Saturday, October 11, 2014

Doctor Who: Deep Breath / Into the Dalek / Robot of Sherwood

Goodness me, it's been a long time since I posted anything here ... things have been very busy however - we moved house, madness ensued, lots of work, lots of things to keep me busy and away from blogging about anything ...

But now we're settled in, and we've been watching some great stuff on telly and on DVD (I need to talk about CATWEASLE in another post!) but this one is about the new WHO on telly of course ... and trying to catch up a little.

So we have a new Doctor in the very Scottish form of Peter Capaldi. Nothing wrong with that ... Tom Baker was from Liverpool, as was Paul McGann, Sylvester McCoy and David Tennant were Scottish, and Chris Eccleston was definitely from 'The North' ... but this is the first time that we have had such a Scottish Doctor ... with an accent broader than the actor's normal voice (whereas David Tennant used an English accent for the role).

I was sort of okay with the casting choice. I'd long thought it was time for an older Doctor anyway, and this was certainly a step in the right direction. I was interested to see how the Doctor/Companion relationship would develop since just about every one since 2005 had been a girlfriend/boyfriend sort of vibe, with the companion yearning after the Doctor like a puppydog. Not so good for the WHOish Drama, but brilliant to get character identification among the target audience who seemed to be teenaged girls ... Strange that, as all of the merchandise was targeted at pre-school kids or boys ...

Anyway, I was looking forward to it all ... so 'Deep Breath' (see what I did there?) ...

Oh it was awful. A feature-film length story which could have been so so good, but which was a mish mash of ideas and themes and old characters which ended up dragging interminably.

Dinosaurs swallowing the TARDIS and appearing in Victorian London where robots are harvesting people to use to repair themselves so their spaceship can take off again, while Mme Vastra (a Silurian), her 'friend' Jenny (a human) and Strax (a Sontaran) run about revealing themselves to everyone without even a murmur of surprise (I thought Vastra wore the veil to disguise her true nature), the robots taking the Dinosaur's optic nerve, people spontaneously combusting (caused by the robots), and a new Doctor who Clara seems so wary of (why? She knows he can change his appearance and has met several of his earlier incarnations even if you take on board the apparent idea that all her memories are like a dream to her), and Clara flirting with a bloke at School for no reason, and gratuitous violence as the robot man falls to his death impaled on the spire of a church ... and then there's the rubbish with another Scottish character called Missy ... really I could care less about that.

It was all so rushed in the wrong places, convoluted and complicated, boring as heck in other places and very uneven.

About the only thing I like was the Doctor, but even here he seemed ill at ease, stumbling through the wreckage of a plot seeking some enlightenment.

I watched the episode with several other people, and all agreed it was awful.  The next day we all watched 'Spearhead from Space' and all agreed it was brilliant and so much better than the plotless thing that we had seen the night before. It too introduces a new Doctor (Pertwee) and has monsters harvesting parts to complete themselves, it also has a coherent plot, motivation, and a Doctor who takes charge and is always watchable, even in the comic scenes ...

So not too impressed with the season opener there ... but maybe things will get better, and with Phil Ford's 'Into the Dalek' they did. Now this episode I loved. Of course we'd been here before with 'The Invisible Enemy' (when it was the Doctor's body that the minaturised Doctor and Leela have to get into - you need to watch the story to understand how and why) but here it is a Dalek which needs to have some internal corrections made, and so the Doctor, Clara and a bunch of soldiers are miniaturised and head off inside it.

The idea of a lone 'good' Dalek had been done before as well (in 'Dalek') and antibodies had been done before (in 'Let's Kill Hitler') but the script made sense, and the acting was all top notch - I loved seeing Michael Smiley as a Colonel here and loved him too as Tyres in SPACED ... What I could do without was all the rubbish with Clara and Danny Pink ... I'm just not interested in their relationship or how it develops. I'm also not at all interested in who Missy is or what this Heaven place is that dead people go to ... it's all too maguffiny for me, and obviously leading somewhere ... but I'm strangely just not bothered.

So the story pans out nicely, but the Doctor is very grumpy ... I'm not sure why he's so against the soldier girl travelling on with him just because she's a soldier ... a strange reason. But I assume that the Doctor is as he is being portrayed because of some deep seated traumas of all the events of the last few years ... including of course having his own timeline turned inside out, and having to cope with multiple Doctors and rescuing Gallifrey from a three dimensional painting, and defeating the Daleks (again) or something like that ...

I felt that the second episode should have been the season opener, it was much better plotted and paced, and actually felt like it achieved something ...

And then we're off to merrie olde England and Sherwood Forest for an adventure with Robin Hood, who shouldn't exist, but does ... and so the Doctor and Clara become embroiled in an adventure in tights, with an evil sheriff and mysterious robots.

What is it with robots this season - every story seems to feature them!  Anyway, due to public sensitivities about what was happening in the real world, a beheading was cut from the story, and with it the explanation of the title - that the Sheriff was a robot as well as the robots, and they all wanted to get gold to escape from the Earth - using the metal to melt down and create power boards for their spacecraft.

And thus the most rubbish element of all comes into play. The thought that you could actually shoot an arrow made of gold in the first place ... it would be far too heavy to go any distance at all, regardless of the skill or strength of the archer. And second ... why does shooting it into the side of the ship make any difference at all. The gold that powered the ship was made into plates - we saw them doing it earlier in the story!  So even if the arrow could hit the ship ... why did it give it more power.  This is an example of the frankly awful plotting that WHO seems to have this season. Things happen for no reason. The arrow could have hit a vital component and made the ship explode. It could have hit and killed the pilot (shades of 'The Time Warrior' - this season is borrowing from past WHO all the time, so one more would make little difference) ... indeed anything other than the explanation they gave would have worked ... very disappointing.

But overall I liked the episode. The acting is good, the characters well thought out, and the direction exciting and dynamic.  Did they ever explain just how Robin Hood - a fictional character - was alive and well though?  And while the Doctor 'flicking the bird' at Robin when he encounters him on the log is nice, is it something the Doctor would do?

So overall, two hits and one massive miss in the first three episodes of the season ... but how will the rest fare. I have to say that as a long term fan, it would really take a lot to make me stop watching ...

1 comment:

Frank Band said...

Been a while since I checked out your blog. So glad you were as annoyed as I was about the gold arrow. That completely shattered my suspension of disbelief and the fact that it had got through 'script editing' meant it cast a shadow for me over the rest of the season. 'Kill the Moon' then seriously wrecked things - great start, creepy monsters, potential base-under-siege scenario...and then just nonsense. More nonsense in 'Forest of the Night' - what a waste. Peter Capaldi himself has been excellent but the 'stories'? Midway through, I rewatched 'Empty Child/Doctor Dances' with some teens who wanted to see a story from 'when Doctor Who was good'. It was excellent - I have watched it several times and would enjoy it again. Ironic that I expected more like that when Steven Moffat took over. Only 'Into the Dalek' and 'Mummy on the Orient Express' have merited a rewatch so far.