Sunday, June 12, 2005

Doctor Who - Bad Wolf

And so the episode which promised to explain things is upon us ... except it didn't explain an awful lot. Bad Wolf is a sequel of sorts to The Long Game, and at least came up with an explanation for the former episode's title. However many of the 13 episodes seem to have had some resonance and linkage it seems, but so far there have only been some vague clues. The Doctor, Rose and Jack find themselves each within a television show: the Doctor finds himself a contestant on Big Brother, Rose is taking part in The Weakest Link and Jack is on some kind of clothing/style makeover show ... but things are not what they seem. The year is 20,0100 and it's 100 years after the events of The Long Game when the Doctor shut down the operations of Satellite 5 ... now the Satellite is The Games Station and the TV shows are played out with androids and the penalty for eviction or losing is to be vapourised with a disintegrator beam ... All very good, but do we really need half an hour of this stuff to bring the point home. I have to admit I was bored after ten minutes ... very bored. Perhaps it's because I don't watch any of these shows and can't see the point ... but the novelty of an Anne Robinson-voiced Anne Droid, Davina McCall voicing Davinadroid on Big Brother and two more robots: Trina-E and Zu-Zana voiced by Trinny Woodall and Susannah Constantine soon wore thin. Aside from the fact that children tend not to watch any of these shows and so probably the joke went over their heads, the format was just not engaging enough. It was good to see 'authentic' music and logos for the pastiches, but give me something original any day. And what will audiences in the US and Australia make of this ... maybe they'll 'get' Anne Droid, but the others? Anyway, the Doctor soon sorts out what's happening and gets himself evicted so he can escape (they couldn't vapourise him you see). He takes Lynda, one of the other housemates, with him, and they find that they are back on Satellite 5. Meanwile, up on floor 500, one of the workers is concerned about what's happening, but the Controller - a girl plugged into the systems since she was five years old and through whose brain all the transmissions are routed (who designs these crazy systems anyway) - doesn't seem to know what is happening, or wants to divert attention from the strangers in the system. Jack escapes from the murderous intentions of the two make-over Droids and finds the Doctor and Lynda, and all three then race to the 407th floor to try and rescue Rose ... who loses the game, and is vapourised just as the Doctor arrives. This was a superb moment ... perhaps the best in the series to date ... as the Doctor and the audience is convinced that Rose is dead. We even have a new substitute companion in Lynda set up and waiting to step into the TARDIS in her place ... a very nice piece of misdirection, and something that only works once for an audience who does not know that the actress in question does not leave at this point. The trio are caught by security forces, but manage to escape and invade floor 500 to confront the Controller ... Jack finds the TARDIS and realises that the vapourising beams are really teleports and that Rose is still alive ... somewhere ... there is some solar flare activity and the systems go offline long enough for the Controller to warn the Doctor about her masters as they cannot hear her while the flares are active ... she tells him that they fear the Doctor ... but is silenced again before she can explain more. Rose awakens somewhere and is terrified to be confronted by a Dalek (which the audience does not see). And there's the tremendous and cheer inducing sound of the Dalek computers throbbing over all these scenes. Bravo for minor continuity! The Controller risks all and breaks silence to tell the Doctor the coordinates the transmat transports the people to, whereupon she is promptly taken to the Dalek ship and exterminated. A brilliant scene where we see the Dalek reflected in the wall, but still don't see it in clear view. The Doctor has the information he needs and reveals a fleet of 200 Dalek saucers sitting in space ... these are very impressive scenes of CGI, further reinforcing my view that inanimates are great for CGI, but not the monsters. The Daleks open a communication channel to the Doctor ... and a worryingly wobbly Dalek orders the Doctor to obey or Rose will be exterminated. But the Doctor refuses and instead comes up with an alternate sequence of events: he will rescue Rose, save the Earth and wipe out all the Daleks ... and he has no plan with which to do this ... as he tells the Dalek - this scares them. The Daleks panic and start the invasion of Earth ... and we power into a cliffhanger which should have been superb but which actually fails on every level. First of all, the direction is all a little casual, there's no real sense of total terror as we go to the final scene, and it should have stopped on the Doctor's final line, and not on the Daleks hovering about ... the closing title 'screech' seemed absent and finally, the 'Next Episode' preview came in immediately, ruining any suspense which might have been there ... I'd hoped the BBC had learned after the complaints from Aliens of London, and they changed the preview order for The Empty Child ... but no. And so a fascinating episode came to an end. In part tedious and in part triumphant (when I spoke to several children today, all they would say was 'Daleks!' and 'Lots of them!' showing what really made the impact here. The music was loud and intrusive at times, but also perfectly balanced when the Doctor thought that Rose had died, drowing out all the other voices and making the grief seem tangible and real. But at the end, I struggled to hear the dialogue over the booming cues ... not so good. And 'Bad Wolf' ... well I still have no idea who or what this is/was/will be. Is it the Daleks? Is it the Controller? Is it the Face of Boe? Is it the TARDIS? The Doctor? Rose? Jack? Or something totally different? We even had an obligatory (c) JN-T 80s WHO Productions inc Flashback Sequence with some of the earlier Bad Wolf mentions shown again ... but no answers. However there are questions ... there are always lots of questions ... whoever transmatted the Doctor, Rose and Jack into the games in the first place, never intended to kill them ... so what was the point of doing that? Who did transmat them in anyway? If it was the Daleks, then why? Why not just bring them straight to the Dalek ship? Maybe next week we'll have some answers ... certainly as far as the preview goes there are more surprises in store ... 'Davros!' as one of my sons gleefully exclaimed when we heard the final voice in the preview address the Doctor ...

4 comments:

Simon Cooper said...

David,

You're going to have to pay closer attention to the episodes!

The Controller quite clearly says she transmatted the TARDIS crew on board and hid them in the games where the Daleks wouldn't see them. She does this just before the solar flares so she'll be able to talk to the Doctor without being overheard.

David said...

Gosh ... did she really say that!!! I watched the episode twice as well. I'll have to check again. Maybe it's one of the sections with too-loud music.

Thanks for the heads up.

David

Mrcyam said...

David,

I think you're possibly judging what children may or may not know about today's game shows based on your own offspring's preferences. I know various families where Big Brother is de rigeur amongst kids (particularly 10-11 year old girls) and The Weakest Link is certainly well known. Not so sure about What Not to Wear though!

Overall Bad Wolf was very entertaining but not great Doctor Who and I agree with you the incidental music was way too overpowering at times. The Weakest Link segments seemed pretty slow and the game show elements might have worked better if the bits meant for broadcast had been shown on video rather the filmised effect that's been used throughout the whole season. Thought Jo Joyner would actually make rather a good companion. The reveal of the Daleks was really spoilt by the previous week's preview, but it was nice to hear the traditional sound effects being used. Couldn't really believe the Daleks wouldn't turn round and exterminate Rose once the Doctor refused to be blackmailed. Like you am still not clear who Bad Wolf is - looks to be either the Emperor Dalek (Evil of the Daleks style) or Davros - hope it's not the latter!

The Co-ordinator said...

David,

I'm sorry you had so many reservations. I thought it was great, indeed the last 10 minutes were, IMHO, perhaps the best ever seen in "Doctor Who".

As for Bad Wolf - well it's a two-parter, so the reveal will, hopefully, be one of the cats that won't be let out of the bag before Saturday!