Monday, April 18, 2005

Long Live the Cliffhanger, the Cliffhanger is Dead

Prefect SlogI'm going to be mean to this one, you might as well know up front. Before I get into that, there was much to like in it, some really great character stuff, that whole domestic side, the soap opera aspects of this time travelling journey of Rose's. Brilliant. It's what we'd expect from RTD, with his contemporary drama credentials. Of course, in the good old days, they'd just get on with telling a Doctor Who story, but these bits work so well, they feel perfectly at home in a modern Doctor Who adventure. It's only a shame that they weren't featured in a *better* Doctor Who adventure. It started out fab with the domestic drama, the spaceship crash, the "Pigs In Spaaaaaaace", but like a government it started to slip badly towards mid-term. There are aspects you can't exactly fault it for: in having the Doctor watch events on TV, it's doing something novel, after all, but it feels at least as unexciting and plain wrong as it does novel. Especially as we see the Doctor only a short while later imposing some of that familiar authority of his to involve himself - unquestioned - with the Army operation. There was another little paradox too, in having the Doctor so excited to be present to witness humanity's alleged first contact with aliens - and then remembering his involvement with UNIT who, we can only assume, must have had contact with, er, aliens. Actually, as I recall, it was on a frequent basis. And with aliens a good deal more convincing than the Slitheen. Okay, maybe it's just me, but one of the principal let downs of Alien Resurrection was the baby-eyed alien. At least that had the elongated skull effect to go with it, but it still looked too cute. (Don't get me wrong, I wouldn't want to cuddle it.) The Slitheen had the baby-eyes and the baby-cheeks too, stuck on a scaled-down Rancor monster meets scaled-up ET body. And we're supposed to find that final shot of its face looming large into camera menacing. Hmm. They weren't helped in the slightest by the fact that they'd spent far too much of the episode farting and giggling about it like children - you're not sure whether you should feel a sense of menace, so much as an overwhelming urge to change their nappies. Or, rather, to get some other poor sap to do it. (Although nice to see that the outmoded elements of old Doctor Who, such as the screaming female companion have been done away with and replaced by the modern sophistication of the fart gag.) They certainly weren't helped by the laborious process of clambering out of their skins - I certainly wasn't jumping out of mine, but I did seem to be spending a lot of that time wondering why somebody didn't do something while they were thus occupied. The Doctor of old could have foiled their invasion attempt three times by the time they'd 'disrobed'. But at least it gave the show an excuse for not one, but three long drawn out finales where people, once again, got to stand around and do a great deal of not a lot. This is getting to be a habit and with only 45 minutes to play with, it's not a very endearing one. Worst of all though - and this isn't actually to do with the content of the episode itself - was that all three points of menace within that cliffhanger were rendered instantly as limp and deflated as an empty Slitheen skin by the Next Week... trailer slapped on the end before the credits rolled. What were they thinking? I remember the sense of anticipation and impatience to see the next episode after one of the cracking cliffhangers of old - and unfortunately, it seems that said anticipation is destined to remain something to be remembered, rather than something to be experienced again. This is a story with two halves, so naturally there's room for overall impressions to change, but it would have been nicer to find myself really looking forward to the second half. Still, in the interests of ending on a positive note, the fx for the spaceship crash were truly incredible for a BBC Doctor Who and those shots deserve special credit in and of themselves. And I feel sorry for the pig. It's high time someone combined Doctor Who and "Pigs In Space" - along with a lot of the other Muppet gang, come to that.


Philip said...

I actually thought this episode was mostly great.

The TV-watching worked, mainly because the Doctor also clearly felt that it was wrong. He was genuinely trying to give Rose's idea a try, but his frustration was obvious, hence the slipping away.

And wasn't the Doctor incapacitated by the electric badge while the Slitheen was climbing out of General Asquith? I might be wrong there.

SAF said...

Hi Phillip. There was quite a delay between the Doctor realising it was a trap, the Slitheen emerging and then being incapacitated by the electric badge. As for the TV-watching, it just didn't add up for me, in that he plainly took charge and asserted his authority over the soldiers when in the hospital (much like many of the Doctors of old). At the same time, just to be clear, I did appreciate the Doctor's frustration, but it was too akin to my frustration that, while an original thing for Doctor Who, I didn't feel it made for good drama or adventure, and I just wished he'd get on and do something about it. All of which said, I appreciate the input :)