Saturday, 17 May 2008

Wonderful nonsense

Well, that’s more like it. After slightly undercooked, over-egged fare of late, here was something light, sparkling and giggle-inducing - just perfect for a garden party (and they’re always bugged by wasps, aren’t they?) Surely no one summoned to the parlour for the Unicorn and the Wasp could have been disappointed? And it was On At Seven O’clock, aka The Proper Time, schedulers, d’ya hear? Except… well, we’ll get to that later…

Confession: Team Watcher are suckers for the ‘celebrity historicals’ in new Who, and writer Gareth Roberts’ follow-up to The Shakespeare Code was a smasher, sharing its playful sensibility, knowing references (there were loads of book titles slipped in, of course, though no Man in the Brown Suit, oddly enough) and deliberately heightened atmosphere.

Shooing a real figure into the Whoniverse whets the appetite, sets the tone quickly, gets the audience up to speed - and then allows a clever script to start playing with the conventions. A country house mystery with Agatha plus the Doctor plus Felicity Kendall’s illegitimate alien wasp-child? Bring it! You don’t get that on EastEnders. Yet.

It was very much in Christie’s image too: prod the plot too hard and it might just fall over, but what a lovely way to pass the time. And - clever old thing - Roberts linked this to the deeper idea of Christie’s real-life disappointment and doubt. Did her books matter? Would they be remembered? The phrase ‘wonderful nonsense’ was seeded throughout, an idea thrown between the show’s own writers and fans for 45 years; does any of this stuff from the imagination really matter?

Well, yes: it helps create the Real World so many non-believers are proud of living in, and Roberts underlines his faith in the power of the imagination by making Agatha’s mind the engine of the action. Whatever her fears, she writes on, as did Shakespeare, as did Dickens, a fine message for the kids and further proof that Doctor Who is good for you, friends.

There was tomfoolery aplenty, too, of course: The ‘Agatha Christie/What about her?’ business; the wheelchair revelation; the body in the soup - all that and the Doctor’s inhibited-enzyme kitchen freakout, to boot. It’s good when his cool’s blown, just occasionally.

And the ‘Doctor Smith of the Yard and his plucky girl assistant’ schtick fits nicely with the ongoing idea of Doctor as shape-shifter, a role-player, an actor: hard to pin down, finding puzzles, putting off The End.

Knowing your role was an idea played with here - the minute that pretty girl said ‘toilet’, the mask dropped for everyone at home. She was, perhaps, our suspect… and we liked how clever camera angles telescoped us into the drawing room for the denouement, too, viewers getting their thrills from the safety of the sofa, as ever.

A hit then: Who did it.

Anyway, next time: an exciting adventure with… The Eurovision Song Contest, it sez here! Our sworn enemies the schedulers up to their old tricks, again! But fear not: there’s a way you can get your Who fix and still enjoy the third-campest night of the year. Watch this space…


Jack said...

They kissed! Has that ever happened before?? Being constantly told they are not an item and then WHAM - right on the lips.Is this the start of something deeper or was it just a shocker as intended?

Felicity Kendel was charming as ever (Isn't she wearing well?) but what a secret to hold for 40 years. You can always rely on a man of the cloth to have a dark side but going round trying to sting folk is just not cricket!

The Doctor and Donna fit very comfortably into the time period except for her comical attempts at talking posh and their hiraious game of charades.