’s get on. The Sontaran Stratagem. Like Andrew, I think this will be more tangent than plot talk…so let’s start where we mean to go on.
When I was a teenager, I went out and bought a VHS copy of The Two Doctors. Apart from Patrick Troughton and Shockeye, oh, and Peri (with her barely-existing top), the revelation for me was the Sontarans. Humourless, ruthless, honourable, war-loving race. What an enemy! I always loved the story of why they were so short and stocky (their home planet had much higher levels of gravity). How brilliant it was to hear that they were coming back!
Now I’ve heard some rumours about the Sontaran plot. Mostly fan-generated rumours… But interesting ones. Rumours that suggest that the hat that Donna’s grandfather was wearing in episode 1 had what looked like a UNIT badge on it… and that he was “on lookout” in London at Christmas (I guess that means when the Titanic stuff took place…)
But then I’ve also heard that the whole “the Doctor’s song will end” stuff from the Planet of the Ood was being taken as meaning that he would be regenerating at the end of the series. Which doesn’t entirely tally with the fact that David Tennant was photographed filming the Christmas Special this week… Ah well. Worthless listening to rumours I suppose!
This was wholly more satisfying than I had imagined. But what did niggle slightly before I saw it was the fact that its another two-parter written by Helen Raynor, and almost exactly like the one she wrote for the last series, in that it involved an old enemy of the doctor trying to take over the world. And Daleks In Manhattan was pretty good but not brilliant. But oh, this was different.
A camp childhood genius helping a ruthless warrior race with the only weakness being a small plug socket on the back of their neck. And just as good – Martha was back! (I’m an unashamed Martha fan – and for me, swapping Martha for Donna was really not a fair exchange.) As well as all that, Catherine Tate was pretty good in this, and the scenes with her family were funny and touching. Of course, it helps to have Bernard Cribbins there. But these scenes of the home life were excellent. And one of my childhood favourites, UNIT, was back on the kind of scale that I remembered… And plausably at last – not like in Battlefield.
On another tangent – I was always cruelly disappointed with Battlefield. I’d seen stories from the Pertwee/Baker era. I knew who Lethbridge-Stewart, Captain Yates and Sergeant Benton were. And when Lethbridge-Stewart returned for Battlefield, I couldn’t wait. I was at the age that meant I was required to be bathed and ready for bed before Doctor Who came on – it was a school night, after all – and I curled up in an armchair in pajamas and dressing gown to see the return of UNIT. And it was barely recognisable. They seemed completely amateur and rather inept. The Doctor said in the Sontaran Strategem that UNIT always used to be a “little more homespun…” which is true, but there was always the feeling that they were ready for anything – just completely unprepared for the things that were thrown at them because they were only armed with puny earth weapons… Nevertheless, UNIT were great, and what I was seeing – with all the glorious late 1980s technicolour – was rubbish. And it had the female Lister from Red Dwarf in it (not that I knew it then – I just hated the character at the time). There wasn’t much to love about them – except the Brigadier.
It was almost exactly like the contrast between seeing Tomb of the Cybermen for the first time, and then watching Silver Nemesis. And there were some great stories in the McCoy time, but what people tend to remember is the bits like these – not The Happiness Patrol (which made a Bertie Bassett lookalike a plausible and fairly chilling villain – which was no mean feat!), not Paradise Towers, The Curse of Fenric, Ghostlight or Rememberance of the Daleks. Which is such a shame.
Again, we’re back to traditional Who stories. Which is not in any way a criticism. How could it be? Traditional Who is TV drama at its best – perfect escapism and often with a wider message that is demonstrated clearly in the way the Doctor deals with his enemy. This, depending on the conclusion next week, is traditional in the best way possible.
I just hope my dad understands that the reason it didn’t make sense at the beginning is that its part 2 of a two part story. Otherwise, I don’t stand much chance for a stable future!