Wednesday, 6 November 2013

The Idiot's Lantern, The Impossible Planet, The Satan Pit and Love and Monsters

The Idiot’s Lantern

The Doctor and Rose find themselves in London in the early 50s for at the time of Queen Elizabeth’s coronation. This story is a strange mix of good and bad elements. I really loved the look and feel of it for the most part. The use of old black and white television sets was great, and the woman cast to play ‘the wire’ was perfect casting (Maureen Lipman). The look of people with stolen faces was great too, and then Rose getting her face stolen as well was good.
Eddie Connolly.
On the other side of the coin, the Doctor and Rose, after Mickey has just left, don’t seem to have paid him a second thought. This was a big issue for me, especially with Rose. In fact they just arrive, on a scooter of all things, with the Doctor’s hair looking more ridiculous than ever, in a sort of self congratulatory glow that they are so clever, proceed to barge into someone’s house and make snide remarks about the way flags are hung and judge a man they just met in three seconds flat as being an arsehole.
Which, ok he is but that could be put down to writing more than anything else – Gatiss wrote an extremely one-dimensional character in Eddie Connolly, the father of the household. It’s a bit sad to realise the father that way. Gatiss however shows how to use a 45-minute episode pretty effectively. Set up the issue, investigate, on the verge of finding out what it is, add peril to the companion who by the time her face is stolen I was so happy for her to be out of the story for a while, Doctor gets angry, figures out a plan, puts the plan into action and wins.
And really in 45 minutes if you can do that effectively you’ve done well. And he pretty much does that here. Do we really understand what ‘the wire’ is? No. This is probably my biggest sticking point. It sucks people’s faces from them, that much I understand. And the faces are trapped. But why? I wasn’t sure if their brains or part thereof were taken too and why and what the whole point was to it, but hey that’s every second Doctor Who tale, right?

The Impossible Planet/The Satan Pit

Toby gets nasty.

This story seemed to continue on in the same vein with the Doctor and Rose being all superior and what not. It’s a very odd story with some of the creepiest and scariest Doctor Who of all time, balanced somewhat by the preposterous and unlikely. So basically, who is the monster, the villain of the piece? Well basically, it’s the devil. Yes, so ummm right. But is it the real devil? Well we won’t get into specifics as the writer didn’t see the need to.
End of the road for Scoot.

Matt Jones wrote the tale of a group of humans stuck on an asteroid outside a black hole. The beast is trapped in a sort of prison inside the rock. The humans have come because somehow they determined there was a vast force of untapped enemy below the surface. Yeah can’t see that somehow but what the hey, like Alice I try to believe three amazing things before breakfast.
The sets are very very good. It’s a sort of kit-built base which to be honest I have no idea how they got
to the asteroid, or as the title suggests, planet. I mean the rocket ship seemed barely big enough to take the people there. And in the opening minutes the Doctor is separated from the TARDIS which was inside a section broken off from the base in an earthquake. Except that it turns up near the end of the story just when the Doctor needed it despite it making no sense whatsoever.
Well, if it isn't... ummmm.... you know who!
Then the Doctor is faced with a huge devil, whilst the mind has broken free. It attaches itself to the Ood, a rather nice creation who are basically slaves, creatures from another world which look like they eat spaghetti every night and can’t clean it up. But they are rather good and very creepily used when the beast is controlling them. The beast also infects Toby, played by Will Thorp. An archaeologist. Ancient writing appears over his face and body and again, they achieve some pretty awesome-looking stuff.
James Strong does a great job directing this story. It’s pacey and scary, and also exciting too. The script’s just a bit stupid, that’s all. Not that badly written, but the central idea didn’t resonate with me at all I’m afraid.

Love and Monsters

Peter Kay in his Sunday finest. Well, not quite.

‘Love and Monsters’, by Russel T Davies, is the first ‘Doctor-lite’ story. Basically, in lieu of the heavy schedule on David Tennant and Billie Piper, it was decided that one story per season would not feature the main characters a lot. This probably stems back to the first series when Eccleston decided not to take the option to extend his contract due to a variety of issues, the enormous time-commitment being one.
Elton and Ursula.
So what we get is this story, a strange and different beast with an emphasis on comedy and a monster created by the winner of a BBC competition, the ‘Absorbaloff’, played with relish by Peter Kay. Although this is not a well-loved tale, I really enjoyed it. It helps that I rather like ELO, but I found the characters very endearing, especially Elton (Marc Warren) and Ursula (Shirley Henderson) and it seemed to be a bit of a homage to Doctor Who fans. Of course, it could easily be taken as taking the piss out of them too, but I don’t believe that was the intention in this case. Otherwise Davies would have written them as unlikeable when clearly the audience is meant to empathise with them, which I did.
It’s not a ground-breaking story, but it is heartfelt. It’s a rather sad ending really and a little bit of a worry when Elton talks about having a love life with Ursula – who by that stage has been turned into a slab of concrete. There’s not a lot I imagine the love life consisting of, except for one thing… But still, it’s a lot of fun. Kudos for Peter Kay running around in that monster suit which leaves almost nothing to the imagination.
If I do have a criticism, it’s of, sigh, Jackie Tyler. Camille Coduri returns as Jackie, who Elton has an … ‘encounter’ with. In fact she tries to seduce young Elton. It’s again poor writing for this character, making her little more than a joke. Usually she is just written as stupid, and pushy. Why Rose couldn’t have a smart and understanding mother I don’t know. It’s not Coduri’s fault. She’s playing what was written. It’s just disappointing that this character couldn’t have written as a more positive role.


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