Wednesday, 30 October 2013

The Long Game, Father's Day, The Empty Child & The Doctor Dances

The Long Game

Simon Pegg.
The Doctor and Rose are joined by Alex (Bruno Langley) from the previous story, who was such a great character I didn’t even bother mentioning him. Thankfully he is dropped off home at the end of this episode, hopefully never to be seen again.
‘The Long Game’ is perhaps a commentary on mass media consumption and a warning not to take anything you see written or presented on the news as gospel. We
Monster of the week.
have a monster on Satellite Five, a space station above Earth in the future, basically controlling all media and not just giving but making the news. People connect with Satellite Five via a strange contraption that appears in their foreheads. People are augmenting themselves and their brains, and Alex cannot resist the temptation. It’s a lesson for the audience, Alex is a tool and the Doctor doesn’t suffer tools lightly, and he gets bunged home at the first opportunity.
Connecting via a hole in the head.
Simon Pegg, who I think would make a brilliant Doctor one day if someone had a mind to offer him the part next time it’s available, is probably the highlight of the episode, which is steady without being brilliant. He plays the ‘editor’. It suffers from the fate that I suspect many single-episode stories will suffer from, that you feel like there’s more to the story but there’s no time to introduce new elements or twists, so instead the monster explodes catching Simon Pegg with its fleshy blast.
It’s full of characters not challenging or thinking about the world they live in, which is one of the major points to the narrative. It’s pretty well done, but it’s interesting that we’ve only had stories set on Earth or on space stations thus far – when will we see an alien planet? I wonder if anyone else got frustrated by this?
All in all, a solid episode without being brilliant.

Father’s Day

Shaun Dingwell as Pete Tyler.

‘Father’s Day’, by Paul Cornell, was a powerful and somewhat emotional story which I enjoyed thoroughly. Never in the history of the show have we gone back in time to visit a departed loved one, and then seen the consequences of changing your own timeline. To think that they went so long without doing that is interesting. In the new ‘domestic’ orientation of the series though, the perfect opening was there with Rose’s father.
Another... monster of the week!
Now I am not using the word ‘domestic’ in a derogatory way here, in fact I think it’s added positively to the series. Companions have always left loved ones behind when they travelled and then we never hear another thing about them. Take Peri and her stepfather Howard for example. Think about the fact that people are whisked out of time and must be the subject of missing person searches and the like, and it’s only once been mentioned in the classic series – not until ‘Aliens of London’ was it properly explored.
Touching final moments for Pete Tyler with Rose.
‘Father’s Day’ has some CGI monsters which frankly don’t look very convincing, but I guess CGI these days comes across as really obvious because we know how it’s done. The idea that the Doctor would take Rose back to see her father die not once but TWICE, seems very unlikely to me as well. Apart from that it’s a wonderful episode with lots of emotion. Every episode she is in Jackie Tyler becomes just that little more unlikeable. I really am growing to hate the character. Pete Tyler however, played by Shaun Dingwall, is actually a really likeable guy. Christopher Eccleston is again great in this episode torn between his care for Rose and his anger at her saving her father’s life and changing time. It’s also good in the evolution of the series to show why the Doctor doesn’t go around changing historical events.
The strength of Pete Tyler to throw himself in front of the car at the end to correct the timeline and save everyone is a really well handled emotional point. It’s really a beautiful, sad episode this one.

The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances

Rose dangles over London.
Am I lessening the value of these reviews by admitting some of these episodes nearly made me cry. ‘Father’s Day’, ‘Dalek’ and now ‘The Doctor Dances’. Steven Moffat presents us with a wonderful two-part story here, the man who gave the world ‘Press Gang’ is a massive Doctor Who fan and a celebrated writer, and this effort only enhances his reputation.
The Doctor dines with some street kids.
We are introduced to Captain Jack Harkness, who ends up going with the Doctor and Rose at the end of the story, and presented with a story set in the London blitz back in World War II. John Barrowman, a Canadian born actor, provides the enthusiasm and cockiness required in spades.
So let’s start with the negatives, because there are a couple. And pretty much no more.
Firstly, in the opening five minutes Rose grabs hold of a rope whilst chasing a lost boy on a rooftop. The rope is connected to a massive air-balloon. She has plenty of chances to let go before she is hundreds of
Meet Captain Jack (John Barrowman)
metres above London, and the scene is handled (and I think conceived) poorly. To think that she could hold onto the rope for quite some time raises question marks for me as well. Secondly, my other main issue is the kids. They are supposed to be street kids, yet they all look so clean!
Anyways, enough of that, it’s bloody brilliant otherwise! It’s atmospheric and full of characters that the audience will care deeply about. It’s very well shot and has some great
Florence Hoath as Nancy confronts her son.
ideas – the square gun for one!
Don't forget Nancy, the mother of the 'empty child'. Florence Hoath played the young mother and really gave a powerful and moving performance. The issues dealt with too - a young mother in 1940s Britain - are new for Doctor Who. Certainly didn't go there in the first 26 years. So there's some real gritty reality, and also, technically a story without monsters (which is a great change of pace). The idea that there's no real evil or baddie at play in the story, that it's just advanced technology (nano-bots) gone a bit wrong, provides a great twist to the tale and a satisfying ending. Also, Richard Wilson gives a great performance and Doctor Constatine.

Captain Jack works brilliantly with Eccleston, who may not be my favourite Doctor, but I really enjoy stories merely because of him, and that’s a darned good sign. The sheer joy at the end of ‘The Doctor Dances’ when everybody lives on his face says it all. All the death, the time war, the sadness, but sometimes everything goes right. Steven Moffat, a great pair of episodes.


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