Steve Goble

Choose life. (Deuteronomy 30:19)

I think this is another remake of an audio story, however since I haven't heard the original story in question, I can't say for certain.

The Doctor and Donna land in ancient Rome, back when it was still new, and are mistaken for Celts every time they try to speak Roman.

It looks like a straightforward enough yarn, however there are three disturbing spins on the norm that creep-up on you.

First, some of the chief protagonists in this tale are seers. Fairly straightforward for a Doctor Who story, right down to their (presumably) foreshadowing events later in the series, just like their counterparts in The Unquiet Dead and The Satan Pit. What happens here though is that it breaks the Doctor and Donna's cover. The Doctor is used to hiding behind the smoke of each false identity he makes up, but when his cover as Spartacus is blown, he and Donna look thoroughly guilty, and really lose the upper hand.

Second, there's the galling ending in which, to save the rest of Earth, the Doctor has to deliberately blow-up Pompeii and kill 20,000 people. Argh.

And third, as a result of the above two points, there's a lot of talk about predestination, and why the Doctor has always refused to interfere in Earth's history, but never had any scruples about mucking about with it in our present-day.

Point (3) rather shows-up how uncomfortably points (1) and (2) share this tale together though. The seers can't predict the Doctor's destruction of Pompeii, because he hasn't made that decision yet. Unfortunately the same reasoning prevents them from being able to predict characters' choices later in the series. I can't blame the author for that though, as his original draft couldn't have contained those lines, and therefore would probably have been stronger if left untampered with.

Despite those throwaway carrots though, this episode has a good script going for it, together with some frankly great visual effects. It's a shame that the production lost some of that in the garbled delivery and muddy soundmix.

For example, towards the end, the Doctor babbles the plot so quickly that you get the impression the director was somehow ashamed of it. At one point the Doctor gets through all of "Yeah, okay, fine, so you forced yourself inside a human brain and used the latent talent to bond, I get that, I get that, yeah." just four seconds! Tennant is a fine performer, but the spectacle of his breakneck delivery hardly outweighs the importance of resolving the story clearly. I sure can't take it in at that speed.

Worse, much of the dialogue in this episode is comparatively quiet anyway. That's fine when there's little else in the mix, but here the actors fight a losing battle against the music and effects tracks.

Overall though, it's great to see a story that tries to explain a few of Doctor Who's long-term failings, (the alien language and meddling-with-history questions date right back to the first Doctor) but this is another tale that the 40-minute format just doesn't have enough time to cope with.

I liked this, and I particularly liked the ending whereby they can't save everyone, but they can save just a few of them.

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) **