Steve Goble

Choose life. (Deuteronomy 30:19)

Every so often, Doctor Who is silly.

The silliest stories are the ones with an unintentionally funny storyline, that the actors have played straight. It can be melodramatic in such a painful way, that you just laugh and laugh at it, and gush afterwards about how brilliant it all was, because you know how much it so wasn't.

This is just such a story. Episode one is entitled Daleks In Manhattan, is set in a musical theatre (complete with a song and dance number) and features talking pigs. I can't knock a programme so apparently inspired by The Muppet Show.

I tend to avoid all publicity prior to the new shows so that I can watch each episode free of all those preconceptions, but, oh, how I enjoy imagining how the creative team might have glowingly described their work in the run-up to this one.

"It's a story about one man's struggle to stop the Daleks as they eat humans to make them evolve into more Daleks. The Daleks are stealing the actors from a musical theatre, and turning them into walking, talking pigs because, well, we never actually find out why, they just do. They're Daleks. And they're a metaphor for Al Qaeda."

The unexplained pig-zombies aside, (I don't think they even noticed that...

Alien pig #1
...they'd already had another pig-zombie in it two years ago) most of the story held together well enough for me. (although yet again the characters use information they can only impossibly know by watching the programme, when the Doctor knows the approaching lift contains pig-zombies as opposed to a Dalek)

Thank God no-one realised the material's inherant comedy value though. In one scene, the Daleks are testing humans' intelligence, and the writers unfortunately have them say that airhead Martha posesses "SU-PER-I-OR IN-TELL-I-GENCE." Martha yells at the Daleks "You can't just experiment on people! It's insane! It's inhuman!" To which the Dalek replies "WE ARE NOT HU-MAN", but still doesn't realise its mistake. Heh-heh-heh, stoopid Dalek.

At the end of episode one / start of episode two, when a Dalek unexpectedly gives birth to a creature who is half-man, half Dalek, the show is still refreshingly unashamed in its mad conviction.

Playing it straight
The other characters all wear such appalled expressions, which go so painfully well with the operatic incidental music's blasting apocalyptic chants of "This is the form of Dalek! This is the form of Dalek!" Said human/Dalek hybrid then turns to camera, terrifyingly eyeballs the viewer, and declares "I am a human Dalek. I am your future!"

It all adds up to a brilliant cliffhanger, because the whole thing is so off-the-scale bonkers – and entirely serious about it.

And just look at that episode's stark disturbing final image:

I am a human Dalek. I am your future!
*shiver* Outstanding! Now there's an image that burns into your brain for a whole week, making sure you come back next Saturday for part two!

And yet, at the start of that part two, in almost the very next shot, the exact same alien looks like this:

Even the Dalek and the pig-zombie look embarrassed at that hat he's wearing.

So from then on it's campy pantomime all the way. Forget all that talk of how much glossier the show is these days, this was just like the worst episodes from the original series - which was a big improvement on usual. All this, and the Daleks are measuring time in rels, superb.

Thank goodness the production team never realised how funny this was, or you can bet they'd have drowned it all out with tons of their usual plodding harp music.

The trappings of the new series are all still here though (it's on Earth, features zombies, features baddies who always stop killing to talk to their quarry, and has awful "characterisation scenes" wedged-in to stop everything) but more muted than usual.

The best scenes are easily the ones with the destitute homeless of Hooverville, which really feel like they come from another, much better, tale. It's a shame the Daleks had to appear and spoil all that. Especially when, dramatically, I think it would have made more sense for us not to learn of their presence until the moment when the Doctor does. Instead the Daleks show up so early that we have to wait for the Doctor to catch us up. Then the scene in which he first encounters one in the sewer would carried much more revelation.

Final note must go to, from where I sit, the new series' first reference to the old show post-Tom Baker's episodes. Reference is made to the destruction of Skaro in Sylvester McCoy's Remembrance Of The Daleks, made in 1988. But I'm reading too much in, aren't I? The "destruction of Skaro" is probably just another reference to the un-made Time-War, which no-one has ever seen, or even apparently written.

And, unfortunately, the whole human-Dalek hybrid is also something that the Daleks' had already perfected by the time of Colin Baker's preceding story Revelation Of The Daleks back in 1985.

Ah, well, that clinches it then I'm afraid: stop that - it's silly.

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) **