Sunday, June 15, 2008

And about time

One of my easier rejections for Big Engine was a "comedy" that had been knocked up by the author and his mates in a pub one evening. I'm assuming. Get this! On this futuristic colony world, the computers that designed the buildings only had monochrome monitors, so all the buildings were coloured in shades of grey! The second in command of a starship was an elf!! The captain didn't believe in elves so he refused to talk to his second in command!!! Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha [bonk as he falls off his bar stool].

People aren't stupid. No, scratch that. People are stupid and populations more so, but not to the point of personal inconvenience and not for long. Everyone in the long run takes the route of least resistance. The colonists of this future world would have invented paint ...

I was reminded of this three years ago at the end of the first new Dr Who series, when we were expected to believe that Big Brother and The Weakest Link and What Not to Wear were alive and well in the 30th century. Further, that they had become compulsory. It ruined what was otherwise a quite exciting adventure. Russell T. Davies obviously believed he was cleverly satirising something that was already getting passé here in the present day real world. Douglas Adams got away with that kind of thing because Hitchhikers was pure satire. Dr Who isn't.

And as Dr Who went on and Davies became more and and more entrenched in his position, he continued to unleash abominations like this upon the world. After the Christmas Titanic special I thought he could get no worse, until he wrote "Partners in crime" for the start of the current series.

And so, on Saturday, my hopes were not high when I saw who wrote the episode. They got even less high as the Doctor settles in for a comfy trip and the most inept stewardess in the history of popular transit spends a minute handing him all the freebies. "May contain nuts," she finishes, handing him a bag of peanuts (which, Mr Davies are no longer served on international airlines even in the present day for precisely this reason ...). "That'll be the peanuts," the Doctor replies cheerfully. Laugh? I almost thought about it.

And then came the big surprise. Suddenly this was a bloody good episode - a reminder of how RTD got to the point of being in charge of Dr Who. He got there by writing good scripts with good characters. This was a shoestring budget episode - I suspect because they're conserving resources for a really big season finale (which also explains why Donna wasn't around much). Only one studio set and a minimum of special effects. He created a bunch of distinct characters, pointed the cameras at the actors, and made them act. That's all. And they did it brilliantly.

But here's four reasons why I'm still looking forward to when Steven Moffat takes over. One. Two. Three. Four.


  1. I agree with every point in that post passionately (especially looking forward to Moffat's takeover) except for one thing. Whilst Saturday's episode was great, I felt a bit let down by the end of it. It gets sucked out and that's the end? We don't find out what it was? No dramatic climax? Sure, the characters were distinct but fairly stupid not to spot some things & the role of chucking the lady out at the end could have been given to a number of them. The real killer was the lack of explanation though. Normally we get a load of talk which we're fooled into believing makes sense. But nothing here. No explanation as to why it copied in the way it did, or what the process was. Just kill lady, save day. I didn't like it.
    Otherwise, I loved the episode though!

  2. I actually found that a strength. Once in a while (but only once) I'm happy for no explanation to be given, just have the characters make it. It sums up a lot of life. Anyway, I have a suspicion that the entire raison d'etre for the episode was a five second sequence when the Doctor looks away from a particular screen ...

  3. Truly, there is more rejoicing in DW fandom over one good RTD episode than over ten Moffats.

    Actually, that's probably not true, as I suspect we'll find out in 2010.

  4. It was indeed a 'bottle episode', a Ship Of Fools story, and I rather suspected it was going to be 'The Thing' (cold environment, 'one of us isn't human). Re the like-the-present day bit, it was as you say like the 20th century not the 21st. Does anyone still call flight attendants 'hostesses'? But apart from that, yes, it was a character driven ep and panned out to the very good.


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