Review: Doctor Who – 3×7 – 42

42

Well, boys and girls, I think we’ve learnt two things from this week’s episode of Doctor Who – The Shouty Years:

  1. Graeme Harper’s finally remembered how to direct. He had it nailed during the 80s, seemed to forget last year, but has returned to stonking form this year
  2. Chris Chibnall can write at least half a good script. Maybe not a whole one, but at least a half of one

After a series of episodes dominated by cheap-looking sets and flat direction*, we had a lovely piece of cinematography, with a beautiful colour palette, grungy but realistic-ish sets, some taut pacing and some magnificent CGI. That bit when the escape pod launched: genius, Mr Harper. Genius.

Coupled with a script that actually had some good dialogue (loved the happy primes) and a halfway decent plot and we at least started with a winner.

True, the characterisation wasn’t there and even the likes of the marvellous Anthony Flanagan couldn’t elevate their characters into fully fledged people, although Michelle Collins came close at times.

But Freema Agyeman did well and Martha had her first proper victory lap of an episode (I don’t count sticking a metal rod out into a lightning storm because that’s just plain daft), even if she mates for life as quickly as a cuttlefish when presented with an interesting bloke. Thanks to the Rose-phone, we start to get a bit more of the Jones family relationship, which was nice, as well as the Saxon plot arc, which is definitely looking like it could be fun.

And, of course, David Tennant got to gurn as if someone had shoved a horse’s harness over his head. He loves all that, you know.

Topping all of that off, we had a slightly frightening monster, which was nice. Nothing like a welder to scare the bejesus out of you. “Burn with me” was a bit nonsensical as a catchphrase, but I’m sure kids will be zapping each other’s eyes out to its refrain on Monday.

If you squinted hard enough through your smoked glass or pinhole camera, you could spot the influences on both the plot and the monster of Inferno, Planet of Evil, various first season episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation (Lonely Among Us, etc), Solaris, Alien and a few other sources. But they were only faint shadows of the originals so it was a reasonably novel concoction that made even the massively dodgy science easy to ignore.

Trouble was, it did start to fall apart a bit in the second half. Not completely, mind, but enough that I was starting to glance at the clock again. Now, I’m no script writer and my copy of Final Draft has long since been retired, but when every other page starts

INT. CORRIDOR. NIGHT

A CREW MAN is running down the corridor.

maybe you need to come up with a bit more plot. It really was just running up and down inside a spaceship. Yes, we’ve gone down from four episodes to four acts and the third episode of old Who was always traditionally padded out with running up and down corridors, but there was just a tad too much for my liking. It’s dull, watching people run all the time, particularly when you’ve facing an enemy who can only move at old-school zombie speeds.

Nevertheless, Chibnall is redeemed. An excellent episode, almost as good in many ways as The Impossible Planet, as Marie suggests. Let’s hope that all that talk he’s been making recently about how Torchwood had to be rushed out because of insane production schedules wasn’t just an excuse and he can turn round the second series into something halfway decent.

* Film offers better colour-depth compared with DigiBeta passed through a film filter: discuss




  • Oh god, am I really going to say something as geeky as:
    I thought the colour temperature was brilliantly handled this episode, contrasting warm orange on-ship / sun colours with the cold blue palate of the escape pod.

  • “Oh god, am I really going to say something as geeky as:”
    Embrace it. Don’t fight it.

  • “Oh god, am I really going to say something as geeky as:”
    Embrace it. Don’t fight it.

  • It looked fabulous, didn’t it?! All the way through I was thinking – “at last, me and Rob can say an episode from this series didn’t look cheap”. It looked like a real oven in there.
    And ‘the dreaded Chibnall’ did pretty damn good I’d reckon. You’re right, it went on a slight downward trajectory, but it was probably the most satisfying episode overall of this series so far. Phew.

  • Mark H Wilkinson

    Do you have anything by way of a review of Father’s Day hanging around on the web? I want to prepare myself for the cosmic beams of hero worship which will emanate from your blog after next week’s episode.
    I looked in the archives, but you apparently don’t exist prior to June ’05.

  • No. I never reviewed Father’s Day, since – as you’ve spotted – I didn’t blog back then. I didn’t like it much: it was utterly predictable, cheap-looking and derivative. But hey ho.
    As for a review of next Saturday’s episode, I’m on holiday in Norfolk for a week and probably won’t have Internet access. That means you’ll probably have to wait until the end of part two before you get to hear bile – or charitable thoughts – spill forth.

  • No. I never reviewed Father’s Day, since – as you’ve spotted – I didn’t blog back then. I didn’t like it much: it was utterly predictable, cheap-looking and derivative. But hey ho.
    As for a review of next Saturday’s episode, I’m on holiday in Norfolk for a week and probably won’t have Internet access. That means you’ll probably have to wait until the end of part two before you get to hear bile – or charitable thoughts – spill forth.

  • God, I was nervous about Chibnall. He has produced some real turds for Torchwood in the past. But I did like this, though. A lot.
    But he’s writing for the second series?
    …bollocks. That’s all I’ll say on that one.

  • God, I was nervous about Chibnall. He has produced some real turds for Torchwood in the past. But I did like this, though. A lot.
    But he’s writing for the second series?
    …bollocks. That’s all I’ll say on that one.

  • He’s Torchwood‘s co-producer – the RTD of the show. The buck stops with him, more or less (RTD over-rules him when he has a spare moment from time to time).

  • He’s Torchwood‘s co-producer – the RTD of the show. The buck stops with him, more or less (RTD over-rules him when he has a spare moment from time to time).

  • Chibnall’s not entirely redeemed, but this was so far above what he did on Torchwood (and that somewhat less than fantastic episode of LoM) that – with stallwart GH at the helm – Chibnall is significantly rehabilitated.

  • The – well – Chibnallness of it was a bit overwhelming at times. Let’s put the vital control panel on the outside of the ship, for no apparent reason! Every time everyone has to do something quickly, let’s have them argue about it instead! Let’s have an emergency lockdown system which puts the crew in more danger! And let’s have the doors operated by a pub quiz machine! And let’s just throw in a few clich?ɬ�s, just so people feel comfortable!
    (Actually, the thing with the lockdown isn’t fair. Every lockdown system seems to put the occupants in more danger).
    And there has to be a random snog in every Chibnall script. You know that if that had happened in Torchwood they’d have been shagging like bunnies in that escape pod, and there would have been some crack about the million-miles-high club.
    Ahem. I did actually quite enjoy it, although my video cut out just as the ship turned away from the sun’s gravity well for no apparent reason. But I have to keep up my practise in Chibnall-bashing!

  • I believe what you meant to say was: “We hate Chibnall and we hate Chibnall. We hate Chibnall and we hate Chibnall. We hate Chibnall and we hate Chibnall. We are the Chibnall haters.”
    I’ll join you later. Take your points, but I feel the Harperness of it all cancelled out most of the Chibnall deficiencies, which weren’t really very crippling and worked quite well at times.

  • That, in a nutshell, is it. Let’s start a ‘Cath Tregenna for series 4’ campaign!

  • That, in a nutshell, is it. Let’s start a ‘Cath Tregenna for series 4’ campaign!
    Yes! Definitely!

  • That, in a nutshell, is it. Let’s start a ‘Cath Tregenna for series 4’ campaign!
    Yes! Definitely!

  • I really liked Father’s Day… well I sobbed like a three year old anyway. Yup it was cheap and predictable, but still pretty heart-wrenching.

  • I really liked Father’s Day… well I sobbed like a three year old anyway. Yup it was cheap and predictable, but still pretty heart-wrenching.

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