Sunday, May 4, 2008

Review of Series 4, Episodes 4/5: "The Sontaran Stratagem"/"The Poison Sky"

About half-way through last Saturday's "The Sontaran Stratagem" I started to have a sinking feeling that this two-part story might rival last series' "Daleks in Manahattan"/"Evolution of the Daleks" as the worst two-parter since Doctor Who returned to the airwaves.  Having now watched "The Poison Sky," I can confirm that fear.  And apparently both two-parters were written by the same person - Helen Raynor.  Eek!  Let's hope Ms. Raynor isn't one of the people being considered to replace Russell T. Davies if he does decide to leave the show.  And, after apparently okaying the return of the Sontarans as mini-me sized men in bad make up and plastic armor working with an annoying human "genius," maybe the time has come for Big Russ to move on.  I haven't sensed much passion from him in the last few episodes.  One request, though; if he does leave, can we get Steven Moffat as the replacement, please?

First off, let's talk about ATMOS, the crux of the first episode.  What does the stupid thing even do?   At first, it seems to be a GPS/navigation system (which can, conveniently, take over your car and drown you in any nearby body of water).  Later, though, we're told that ATMOS  is a carbon-cleaning car filter.  Which relates to its navigation skills how, exactly?  And where did they get the acronym ATMOS, anyway?  The annoying boy genius/Chris Kattan look-alike says that it stands for "atmospheric emission system."  Um, how?  I suppose that you could just take the first five letters of that phrase to create the name, but then it's not even a proper acronym, is it?  And if boy genius did create the name from the first five letter, then why does he keep correcting everyone who calls it the "ATMOS system"?  I don't see the words "system" rolled into the acronym.  Apparently being a genius doesn't encompass creating good acronyms.  Speaking of lame acronyms, what's up with UNIT?  It used to stand for United Nations Intelligence Taskforce.  Yay!  A proper acronym!  Now it stands for Unified Intelligence Taskforce.  Wouldn't that be UIT?  What, they couldn't think of a word that started with N?  Maybe the Brits just aren't good with the whole acronym game?  I don't know.

The less said about the actor who played ATMOS's creator, the better.  Basically, he ran around screeching a lot and sounding less American than Peri Brown on one of her bad accent days.  Of course, I can't blame the actor entirely; his role was underwritten, unnecessary, and horribly cliche.

The Sontarans.  Were they always that short?  I thought for sure they used to be more average in height.  In any case, seeing a bunch of five-foot-tall dwarfs trying to be intimidating while standing around in plastic armor was slightly embarrassing.  Also, for clones, the Sontarans seemed to physically differ from one another quite a bit.  Obviously, there were several different actors involved, but I wish the producers had made some effort to make clones look like clones.  Maybe they could have just had one actor playing all of the Sontarans and digitally cloned him for the show?  And what was the Sontarans' big plan?  To use the Earth as a cloning planet.  Yes, this makes the second time in just five episodes that an invading alien race wants to use the Earth as a hatchery/nursery.  I can't believe that the makers of this show didn't tie the Adipose in with the Sontarans....  That was a missed opportunity!

Despite the bad writing for these episodes, there were some things I liked.  First off, Rose!  If you missed her, she popped up on the TARDIS's monitor for a split second, silently screaming something that looked, to me, like "Doctor!!"  Cool.  I like how they're building to her return.  Second, Martha is engaged - and to Doctor Tom, too!  I was hoping those crazy kids would get together.  I wonder if he'll join her on Torchwood next season.  Next, I still like Donna (although her family is really getting on my nerves).  The scene where she infiltrated the Sontaran ship while The Doctor coached her on the phone reminded me of the scene in Rear Window where Grace Kelley investigates the bad guy's apartment while Jimmy Stewart watches/talks to her on the phone.  Good stuff!  I also like that Donna reacts to danger in a more realistic way than some of the past companions.  You can really feel her dread when he tells her to attack the Sontaran from behind.  Oh, and that undifferentiated human clone in the vat of goo was really, really creepy.  Nice work on the make-up there.  And Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart is "stranded in Peru"?  Is that setting up a future story or something?  Finally, the tease for next episode was interesting.  Who would want to "trap" Martha in the TARDIS?  Is she going to be traveling with The Doctor and Donna for the rest of the season?  Why did they keep showing The Doctor's severed hand?  Was his "daughter" (who is being played by Georgia Moffett, the real-life daughter of The Fifth Doctor, Peter Davison, incidentally) created from that hand somehow?  And was his "daughter" kissing another chick? 

Oh, and for the record, projecting purple and green lights on the walls of old factories does not make them look futuristic or spacey; they just make the sets look cheap and tacky - like a Joel Schumacher Batman movie.  And SHIELD should sue over that Valiant helicarrier rip-off.  SHIELD.  Now there's a good acronym!

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