Tuesday, July 08, 2008


When the six-part Doctor Who adventure Genesis of the Daleks was first broadcast in 1975, I may only have been ten years old but I got the fascistic overtones Terry Nation was alluding to in his story. After all, I already seen Where Eagles Dare twice at the cinema and regularly pored over those A5-sized Commando comic books where the Hun regularly got a sound drubbing, so I was pretty much clued up.

Just in case anyone didn’t make the connection so easily I’m sure Davros’ sour-faced henchman, obviously dressed in black, wore something approximating an Iron Cross around his neck. While the Daleks weren’t destroyed outright, come the end of the story, they were entombed in a bunker. Whatever one says about Nation, subtlety was never one of his strong suits, but he’s a wallflower compared to what was served up over the weekend.

Anyone with any sense knows by now that the season finale of Doctor Who was just a big bowl of wrong. There were a great many things that made me shape my head or laugh out loud at the sheer preposterousness and utter shitness flung up as the episode unfolded. There was also one thing that seriously riled me. That came once the UNIT girl set off on all the Osterhagen baloney.

Really, she could have been zapped off to any damn place once she pulled the ripcords. But that idiotic Welsh fucktard had to make it Germany, specifically outside Nuremberg. Then he had to have a swarm of Daleks gliding through the forest announcing, presumably, “Exterminate!” in some garbled, nonsensical electro-‘Allo ‘Allo! German, rather than the actual translation, which is Ausrotten!

I’m not easily offended, but that struck me as being utterly fucking distasteful. To compound it, portions of the read through were shown in the Doctor Who Confidential episode that followed. The camera captured the moment when, after the little slappyhead doing the Dalek voices finished that particular part of the script, instead of someone around the table raising a hand and suggesting the scene was completely crass, they burst into cheers and hoots of laughter.

One other thing that struck me, was remembering how much I hated being lied to when I was a kiddie. I’m not exactly cock-a-hoop about it now, but as an adult there are more things to worry about so you tend to mutter a few obscenities and move on. As a youngster, where your world is that much smaller, lies have much more impact.

So I wonder how the little nippers, expecting a regeneration, expecting one of the companions to cark it felt when it all turned out to be untrue? Welcome to the world of cynical publicity stunts. How’s that for the loss of innocence? Still, a happy side effect was it left egg all over the face of the hack who, over on The Guardian arts blog, decided to trumpet the notion that the show teaches kiddies about empathy and melancholy. I bet that hard bump in the road bounced her ass right off the goddamned bandwagon.

The real fallout from all the puffed up Davies-generated hype was the growing realization that, as the episode progressed, there was precious little story and no fucking drama. Instead it was like some maddening game of trumps. The Daleks show their Z-neutrino energy Reality Bomb card because rather than have to go to the effort of conquering the universe, they’ve decided to destroy all of reality in one go.

The companions lay down their Warp Star (wired into the mainframe) card. It looks like something out of Men in Black so I assume letting that off is a bad thing. Then UNIT Girl pops up with the Osterhagen Key which will set off nukes buried deep in the Earth that will be triggered “if the suffering of the human race is so great, so without hope, that this becomes the final option.” Well, that was a good fifteen minutes ago, and if we get to hear Vera Lynn sing We’ll Meet Again, I’d say go for it.

Of course the Daleks play their teleport card, which trumps the lot. Until the TARDIS turns up with Donna and Doctor Two. Anyone with a functioning brain could see Tennant wasn’t out the door. Still it gave everyone a couple of days to have a song and dance about it. The regeneration that didn’t happen created an “instantaneous biological metacrisis”. What these three bullshit words obviously mean, when put in that order, is that the severed hand simply regenerated into Doctor Two.

With the Z-neutrino energy Reality Bomb about to go off, Doctor Two has his Z neutrino-something reverser card. Of course he doesn’t get to play it because Davros swats him with his energy blast from the hand card. He gets Donna too, at which point I was expecting someone to turn into a mouse.

Why a mouse? Well, back in the early 1980s TWBA’s Mike Couzens and Graham Watson created “Kipper”, their multi-award winning commercial for Lego (UK). This is pretty much what we got on Saturday night except the spot, directed by Ken Turner, is shorter and far more entertaining.

Of course the Daleks were routed as Donna, The Doctor and Doctor Two merrily shouting meaningless techno-blather at each other as they flipped switches and pressed buttons. Only then was it all over, surprising well before the end of the episode. But then this extended finale wasn’t really about telling a story. It was all about The Fat Controller waving goodbye, with great big gobbets of spunk dripping off his fingers having indulged in so much fan wank.

That meant that all the little name checks sprinkled throughout the series, all the little incidents and asides, meant fuck all in the end. For the past few years Davies has tried to get the hang of introducing the season’s “big bad”, following in the footsteps of Joss Whedon’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and faltered ever darn tootin’ time.

Had Rose built her “Dimension Can Opener” because in her alternate universe – which apparently runs ahead of time - she had already see the effects of the Reality Bomb? You would think so but it turned out that she just wanted to see The Doctor again, even if it meant all the alternate realities and different dimensions were collapsing around her.

Then again, it was pretty clear she was going to be remarkably ineffectual. If you’re jumping from an alternate reality to set things right, come tooled up, but bring along a bunch of hard-as-nails troopers who are here to “chew bubblegum and kick ass”. But, oh dear, we get Useless Mum and Rubbish Boyfriend, both come to join hands for this big, Friends Reunited-in-space, sugar-frosted happy ending.

After all the hugs and kisses the Old Companion skipped merrily off home to her Kyle XY while UNIT girl and Rubbish Boyfriend apparently joined Torchwood. While it looked like Doctor Two was created so that, being half human, he could cut through any moral dilemmas and happily destroy the Daleks, instead his real function was to live happily ever after with Rose. So that just left dear old Donna.

Whenever the nutjob Dalek Caan, who looked like someone had sicked up an eye omelette, mentioned in his jingle-jangle voice that “one of them in going to die!” I always hoped that the Daleks would stop, turn to him, and explain that no, they’re all going to die. Got that, you mentalist? The plan is, we’re blowing up all of reality, they’re all going to die.

Since nobody dies in this sort of nonsense, it had to be a special kind of death. With a head full of Time Lord history, Donna had to have her mind wiped, returning her to her old self. While Pixar’s The Incredibles posited that if everyone is special then no one is, according to The Fat Controller, if someone is ‘ordinary’, they might as well be dead.

Is that what he was getting at? Here we are, all sitting at home watching the goggle box, how deathly dull is that. Who’s going to put their head in the oven first? As much as Catherine Tate bugs the living shit out of me, the last few episodes showed that, amongst all the eye-rolling and general gurning, she could actually act.

That said, they could all learn a thing or too from Bernard Cribbins. That final scene, on the doorstep in the rain, showed that The Fat Controller can write utterly marvellous character moments. The absolute shame of the past four series has been that he can’t do narrative, relying instead on fandom circle jerks. Hopefully the next full series will change all that and the whole audience will get what they want.


At 1:51 am, Blogger qrter said...

He can't do narrative and he can't do sci-fi.

He's one of those people when you say "but.. that doesn't make sense.." will say: "Oh but it's sci-fi. It doesn't need to.".

Lawrence Miles has written an interesting (and very long) list of 25 ways to make Who more interesting. He makes a lot of good points:


At 2:41 pm, Blogger Riddley Walker said...

Agree completely with qrter, this is so very much not sci-fi. It's idiotic techno-babble, like "Z-neutrinos" and "reality bombs", that are just utter shit. I'd expect it from a sixth-former who thought an atom really looked like a miniature solar system, but not from a grown man who has Google at his disposal (not to mention an available literary heritage of sci-fi that he might, ooh, read or something...).

What fucking rubbish.


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