Monday, June 30, 2008

Review of Series 4, Episodes 10, 11, and 12: "Midnight," "Turn Left," and "The Stolen Earth"

I have been traveling for work over the last couple of weeks, so I haven't had much time to share my thoughts on the three most recent Doctor Who Season 4 episodes ("Midnight," "Turn Left," and "The Stolen Earth"). So, having just finished a 3-hour, work-related dinner, I figured a hotel in Boston was the perfect place to update ye ole blog! I'm gonna rush through my thoughts on the Episodes 10 and 11 because, well, let's face it -- we all want to talk about the shocking ending to Episode 12.

"Midnight" was alright. It sort of felt like Russell T. Davies was trying to pull his best Steven Moffat imitation by basing an entire episode around something that bothered most people in their childhood (in this case, the old "I-know-you-are-but-what-am-I" imitation game). Moffat has used such childhood fears to great effect in "The Girl in the Fireplace" (monsters under the bed),"Blink" (creepy statues), and "Silence in the Library"/"Forest of the Dead" (fear of the dark). Unfortunately, Davies' attempt is really more irritating than scary, although I definitely admired the work that Lesley Sharp (playing Sky Silvestri) must have put in to memorize everyone's lines -- and then repeat them in time with each character. This episode also showcased what a condescending dick The Doctor can sometimes be. When things start to go wrong for the passengers on board the shuttle, he immediately starts issuing orders, taking on a holier-than-thou attitude that can be quite off-putting. For example, when the passengers decide to eject the "possessed" Sky Silvestri from the vehicle, The Doctor refuses to listen to reason, putting himself between the other passengers and the seemingly evil alien being. It's great to protect life at all costs and all, but, by prolonging the situation, The Doctor ultimately ends up costing not only Sky her life, but condemning the hostess to a "heroic" death as well. Nice work Doc; your moral high ground killed two people, not one. Yippee. And does he ever admit that he was wrong? Of course not. He's The Doctor. Lest you think I disliked the episode, however, let me mention that I thought it was actually enjoyable overall. The alien banging on the exterior of the hull was pretty dang creepy (even if it ultimately led to a big nothing) and the mounting tension inside the shuttle was palpable. Oh, and Rose showed up on a TV screen again. She's a regular Max Headroom, that girl!

"Turn Left" was an interesting It's a Wonderful Life kind of story, although Rose's return was decidedly underwhelming and never really explained. I'm not one to criticize the way people look, but Billie Piper just looked, well, different from how she used to look. Perhaps its all down to weight loss (she is clearly skinnier than the last time we saw her), but her face appeared much thinner and angular now and there seemed to be something going on with her teeth that caused her to lisp a bit. Again, I won't dwell on the issue, but I have to admit that it was a little distracting. Also, her accent seemed to have changed. Living in a parallel reality will do that to you, I guess! The story itself was pretty good and Catherine Tate was excellent, as always, especially at the end when she chose to sacrifice herself for th greater good. Props also must go to Jacqueline King as Donna's mother (who becomes more and more withdawn and depressed as the episode chugs along) and Bernard Cribbins as her irrascible gramps. As for Rose, I was a bit confused as to how she could travel to "our" earth from her parallel world, how she knew what was going on in "our" world, and how she knew that Donna was the lynchpin to putting "our" universe to rights again. None of that was ever explained. Rose simply appeared as a deus ex blonde every time she was required, even helping put together a make-shift time machine to send Donna back and fix everything. Um, okay. And I also thought it was a tad unbelievable how quickly the post-Doctor UK turned into Nazi Germany. Maybe I'm just an optimist, though.

Now on to the big one, Episode 12, "The Stolen Earth." Obviously, Earth was stolen, which seemed liked a minor happening compared to all of the suprise Whoverse cameos and guest apperances crammed into the episode. Sarah Jane and Luke? Check! The entire remaining Torchwood team (all three of them)? Check! Martha and her UNIT chums? Check! Rose? Check! Harriet Jones? Check! Daleks? Check! Davros? Check! K-9? Ch-nope. Sorry, Charlie. K-9 was missing in action. There were definitely some lame moments and cheesy plot devices (Dalek Caan's Alia Atreides imitation, Project Indigo, the Osterhagen Key), although all of those things faded beneath the orgy of geekiness that was the rest of the episode. Let's face it -- seeing all of those disparate characters interact and fight the Daleks was just plain fun. And Davros is back! Yay! In general, I really don't care for Daleks. Maybe it's an American thing. We never went through "Dalekmania" over here (in fact, most people have absolutely no idea what a Dalek is and very few people are frightened by screeching pepperpots), so we don't have the reverence for them that most Brits seem to. Having said that, I always find the Daleks more enjoyable when Davros is around. Maybe it's because he provides a face to their evil. Maybe it's because he can speak without screaming (although just barely). Maybe it's the interesting half-Dalek, half-Stephen Hawking design of the guy. Maybe it's his excellent, silky skin. I don't know. In any case, Davros + Daleks = goodness.

There were a number of hints in this episode pointing us to the second half. First off, one of the members of the Shadow Proclamation (they sounded much cooler than they actually turned out to be) tells Donna that she still has something on her back. Didn't we take care of that last episode? Apparently not. So, it's possible that Donna has something else inside of her. Spider eggs/babies from the Empress of the Racnoss, maybe? Or The Master? After all, a woman's hand did pick up his ring at the end of last season.... Maybe that was Donna and she's now possessed. Or, perhaps Donna still has the beetle on her back from last episode. It's always a possibility that this episode (including the shocking ending) could still be part of Donna's alternate universe. Maybe she really will have to kill herself to correct the universe for good or something (fullfilling the ongoing prophecies of her death). Also, crazy Dalek Caan calls The Doctor the "threefold man." What could that mean? I have a theory. We all saw The Doctor "die" at the end of the episode. I don't for one minute believe that the BBC has successfully managed to replace David Tennant without it leaking to the media. So, I think we may be in for a multiple Doctor episode. How? Well, at the end, The Doctor begins to regenerate, right? Well, maybe the regeneration will go wrong (thanks to the sudden trauma or something), producing a healed Tenth Doctor as well as two previous Doctors (the Fifth Doctor and the Seventh Doctor, maybe). That'd be three Doctors for the price of one, giving us our threefold man. Or, given that we got yet another shot of the Tenth Doctor's severed hand in the jar, perhaps that will play into the regeneration somehow. What if they do kill the Tenth Doctor, but the "regeneration energy" (or whatever they call it) also encompasses his amputated hand. In that case, the Tenth Doctor could regenerate into a new, Eleventh Doctor (who could carry on with the 13-episode, yearly series) AND also grow a new David Tennant's Tenth Doctor from his hand (who could leave with Rose for the alternate universe and then appear in the four TV specials scheduled to air next year). How great would it be to have two Doctors, in two different universes, to follow? Of course, that theory would only produce a twofold man, so I'm sure it's bunk. Still, it's fun to speculate! Let's just hope that Russell doesn't let us down with a cop-out part 2.

Oh, finally, this episode contained the best line of the season (and perhaps in all of Doctor Who) -- when one of the killer Daleks said to Harriet Jones in his monotone, metallic voice, "Yes, we know who you are." Ha ha ha. Good show, Russell! Good show.

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