Monday, April 16, 2007

"Just what every city needs - cats in charge!"

Hmm. Hmm hmm hmm. What a paradox we have here. I want to give Gridlock high marks for being wonderful popcorn TV, and yet I must acknowledge that there's hardly any plot holding it up at all. A contrast with Smith & Jones, which almost seemed to have too much plot, yet it seemed to be having a lot more fun. I want to give it 8 out of 10, but feel I ought to hold it back to a 6 or 7 on technical grounds.

There are many reasons for me to like Gridlock. It's a return from the chewy rice-cake "annual" texture of last week to the colourful, chemical "comics" feel of most of the new series that I like so well. (All that really tells me, though, is that clearly I prefer having bugger all plot and some pretty pictures to having too dusty a plot. "A triumph of style over substance", as they used to say - obviously that's my bag. "A triumph of fluff over stodge" might be more to the point.) It looks like what some part of my hindbrain seems to think the future should look like. The expensive CGI's all well and good, but - mother of invention - it's forced the cost-cutting measure of using the same car set re-dressed repeatedly, which I like in a televisual way. (Every now and then the makers of DW find themselves in a corner for reasons of time and/or budget, and end up producing brilliant DW as a result. The first episode of The Mind Robber springs instantly to mind.)

Most importantly, I got the sense that the characters had lives beyond the confines of the story. Those lives might not have made much sense in plot terms, but at least they weren't just there for the Doctor's benefit. Effectively, the characters, the imagery, the metaphor (and I can excuse a lot of the plot failings on the basis that the big eternal motorway is a metaphor, or at least a joke) are conveying the story instead of the conventional things like narrative. Any old monkey can read out a page of infodump, whereas the people here were acting their backstory.

Plus it had kittens in it. I mean, what more do you want?

Of course, I'm just making excuses for an episode that made no sense, merely because it made my brain happy. But if nothing else, it was a blessed relief after last week's visit to the Television Shakespeareworld Heritage Theme Park. Next week: singing, dancing and Daleks! But will the Daleks sing and dance? We can only hope.

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