Saturday, 16 May 2009

Doctor Who: Fear Her

Rose: 'I was attacked by a pencil scribble?'

One thing I've found particularly frustrating this season is the show's general lack of consistency. How many times have we seen a potentially good storyline ruined by either poorly judged dialogue or a badly realised villain, or great characterisation nullified by poor storytelling? The thing that really irks me is, it doesn't have to be this way. They are capable of getting it right. 'School Reunion' and 'The Girl in the Fireplace' are proof positive they can crank out a good story—but they've so rarely hit the mark this season. Which is a shame for Billie and David, because they deserve better scripts than this.

Some of the characterisation I thought serviceable. The Doctor in particular, apart from some supposedly comedic moments, had a decent episode. He came across as funny, compassionate, reasonable, playful, mysterious, heroic—in fact, all the things we come to know and love about him these past 12 weeks. I even laughed when he whooped with delight as he lit the Olympic flame. (I know, I know... absolutely feeble, but it made me smile. I can't tell my face what to do, it just does as it pleases.)

And there was much to like about the Isolus. I liked the idea of them being spores, travelling through space, creating fantasy worlds and filling them with captured humans. I liked too the idea of their ionic power being able to transform living people into drawings and vice versa. And for once we got a 'villain' that wasn't intent upon taking over the world. In fact, their predicament pretty much mirrored the Doctor's. Of course, travelling with the Doctor is an essentially voluntary occupation—unlike the Isolus, whose preferred method of recruitment was kidnap—but they're immature beings, so let's not judge them too harshly.

But visually, everything about this episode looked horrendous. Where did the visual effects budget go? Did someone spend it on pies or something? Or did they blow it all on 'The Impossible Planet' and 'The Satan Pit'? Did they seriously give us a scribble monster? And a crap looking scribble monster at that. It was just some... scribble!

Plus, the story itself threw up so many questions, that about half way through, I had to switch off my brain. On being freed from his virtual prison, would Dale really have just started playing football again? Would the previously imprisoned throngs at the Olympic stadium, on reappearing, just continue to wave flags as if nothing had happened? Chloe seemed to suggest that Dale was sad in his virtual world, yet on returning, he seemed completely unfazed by the experience. Was the memory expunged from his mind or something? And where did that street-lining, torch-cheering crowd come from? They seemed to spring from nowhere and then disappear back into nowhere as soon as they became surplus to requirement. And seriously, is the Olympic torch really love? Is it? Or is it just a stick with a flame at the end?

The episode also bore some stark similarities to 'The Idiot's Lantern'. It's almost as if Graham and Gatiss were given the same plot outline—the Doctor and Rose land in suburbia; people are going missing; they knock on doors to ask questions, but no one wants to let them in; something's going on upstairs; the father figure has an abusive personality; people are being turned into pictures;  and in the end, an invisible alien is to blame. Is any of this sounding familiar yet?

Despite the nonsense, they did throw in some decent intrigue at the end. A few episodes ago, the Doctor was adamant that the Beast was wrong about Rose dying in battle, yet this week he looked far less sure of himself. It's looking more and more like the Doctor's going to be proved wrong again. And we're going to lose Rose.

Other Thoughts:

—This episode replaced a script originally penned by Stephen Fry. I would dearly have loved to see that episode. Fry's one funny guy.

—Why do faked news reports never sound realistic? Even Huw Edwards (an actual newsreader) failed to inject any realism into the proceedings.

—Fingers on lips? Even Billie looked embarrassed at that one.

—The Doctor called Rose 'Lewis', a character from the popular (now defunct) detective show Inspector Morse.

—Lucky for Rose she didn't hit the Isolus spaceship with her pick-axe. What are the chances?

—What was the Cookie Monster doing in the wardrobe?

—Huw Edwards can be heard mentioning Torchwood in the background.

Quotes:

Doctor: 'Only seems like yesterday a few naked blokes were tossing a discus about, wrestling with each other in the sand, as the crowds stood around baying. No, wait a minute, that was Club Med.'

Doctor: 'Nobody else in this entire galaxy has ever even bothered to make edible ball bearings. Genius!'

Rose: (to the cat) 'Oh, aren't you a beautiful boy!'
Doctor: 'Thanks! I'm experimenting with back-combing.'

Doctor: 'I'm not really a cat person. Once you've been threatened by one in a nun's wimple, it kind of takes the joy out of it.'

Doctor: 'We need to find the source of that power. Find the source and you will find whatever has taken to stealing children and fluffy animals.'

Doctor: 'I was a dad once.'
Rose: 'What did you say?'

Kel: 'You just took a council axe from a council van, and now you're digging up a council road! I'm reporting you to the council!'

Rose: 'Who's going to hold his hand now?'

Rose: 'You know what? They keep on trying to split us up, but they never ever will.'
Doctor: 'Never say 'never ever'.'
Rose: 'Nah, we'll always be okay, you and me. Don't you reckon, Doctor?'
Doctor: 'Something in the air. Something coming.'
Rose: 'What?'
Doctor: 'A storm's approaching.'

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