Is it up to me? • 14 April 2009 • The SnowBlog
Is it up to me?
Rob's on holiday. I haven't spoken to him since Doctor Who special at the weekend, but I can't leave the Snowblog without a review of it for much longer. He'll do a proper one on his return.
It was pants. Well, at the least, it was like a pantomine. "What the blazes is going on," exclaims our over-wrought heroine. Poor David Tennant, doing the very best he can with a script which was astonishing in its lack of ambition.
Anyway, Rob can tear it to shreds more eloquently upon his return.
Update, a second after posting.
Oh, there's Rob, posting below! Hi! Hi old pal!
Dear Em, I have had a cold and haven't been doing any telephoning but I am feeling better now, thanks. As you know, Anna came over to England to watch the Doctor Who Easter Special (and to attend the London Book Fair) so we watched it together. And somehow... we didn't hate it.
Now I'll admit that Planet of the Dead wasn't well written or anything. In fact I was genuinely shocked at how the first ten minutes was entirely bolted together from flat-packed clichés. How could anyone write a scene with a 'jewel thief' dressed in stretchy black coming down on a rope from a museum roof to snatch something valuable from inside a cage of glowing lines? That's beyond cliché. It's too tired an idea even to spoof. I'm sure I've seen it in shampoo commercials and kids shows. But then I suppose you could make an argument that the cliché is the setup to a little joke, where you're expecting a helicopter to lift the thief off the roof (not that the BBC can afford a helicopter) and instead she's forced to get on a bus. Less obvious is how you excuse the Tomb Raider ripoff. If you're going to have a beautiful, athletic young woman who steals ancient artefacts, should you really make her an English noblewoman, just like Lara Croft? At least she wasn't wearing shorts and carrying a couple of pistols.
But once that was out of the way, the only clichés Russell T Davies seemed to be recycling were his own. A stranded bus in the middle of a hostile desert. The idea that all dangerous settings, especially spaceships, have vertical wells you have to climb up or down. The principle that many alien races are simply intelligent versions of familiar Earth creatures.
What did I like? I liked the swarm of rays. I liked the idea that they circle the planet in unison to open a gateway to their next world. I quite liked Michelle Ryan's attempts to wrestle fun and drama out of the silly things she was supposed to say (David Tennant always manages it. Somehow.). I liked Lady Christina soaring off into the sky in a flying bus - and the implicit idea that if she ever returns, she might swoop in, driving the self-same vehicle.
As Anna pointed out, maybe RTD's determination to consistently underwhelm has finally pushed my expectations low enough that I can properly enjoy those occasions when he doesn't drench an episode in misery and confusion. I can't see 'specials' like this one properly thrilling anyone, but I preferred it to every episode of last season (barring the Steven Moffat Library two-parter of course).