Saturday, 16 May 2009

Doctor Who: The Idiot's Lantern

Tommy: 'Don't you get it? You were fighting so little twerps like me could do what we want, say what we want. Now you've become just like them.'

This was a hard episode to write about—mainly because I neither loved nor hated it. It inhabited that dreaded dead-space reserved for all things unremarkable. There were bits of it I liked, but it felt far too much like Who-by-numbers. The characterisation was uneven, the plot lacklustre, and I hate to say it, but even the Doctor got on my nerves this week.

That's not to say there wasn't things to like about the episode. The period stuff I enjoyed immensely. What's not to like about Rose in a pink dress, and the Doctor, hair slicked back and riding a Vespa? The idea of going back in time to watch Elvis on The Ed Sullivan Show (despite somehow feeling like a misuse of time travel), was also a nice touch, and the attention to detail set-wise was seriously impressive. The 50's were way, way (and I'll add another 'way' to really stress the point) before my time, but I recognised much of the period d├ęcor from old family photos. Which is all part of the fun, I suppose.

I started off liking the Wire, but towards the end of the episode she started to annoy me. At first she was splendidly sinister, with her slightly out-of-focus face and stilted vocal delivery (a likely homage to those dreadful voice overs they used to have on public information films), but after a while, her incessant cries of 'feed me' started to make her sound like Audrey 2 from Little Shop Of Horrors—which kind of blew apart the illusion. Plus, they never really explained the Wire's method to us. Why were her victims faces trapped inside TV sets? How did they breathe once they'd had their faces sucked off? I think the Doctor mentioned something about them 'ticking over', so I can buy that they perhaps needed less oxygen—but none whatsoever?

I also think that they overdid the Doctor's dialogue. I'm not blaming Tennant, he can only say the words he's been given, but all this 'there's no power on this earth that can stop me' stuff, was a bit much. I get it that he's all powerful, and Time Lordy, and that he has a massive TARDIS and whatnot—I'm just not sure that we need to hear him blowing his own trumpet so loudly. I enjoyed the Doctor saying 'I'd call you a genius, but I'm in the room' (in 'Age Of Steel') because, although slightly narcissistic, it was meant to have a comedic effect. But shouting out that no power on the earth can stop you? Well, firstly, it's just not true—he gets stopped all of the time (if he didn't, there would be no drama and thus no show)—but, more importantly, it all just sounds terribly big headed.

Tommy's story wasn't too bad—it just seemed to get in the way of the more interesting story elements. I was glad to see Rita kick out her cowardly, domineering husband, and it was nice to see the effect his expulsion had on her. She actually started to take control of her life and began to act like a human being again, instead of the downtrodden doormat Eddie had reduced her to.

But what's that business about the Union Flag only being called the Union Jack when it's at sea? What nonsense! Didn't Rose herself refer to the Union Flag as the Union Jack in 'The Empty Child'? Make your mind up, Rose!

Other Thoughts:

—David Tennant didn't ride the scooter in this episode. He wasn't qualified to do so and had to be wheeled in and out of shot. A stuntman rode the cycle on-screen—so a dozen fail points for DT this week.

—A humble DI knew about Torchwood? I was under the impression (from watching 'The Christmas Invasion'), that Torchwood was some kind of big secret that even the PM wasn't supposed to know about.

—Is it just me or are the Torchwood references becoming tiresome? They don't seem to hold the same interest the Bad Wolf references did last season. Plus, we already did the 'let's thread a word/phrase through the whole of the season' thing last year. Do we need to do it again?

—On the TV we saw clips of Muffin The Mule, a 1950's TV show for children.

—This was our second story by Mark Gatiss, the writer responsible for last seasons 'The Unquiet Dead'.

Quotes:

Rose: 'Me and Mum, Cliff Richard movies every Bank holiday Monday.'
Doctor: 'Cliff! I knew your mother would be a Cliff fan.'

Doctor: 'Union Flag?'
Rose: 'Mum went out with a sailor.'
Doctor: (sniggers) 'I bet she did."

Eddie: 'I am talking!'
Doctor: 'And I'm not listening.'

Doctor: 'Hell of a right hook. Have to watch out for that.'

Doctor: 'Never too late, as a wise person once said. Kylie, I think.'

Tommy: 'What happened?'
Doctor: 'Sorted. Electrical creature, TV technology, clever alien life form. That's me, by the way.'

Doctor: 'Just to be on the safe side though, I'll use my unrivaled knowledge of trans-temporal extirpation methods to neutralise the residual electronic pattern.'
Rose: 'You what?'
Doctor: 'I'm going to tape over it.'
Rose: 'Just leave it to me. I'm always doing that.'


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