Sunday, April 16, 2006

Moving Swiftly On...

Prefect SlogOkay, I'd just gotten over my disappointment at discovering that there were in fact six more episodes of Invasion to crawl through - serves me right for checking an incomplete episode guide on the net, huh - and now the return of new DW for a second season leaves me with a meh feeling. Usually, I'd rewatch an episode before commenting here, but on the one hand it left vivid impressions and on the other it lacked that degree of re-watchability that's in the classics. Still, it's something that was missing from a great deal of the first season, so I can't hold that too greatly against it. A friend of mine was only commenting yesterday that she supposed I had all the first series on DVD and was surprised to discover that wasn't the case. In the first place, I'd generally watched them again right away for the purpose of scribbling a review and in the second place, that was generally enough. This one wasn't helped by the fact that I'd been so hugely looking forward to it and in part that's owed to the strengths of the first season, but probably in equal part that's owed to its weaknesses - i.e. I was hoping to see some marked improvements.
But don't get me wrong, what we had in the opening episode New Earth was not actively awful in the same way as, for example, World War III or (heaven forbid) Boomtown. No, it was a curious mix of dazzling and dumb, with the rough edges taking the shine off the gems, and the shiny bits not managing to dazzle enough to take your mind off the flaws. By no means terrible, but as it used to say on too many of my school geography reports, 'Could do better', and this morning I find, disappointingly, no immediate desire to watch it again.
Inevitably it's reminiscent of End of the World, but doesn't have the advantage of the wow factor of seeing this kind of Doctor Who for the first time - and doesn't have the brilliant 'chips' scene at the end. But it also reminded me of Time and the Rani, the rampantly silly debut of McCoy's Doctor, complete with the companion-villainess switcheroo. Mostly a nonsensical runaround. Unlike the McCoy debut, it's liberally sprinkled with bright ideas, so gives it that feeling of being rushed, but there's nowhere near enough of note in it to fill out a two parter.
The list of plus points is impressive: outstanding performances from everybody who really counted, brilliant cat make-up, terrific set design (special mention to the Intensive Care Unit, although I was temporarily jumped out of the action by the fact that the Doctor and Rose apparently had to descend through the Nestene chamber from Rose to get there), oodles of witty dialogue and some intriguing stuff with the Face of Boe. Against that you have a story that feels hastily cobbled together and sadly lacking, plus some wobbly CGI (the modern hi-tech equivalent of wobbly sets) where the cityscape and all the flying cars are poorly married to the foreground, a so-so opening that was perhaps required viewing for anyone who needed reminding that Mickey and Jackie will be back this year but that didn't do much for me. And a troublingly quick character U-turn from Cassandra at the end: "I don't want to die. Oh, all right then." Bah. The Doctor here is much more proactive in the resolution than previously, but again there are shades of End of the World where the action finale and the way the situation is resolved is a bit more than faintly ludicrous. Unfortunately, the most positive enduring impression the show left me with came from the trailer for next week's episode and how bloody good that looks. So, as I say, in the spirit of a Doctor who apparently likes to rush about, moving swiftly on...


Stewart M. said...

I thought New Earth would've been brilliant if it weren't for the most absolutely STUPID inclusion of instant body-swapping, one of the most tired and ridiculous SF concepts ever imagined.

SAF said...

I can appreciate that. It's been done before and better, but I have to give it some points in New Earth simply because it was played really well.

Stuart Douglas said...

I'm beginning to feel like a right awkward b'stard when it comes to DW. Having been one of the minority who didn't think the Eccleston series was as good as everyone seemed to be saying (although not yourself), I thought New Earth was marvellous stuff. Almost as filled with plot-holes as some of the previous year's offering, but for reasons which I can't immediately pinpoint I didn't mind the frankly illogical body swapping machine half as much as the Big White Light That Lives in the TARDIS from Boom Town and PotW.

Maybe it's Tennant - he's more the kind of Doctor we'd have had in the seventies and eighties and so is instantly more comforting to this aged fanboy, but Billie being *brilliant* certainly helped.

Or maybe it's the fact that having too much happening and so getting a bit muddled is always better than having sod all happen.

Or that the Doctor fixing things (even with implausible Super Magic Medicine Bags) is better than someone else solving the problem for him.

Really, I don't know why I loved it so much - but it made me smile like a loon from start to finish.

Which is not terribly insightful, I know, but I leave deep insights to the likes of you and PPH :)

SAF said...

Heheh. Have you considered that maybe I'm missing the deep insights that allowed you to enjoy it that much more? I'd agree that Tennant rendered it more enjoyable than it might have been with Eccleston - and after all my griping last season I perhaps should have been more positive about the fact that he *fixed* things in the end! :). Still, I think he deserves a better vehicle than that and I'm optimistic that he'll get some.