Monday, June 13, 2005

The Regeneration Game

Prefect SlogDidn't they do well? Okay, they didn't cover that particular game show in "Bad Wolf", the penultimate episode of the new series of Doctor Who, but it could qualify as a missed opportunity. I admit I cringed a bit when I saw the trailer for this one, because it smacked of more 80s Doctor Who silliness. According to the film, Candyman, if you repeat his name the requisite number of times he'll come and get you, but luckily the variant spelling must have kept the more lurid and farcical excesses of that particular Terra Alphan villain (surely an all-time DW low) at bay here because I didn't find anything in "Bad Wolf" nearly as painful as Bertie Bassett. It was all good fun, with enough of a nasty edge to keep things interesting (a sort of "Vengeance on Varos" for the 21st Century), and with a gripping and nicely paced tail end to the episode that might have been really stunning if the central revelation hadn't been blown in the previous week's Next Week... trailer. In fact this one might as well have been called "Bad Wolf... of the Daleks", as far as that goes. I do wonder how it all might date, given the incorporation of real contemporary game shows - and, to be honest, I hope it does date badly, because all it would take is for The Weakest Link and Big Brother to disappear from our screens within the next couple of years, yes please. On the other hand, using the genuine articles, including the brand music, is what makes the joke work. It's only unfortunate that, certainly on a second watch, you notice that they don't really do enough with it, in the case of the Big Brother gag, while they rather overplay the Weakest Link sketch, cycling through a few too many questions and even counting down to the commencement of play from as high as seventeen. There's a few other unnecessaries, what with the Trinny and Susannah bots revealing their cosmetic surgery tools twice - once for the audience, once for Jack - and the whole revelation about the Bad Wolf Corporation was needlessly duplicated too, once for Rose, once for the Doctor. Also, I was a little mystified as to why the Doctor, when one of the housemates is being evicted, should declare that it's all 'only a game show', when just the scene before he's arrived at the deduction that it's all 'more than just a game show'. Still, it's all very colourful and there's a decent streak of humour throughout (Cap'n Jack gets some great lines, although perhaps 'streak' of humour is too obviously the right word in his case), even if it does take pains to spell things out a bit overmuch at times (Lynda with a Y clarifying things for the Doctor: "She's been evicted - from life" and Rose's fellow contestant clarifying, in the wake of the runaway contestant's disintegration, that it's best not to try to escape and it's "Play or die". Well, d'uh.) Against the light-hearted vein, there's the gloom of the space station interior, and the stark imagery - calling to mind the Dalek Emperor and the Borg Queen - of the Controller, all hooked up to her cables at the centre of the proceedings. And of course the Daleks show up - dum dum dum!! All a little peeved no doubt at having the carpet pulled out from under their dramatic entrance by the BBC. And since I knew they were coming, I have to say that the ready way in which the Doctor formed an attachment to sweet Lynda with a Y, only made me think she was being groomed as a VICTIM with an I or two. Trust me, she's going to die. The sight of all the Dalek ships, with that choral score to back them up, was a great goosebump moment though and of course now we know the capabilities of a single Dalek, the prospect of half a million of the buggers is really something. So the sense of a formidable threat is well and truly established. Such a wasted opportunity then that, when the Doctor delivers a flat "No" to the Dalek ultimatum, they don't just turn around and gun Rose down. Don't get me wrong, I've nothing against Rose, but in the first place it begged the question right away why they didn't just do that, and in the second place it would have been just about the biggest shock the show could have delivered at that point. Possibly ever, in fact. But Billie's already signed her contract for Series Two, so no dice there, I suppose. Ah well. Unfortunately, other questions do crop up alongside that little "Why didn't they just shoot her?" one: a) if the contestants have all been transmatted instead of disintegrated, where have they all gone? (a factor which, incidentally, is something of a weak link in itself, potentially undermining the apparent nastiness in the TV shows on display) b) does the same hold true for the face-lifting Trinny and Susannah bit, and the Countdown with bombs, and Call My Bluff with real guns shows? c) if the Controller can transmat the Doctor et al out of the TARDIS, why did she go to the trouble of sowing all those Bad Wolf references throughout the Doctor's life as a means of drawing him in? d) if one Dalek can take out Salt Lake City (with a population of one million), what did they need to do for the fleet to 'be ready' before taking on an Earth full of humans who are media-brainwashed sheep? e) if one Dalek can take out Salt Lake City (with a population of one million) are we really going to see lots of bloodshed in next week's episode or are they going to go the Aliens route and have a lot of Daleks being blown away? f) given the apparent absence of any space-going navy around the Earth, surely all those Dalek ships could just blow Satellite Five away and be rid of the Doctor in somewhere a little under a jiffy? g) why did the Daleks transmat the Controller out of Satellite Five in order to exterminate her? Surely not the most expedient use of energy, and possibly therein lies the explanation as to why they've been taking such a long time to 'get ready'. All these questions and more may or may not be answered in the final thrilling (well, it looks like it will be) episode of this series of Doctor Who, so I'll wait and see if we get any answers to any of them. And even if we don't, from what I hear, it seems likely we'll get to see them do The Regeneration Game before too long in any case.

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