Sunday, July 09, 2006

Pace Right Off!

Doctor Who sputtered to a close with a perfect example of how off the pace the series is.

Daleks vs Cybermen, with the humans stuck in the middle, was probably the fanboys’ ultimate wet dream. Shorn of the usual useless pop-culture references, the episode should have been a rollercoaster ride of excitement and adventure.

But instead of really kicking off and delivering the goods, the series finale meandered and sputtered and faltered its way through to the final denouement. Whether the problem is in the writing or directing or editing, or a combination of all three, the story, like the previous episodes in the run didn’t have a satisfying, codifying, rhythm to it.

Conversations went on too long between the action set-pieces, hampering the momentum. Then, in the scene where Rose’s mother meets her husband from the alternate Earth, the show just grinds to a dead stop. Everyone is running from Cybermen, the clock is ticking to thwart the Daleks’ plan and... they stand around and chat.

Obviously such a scene is necessary, but why not stage it with everyone still on the move? Set it in the stairwell with Jackie stopping at each turn to react to his statements and having to be dragged forward. A simple change would not only stop the pace from flagging but would include The Doctor, Rose and Mickey in the scene rather than have them stand in the background like lemons.

Chat, of course is cheap to stage and film. Shows like this are always hobbled by budgetary restrictions. In which case you have to be more inventive. Instead of producing less scenes, you create the right scenes. Sucked back into the vortex, the Daleks and Cybermen from around the world had clear air between them and the void. It was a shame they didn’t show Cybermen with tree fragments stuck in their joints or a Dalek slamming into one of the Canary Wharf towers and come shooting out the other side.

In parts the episode got it right. Especially towards the end, where it managed, on the whole, to pack an emotional punch after cleverly engineering a way of getting rid of all the secondary characters that came with the companion at one fell swoop. Although the Torchwood leader-turned-Cyberman rebelling against her programming and weeping oil was risible at best. And the hokey way of putting Rose in final jeopardy was hokey.

As for the homages/references/blatant rip-offs... In this episode the Cybermen adapting to the weapons fire was very Borg, and, at a stretch, the vortex opening and pulling the Daleks and Cybermen into the Void/”Hell” was similar to the season two finale of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, where Angel/Angelus is sent packing.

Although this time the main steal was not from television or cinema but of a literary bent. It’s ironic that Billie Piper has gone on to star as Sally Lockhart in the BBC's adaptation of Philip Pullman's The Ruby In The Smoke when so much of Doomsday was lifted from Pullman’s award-winning His Dark Materials trilogy.

Specifically, the bridge between two worlds created by Lord Asriel - although in this case we have our very own Mrs Coulter at Torchwood; the Dust (which at least reveals that instead of just looking like a twat wearing 3D glasses, The Doctor has a reason for looking like a twat wearing 3D glasses; and of course The Doctor and Rose being separated between the two worlds like Lyra and Will at the end of The Amber Spyglass.

At least I’ll be spared from watching the Christmas special. If there’s one thing worse than Doctor Who it’s that unfunny, sour-faced chav, Catherine Tate.

Series one kicked off with guest appearances from the likes of Simon Callow and Penelope Wilton. The second series rolls to a close with turns by Peter Kaye and Catherine Tate.

Talk about being on a downhill slide.


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