Saturday, June 10, 2006

The New Who Review - "The Impossible Planet"

For years, I have maintained that the only difference between the 4th Doctor episode, "The Ark in Space" - in which a lone insectile alien is feasting upon and laying eggs in a colony of humans held in suspended animation on a vast space station - and James Cameron's Aliens is special effects and a few one liners, that the former would be as terrifying as the latter if it had the same budget and didn't have monsters unfortunately made of green bubble wrap. I've always wanted to see a quirky British man thrust into helping a crew of space roughnecks fighting a H.R. Gieger monster. Doctor Who has always been properly sci-horor, but it's amazing the effect you get when you take the old Cthulhu evil entity that the silly humans can't help but let loose from his aeons long imprisonment and you combine that with the set designs and acting from something out of Aliens or (the lamentable but appropriately gritty) Event Horizon or films of that ilk. You know, a crew of marines or criminals or prospectors who all wear grey tshirts and camo pants and work in some drag, largely metal environment with a lot of corridors with the pipes showing. Add in one wandering Time Lord and you get something that is paradoxically very much in the tradition of all the old and overdone Bug Eyed Monster plots - so overused in the old Who (and subsequent books, and audio plays, and spin offs) - and yet which feels almost nothing like anything that has come before tonally. My what a difference a budget makes! This is classic Who rendered as only your imagination could have done so before, when it took active participation to fill in the holes in the wobbly sets and to make Sutek or Azal genuinely scary.

Never mind how could Satan have been imprisoned for an eternity AND woven into the fabric of earth (long range telepathy?), or how something that's only 500 (light?) years away from earth can be outside the TARDIS' knowledge (but maybe that's just cause it's past the event horizon of the black hole, not that it's distant), I'm totally into seeing the Doctor injected into a Ridley Scott sci-horror cinema. I'm so behind this! More please, more!

And I love how all the old cliches - he shows up, they automatically trust him - are totally sold by the strength of the writing and Tennant's acting. And he may look like Peter Davison with the young mug and the tennis shoes, but he's really somewhere between Tom Baker (for alien wackiness) and Sylvester McCoy (lonely god). Tennant could easily become my fav if he sticks around long enough, (but I am easy and I love them all).

Oh and Tardises are grown? Written language is translated as well as spoken words? Once again they've gone and confirmed some fan-speculation/books continuity. Never in a million years would I expect the new television show to be so respectful of continuity or to be able to work so much of it in without overburdening the new viewers. I'm really impressed.

So many things are finally being done right - Batman, Who, Lord of the Rings, Battlestar Galactica. Almost makes one wonder if Hollywood (and the BBC) isn't evil anymore. Of course, there's always X-Men III to restore my lack of faith.


Unknown said...

Auntie Beeb has never been Evil!

Anonymous said...

Actually, I'm starting to wonder whether the Beeb is starting to go evil - or at least rather dodgy - on us.

The essential problem with the New Who is the lack of moral centre. It is impossible to think of an earlier Doctor saying "Nothing can stop me now!" because The Wire hurt his companion. Surely the Doctor acts for good and against evil, and saves his companions because he is Doing the Right Thing, not just to rescue a friend?

Lou Anders said...

Ah, but the Doctor has always been gradually moving towards the dark side, as witness his ongoing battle with the Daleks. The fourth doctor is sent to prevent their existence in "Genesis of the Daleks" and can't bring himself to do it. The 5th Doctor pulls a gun on Davros but can't quite pull the trigger. The 6th Doctor calls the Daleks to come take Davros away, thus doing his dirty work for him, and the 7th Doctor destroys their fleet and their whole homeworld premeditatively.

And there's the Valeyard, out to kill the Doctor in "Trial of a TimeLord" and described as being a "distillation of the Doctor's darker nature, culled from between his 12th and final regeneration."

Plus, go back and watch "An Unearthy Child," part two, in which the 1st Doctor picks up a rock with which to smash in the head of an injured caveman that Ian refuses to abandon, and who is slowing them down.

There's always been a hint that the Doctor had a past, not a pleasant one, and that he thought of himself as a scoundrel (see Baker's comments in "Shada" and "Keeper of Traken" and McCoy in "Rememberance of the Daleks."

A case could be made that the Doctor was very amoral/immoral pre "An Unearthly Child", learns morality from his human companions - primarily Barbara, grows into being a hero over time, and is gradually coming, if not full circle, back towards the darker point where he started.

Martin said...

Lou - we're not sure about Tennant as the Doctor. Our kids are watching episodes from the last series on DVD as well, and Ecclestone does both dark and light much more effectively than Tennant. Maybe we'll warm to him, though. Also, the episodes in this series seem to lack depth compared with the first season: there's a lot of running between places and escaping just in time. And do we really have to have a poignant, Rose-in-tears, long-slow-strings-in-the-background, it'll-never-be-the-same-again moment in EVERY episode?

Other than that we look forward to it every week!

Lou Anders said...

I wasn't sure about Tennant for the first few, but he has me. I am really starting to like him. The lack of the emotional hook may be the lack of Rose' family, but I'm not sure they need to keep relying on that - they need to find new ones. I think, actually, it's time for Rose to move on, and they seem to be heading that way. But "The Girl in the Fireplace" was the best of the season, yes. I'm still pondering some of the theological/cosmological implications of "The Satan Pit" too though, which makes me like it dispite all the rushing about.

gobadine said...

Now being as someone who used to love the old series, went through "the dark years" when it was off our screens, having to make do with the New Adventures (which Rock!) and whispering in corners with other fans, trying not to be overheard and laughed at. I for one was overjoyed when it returned. I wasn't sure of the first episode, Rose, I was unsure if it was a spoof, but by episode two, Chris WAS The Doctor.

He showed a Peter Davidson style of compassion, fuelled with a McCoys daft but very dangerous attitude, and when he left I was sad, yet what a great story to leave with,

" Dalek: We have your associate! You will obey or she will be exterminated!
The Doctor: No.
Dalek: Explain yourself!
The Doctor: I said no.
Dalek: What is the meaning of this negative?
The Doctor: It means no.
Dalek: But she will be destroyed!
The Doctor: No! 'Cause this is what I'm going to do: I'm going to rescue her! I'm going to save Rose Tyler from the middle of the Dalek fleet, and then I'm going to save the Earth, and then, just to finish off, I'm going to wipe every last stinking Dalek out of the sky!
Dalek: But you have no weapons! No defenses! No plan!
The Doctor: Yeah! And doesn't that scare you to death? Rose?
Rose: Yes, Doctor?
The Doctor: I'm coming to get you"

Although I have worked out why Rose didnt die after looking into the vortex! The Doctor, when sucking the vortex out, repaired any damage she had sustained, as Rose had done to Captain Jack.

Going off the point slightly. Sorry.

David T comes along and I was a little unsure of him in the Xmas episode, but by episode two, it was all "Chris who?"

Even the episode which didnt have much of Rose and the Doctor, was good due to the pacy story.

However the part that made me and my children who sit and watch the show with me, go nuts, was finding out there was going to be a Dalek, Cyberman showdown. I nearly had a heart attack. How many stories had been written about one, how many geeks have spent hours online debating the possibilites of it.

Yet I cant help feeling that this should have been the "Doctor Who Movie" more money, bigger budget and a box office smash. It would have been great.

The only problem I can forsee in the future is the stories are going to have such possible scope and depth (due to the great writers)that the shows will never do them justice due to the 45 mins time limit or 90 mins double episode.

Lou Anders said...

It's interesting that you see Eccelston as Davison meets McCoy.

I see him as Hartnell (with his irratability, superiority) meets Tom Baker (for his alienness).

I see Tennant as Davison (for his dress sense, tennis shoes and all, and his youth and humanity) meets McCoy (who invented the "lonely god" portrayal).

And it's interesting that Bill Nighly's name as bandied around as a possible contender for the Doctor, as he would have been very Hartnell-esque.