Sunday, 10 November 2013

42, Human Nature, The Family of Blood & Blink


Whilst this is not a great episode, it’s somewhat of an improvement from the previous three at least. Chris Chibnall wrote this one, and the concept is good I think – 42 minutes to live, the episode to play out in real-time, inspired by the show ‘24’. The sets are very good, the casting is solid, there’s a throwback in concept to ‘Planet of Evil’, Martha has some nice moments, and it looks good.
It’s got issues too, the idea of having to answer trivia to get through a whole bunch of doors grated with me and seemed to be a gimmick. There was some stuff I just couldn’t believe – the Doctor going outside in a space ship so close to the sun to save Martha for example. I liked the idea of the sun being alive, which is why they couldn’t leave with part of the sun on board the ship, but I was annoyed that the sun was then portrayed as evil and given a nasty catchphrase – ‘burn with me!’. As creepy as the phrase was, it just didn’t seem right to me.
Freema Ageyman hasn’t had the sort of character development that Billie Piper got. Her family has thus far been just used as tools to tell the plotlines, rather than developed characters like (as much as I disliked her) Jackie Tyler. Martha’s Mum is being used somehow by Mr Saxon to find out information on Martha and presumably the Doctor. Martha speaks on the phone to her mum a number of times in this episode, revealing it’s election day in Britain and presumably Mr Saxon is up for office. We’ve seen the ‘vote Saxon’ signs here and there too.
What it’s all about is perhaps more interesting than the stories we’re being told. ‘42’ feels like the Impossible Planet in many ways, the sets look similar, but I think the idea is better and far less… stupid. I wish the writer had chosen to make the sun more concerned about losing part of itself and less about being evil and creepy though.

Human Nature/The Family of Blood

Paul Cornell’s two-parter came from the book he wrote for the Seventh Doctor in the New Adventures series back in the 1990s. It’s set in 1913 at a boy’s school and on the whole is very good. It is certainly down on things that pissed me off or made me squirm. The only thing is, I’m not sure about the ending, and I’m not sure it fully fills the two episodes.
Paul Cornell is an excellent writer. He sets things up well, his character writing is top-notch, his ideas are wonderful. The idea that ‘what if the Doctor wasn’t the Doctor, what if he was human’ is a great place to start from. David Tennant gives his best performance here. Martha, sadly, is a bit generic. We have scarecrows as monsters, lovely! What more could you want?
The setting is perfect, and it’s shot wonderfully. They must have had a lot of late nights making this one! Some very good casting – especially Thomas Sangster as Tim Latimer. When you have young characters, it’s very important to find the right kid to play them! As Joan Redfern, John Smith’s ‘love-interest’, Jessica Hines does very well indeed. All Martha can do is regret that he’s not falling in love with her, which I must admit isn’t the strongest of concepts for a companion.
Thomas Sangster
The second part starts well, and the first part (Human Nature) is excellent TV, but after the battle at the school, it seems very stretched out for the last 25 minutes or so. It’s fine action and drama, as John Smith battles with the choice to open the watch. The Doctor is contained inside this fob watch and when opened John Smith will become the Doctor again, and John Smith is terrified. It’s wonderfully played by both Tennant and Jessica Hines, however it probably didn’t need to go for quite so long.
Then the ending. The Doctor was hiding from the Family of Blood as John Smith to spare them. Because in the end he imprisons all four members of the family in different places. One in a mirror – no, every mirror, one as a scarecrow forever, one in the heart of a star… I didn’t feel satisfied by that ending and I don’t like the idea, suddenly, that the Doctor is THAT powerful, or indeed it would seem magical too. Then what’s the point? He doesn’t beat them by doing something clever, or fighting them, in fact we don’t even see how it’s done. It’s just done, like magic. Well if it’s that easy, I’m surprised anyone goes up against him!
Despite those two issues, and especially on the strength of ‘Human Nature’, I still think this is a great story. It goes to show resolutions are hard to write well.



Steven Moffat’s contribution to series three is this story, the ‘Doctor-lite’ episode for the season. And we don’t see a lot of the Doctor or Martha at all, in a lot of ways it doesn’t feel like you’re watching an episode of Doctor Who to be honest.
The main character for this story is Sally Sparrow, played by Carey Mulligan (who would have made a great companion) who sneaks into an old abandoned house to take photographs, only to find there’s more going on there. Strange messages are left under the wall-paper from 1969 addressed to her. When she returns with her friend, her friend disappears just as a man arrives with a letter for Sally from her friend. This is the story where the phrase ‘timey-wimey’ is first heard, which does kind of describe this tale pretty well. Thankfully though, the concept isn’t that convoluted, it’s a reasonably logical story to follow with a host of wonderful elements to it.
Carey Mulligan as Sally Sparrow.
The Weeping Angels are the ‘monsters’ of the tale – creatures that turn to stone whenever someone can see them. It’s when you’re not looking that they move. What they do is send people back in time, rather than kill them, and feed off the displacement energy. I think that’s what they said! The Doctor is in 1969 with Martha without the TARDIS, and hides messages for Sally Sparrow on DVD easter eggs. Sally has a conversation with the Doctor on the DVD, whilst someone else writes everything down. It’s very clever, because later (for Sally Sparrow) yet earlier (for the Doctor) they bump into each other and Sally gives the Doctor the transcript so he can read it. So it all sort of works which is part of the beauty of ‘Blink’.
Also, it looks amazing. Not a high-budget story at a guess, but one very very well realised. The angels themselves look incredibly creepy, and I think this was voted the best new series episode of all in a poll somewhere? Not that I read the polls.
That seems perhaps a bit of stretch, but it’s certainly a great episode.

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