Saturday, 26 April 2008

Spuds we like

Well, I don’t know if it was just low expectations following last week’s flattish effort (and previous two-parters stinking the place up), but I ended up rather enjoying that. Not sure it all quite hung together, but there were a lot of very pleasing bits - not least the fact the Sontarans are rather interesting all of a sudden, aren’t they?

Where the Cybermen have, arguably, had their reps diminished by the new show, coming across as a bit dopey, these uber-tubers look fighting fit: conversational, cheerily confrontational, opinionated and with nicely-sketched characters. They’ve even got personal mottoes and a crazy haka-style war dance! Since when?! They’ll be on MySpace next (though it will, inevitably, suddenly become TheirSpace)

Great costume design helps, of course, but Christopher Ryan had fleshed out General Staal into an almost-likeable villain. He’s part de Niro, part Colonel Blimp, a talker and a fighter - although the invasion plan so far seems a bit unnecessarily complicated: give everyone catalytic converters, dodgy sat nav and shopping vouchers and then invade while we overheat looking for the exit in Tesco’s car park? Been done, hasn’t it? Perhaps I need to watch it again - I may have missed something…

Sontarans aside, there was a lot for oldies and newbies to go ‘squeeeee’ over, here, not least Martha’s return (and what 12-year-old boys will forever refer too as the, ahem, ‘cloning scene’). UNIT! With Greyhound call signals! A teleport! Bernard Cribbins! UNIT!!

All right, they’re not quite the 1970s’ UNIT (or was it the ’80s?), but having them around is just good, and raises loads of interesting questions about the Doctor: just what was our freewheeling wanderer in space and time doing, chucking his lot in with the Establishment? He doesn’t do salutes, or orders, or guns… except in the latter case, especially, he does. And has.

This season is showing how Tennant’s magnetic Doctor is as likely to repel as attract. Is it that he ‘doesn’t do’ families (units?)… or that he can’t? Why remind soldiers prepared to salute him (and even blimmin’ Donna!) he’s a genius? They know: they’ve got the files. Why bully the (admittedly really-slappable) teen genius, who he clearly empathises with? Can’t he get a reaction any other way?

‘A face-changer’, Staal calls him, and that’s close. The Doctor himself is an actor on a stage, entering, exiting, trying stuff on to get what he wants, and messing it up, a lot, where humans are involved. He doesn’t ‘get’ that Donna is just popping home: he’s ready with a stagy leaving speech. Donna and Grandad know each other; who does the Doctor know like that? And Donna and Martha bond quickly - so secure in each other that Martha gives the new companion what she needs most: a warning.

It all ends with the Doctor, so hubristic, now impotent and lost, in a fog, in suburbia. There’s gonna be a reckoning, I tell thee (oh, and why didn’t he just smash the window?)…
Anyway, next time: The Sonatarans are buying, what’s your poison?


Anonymous said...

Martha I have missed you. A straight-talking woman in a calm, non-irritating way.
Sultanas spring to my mind not spuds as their name suggests. A mean force to be reckoned with in their blue Michelin men suits.
Every which way you turn these days we are being told that car pollution will cause the end of civilization, even on Dr Who. Looking forward to seeing how the good Doctor is going to save planet earth this time.

Alexis said...

Back on track with this series at last.

Doctor showing his vulnerable side and bullying that American twerp? The thing about bullies is they have often been bullied themselves earlier in their lives...

Sonatarans are fun. And no-one does 'little boy excited as if he's in a sweet shop' like David Tennant does. He is relishing this role.

Could they get his hair to stick out a bit more, Billy Whizz-style?