Dalek Caan predicts
The Doctor Who fanbase has an annoying habit of constantly complaining about everything from the invalidation of their fanfics to the existence of homosexuality. This constant barrage of whinging can often lead to legitimate worries and criticisms getting lost in the mindless noise. I was worried about Catherine Tate as a companion. The Catherine Tate show is a blight upon society, 'am I bovered' may actually be part of the anti-life equation, and the Christmas special from a few years back hardly convinced me otherwise.
But then in season four she turned out to not only be bearable, but actually very good. It was quite the shock, the best I'd hoped for was that I'd like the character enough to put up with the performance. Perhaps it was this shock (and my growing hate for Who fandom) which led me to take the season much more to heart than I would have done otherwise. Maybe in time I won't remember it as fondly, but for now this is what I thought:
Partners in Crime
Davies does love his kid friendly cultural satire and this episode is chock full, it's Super-Nanny fighting the growing obesity rate! This could be pretty off putting to the adult audience (who it should be remembered are a pretty small percentage, all things considered) if it didn't have some genuinely amusing moments. Imagine my despair when I found myself laughing at the comedy acting of Catherine Tate! My whole world view was shattered, up was down, night was day, hamburgers ate people...
Bernard Cribbins' Granddad character was a very nice addition, joyous and warm-hearted. Less welcome was Donna's Mother. For a start the Doctor antagonist mother had probably been overdone by Who at this point, but at least the previous two had redeeming characteristics or understandable justifications, Donna's mum was just a horrible person who had no apparent love for her daughter.
Still a funny, light-weight, and upbeat start to the season.
The Fires of Pompeii
'It's the big budget episode!' they seemed to cry, 'Look we went to Italy to film! Do you have any idea how often they let us out of Wales, let alone to somewhere you need passports for?! There's big CGI volcano like you see on those National Geographic documentries too! Big Budget episode!'.
The historical episodes tend to leave me with out making too much of an impression and this wasn't a great deal different. There was some nice set up for Donna as being both the companion who questions and the Doctor's conscience, which was nice. Also we learn that Latin spoken through the Tardis babel fish sounds like Welsh, I would have assumed they'd just hear translation server error over and over again.
Planet of the Ood
Ah, the Ood, they're always fun, those lovable lovecraftian beasties, with the fun to say name that the writers came up with just to fuck around with Tennent (getting a Scottish guy to mask his accent with a script full of double 'oo's is particularly cruel, as a guy called Matthew Smith who can't pronounce 'th's I understand your pain David).
New Earth episodes also tend to be little lacking in interest for me but I'd say this was one of the better episodes, Ood, Lord Percy, the claw, kid traumatising transformation sequence, all good fun.
I did hear some criticisms of the anti-slavery theme being a bit heavy handed, but considering that I've spoken to Primark shoppers who don't seemed that bothered that what they're wearing was made by child slaves, I think the Doctor asking Donna just exactly who made her clothes is point that needs reiterating.
The Sontaran Stratagem/The Poison Sky
My friend's sat-nav tried to kill me once on the way back from a Bill Bailey show; true story.
The first two parter in a Who season is never great (though the only time it was ever truly terrible was with that first piece of Cyberman nonsense) the characters go home for a bit and kids get a catchphrase for the playground on Monday. Martha reappearing and then, um, not really doing a great deal and The Doctor seeming a bit confused on how he felt about the military all just a little wishy washy. Still, UNIT finally making an appearance and the Sontarans being entertainingly pompous got me through.
The Doctor's Daughter
I wasn't too disappointed that we didn't actually get what the title promised, I like a little mystery in the life of The Doctor. Even so the episode still ends up as the weakest of the season purely because the central clever twist doesn't make any damn sense. It's almost as if they originally filmed with a different ending and then had to go back and re-shoot a few scenes to make new one in a hurry.
But in the end, Georgia Moffett's pretty and the expression Agyeman pulls when a load of fish people start stroking her was priceless. I am, on occasion, quite easy to please.
The Unicorn and the Wasp
I wonder which author's lined up for 2010? I'm hoping for Burroughs.
Another comedy heavy ep which ends up being genuinely funny. The whodunnit at the core isn't particularly good though which is a shame, I felt that if it had been a little smarter and precise and it would have been a classic Who story. Fenella Woolgar's performance, a giant wasp, and The Doctor's Belgian flashback all add up to a fun episode.
The Wasp reminds me of how good Who's effects have been this season, well done to whomever was responsible. Judging from the budget kids must have brought a hell of a lot of toys last year.
Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead
Ah a Moffat two-parter, the Who brand of quality. Will Who fans transfer their bizarre loathing to the new guy in charge and long for the days of RTD come 2010? Only time will tell, but I assume they'll be complaining about something.
Lots to like here, the feel of a New Adventures novel which sends a pleasing nostalgic shiver down my spine, a library the size a planet (I'd happily live there even if it did have darkness piranhas in the air), spacesuits, twisty turny time stuff with added emotional depth, excellent little sci-fi concepts (the communication device ghosts are just an extraordinary idea), the twisted face of a corrupted file, Donna's awareness of editing, The Doctor using his head as a giant USB drive, the dust you see in beams of sunlight.
And in the end it all comes together and we get the familiar and welcome cry of new Who 'Everybody lives!'. Wonderful.
But if you fuck up Tin Tin You'll still go on the list Moffat! Be warned!
The fan's have a strange hatred for Davies, faint and subtle at first, it seems to have grown and warped into some horrific monster. All said, he isn't the best writer on the show, his episodes falling pretty often midway up the Who quality scale. So what from the preview looked like a bottle episode to save up some cash for the finale hardly inspired confidence.
And yet, it ended up being very, very, good. 'Perhaps Humanity is the true monster here' is far from the most original concept to set off from, but if you play the monstrosity just right you can still come up with something special. It's a haunting episode, both in the creepiness of the repeated voice and The Doctor stuck in a situation where he can't help.
So do the fans have a new found respect for Davies now? Um, well apparently the episode was a clear sign of the dreaded 'gay agenda' that they find so threatening for what is probably a number of deep seated psycoloical reasons, or perhaps they're all just twats. Fuck 'em.
Also immense respect for Lesley Sharp, learning all that dialogue, the speech patterns of the rest of the cast, and a frighteningly long amount of Pi for a role in which it's not that obvious that you're doing anything at all, hats off to you.
Wow! Billie Piper, Swindon's favourite daughter, is in this one! Is this the Doctor Who/Sally Lockhart crossover I've long been waiting for? Oh, it's just Rose speaking funny ...
My main criticism of Turn Left is that you're going to have to sell The Doctor not regenerating a bit harder than 'Uh, he was surprised, or something' not dying is pretty much what he does. That not with standing it's a nice enough episode setting up the finale and showing us that, yes, Tate is surpringly good. Bernard Cribbins gets some screen time which helps sell the humanity of the piece, but Donna's mum is still a horrible person regardless of dimension.
The Stolen Earth
It's a bit hard to review a shock and awe episode like this in regular terms, revelation after revelation, crisis of infinite Whos, all the little hints coming together, the dark secret of the bees!
It has it's faults, it's a touch on the melodramatic side, and the Shadow Proclamation turns out to be an office reception filled with bitchy albino ladies, but hell, it's the roller-coaster ride that keeps you interested. The demented ravings of Dalek Caan are fantastic, Davros is wonderfully played by Julian Bleach, the Doctor's 'children' coming together to fight against massive odds, and we get to see a platoon of Daleks fight Captain Scarlet's Cloudbase!
And then we have that cliff hanger. They should have just put Davies laughing over the top of the 'to be continued'. You know it's childish and silly t get so wrapped up, but you just can't wait for next Saturday!
This seems to be a love it or hate it episode and I'm squarely in the love it camp. It just felt like such a satisfying ending to me, not only to season four but for all of Davies' tenure.
Are the criticisms valid? We already knew Tennent would stay as The Doctor (because the BBC couldn't have kept a new Doctor under wraps for more than ten minutes after casting), so it's just a question of how he was going to stay. I didn't have a problem with the actual resolution as it played into the plot in a pretty convincing way. The Daleks did have a fair amount of there menace striped away when 'The Doctors Three' were monkeying around with them, which wouldn't have been so bad if it had felt a little more cathartic, but it just made them look a little foolish. Jackie didn't really need to be there, that's true enough, mind you anyone who criticised the scientific plausibilty of the Earth being towed home by the Tardis should just fuck off.
I liked the conclusions to the companions tales personally. I'd be fine with Rose living her life with a slightly melancholic air of mourning, but this is the only other ending that could make sense. I liked that the next season of Torchwood (which I still haven't seen a single episode of) will mostly involve Mickey trying to get into Martha's pants (and I assume failing in a comical manner). I liked The Doctor's sadness at Donna's death tempered with the Gilgamesh like immortality she earned across the universe on adventures that she'll never know she had. Quite moving really. I liked it.
Also there were Daleks speaking German. What's not to love?
So there we go, four specials and then it's out for Davies, I don't think he did a bad job myself.