Sunday, April 12, 2009

Review of the 2009 Easter Special: "Planet of the Dead"

Russell T. Davies is officially out of steam. If only we could just skip over his final few episodes and get straight to Steven Moffat because, frankly, I'm starting to wonder why I even bother to watch Doctor Who. And coming from a guy who spends his time writing a Doctor Who blog, that's saying something!

So what was so bad about this episode? Almost everything. The one thing that I did sort of enjoy was the relationship between Christina and the Doctor. I liked how she immediately took charge when they reach the alien planet and how she insisted on calling him “The Doctor.” It's always fun to see someone take the Doctor down a peg or two. And the dialogue between them had a few nice moments as well. “You look human,” she said. “You look Timelord,” he countered. "We make quite a couple," he said. "We don't make any sort of couple, thank you very much," she said. Good stuff!

Unfortunately, that was the only good stuff. First off, the plot was nonsensical bordering on nonexistent. Some people on a bus end up on an alien planet. Why? Well, something about flying manta rays zipping around in swarms really, really quickly or something. Whatever. Really, it seemed like they ended up there just because Russell T. Davies thought it'd make for a cool visual. I assumed that they were transported through the wormhole as a consequence of whatever artifact Christina had stolen from the museum in the opening Mission Impossible "homage." But noooooo…. That would have actually made sense and would have tied her sudden appearance on the bus to the overarching plot. Turns out, an international super-thief hitched a ride on the Doctor's bus purely by coincidence. And speaking of coincidences, there also just happened to be a psychic lady on the bus. Of course there was. Isn't there always? I was hoping that perhaps she would somehow relate to the plot as well. Nope! She was just a really lazy way to give the audience the occassional info dump or scary portent. In fact, she turned out to be rather useless, never revealing anything that the other characters couldn't have figured out for themselves. As to the other people on the bus, I'm not sure why we needed them either. Not a single one of them did anything worthwhile and we never got to know (or care about) any of them. This episode was really the Doctor and Christina show - which would have been fine if we didn't have to put up with the occassional line from one of the glorified extras. Overall, the whole people-trapped-on-a-bus-bond-and-bicker scenario was done better in the episode called "Midnight," also written by Davies. In fact, the Doctor actually makes a joke to that effect. You know, calling out that you're plagiarizing your own stories doesn't make it okay....

Other things that I hated. The alien fly people approached Sarah Jane Adventures-levels of cheap - and the bad purple and green lighting in their ship only made things worse, especially when the Doctor commented on how beautiful the interior of their ship was. Yeah, really beautiful. If you think color gel sheets are the epitome of beauty. And don't even get me started on the comedy stylings of Malcolm. He was the single most irritating character in the history of Doctor Who. Every second that he was on-screen was like nails on a chalkboard. When he popped up wearing those stupid goggles or tried to use the fire extinguisher only to be knocked over, I felt my soul die a little.

Speaking, er, typing of souls, I'm not a religious man. At all. And yet, even I found the religious metaphors in the episode more heavy-handed than those of the typical Narnia book. Given the fact that the episode was set on and broadcast on the day before Easter, I can’t believe that they actually named the main female character “Christina.” She's like a female Christ, see! Oh, and in case that was too subtle for you, the people on the bus returned from a "planet of the dead" on the very holiday that celebrates the return of Christ from the dead. And I won’t even mention that Christina just happened to steal a golden cup that looked a hell of a lot like many depictions of the Holy Grail. Oh, and the Holy Grail somehow managed to save the day, returning all of the boring, stock characters to the world of the living. Yay!

Because there are only a few episodes of Doctor Who this year, you would think that the writers could devote a lot of time to each episode, really putting together a tight story with a coherent plot. But, no. We’re still getting the same nonsensical Russell T. Davies plot mechanics. For example, all of the fly aliens conveniently get killed so the Doctor can steal their only means of getting home without feeling guilty. Oh, and the bus suddenly flies. That's so wizard, Russell.

So, what I'm saying is, I didn't care for the episode.

Friday, April 10, 2009

"Doctor Who: Room With a Deja View" Announced

According to this week's Lying in the Gutters column over at Comic Book Resources, Rich Johnston is reporting that IDW will be releasing a Doctor Who one-shot comic this July called "Room With a Deja View" (great title) drawn by EricJ and written by one Rich Johnston. I'd say Rich is in the clear to give this particular piece of comic industry gossip a green light.

Check out the amazing cover by Tom Mandrake:

Congrats, Rich!

Youngest Doctor, Meet the Oldest Companion

Russell T. Davies has now confirmed (on BBC Breakfast) that Wilfred Mott, Donna's grandfather played by the always excellent Bernard Cribbins, will be returning as the Doctor's companion for David Tennant's last two episodes.

This is fantastic news! I loved Wilf in Season 4, especially in his heart-breaking last scene with the Doctor after Donna's memory had been erased. I have been saying for a while now that the producers ought to change up the Doctor/companion dynamic beyond the older Doctor/wide-eyed lady combination they've had going for the past few seasons - although, to be fair, Donna was a bit of a departure from that as well. I could really see Doctor #10 and Wilf working well as a team.

And just imagine if Wilf sticks around post-regeneration. How interesting would it be to have the youngest Doctor ever paired up with the oldest companion ever? That combination could really shake up the expected dynamic, perhaps putting the Doctor in a position where he actually asks for his companion's advice and wisdom on occasion. In short:

In a completely non-sexual way, of course. Although, this is Russell T. Davies.....

Review of the 2008 Christmas Special: "The Next Doctor"

Given that the Easter Special (I guess that's what we're calling it) is set to air this weekend, I decided I better hurry up and type up my thoughts on this past Christmas's episode. I just couldn't bring myself to write about it at the time because it was so middle-of-the-road. Hopefully this weekend's special will be a tad more inspiring!

So, the 2008 Christmas Special, then. They called it "The Next Doctor," which set expectations fairly high. No, I didn't expect that David Morrisey was really going to be the next Doctor, but when you tease us with that idea from the outset, you better have a darn satisfying reason why he doesn't turn out to be Doctor #11 in the end. Sadly, satisficaction was something entirely lacking in the episode.

No, I didn't hate it. It started out well enough, with the Doctor arriving alone at a typical turn-of-the-century English Christmas scene for a little cheering up and immediately becoming embroiled in trouble with an act-alike adventurer and his companion. I actually really liked David Morrisey at the start of this episode. His over-the-top heroism and obvious affection for his role was ennervating. The scene where the Doctor and the faux Doctor are pulled through an abandoned warehouse on a rope and are saved from certain death at the last instant - only to then collapse into each other's arms in a laughing fit - was great. And the very idea that our current Doctor could suddenly be the companion to a future Doctor was an intriguing role-reversal that really could have been fun if sustained for a while longer.

Unfortunately, things went downhill. Fast. As soon as Russell T. Davies made it obvious that something wasn't right with faux Doctor (about 10 minutes into the episode, mind you), my interest began to wane. Soon, Jackson Lake (as we learn the faux Doctor is really called) became a blubbering, useless excuse for a companion. It was blatently obvious from the get-go that his wife had been killed and his child had been captured, but Davies decided to "save" the second revelation for a ridiculous scene near the end of the episode that comes complete with slow-motion sparks falling and bored children seemingly kidnapped from the set of Temple of Doom. By that point, Jackson Lake had become so ineffectual that all he could do was stand around crying and pointing while the Doctor made use of some improbably available rigging to rescue Jackson's sunken-eyed son.

And don't even get me started on the villains. I'm not a huge fan of these new Cybermen at the best of times, but when you add some silly new shaggy monsters with cyberfaces (creatures who are never adequately explained or utilized) and a shouting woman in a red dress, I begin to mentally tune out. There was a lot of nonsense involved in the plot on this one as well. What was Miss Hartigan trying to do? Get revenge against men? Why could she control the Cyberking? Because she was some sort of feminist genius? Why were the children necessary at all? You can't tell me that 30 lethargic children marching in circles is really going to provide enough energy for the Cyberking to rise.

Ah, well. I did like Jackson Lake's TARDIS (Tethered Aerial Release Developed In Style) and I appreciated that the Doctor actually stayed for Christmas dinner for a change. Although Jackson's speech about how the Doctor had never been thanked made me want to wretch, so there was that....

Disappointing outing all around, really.