Sunday, May 20, 2007

"Don't they teach recreational mathematics any more?"

Well, that was better again. Like The Lazarus Experiment, 42 was slam-bang action fare with much running up and down corridors, but it scores more highly by dropping us right into the action from the off, by having a final ten minutes that didn't just feel tacked on, and by having some very nice visual effects. Yes, Doctor Who is a show that shouldn't rely on CGI, but the silent shot of Martha drifting away in an escape pod was very fine. And y'know, the more I look back on it the more I realise just how much of this episode was just running up and down corridors (my word, really quite a lot of it...), but the point is that this is the first episode in about a month that I've wanted to look back on after first viewing.

Even the science wasn't screamingly, disturbingly wrong. I mean, you have to accept that, unlike yer regular suns, living suns can actually reverse the effects of their enormous gravitational field and push away ships that are about to smash right into them, but I'm prepared to do that. The episode actually looked coherent. So really, my only question is: Who are you, and what have you done with the real Chris Chibnall?

(Actually, you could see just a hint of Torchwood Chibnall in the scene where, instead of suddenly exclaiming "You humans, you're amazingly brilliant!" as he normally does, the Doctor suddenly exclaims "You humans, you're rapacious bastards!" But I digress.)

7 out of 10. Points for the possessed crewman turning people into Hiroshima shadows with his mad glowing eyes.
Minus points for the tiresome "Burn with me" refrain ("Are you my Mummy?" it ain't).
For the first few minutes (and off the back of the trailer), I thought this had all the signs of being a sequel to last year's Impossible Planet/Satan Pit, and 42 almost got relief points just for not featuring the return of the most absurdly pretentious monster ever to appear in Who. (But then I sobered up a bit and thought better of it. If I rated stories on that basis, I'd be giving bonus points to every Who episode that doesn't feature yet more Daleks. Hey, wait a minute, I already do that...)
Points for the Doctor admitting he's scared. The Lovely Jo made a very perceptive remark about this: he's not scared that he'll die (he'll risk his life at the drop of a hat, after all), he's scared that if he dies he'll come back as a sun-zombie and kill Martha. Points also for the idea of the living sun and the sun-zombies (although if it mattered that much to me I'd list here previous films and TV shows that have featured sentient celestial bodies - including old episodes of Who).
Points for Martha's mum selling her out to Mr Saxon's phone-tappers. Overall it's another step upwards.


Ben said...

I would like to see a spaceship that actually looks airtight and fit for travel in vacuum. Any door on that ship could have opened into the starship Marie Antoinette, or the Impossible Planet space station, and no one would have noticed. Likewise any crew member of one of the above could have walked in on this. Please can we have a bit of diversity in our futures?

Samou Yonn said...

I thought it was one of the worst in the series. There was no story whatsoever. Call me old fashioned but I like a story with a beginning, middle and an end. This appeared to be tearing down corridors, trying to avoid the sun-zombies. Great for a computer game but it isn't Dr Who ( I am thinking of the better episodes, not Timelash or Time and the Rani). I did like the high-speed explanation of 'happy primes’, which my physicist said 'sounded right'.

The 'I'm scared bit' was all right if it had been a one off, but David Tennant (though brilliant) appears to be screaming his way thought the series. I am fed up with it and guess what? More screaming next week...

The second bit of the episode I liked was the Saxon phone tapping. It just makes me eager to see the finale. Even though I anticipate the Russel T is going to muck it up in some way.

Oh yes, what about the Red space ship? Did they pinch it from Red Dwarf?

John Toon said...

I see what you're both saying, but the negative points you raise could just as easily be taken as positives.

For instance, Ben, there's an obvious reason for reusing the same sets and spacesuits as last year's space stories, and that's to save money. But the virtue of this is that it presents the future of human space exploration in one coherent way. (They even kind of pre-empted this with a line in "The Impossible Planet" about the station being one of those standard-issue modular Bases.) You could still have non-standard stuff going on as well, but if the sets are already there and money needs to be saved... Not like classic Who didn't do exactly the same thing (all through the Sixties, and in Tom Baker's first season, too).

(I'm not sure what to suggest about the crew members, though, beyond not casting the many readily available British actors who want to appear in the show.)

As for the screaming, well... why not? I imagine having your body temperature raised by several hundred degrees, then being frozen to -200 C would hurt. I imagine hugging a lightning conductor during a monster electrical storm would hurt. I imagine that the very traumatic thing the Doctor is going to do to himself next week (as per the novel) would hurt. I don't have a problem with him screaming in these situations. I'd be far more surprised if he didn't scream. Isn't this a bit like saying, "I'm getting really fed up with the way the Doctor keeps smiling every time someone's nice to him"? (Or "I'm getting really fed up with the way the Doctor keeps saying 'Fantastic!' whenever he sees something fantastic," which is exactly what ( diplomatic, be diplomatic...) some people said about Dr Eccles...)

Really don't know why you'd think red spaceship = Red Dwarf, samou. It's not the only red spaceship ever to have appeared on TV, you know.

I'd ask, "Did the fans make this sort of fuss in Tom Baker's day?", but I already know the answer to that one...

..."WHERE HAS THE MAGIC OF DOCTOR WHO GONE?!?!??!!!?!!!" (c DWAS, 1977)

Ben said...

Oh, there's no harm in reusing sets, but there are such things as paint and lighting to introduce a little variety. Ark in Space/Revenge of the Cybermen is probably the classic example but even there a little effort was made to put the two versions of Nerva at different points along the same scale, at no great cost. Gridlock blatantly reused the same set over and over again to great effect. I don't think it's economics that keeps giving us the same spaceship, just lack of producerial imagination.

The episode itself, now, I liked!