Saturday, December 26, 2009

Dr. Stu on Dr. Who: End of Time Part 1 (long)

So... Waters of Mars I didn't blog about but it was pretty darn good. Especially the end where they finally acknowledged that Tennant's doctor has always had tendencies to be an arrogant twat and needs a companion to keep him in check. To be honest I never felt Rose would be the one to do it - she was always eager to fan the flames of 10's ego. But its always nice to see Tennant's sometimes smug Doctor taken down a peg or two. This only really started happening in Season 3 with episodes like 42, Human Nature and the Master Trilogy taking the Doctor to the very edge.

I must admit I was somewhat wary of Simm's master returning... as you may know I didn't think too highly of the original John Simm episodes. Derek Jacobi on the other hand was the bomb - he nailed the part in the 5 seconds he played the Master. The Master is supposed to be like Moriarty to the Doctor's Sherlock. A true Moriarty Master hardly ever gets his hands dirty - he has minions for that. He is a sinister, distant and aloof figure - thinking of the grand scheme. He should appear austere, respectable and sophisticated on the outside and yet is completely evil. Instead we got a Master who listens to Scissor Sisters, is clearly barmy and yet became Prime Minister of Britain for no reason that seemed relevant to the plot later on...

Anyroads - I was sure it wouldn't be that bad? Simm can do nasty when he wants - perhaps the script would be better.

Mother of All Spoileryness Warning for End of Time Part One

The End of Time Part One

The episode starts off rather nicely with Wilf and a mysterious woman (who I think is meant to be a Time Lady) chatting about the Doctor in a chapel in (drum roll...) London, Earth, 2009/10. Then we see the Doctor turning up on the Ood Sphere listing all the unseen Big Finish adventures he's had. It's all a bit silly and I wished we'd followed him immediately after Water of Mars's great cliffhanger. He meets the head Ood and is given a peak at the script visions of Wilf, Dave Harewood, Lucy Saxon and the Master.

There's a rather pointless sequence where the Disciples of Saxon, a group who believe Harold Saxon (the Master) should live again ('cos he was such a wonderful chap who inspires loyalty) break Lucy Saxon out of jail to extract DNA or some maguffin off her to resurrect the Master. We learn who took the ring off the remains of the Master in Last of the Timelords and are completely underwhelmed as it is a random unnamed woman. Lucy however thought there was a possibility the Master might come back and made an anti-Master-Resurrection potion and has moles who have infiltrated the Disciples of Saxon. She uses it while I ponder the following nits/plotholes:-

1: If Lucy Saxon thought there was even the most remote possiblity the Master might come back WHY DIDN'T SHE TELL THE DOCTOR ABOUT IT?
2: Doctor 10 didn't notice that fecking massive ring in the cremated remains of his nemesis? What - is he attention deficit? Was there a mirror nearby when he was cremating the master...
3: Why did the Master bother to kill himself and go through this whole convoluted resurrection scheme?
- What if the Doctor had put his corpse in the TARDIS?
- What if the Doctor had cremated him in the TARDIS?
- What if the Doctor had taken his ring off him?
- What if the Doctor had taken his wife away from Earth?

The Master's escaped from the TARDIS and the Doctor before you know - ask the 7th Doctor if you don't believe me. This resurrection put me too much in mind of the ridiculously convoluted plot in the Torchwood episode They Keep Killing Suzie wherein Suzie relied on a resurrection glove that had never worked in the past to bring her back to life.

Most of my concerns are rendered moot as there is a massive explosion killing Lucy, the Disciples of Saxon, and any point to this scene*. We then cut to David Harewood, staple of all BBC drama at the moment (and wasted as he was in Robin Hood), talking about some alien technology they've got off Torchwood's** latest car boot sale and how they reckon the Master is alive and will prove useful. The narrator tells us they're idiots so we don't have to worry too much about their scheme, whatever it is, coming to fruition.

We then cut to scenes of the Master inexplicably wandering round some (fairly extensive) ruins near Lucy's prison in present day London. He seems to have developed superpowers, including lightning, flying and turning into a Martian from Mars Attacks! Which leads to niggle 4:-

4: Why did the anti-Master solution turn him into Superman?

He needs to keep replenishing his lifeforce apparently, as he kills some homeless people and the staff of a burger van that operates out of these London ruins (obviously the derelict area is a good place to sell sausage in a bun) whilst eating like Mr Creosote from The Meaning of Life. He pointlessly bumps into the Doctor and runs away from him, leaving him in the clutches of Wilf's randy OAP army - the Silver Cloak. We learn in 21st century BBC tradition these unlikely pensioners tick every Politically Correct box in the book, flirt with the Doctor and then bugger off. This leaves the Doc and Wilf to actually act - after all the "essential" plot development so far there's a nice scene where the Doctor tells Wilf he's dying (after all if some psychic bint on the Number 200 Bus told me I was dying I'd be buying a plot of land for my grave), and some talk about Donna marrying a guy who looks a little like her old fiancee. Inexplicibly the Doc ditches Wilf and runs back to the wastelands and into the Master again. The Master beats him with his lightning and flying powers, but not before the Doctor gets to listen into the Sound of Drums the Master's been harping about since RTD rewrote his character forever.

To be fair this is one occasion where Simm's*** Master actually stopped chewing the scene for a few minutes but before long he's captured by David Harewood's marines. Which leads to concern #5:-

5: Oh come on - you're saying that with all his new powers the Master was captured? You could argue he allowed himself to be captured, but given he knows nothing about Dave Harewood's alien device plot there's no reason for him to do so.
6: Why not capture the Doctor as well? Dave Harewood seems to know all about the Master but nothing about the Doctor which is... unlikely given how active Drs 9 & 10 have been and that we had a group of OAPs recognise him earlier. (Yes - I know Wilf told them about him, but still).

The Doc meets up with Wilf again and through some oblique clues provided by Donna rushes through some plot developments and porcupine aliens to fail to stop the Master accomplishing his latest "plan" - to make everyone on Earth (except the Doctor, Wilf and Donna) into clones/copies of himself****. Obviously he's never read Shatnerquake - that's not as much fun as it sounds.

It finally seems we're in danger of having a cliffhanger which involves John Simm clones "humorously" in variety of getups (including women's clothing - thanks RTD!) giving the thumbs up and generally mugging the camera. Thankfully for no discernible reason we cut to the narrator of this episode, Timothy Dalton, who it appears is a Time Lord and starts going on about how somehow the Master has inadvertently brought them back. He then starts yelling about the End of Time and For Gallifrey, leaving us going OMG The Time Lords are back! Yay! And wondering how all this mess is going to be neatly resolved in 75 minutes on New Year's Day.

Although I'm often critical of RTD's episodes I did love Rose, The End of the World, Midnight and even Love and Monsters (right up until we had the implied oral sex with a paving slab, something I'm amazed wasn't censored). However for every Rose there is at least two World War Threes, with farting aliens talking about dalliances with farmboys. Aside from the fact I don't think he sees the Master in the way I see him his season finales have had plotholes you can drive flying double-deckers through - preferring emotional content and a bullet point list of 'memorable scenes' over sensible well-thought out plots. To be honest RTD would make an amazing co-author but as the dominant force behind Doctor Who he has a tendancy to write plots that any script editor worth his salt should send back covered in red pen decrying the lack of logic in them.

So in some ways its good that RTD is leaving - I feel I'm going to like a Steven Moffat penned finale more than an RTD finale. He really should've let someone else write the major 'event' stories. Moffat on the other hand is capable of writing very, very clever scripts - akin to the Douglas Adams scripts Tom Baker excelled at. RTD's turkey is getting a little cold - I'm glad there's only another round of turkey sandwiches to gobble, but put me down for that last helping - it might still be good. Or it may fail to explain everything to my satisfaction*****.

5/10 - Could Try Harder (To Be a Coherent Story)

And now the ranty footnotes:-

* My comment, over the pandomonium of my folks chatting was, "I liked it better when the Master came back to life without any explanations."

In my view if you had to do this kind of scene it would've been more spooky if it was a brief flashback when the Doctor first re-encounters the Master.

Doctor: You are dead.
Master: So you thought, but I prepared for that contingency. My followers on Earth, the Disciples of Saxon, had orders to perform a ritual to resurrect me if I died.
(Cut to people in Satanical robes performing the resurrection stuff we see in the episode)
Master: Something went wrong though...
(Cut to explosion)

** Gaddamit - another reference to Torchwood and how useless they are with keeping alien technology under wraps! Seriously - the show went from 1963 without mentioning Torchwood (because RTD hadn't taken over invented them they were so secretive) - now they're behind every alien tech disaster in Doctor Who! Even old ladies in downtown Cardiff know about them.

*** Simm is a good actor BTW - watch any episode of Life on Mars or his episode of Cracker. He is especially good at scary murderers, but in my opinion his acting chops are wasted playing the Joker-Master. Of course from interviews I've read he enjoys playing the part as a kind of panto villain.

**** One thing I'll hope we'll ditch in the Steven Moffat era is the routine plethora of 'world-shattering' plotlines. Since 2005 the entire planet has experienced the following:-

  1. has seen ghosts

  2. has been invaded by said ghosts who turned out to be Cybermen

  3. has been invaded by Daleks, twice in some cases!

  4. saw the President of the USA killed by the Master and aliens

  5. had the planet moved

  6. had all the people of a correct bloodtype stand on the edge of a ledge

  7. had all the children stop what they were doing and acting as mouthpieces to a bunch of aliens

  8. had bad dreams about John Simm, and been unable to concentrate because of him

  9. turned into John Simm

The last 4 in particular realistically would have incredibly widespread effect on people. Consider for example people worldwide in 'critical' jobs and situations - for example defusing a bomb in the bomb squad, driving a car at high speeds down a motorway, operating heavy machinery, walking the tightrope in the local circus and so on. Bear on mind it's the entire planet - statistically a lot of these situations should pop up and a lot of unfortunate people would all probably die. Repeatedly.

***** Concerns like

1) Why are the Time Lords back?
2) Why do they want the End of Time to happen - doesn't that mean they're out of a job?
3) How on Earth does the Master's latest idiot plan lead to them existing again? (I think I know how they'll explain this - if they bother)
4) What's so special about Wilf?
5) If Donna gets her memories back then why doesn't she explode as previously promised?
6) Why are the Ood appearing to the Doctor? Why is their future connected with 21st Century Earth? Surely they'll be better off without humanity enslaving them (which might explain their advances in civilization)
7) What exactly does the Immortality Gate do? Does it heal entire civilizations?
8) Why hasn't the Master made the Master-clone-Martha-Jones jump off a roof in revenge for her part in deposing him in Last of the Time Lords?
9) Does the Master now know everyone on Earth's thoughts and secrets?

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