Monday 7 July 2008

Red Letter Days

Saturday was supposed to be a momentous day for Doctor Who – it was RTD’s big finale, in effect. An episode where he pulled together as many loose strings from the last four years as he could fit into an hour and tried to tie them all together once and for all.

We finally saw the door slammed on the ridiculous Doctor-and-Rose-sitting-in-a-tree… "tension". Mickey finally moved on (to Torchwood?). Martha finally seems to have joined Torchwood permanently. Donna is back with her family – having got better and better as the series rolled on. And we got that answer to the regeneration question.

But did it all come off?

I think so, yes – but to be honest, I'm not all that sure.

It was fantastic to watch - a real visual feast. But it was a disappointing way to close off such a massive story... There was so much to go on, so much promise, and we got a bit of a cop-out and a lot of confusion...

Personally I didn’t mind the cheesy family-stuff with the Doctor and his "children of time" as Davros put it. Actually, the way he said it made it all pretty chilling. I loved the delightfully-mad Dalek Kaan, his false prophecies and ultimate betrayal – and that the Doctor even offered to save Davros’ life at the end.

But I didn't really understand why all the companions were needed - excepting maybe as a distraction for the doctor. A particular highlight for me was Davros. The scenes involving him were magnificent – and particularly when he thought he was in total control. Ahough they could have and should have done a lot more with him than they did.

The two-way meta-crisis: interesting idea, although its back to RTD’s "imaginative" science… I really enjoyed the consequences – the Doctor who talked like Donna, and finally an explanation to the Ood’s mysterious Doctordonna… But for me, it was more Star Trek than Doctor Who, and I have never been a huge fan of Star Trek...

I thought what they did with Donna’s "death" was excellent – and she was finally properly likeable – proper human emotions in trying to deal with a situation so far removed from being "just a temp. From Essex." The extra Doctor was borderline for me. I sort of saw it coming, but hoped that it would be something else. I think it was handled well until the Bad Wolf Bay bit, and then it got nauseating, but at least it got the romance element out of everything (every cloud and all that).

The ending in particular, with Wilf, was lovely. Very sad, and I am particularly sad to see Bernard Cribbins’ place in the series go with Donna. But it was a good ending to a very good year in Doctor Who.

Three things though – C, G and I.

The Daleks, for me, had their appeal in being an endless force – no matter how many were destroyed or disabled, more and more came after it. Part of the secret was that you couldn’t see or know just how many there were. Genesis, Revelation or Planet of the Daleks wouldn't have been as tense or dramatic or good if you could seen thousands of them flitting around on their way to battle stations, coffee breaks etc...

But when the Doctor walks out into a massive space, filled with flying Daleks, I lose interest. It looks like a hoard of fruit flies bustling around a discarded apple core. Its not threatening, or scary. It’s preposterous.

The other bit that bothered me was the whole "towing the earth back home" bit. As a concept and a plot point, its fine – it’s a very Doctor thing to do. But why oh why oh why did they have to show it? It looked cheap and silly. We didn’t need to see it.

I could see it working with say, Tom Baker - but it would certainly not be shown... It would have been one of those little asides... You know, like this:

Sarah: But Doctor, what about the Earth?
Doctor: What about it?
Sarah: For goodness sake, its still stranded miles from where it should be!
Doctor: Oh that. I towed it back into position using the TARDIS. (Teeth fill the screen) Come on, let's go and find a cup of tea...

And that scene where they're all flying the TARDIS... it was the first time in a long, long time that I've wanted to go and make a cup of tea in the middle of Doctor Who (for the record, the last time was while I was watching a video at uni... and my VCR was a fancy model with a pause button and everything...)

All in all, it was brilliant – if self-referential and a bit messy- a real climax to the first four seasons, and despite its flaws, I’m glad it was so big and bold. What a fantastic way of clearing the decks for the Vast Toffee* to step in.

And then there was the trailer (or should I say "spoiler") for the Christmas special. What was it again?

Oh yes:"Coming this Christmas… The return of the Cybermen."

Well. Thanks.

That’s the surprise taken out of that one then. Where are your spoilers now, River Song?!

Still, I suppose that stopped The Sun leaking it later on.

*Vast Toffee MN (Master of Nightmares) - Steven Moffat - brilliant anagram courtesy of Staggering Stories...

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