Saturday, June 04, 2005

Doctor Strangelove

Prefect SlogIt's a metaphor, darlings. Not since the X Files has the truth been so out there. Yes, it's like the Doctor's been travelling around in a closet all his life instead of a police box and now it's official: the Doctor does indeed 'dance'. I'm really not sure what to make of that, since as with the X Files, I tended to prefer the Mulder-Scully relationship when there was a frissson of sexual chemistry, the suggestion of what might happen as opposed to when it was out there. But at least it gives us something to talk about, as I'm afraid "The Doctor Dances" was another of those episodes where there really isn't much to say about it other than 'that was great, that was" and go on to sing its praises some more. Which, as we've covered before, can get kind of dull. :) Suffice to say, what Steve Moffat gave us was a fitting conclusion to what started so brilliantly in "The Empty Child", and once again he demonstrates a firm understanding of what makes Doctor Who tick. Even to the extent that, if a 90-minute two-parter can broadly equate to an old 4-part story, he kicks it off splendidly with two episodes of mystery and menace, follows with a good deal of running around in part 3 and builds to a satisfactory and suitably dramatic conclusion in part 4. (And at last, although it's Nancy and the nanogenes that set everything to rights, the Doctor plays his part and crucially it feels like he's involved in that conclusion.) Inevitably, this one sheds some of the creepiness that laced "The Empty Child", but the nature of the story is bound to change, both as we learn more and as the need to pick up the pace dictates. If part one was a danse macabre, then part two is something of a gloomy polka: quick, with a curiously successful combination of light and dark. There's room for a few moments of genuine horror, as other victims sprout gas masks from their faces. The sequence with the typewriter typing by itself and the child's voice carrying on when the tape has run out do seem to be attempting the same scare twice, but generally it works. And there's all the wit and humour of the first part (Richard Wilson's answer to the woman who discovers she's grown back a leg: "Is it possible you miscounted?", Cap'n Jack riding a bomb in a heavily symbolic Doctor Strangelove homage) contrasted with the grit and stark reality of teenage motherhood and questions of sexual proclivities. Including those of the Doctor himself. He's nine hundred years old. He's been around. What makes us think he hasn't danced? And the word 'dance' is applied liberally throughout the episode with appropriate emphasis to make sure we get the metaphor. Okay, there's no on-screen testing of sonic bedsprings or anything, but the answer to the question many people have asked over the years is there for all to see, on the obvious side of implicit. So yes, the Doctor dances. My only complaint would be that I wish he hadn't done quite so much of it in the denoeuement, as that tail end of the story does seem to go on a bit. But it's a very minor point in such a terrific two-parter. And I don't intend to dwell on the question of the Doctor's past sexual activities. For one thing, it might undermine all my innocent childhood illusions about Sarah Jane Smith, and I wouldn't want that. For another, the Doctor has always been like a favourite-uncle figure and any contemplation of what relatives may or may not get up to in the bedroom is just plain unhealthy. (Shudder.)

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