Sunday, June 05, 2005

Doctor Who - Boom Town

Set six months after the events of Aliens of London/World War Three, Boom Town centres around a number of somewhat unlikely coincidences. First, that the Slitheen called Blon - the female one pretending to be MP Margaret Blaine in the earlier story - escaped the bomb attack on number 10 Downing Street by using a teleport device and is now back in Cardiff planning to demolish Cardiff Castle and build a nuclear reactor in its place ... second that the TARDIS arrives in Cardiff at the same time in order to draw power from the Rift which was sealed in The Unquiet Dead ... and third that the Doctor and his extended TARDIS crew, which includes Jack, Rose and Mickey (who has been summoned to Cardiff by Rose to bring her passport) happen to find out about Blon's plans and set out to thwart them. I guess we have to accept that the Doctor will inevitably get involved in trying to stop Blon, and this episode seems very plot-lite in favour of some great moments of comedy, as the Doctor's group tries to catch her (with everyone falling over things and Mickey getting his foot stuck in a bucket), and as innocent journalist Cathy Salter (or possibly Salt - her surname seems to change in the space of a few scenes) quizzes Blaine on the deaths surrounding the Power Station project. Having apprehended the rogue Slitheen, the Doctor decides to take her back to her home planet of Raxacoricofallapatorius where she will be executed by boiling in a pot ... but can the Doctor face being her executioner - and thus like her - and can he have dinner with a creature he is about to deliver to their death ... This seems to be the whole point of the episode, to ask these questions of the Doctor over a nice meal, and as a result Boom Town comes over as somewhat slow and boring compared with the other episodes of the season. After some more comedy moments as the Doctor thwart's Blon's attempt to poison his drink (he swaps glasses), to hit him with a poison dart (he catches it) and to blow poison in his face (he uses a breath freshener), the Rift opens and Cardiff starts to be destroyed by earthquakes. The reason is that Blon's secondary plan (in the event of her being captured before her power station could be completed) was to draw the Doctor (or any alien it seems) to the place, and then to use a bit of alien kit called a tribophysical waveform extrapolator or something (which she bizaarely had incorporated into the model of the forthcoming power station) as a surf board to ride the resultant shockwaves out of the universe. Aside from the total impracticalities of doing this at all, as Cardiff is rocked by earth tremors, it seems to be down to the TARDIS itself to save the day, and the console unexpectedly opens to reveal a bright light which reverts Blon back into an egg!! This has to be one of the most non-sensical get-outs to end any episode with. There are few explanations here, just that Blon saw the heart of the TARDIS and was given a second chance ... The Doctor decides to return the egg to her planet and place it in a hatchery so she can grow up again. I thought this was an awful cop out - deux ex machina to get out of the problem of what to do with the rogue Slitheen. While the Doctor is having dinner with Blon, so Rose is out talking with Mickey - initially planning a night of beer, pizza and debauchery, but then running off back to the TARDIS when the earthquakes start. While Jack seems to be doing nothing but tinkering with the TARDIS' systems (something I'm surprised the Doctor lets him do in the first place). Overall this is episode seems like a filler before we get to the final two parter of the season which promises (as far as the trailer goes anyway) pastiches on Big Brother and other reality TV shows and the return of the Daleks. My son was disappointed at this latter point being in the trailer ... he's eleven and wanted the Daleks' return to be a surprise ... So I can't decide whether I really liked Boom Town or not. I think on balance it is one of the weaker episodes of the season, relying too much on past continuity (there's a lengthy explanation of why the TARDIS looks like a police box, talk about the Slitheen, reference to the Gelth and the Rift, a spot where the ongoing 'Bad Wolf' references seem to take on portent, but which is then summarily dismissed by the Doctor ...) and not enough on developing a solid plot of its own. There's also a pile of questions: why did Blon bother to continue to pretend to be Blaine? Why not take another human skin? Did no-one wonder how she escaped from Downing Street? And why hasn't Harriet Jones (MP for Flydale East) 'outed' her as an alien? How could anyone progress a plan to build a nuclear power station in the middle of Cardiff and demolish a historic site into the bargain? When the Rift was opened, why didn't the Gelth come through as well? Not to mention all the stuff about the heart of the TARDIS at the end ... I don't think it's bad, just a little slow going, and even laboured in places, ultimately disappointing on the explanations. It's the first episode that I've felt could have done with more work on the scripting side ... and 1 out of 11 isn't a bad average.

5 comments:

The Co-ordinator said...

Agreed David, it wasn't the greatest episode of the season - however I felt it was still very enjoyable as well as serving a purpose in being the calm before the storm of the final 2 episodes.

It was also quite low on effects and as such relatively low budget to finance the big finale!

Penelopecat said...

I do have to ask, with all due respect, how can the man who brought up the use of the wrong Cyberman head in Dalek be concerned about too many continuity references in this episode? :)

David said...

Ah ... but the use of the wrong Cyberman head had no bearing on the plot whatsoever ... however to understand BOOM TOWN you really needed to know all the earlier continuity stuff. One is 'fair use' and is a nice nod, the other is what turns viewers off (vis a vis ATTACK OF THE CYBERMEN and numerous other 80s stories).

Penelopecat said...

Yeah, but I think there's a difference between referring to episodes that aired 6-8 weeks ago (and explaining those references within the context of the story), and referring to an episode that happened 20 years previously... :)

David said...

I understand the distinction you're making ... but I still feel that there is a significant difference between a throwaway reference which, if it was not there, would make no difference whatsoever, and something which, if removed, means there is then no story. If you took the Slitheen and all the continuity out of BOOM TOWN, would it still work as a story? I suspect not because the continuity is integral and crucial to the plot ... and that's my point. I don't think WHO should embody continuty to that extent.