Sunday, 23 August 2009

Doctor Who: Forest of the Dead (2)

The Doctor: 'Stay with me! You can do it! Stay with me! Come on!! You and me, one last time!'

Well, perhaps we didn't get all the answers we were looking for, but there was more than enough good stuff in tonight's episode to compensate—particularly if the hanging threads are picked up in a future episode. Each season of Nu-Who (so far) has produced at least one stand-out story worthy of our praise. This was probably season four's.

Strackman Lux went up in my estimations this week. His character initially seemed a little one dimensional, and his obsession with protecting the family patent made him come across as cold and unlikeable—yet as the story developed, and his relationship with Charlotte was revealed, I found myself unexpectedly warming to him. Steve Pemberton is the second member of The League of Gentlemen to appear in Doctor Who. Mark Gatiss played Richard Lazarus in last season's 'The Lazarus Experiment'. I wonder if Reece Shearsmith will ever make an appearance? He'd make a great villain.

I was also surprised by the return of Miss Evangelista. Like Lux, she had a weak first episode. Her breaking off from the main group was one of those clich├ęd horror movie moments that had me shaking my head in disgust, and although I found her death last episode moderately moving, it was more the concept of 'ghosting' which got to me than her actually dying. Ironically, post-death she was infinitely more interesting. Her accentuated IQ, combined with black dress and veil, gave her a distinct air of creepiness—unfortunately, it vanished the moment we saw her face. She looked as though she'd been Photoshopped. Which, I suppose, was the point, what with us being in the realms of computers and hard drives, but it still looked a little amateurish.

The bizarre switch of focus from the horrors of the library, to Donna's disjointed inner world—with its fragmented time line and surreal surroundings—totally worked. The humour, too, seemed better judged. All too often Donna's comedy style has shown the unmistakable hallmarks of Catherine Tate, comedienne—all shouty and abrasive—but, tonight, the puns were more subtle and fitted the character of Donna perfectly. That's not to say there wasn't the occasional slip back into Tate-ville, but overall I preferred the softer humour.

But the big question remains: who is River Song? Two episodes in and we're still none the wiser. Song is the second Who character to share the name of a Firefly character (the first being General Cobb from 'The Doctor's Daughter'), yet they didn't really add much to what we learned last week. Apart from Song knowing the Doctor's real name. I loved the way Tennant handled that revelation—his face was absolutely inscrutable. What situation could possibly necessitate that the Doctor tell Song his name? And what are we to make of Lux's comment about them squabbling like an 'old married couple'? Was that just some throw away comment, or was it meant to have some not-so-subtle implications?

Really, this was Donna's episode. After spending much of it living in a fantasy world, she had to come to terms with her perfect husband (perfect because he could hardly speak), and her beautiful children, not being real. Except, in truth, Lee was real. He'd been saved to the Library's hard drive, like the other 4022 survivors—yet when he tried to call her name, cruelly, his stammer got in the way, and Donna walked away oblivious to his existence. How sad, and yet, utterly typical. Donna just can't seem to catch a break.

Other Thoughts:

—The Doctor can open his TARDIS with the snap of his fingers? Could he always do that and just didn't know?

—After CAL's restoration of Lady Evangelista, I wonder if her intelligence remained?

—According to Steven Moffat, the squareness gun was the same one used by Jack Harkness in 'The Doctor Dances'.

—Everybody lived! Kind of. Despite being killed in real life, they were all transferred to the Library's computer—thus freeing them up to return, no doubt.

—How did the Doctor get out of those handcuffs?

Quotes:

River: 'You think they could be fooled like that?'
Doctor: 'Maybe, I don't know. It's a swarm. It's not like we chat.'

River: 'The Doctor in the Tardis. Next stop, everywhere.'
Doctor: 'Spoilers.'

Donna: 'So this isn't the real me. This isn't my real body. (angrily) I've been dieting!'

Doctor: 'I'm the Doctor, and you're in the biggest library in the universe. Look me up.'

The Doctor: 'Why am I handcuffed... why would you even have handcuffs?'
River: 'Spoilers.'

River: 'There's nothing you can do.'
Doctor: 'You can let me do this!'
River: 'If you die here, it'll mean I've never met you.'
Doctor: 'Time can be rewritten!'
River: 'Not those times. Not one line. Don't you dare! It's okay. It's okay, it's not over for you. You'll see me again. You've got all of that to come. You and me, time and space. You watch us run!'

The Doctor: 'River, you know my name. You whispered my name in my ear. There's only one reason I would ever tell anyone my name. There's only one time I could...'
River: 'Hush, now. Spoilers.'

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