Steve Goble

Choose life. (Deuteronomy 30:19)

"Is that all you can do - hover? I had a metal dog who could do that."

So, K9 could hover before his regeneration then...

Whenever I write a critical review of these things, I usually try to avoid naming the author. I mean my problems are obviously with the script that they have written, certainly not with the writer themselves, who's probably a fine human being. And yet, on the quiet, I clearly have some kind of prejudice developing.

Two weeks ago we had the episode Dinosaurs On A Spaceship written by Chris Chibnall, which you might recall I rather enjoyed.

And yet, as the words "Written by Chris Chibnall" swam into view once again this week, I realised I was feeling betrayed. Surely we had sat through a whole episode by him already this season? AND a minisode? Surely with his and Toby Whithouse's contribution last week, we should now be inoculated against any further bouts of their pretentiousness for the rest of this series?

Clearly this was not a fair thing for me to be assuming, especially given that I had no major objection to Chibnall's last script. Truth be told, it’s because of how... miscalculated... I found some of his earlier work to have been, particularly on Torchwood.

So, just as how Mission Impossible I soured II and III for me, so it will apparently take time for Chibnall's earlier bruises to heal too.

In the event, I found The Power Of Three (vague title - could equally apply to The Three Doctors among others) to be a black alien cube of just the two sides. The plot was agonizingly lifeless. The execution on the other hand, was terrific.

My problems with the plot mostly boil down to how derivative it was. When Russell T Davies was in charge, you could pretty well lay money that every year he would recycle the same plot again, perhaps three times over. We really should never sit through that boring old formula yet again. That's why I just described this episode's plot as 'agonisingly lifeless'.

You know what I'm talking about: In the present day, something becomes popular all over the world. Cue news bulletins and shots of affected international landmarks. Then everyone is surprised when it turns out to be part of a covert alien invasion. At this point the companion's dad becomes a victim, along with a significant percentage of the rest of planet Earth. Then the Doctor finds their machine and just presses the 'reverse' button, often along with the ability to do anything else that he fancies. Then everyone on Earth clean forgets that any of this ever happened. They have to, because they're up for it all over again in another three weeks' time.

Oh and there are zombies.

In this one there are two sets, neither of whom seem to even have much reason for being there, despite their unnoticed presence in the hospital for several months.

US TV series do something similar, except that over there such an episode is called a 'rerun'.

By the end of this latest retelling, we never even find out how the sinister cubes came to Earth, despite the Doctor's owning a time machine, which you keep pleading with the TV for him to just use to go back and observe arriving.

In 42, Chibnall wrote an episode in real time, although it had no effect on the story. Here he structures the invasion over the course of a year, and again the story potential is just not exploited. The Shakri's plan might as well have taken place over 42 minutes again.

This is also riddled with plot holes. Amy and Rory really shouldn't be missing social functions when their best friend has a time machine. Rory works in the same building as the alien's wormhole by coincidence. The wormhole itself is in a lift which, uh, moves up and down? The cubes' weird behaviour is never explained. Neither is why the one that shoots at the Doctor, indeed shoots at him, and then stops. When asked why he keeps on visiting Amy and Rory, the Doctor omits to point out, even jokingly, that they're his relatives.

Then an estimated third of Earth's population suffers heart attacks, only having their hearts restarted a significant period of time later. Whatever way you look at it, most of them must remain dead afterwards, for reasons too numerous and obvious to go into here.

It may not be the credited author's doing, but this episode also sees the awkward appearance of the Brigadier's daughter - Kate Lethbridge-Stewart - as head of UNIT scientific research, and by implication its latest director. The reasons why this didn't work for me are several:

1. I have no wish to keep looking backwards and being reminded what we have lost. The Brig completed his missions in the series - it's time to move on forwards, and away from him, not drag that loss with us. (only way to fix that now is to add to the loss by losing Kate)

2. Kate has next to no characterisation of her own. Even the new actress finds nowhere to go with this in any of her scenes. She doesn't even argue with the Doctor like the Brig used to, deferring to him on just about everything.

3. She's called Kate. Now correct me if I'm mistaken, but the existence of a daughter for Lethbridge-Stewart, and one named Kate at that, has until now been a fact that only existed in spin-off media. Eg. The non-BBC fan-produced Downtime VHS. If it embraces Downtime as canon, then how many other spin-offs must accordingly come with it? The sequel Daemos Rising I guess (which I haven't seen). If that's in, then I guess we should also count War Time. I gather she's in some of the thousand-odd Doctor Who books, so have they just suddenly entered official history, along with all the boundaries that they have created over the years?

4. In tension against point 3, she's played by a different actress to in Downtime, yet one who is still reminiscent of the original from that video. I just don't like this not knowing. It's playing with fire I tell you.

5. There are plenty of other better-qualified UNIT officials who would make more sense and carry on the Brigadier's work better. Eg. Crichton, Bambera, or Magambo.

Still, as I said at the start, the sprawling story is only one side of things. The other side is its execution, which is just enthralling.

The Doctor, Amy, Rory, Brian and Kate remain passive onlookers throughout. While this inevitably sabotages the characters' capabilities, the opportunity to spend some everyday life with them all is priceless. If Doctor Who is often all action and wisecracks, then here we get a chance to really spend some time with them all, and experience a more daily sense of what life with the Doctor is like.

There's heart to the performances (except poor soulless Kate's), crackling dialogue, and a real sense of freedom. That they nip off for a seven-week jaunt of adventures in the middle of a party is the sort of thing a show about a time-machine ought to take on board more often. We should go with them too - we should have had seven episodes there.

At one point the Doctor is playing on Amy and Rory's Wii. Thankfully it wasn't Return To Earth. :)

And the music. Oh my goodness. I never thought I'd get to type these words, but there's a scene with the Doctor and Amy sitting in front of a video of the Thames when it's quiet. The music is there, but turned down. Well. Probably a fault with our TV.

As we approached the end of this one, the level of invasion was such that it was all threatening to turn into a two-parter. I was really hoping that it wouldn't. I'm afraid that I am still that cynical about the author's work. I got my guilty wish, via an ending so insipid that it goaded me into being pleased that this one was over.

So in summary, an enjoyable episode to watch, but not to follow.

These days, Doctor Who usually features a thinly-plotted comedy episode about ordinary everyday life towards the end of each series.

Is it too much to hope that that one's out of the way too now?

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