New Who Review For You • 2 May 2010 • The SnowBlog
New Who Review For You
Flesh and Stone was good, wasn't it? I think it was. I certainly didn't dislike anything about it. Yet I felt a slight lack of satisfaction that I couldn't shake. But this might just be part of the natural ebb and flow of Weltschmerz we all experience. BUT! But next week's episode is written by the chief writer and creator of Being Human. Last Who Review I happened to mention Being Human, and soon we'll see what it will look like to transplant a little piece of that creativity into the Whoniverse.
For a little more pontification on this week's episode (not to mention spoilers), read on. Having said I didn't dislike anything about Flesh and Stone, I did chafe slightly at the idea of the angels freezing out of instinct because they assumed Amy was looking at them. They're supposed to turn to stone when you observe them - not just hold still. Wouldn't you notice that you weren't stone? (I'm prepared to ignore Angel Bob being able to talk while being observed. Maybe he was in the back, not 'quantum locked', just lurking.)
And I'm still having terrible trouble interpreting Matt Smith's emotions. I can't tell the difference between dejection and elation. Or between panic because things are going badly and exultation because things are going well. Look at the reaction shots when Amy closes her eyes and her vitals return to normal. You can see the tension leave Alex Kingston's body along with the breath she's been holding. Matt Smith breathes through an open mouth and half-smiles, which doesn't convey anything to me. Out of context I might have guessed he was expressing 'realisation'. I wouldn't have guessed 'relief' and yet that's what those reaction shots are for: to tell us an important dramatic change has occurred. And so long as MS's emoting remains more or less unfocused I feel like the drama is a boat with one of its oars out of the water.
The rest of the acting was tip-top, however. And the editing and camera setups are definitely better. They still compress pauses that should be longer, stay wide when they should be in close on a face, and cut to angles you're not interested in, but it definitely seems better. And the production design looked pretty spiffy (for a British show). Mind you, the foley people need a smack for the loud computer beeps-and-bloops that emanated from the trees once their access hatch was removed - as well as the confusing crunching with occasional bamf noises used to convey that angels were nearby. And while I'm nitpicking, it might have been nice to see an angel actually move quickly for once. Even when they advanced on Amy they were creaky (with lots of grinding stone noises), whereas we know they're lightning fast. Maybe next time.
And I see the BBC have apologised for the Graham Norton animation they ran during last week's episode. Fortunately for me they didn't interfere with the HD version I was watching. Mark my words, though: the BBC will find some way to screw things up. I'm still betting it will involve messing with the scheduling in order to show an important snooker game or unexpected ballroom dancing finale.
A final, more general point I wanted to make about Karen Gillan's acting: it's not perfect, but something I like very much about it is that she plays 'tough' without the usual misguided clichés. That's to say her 'tough' isn't just about being aggressive or shouting or scowling. She's tough while being playful and vulnerable and it doesn't detract from how capable her character appears. I wish more tough women characters were played that way, because being impressive in a crisis is definitely not about being the crossest (a mistake that most American military dramas make (for their male characters too), and which the Bourne series avoids, making it something quite special - Bourne never blusters or tries to bully anyone - he just gets on with it). But back to Karen: they have her whine 'Doctor' a little too much, but her flatly-commanding 'explain!' combined with her steady, challenging gaze is excellent. Less is more when it comes to authority. (Which seems to be what Scarlett Johansson is up to in Iron Man 2, and I suspect it's the only way to make a character like that believable.)