Sunday, April 04, 2010

End of Ten and Starter for Eleven

Hiya my little chickens (well, it is Easter after all) This is the annual 'David determines to write on his blog each week -athon' ... let's see how far we get. Honestly, I do often think that I should pen something each week, but every week there's way too many other things to do. But today, Easter Sunday, with the sun shining, Sam in bed with the baddest flu/cold I've ever seen, I have an hour or so to spare, so here I am putting some thoughts down. This year has been hectic already, and it looks like continuing in the same vein. We were out in LA for the annual Gallifrey Convention at the end of Feb, and it was a great event as always. Lovely to make some new friends there, and to catch up with all our old mates. Highlight was seeing Ben and Kim get married at the event, but there were so many wonderful moments. The costumes were again awesome, with everything from multiple Zoes to Sally Sparrow to White Robots and even the Ergon strutting the corridors. And best not to mention the soriority girl party one evening - about 1000 cloned 5 foot tall, skinny, blonde all-American teenagers in little black dresses and red shoes invaded the convention halls! Now there's a story to write about! After the convention we stayed on in LA to relax with Frazer, staying with mates Josh and Em. We got to visit Redondo Beach where Sam got a genuine rare black pearl from an oyster bought at a store selling them. We got to see the incredibly brilliant film Batch Slap for the first time - and this film is superb. Trust me. Get some mates together with some beers and wine and slap it in the DVD. A rollicking grindhouse release about three gorgeous girls with big boobs and big guns looking for diamonds in the desert. It's smart and sassy, violent and cheesy ... everything you need from a fun film. Check it out. Another film we saw at Josh's for the first time was Trick r Treat, a smashing little Halloween film about a town and what happens there one year. It's clever and thought provoking as well as creepy and scary ... what if Samhain really does come and visit ... another recommended DVD. Back from LA, and last weekend we were off to World Horror Convention in Brighton (which is probably where Sam picked up the sickness). The event was great, but the hotel was too cramped and way too airless and hot. Apparently loads of people got sick there ... not good. It was lovely to meet up with old friends Jim Herbert, Neil Gaiman and Graham Masterton again, as well as to make lots of new friends. Tanith Lee was beyond awesome and it was an honour to sit and chat with Chelsea Quinn Yarboro. Telos launched some brilliant books by Simon Clark and Vincent Chong, and all in all everyone seemed to have a great time. We managed to find a really nice gluten-free Indian restaurant on Saturday lunchtime and spent a quiet and relaxed time in the company of Farah Mendlesohn and Edward James which was an appreciated respite from the mania of the convention. And so to Who, the usual reason why I put finger to keyboard and muse on what's been going on. I realise that I never blogged on the last David Tennant special, and the reason is that despite watching it a couple of times, I really couldn't find the energy to write about it. It was big and bombastic, full of giant, crazy ideas ... and totally lacking in any depth or plot whatsoever. Every turn of the wheel brought more unexplained nonsense: the Master is dead but can be resurrected with some DNA from his human wife, who has a plan to stop him, but he comes back anyway as some sort of flying superhero who can burn people to death with electric bolts fired through his hands ... then there's a machine which can make everyone the same ... and aliens ... and a spaceship ... and then Time Lords who can somehow send a crystal back in time through a hologram, and who made the Master mad all along so that they could return ... only for them to be banished again ... while the Doctor goofs and gurns and ends up saving Wilf only to die himself - but not after he has time to re-visit everyone he has ever met ... I *still* have no idea what it was all meant to be about. And then the Doctor regenerates and the TARDIS explodes ... well that makes about as much sense as anything else we'd seen in the story, so why not. Which brings us sort of up to date and the debut of young Matt Smith as the Doctor. I had very few ideas as to what to expect - I tend to avoid spoilers and reading news pages - and so it was all pretty fresh and new to me. The one thing I *really* disliked was the incidental music. From the choral harmonies through the 'jokey music' as the Doctor tried to decide what to eat, through the bombastic symphonies and back to choral again ... Murray Gold seems to have no idea that drama should not need the music to tell you what to feel at every moment along the way. It was all too much. I wish that someone else had been brought in to look after this critical aspect of the show as Gold seems to layer everything with sledgehammer precision, and leaves no room for appreciating the acting and performances as his choir sings in the background. Other than the music, the other aspect which I find it hard to like, at least initially, is the title music, and the title sequence. Now Doctor Who has a long history in this area. Successive producers have tweaked both to try and keep it all up to date, and, more importantly, timeless. This worked just fine for the first 17 years or so, but then John Nathan-Turner decided that rather than creepy electronics and timeless graphics, he wanted the theme to be played on a kazoo, and the titles to be composed of starfields and a logo created from an old Letraset pack. This then got worse and worse until we ended up with the McCoy 'tumbling kid's blocks' logo, and music which was dated at the time. I don't know about you lot, but when I look back today at those stories, I *still* feel the same today as I did then, that the titles and music did the stories no favours whatsoever. And I feel the same about this new set. The theme seems to have lost all it's oomph, it's weak and spangly where it should be pumping and driving, and it's not otherworldly at all. And the sequence - well the last little bit is OK, when the 'DW' splits away from the logo, becomes a TARDIS and vanishes down the tunnel of fire ... but the first bit, with the TARDIS spinning along a cloud tunnel, being hit by bolts of lightning, is desperate. I am actually reminded of the C Baker sequence, where they added in lots of little wooshes and stuff to try and hide the fact that the music was so poor. I've seen this a couple of times now on YouTube and it's not improved for me. It seems very 'young' as well - maybe I'm just getting old - but Doctor Who should have a timeless appeal and not be rooted in today's CGI world. It is especially unfortunate that this is the case, as otherwise the episode was really good. Matt Smith seemed to grasp the mettle and made the Doctor his own, but Karen Gillan as Amy was just awesome. I guessed she was a strippergram straight off - no Policewoman would have a skirt that short - but she was sparky and endearing, and had the best backstory yet. The girl playing her as a young girl was also excellent, although she really needs a talking to about letting strange men into her house at night. All the stuff with the food was padding ... unnecessary, and strangely worrying to see the Doctor spitting out good food like that. There wasn't even a clever way that this was worked into the plans of the Atraxi (the 'Eyeballs in the Sky' from the old Perishers cartoon made large) later on. I liked the direction and the idea of the monster ('Prisoner Zero') being one or more objects ... the whole thing rattled along nicely, and I can't think of any annoying lapses in logic which threw you out of the narrative and rendered it all meaningless - something which tended to blight the last five years of the show. So for the moment it's a thumbs up from me for the new series. Steven Moffat knows what he is doing, and I hope and trust that the next few weeks will get better and better. There is a tradition of the opening episode being a little lighter in tone and content (New Earth, Smith and Jones etc) and so this bodes well for the rest of the season. I can only assume that Steven was on holiday when the title sequence and music was approved ...

2 comments:

The Grumpy Cleric said...

Nice you hear from you again, David. I had suspected you had been frozen by the harsh winter; a bit like Davros at the end of "Destiny of the Daleks".

I felt the "T.E.O.T. stories has a few great moments : Tennant & Cribbins acting, Euros Lynn's direction and some scenes were poignant,(Ten's farewell to Rose.) But overall it seemed limp, cobbled together &, like a lot of RTD's stories, a lot of build up for very lttle pay-off at the end.

I'm not keen on the new titles or theme music but we'll wait and see as it took me 2 seasons to adjust to the last set.
I loved "The Eleventh Hour"- a punchy, wiity, dramatic story with a plot that made sense. (It has a "Jonathan Creek" feel - complex but complex in a necessary way that isn't forced.) Most importantly it felt like "Who", unlike a lot of stories since "Last of the Timelords" that have seemed like superhero movies in tone.
Matt & Karen were great, so all round a good show. I think we'll see a very dark, very complex season one.

Hopefully, the series will hit the heights of series 2 & 3.

Let's hope the casual viewer likes it as they govern the show's future, unfortunately.

Dave Mullen said...

I thought the Title sequence was pretty awesome myself, I'll have to let the new theme sink in before i can give a proper verdict but it's not a real big issue with me.
I didn't watch the episode in the best of circumstances but agree with the broad strokes of your own review... it wasn't bad but not enough plot to sustain a full hour, I'm sick to the back teeth of the formula as well - alien invasion of earth with spaceships zooming through the air about to destroy everything... it's pants.
The series has been reworked directly for the CBBC/Harry Potter audience and the adult audience seem curiously uninvited by the new casting and format, I'm not outraged or anything as i accept this series is no longer being made with the mikes of me in mind but it seems strange and ill-advised to aim it so young and exclude the adult audience from consideration. Even the superb Harry Potter films aren't that youth audience only orientated.

The smugness of it all is a worry as well, the direction might be slicker & tighter etc but i was uncomfortable at the youthful geekiness of the Doctor and his smack-talk to the 'eyeball-of-Doom' about his resume as earths protector. The sonic screwdriver is an awful enough plotdevice but If everything is that easy and simple in the Doctors world that he can just scare off any opponent as easily and clumsily as this i just give up...! That sort of laziness and arrogance should have been out the door with the previous administration.