Steve Goble

Choose life. (Deuteronomy 30:19)

The most impossible thing about this planet is that, just for once, it’s not called Earth.

Let me rephrase that – this is the first Doctor Who story since 1988 NOT to be set on or in orbit around Earth. For all viewers under the age of 20, the fact the TARDIS can travel through space must have come as something of a shock.

It’s also the seventh story in the modern series to feature crowds of silent zombies, following as it does...

Mmmm mmmm mmmm mmmm, mmmm mmmm mmmm mmmm...Rose (plastic zombies)...

But Sharkey, we're your friends.The Unquiet Dead (dead zombies)...

Train delay at MogdenThe Empty Child (gasmasked zombies)...

Fans lamenting the demise of the old showThe Christmas Invasion (blood-controlled zombies)...

Serbian refugees reaching the end of the channel tunnelNew Earth (ill zombies)...

Teletubbies: The Next GenerationRise Of The Cybermen (Cyber-zombies), and...

I say I say I say - my zombie has no nose...The Idiot’s Lantern (faceless zombies).)

(I’m not counting School Reunion, although technically there were some young zombies in there too)

This week, being as I say away from Earth for a change, they presented us with alien zombies.

Bulgarian women's shotput team
(collective mind, no thoughts of their own, etc…)

All that aside, I actually found these two episodes unexpectedly brilliant. I'm really quite shocked that the BBC have accidentally come out with something this good. The story, the dialogue, the tone – it was like a completely different show. (flexibility being one of Doctor Who’s key ingredients) Maybe they should have called it The Impossible Programme.

Landing on a planet in orbit around a black hole, the TARDIS gets irretrievably lost in an earthquake. We presume it’s been sucked into the black hole, until we find out that it's actually only at the bottom of a chasm, which robs the moment a bit.

The Doctor realises he's stuck with Rose
Afterwards, the Doctor is bleakly reflecting on his new life without the TARDIS, when he realises that he’ll now have to settle down and get a mortgage: “No, no, that’s it, I am dying, it is all over.”

The build-up to the bad guy’s release was also both sinister and funny.

Not Only But Ood
Rose: (BEING SERVED DINNER BY AN OOD) “I did that job once – I was a… a dinner-lady. Not that I’m calling you a lady. (EYES HIM UNCERTAINLY) Although I don’t know, you might be. Do you actually get paid though – do they give you money?”

Ood: (POLITELY) “The beast and his armies shall rise from the pit to make war against God.”

Rose: “I’m sorry?”

Ood: (bangs his translation-device irritably) ”Apologies. I said ‘I hope you enjoy your meal.’”

And the whole thoroughly hopeless atmosphere, with even The Doctor deciding not to investigate the pit any further. His analysing his own thought-patterns and preconceived belief-systems were scenes that you could really wonder along with him.

Alas, ill-conceived script-editing still barged it's way in, with the most painfully unworkable Torchwood advertisment yet, and a teasing prediction about Rose's future death which, if true, means the villain could also forsee his own plan's failure. (maybe he was actually looking in a mirror when he said “You will die in battle”) Tellingly, he taunts everyone else with only their past.

Will ya just look at all that light going into that black hole up there
The black hole caused alot of problems too, not least why the ancient race had gone to so much trouble entombing the baddie next to it, instead of just in it. (I'm ignoring the Doctor's line in part one about how even light can't escape from it as both he and we were watching it). And how on Earth does the TARDIS show up again at the end - just there next to him?

Still, very watchable.

Finally, a word about the villain, who seemed to think that he was Satan.

Satan, in his room, grounded
The encyclopedia of baggage that comes with this concept was, as usual for non-Christian fiction, largely glossed-over. No-one prayed, and no-one made the connection that real evil, which Satan (or whatever you call him) is supposed to be heavily involved with, still thrived both while he was imprisoned and after his defeat at the end, although Ida came close. When writing for any “character”, you have to follow what we already believe about them. It’s really the first thing you look at.

That said, this script was clever enough to only imply Satan’s identity (and that all religious writing on the subject is just misguided), so it is possible to watch the show and discount the villain’s many names as simply lies or madness. The story wasn't, after all, saying that Satan is an alien, but rather inviting one to challenge one's preconceptions, and to that end, it couldn't draw conclusions.

When challenging preconceptions however, the task is surely to offer something at least equally plausable as an alternative.

And no-one, Christian or otherwise, really believes that Satan is just a big physical monster chained to a rock.

Great absorbing stuff - 8.75 out of 10.


Labels: ,

0 comment(s):

Post a Comment

<< Back to Steve's home page

** Click here for preceding post(s) **

** Click here for following post(s) **