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New Who

Back at Eastertide when we started watching the latest series of Dr Who I did a little write-up of it on my other blog, so now that it's finished I thought it might be worth revisiting and seeing if the two-and-a-half grudging cheers I gave the first episode were justified.

 As I explained in that piece, I'm not really a Dr Who fan.  I enjoyed the ones I watched back when Tom Baker was proprietor of the TARDIS, and I remember reading some of the old Target Dr Who novels which I suppose must have been based on earlier programmes, but I'm not really up to speed with the show's mythology, and I barely saw any of the David Tennant episodes, so I came to this new series with a fairly open mind.  (If you'd like to read fair and entertaining episode-by-episode reviews of the whole series written by someone who knows his Who through and through, you need only to click on the HeroPress link in the Bee's side-bar, which will deliver you into the capable hands of of leading Geek philosopher Tim Knight.)

Anyway, I said at Easter that on the whole I was looking forward to the new Who, and on the whole I wasn't disappointed.  There are lots and lots of very irritating things about the show, as Terry Pratchett has pointed out, but it remains hard to dislike, especially if you watch it in the company of saucer-eyed eight-year-olds, to whom it is simply The Most Exciting Thing Ever.  I was relieved that there wasn't anything too scary in this series, which seemed to aim for an atmosphere of fantasy adventure rather than really setting out to horrify.  And I'm very glad that I was wrong about Annette Crosbie, whose appearance in the opening episode I expected to be repeated on an almost weekly basis.  (Not that I have anything against Annette Crosbie, who is, of course, a National Treasure: I was just worried that we were in for more of the soap opera plotting which had led me to lose interest so totally in the new Dr Who before.)  This series, which has a different producer to the previous ones, had a much more science-fiction-y structure, culminating in an ingenious final episode which linked together elements from the preceding episodes with all manner of time-travel-y goings on.

On the downside, there was a tendency for alien menaces to be easily defeated by the Power of LURVE, which got a bit tedious, and then there was the Weekly Sniffle.  This is a moment, usually about five minutes before the end of each episode, when the music goes a bit Hearts and Flowers and something or other makes one of the characters (usually Amy) get a bit weepy and need a good hug.  I suspect the programme makers think  pictures of people crying = emotionally engaging TV drama.  (It's probably something they learned on a media studies course. )  Actually pictures of people crying tends to = lazy, manipulative formula schmalz, and I do wish they'd just pull themselves together and get a grip.



I also found a lot of the stories a bit rushed.  The two-parters, in which there was time for set-up, resolution, and a good bit of running-about-in-corridors in between, were all far better than the stand-alone fifty minute ones, which had no sooner set out their ideas than it was time to wheel on some creaky Deus Ex Machina, have a good cry, and roll the closing credits.  The promising-looking Daleks-in-World-War-2 episode suffered particularly badly from this, and for my money was the worst episode in the series, though the one set on the big space-whale powered starship ran it a close second.  The only single-episode story which didn't fizzle out was the one about Vincent Van Gogh.  This included the one truly frightening moment in the series (when the words, 'Written by Richard Curtis' came up on the screen) but, despite being the writer of many of The Worst Films Ever, Mr C managed to turn in quite a nice little story about art, madness, time-travel etc; it had a rubbish monster, but Vincent's tears at the end were the only ones in the series which didn't look as if they'd just been applied with an eye-dropper by a lady from Make-Up.

(To be fair, Sam far preferred the stand-alone stories.  Having to wait a whole week to find out what happened next was, apparently, almost unbearable.)

On the plus side, there was a nice look to most of the episodes, some very good jokes, and even the weaker stories had some good ideas and strong performances.  Matt Smith, who seemed far too young to play the Doctor at first, quickly convinced us with his skewed good-looks and manic energy.  I think he's probably the best Dr Who since Tom Baker, with whom he shares a kind of gleeful, funny-portentous, mad uncle quality.  Sam thinks he's the coolest person ever, and doesn't mind me wearing tweed jackets any more (why couldn't they screen it in winter time?).  So in the end, while it's not a programme I'd probably bother to watch on my own, as Family Entertainment it seems pretty unbeatable.  Saturday tea-times won't be the same without it.  What on earth shall we watch instead?  (Don't say "Merlin".)

4 comments:

The Acrobatic Flea said...

And family entertainment's what it has always been about.

Jacob said...

van gogh was the best episode in ages!! and merlins alright...

Philip Reeve said...

Dr Who certainly appeals to children's imaginations. We had a local barn dance near here on Saturday night, and my friends' little boy was found kicking the door of the Portaloo and shouting, "Somebody's doing a wee in my TARDIS!"

Jacob said...

haha!! sounds fun

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