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July 01, 2008

Talkin' 'Bout Regeneration...

Doctor Who: The Stolen Earth

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That's me typing really, really fast. Needless to say, if you ever find yourself being subjugated by alien invaders don't expect any help from me. I'd be effing useless. "The Doctor choose his companions well," says Harriet Jones as she hammers out some complex computer code whilst multitasking on MyOuterSpace. "80wpm. All of them".

I honestly don't know what to make of The Stolen Earth. My heart says "Squee" but my brain screams "No!". It's either a work of a genius or Russell T Davies is on crack. I can't decide.

The part of me that shamelessly embraces gratuitous fanwank certainly enjoyed it: Callufrax; Piper's "But you can't!" (which sent a shiver down my spine); "Somebody tried to move it once before"; Daleks being all Dalek-y and barking orders on a bridge; Tennant channeling John Simm with an utterly bonkers 'Bye!'; the milkman from Survival, Sarah Jane remembering Davros - yes, Davros, fer christsake! -  all of these moments put a deliciously slaphappy smile on my face.

The part of me that's still six years old was in raptures too: kamikaze Daleks bringing down the Valiant! UFOs zapping New York City! The return of a nightmare figure who made me wet my bed in 1975! Doctor Who has never been so self-assured or as exciting as this before. Sure, it's the same old nonsense amplified to the nth degree, but it's our nonsense. Tell me that you didn't feel even the slightest twinge of pride when the Daleks swept across Manhattan blasting everything in sight on prime-time BBC1. Who cares if it made no sense! Did The Dalek Invasion of Earth make any sense? Or Day of the Daleks? Does any Dalek story stand up to scrutiny? And yet we're all still here, aren't we? And besides, I'd rather have an utterly bonkers, crowd pleasing, balls-to-the-wall end-of-season celebratory romp than an introspective, rushed and bewildering head-f**K any day of the week. Yes, I'm looking at you, Battleshit Galactica.

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Se3How can Russell top this? This isn't his last 'Horray!' by a long chalk - there's still four "specials" before his era truly comes to an end. So what on earth is he going to do for an encore? It's a terrifying prospect. How about the Doctor and Borusa riding in on the back of a Myrka to defeat Morbius, the Master and the Rani as they attempt to destroy ancient Gallifrey with the help of some Quarks? Guest starring Paul McGann and Sylvester McCoy (who has a Metebelis spider on his back) and featuring Simon Cowell as Himself. It's madness! Utter madness!

Good luck to him, I say. The audience is positively lapping it up and a stunning AI score of 91 won't see Russell changing tack as he hits the final stretch. We might as well go with the flow. This series has delivered some wonderful, thought provoking episodes - Midnight, Silence in the Library, The Fires of Pompeii - but we've always known that the finale would be an apocalyptic, loud, proud and utterly mental Russ-fest. Moaning about it now seems a little absurd. We may as well save our outrage for next week's obligatory reset button instead (aka the Haagen-Dazs Key).

And what the hell is going on with Donna Noble? The heartbeat scene is either a cheeky red-herring or my greatest fears are about to be realised. However, my faith in Russell's ability to foreshadow took a knock this week when it emerged that the missing bees were simply a weak homage to Douglas Adams, and the missing planets mentioned in the series were, completely coincidentally of course, the only planets not to be registered by the Shadow-of-their-former-selves-now-that-the-mystery-has-all-gone Proclamation. Handy, that.

The sentient software sent to hunt down anyone who could help in the Doctor's absence was exceedingly handy, too. Mr. Copper's money certainly went a very long way in a very short time, especially in the current economic climate. However, I was disappointed that we didn't see even more ex-companions offering up their humble services at this time of crisis. Perhaps Tegan Jovanka was in the bath and the Brigadier was out playing golf when Harriet made the call?

even the Doctor looked like he was having trouble keeping up with the current state of the franchise...

Se4 Yes, this episode has its fair share of problems - and, funnily enough, most of them revolve around Torchwood. I don't know what's worse: Jack pissing his pants at the merest hint of the Daleks (it's the children of whine!), Jack screaming that Martha is definitely 100% dead (oh guess what, she isn't), Jack leaving Gwen and Ianto to face certain death (well, as certain as you can get in this show), even though we know that his teleporter can save all three of them, or perhaps it's the fact that they don't defend themselves with that arsenal of alien weaponry they have at their disposal. The idiots! But come on, what did you expect?

There are some great moment of unintentional comedy to relish as well. Just watch Sylvia speed-dialing the Doctor as she casts her eyes heavenwards with a look of pure anguish on her face - it's comedy gold.  The bloody phone number wasn't even real! Not that I dialed it, you understand. That would be silly.

More fun can be gleaned from watching Doctor Who attempt to emulate Cloverfield. A brave but wholly baffling effect. Let's get this right - Camden Town is going completely apeshit mental but Paul O'Grady is casually sitting in a TV studio recording a daily chat show in front of what sounds like a very chipper audience. What gives? Was Richard Madely bravely holding the fort while Judy ran around like a headless chicken? Was Kay Burley crying yet? And where the hell is Patrick Moore when you need him?

Perhaps Tegan Jovanka was in the bath?

Se1 And then there's the cliffhanger to end all cliffhangers. When I first saw this scene I have to admit that I fell for it hook, line and sinker. I never saw it coming (I was certain Rose was a gonner when the Dalek fired) and I honestly believed that I was about to witness the impossible; I was literally giddy with excitement. But within moments of jumping off the couch I knew I'd been conned. It's not even open to debate as far as I'm concerned - there's no possible way that we've seen the end of Tennant. Even if we didn't know that he was in the specials, there's one inescapable fact that makes it all blindingly obvious: Davies didn't attempt to wring any emotions out of that scene. Think about it. If this really was the end of the road for Tennant we would have had a speech to end all speeches. Tears would have flowed, violins would have soared and Angels would have fainted in awe.

This "regeneration" is simply the biggest fake-out in a season that's full of them. You can all stop writing your Tennant retrospectives right now. He isn't going anywhere.

But you have to admit, for sheer spectacle, word of mouth buzz and audacious grandstanding it sure takes some beating. Just remember that the resolution to The Caves of Androzani part 1 is contrived bollocks too, and I can't remember anyone being up in arms about that.

"I like Saturdays". You can say that again.

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