Saturday, 3 May 2008

Looks aren't everything...

The textbook definition of a scoundrel used to be “Someone who mentions the wobbly sets whenever Doctor Who is mentioned”; never mind the rich ideas on offer, the championing of the imagination, and the heart, or the limitless possibilities of adventure in time and space, some bozo would always chip in with a sink-plunger/ tinsel/ double-sided sticky tape reference.

These sorry souls suck up the commercial stations now, of course, their too-small minds utterly rotted out… but in a weird, alternative universe, reversed-polarity sort of way, your correspondent is suddenly them: probably the best thing about The Poison Sky – or at least the bit one has something to say about - was how it looked.

Perhaps we’re taking all this snazzy stuff a bit for granted, Whofriends. Rewind a couple of weeks and the Ood one only got nyeaaah out of ten – but the early-on spaceship shot alone was a thing of lovely wonder. Pompeii looked ravishing, too. Here, the burning skies of the denouement were beautifully done (especially as seen on the Big Telly the Watcher is enjoying in his current east-coast exile). And yet, and yet… none of it can cover a paucity of ideas, or at least thought-through, satisfying ideas.

Like last week, this was bitty fare. The Sontarans-Are-Back!! factor, and some performances, kept it together last time – but did a second episode really add anything? Life and Death, The Glory of War (or Not), Families, Eh? We’re Killing Our Planet, People! – big, potentially meaty themes either undercooked in Helen Raynor’s script or smothered in RTD’s patent I-Want-All-This-In-Too sauce – you decide.

It wanted us to care, but didn’t give us enough well-drawn characters to care about: only Bernard Cribbins’ lovely old eyes make me root for Donna’s lot. The sappy, misunderstood geniuses were just Beat The Kids swots in tracksuits; the new UNIT chief’s speech was more, incidentally superfluous, hot air; and as for the ‘We won!’ kiss, and its implied subtext… well, you wouldn’t have got the Brigadier and Yates doing that. Probably.

Yes, we know the Doctor wanted us to feel sad about ‘His-Name-was-Ross’ Ross – but how could we? Ross, we hardly knew ye! The excellent Commander Skorr we did get to know, a bit, but the fascinating ideas thrown up in the ecstasy of his dying were never explored. So while the Doctor complains about guns and bangs as solutions, that’s all we had really. Shame.

Idea: there are brilliant characters in Who already – like Donna and Martha - so use ’em (but not at the same time, eh?). No companion worth her salt should spend more time round the kitchen table/phoning her mum than she does fighting evil. Where’s Sarah Jane Smith when you need her? Oh, look, she’s coming back - and flippin’ Rose too! And as if it wasn’t crowded enough round here, here’s the Doctor’s daughter – Jenny(!) – back-flipping into view…

Yes, Who’s the daddy, in what’s already looking a decisive/divisive episode six. Let’s just hope it delivers – if we must have family, show us it matters.