Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Wait Watchers

Thanks, IT helpdesk! By unexpectedly junking my LAN account and taking a week to create a new one for me, you've afforded me some time at home to catch up on my blogging! And so, after the mayhem and shenannigans of the last few weeks, I can at last return my attention to The Blog Readers Who Waited.

As with last year's DW, my favourite episodes of the run seem to be clustered in the final third. The Girl Who Waited is another step up after Night Terrors' improvement on Let's Kill Hitler - I'd say it's a 9 out of 10, a genuine high mark this time that isn't subject to allowances for sheer bloody relief. In hindsight, it's my favourite of the 2011 series (so no, there won't be any 10s this time round). The story is simple at heart, but presented in a way that takes full advantage of DW's format and that I don't think any TV series but DW could do justice to. The premise of the Two Streams Facility is clearly laid out in visuals and dialogue that complement each other nicely. A story calling for a collection of clinical white and generic industrial sets probably didn't do the budget any harm, and in fact the on-screen realisation is striking in a minimalist kind of way. Ditto the medical robots. Effectively minimalist, that'd be one way of summing up this episode. It's a very confident, very competent bit of Who.

Readers may wonder how I plan to finesse this into my opinion of the first half of the 2011 series, given the large moral dilemma at the heart of this story. It's not so difficult. I see a definite difference between the dilemma here - which is deliberately set up, examined and played on - and the moral quirks of the earlier episodes, which just look like fumbled bits of unintended subtext. With the benefit of having seen the whole of the run, I now know that this isn't some kind of risky recurring motif built into the series that gets addressed in episode 13, but merely something that happens in various episodes to varying degrees of competency depending on the degree of author involvement. So here a large part of the Doctor's lifestyle and modus operandi are called into question, but because it's done knowingly, it's done with skill and in a way that doesn't completely drop the bottom out of the narrative. It's pretty much the polar opposite of the end of Day of the Moon.

The flipside of this is that writer Tom MacRae spares (some of) the Doctor's blushes by pushing the decision onto Rory, and then by having 60-year-old Amy take responsibility for it from him anyway. This is kind of a cop-out, and although it doesn't greatly diminish the dramatic power of the story, it does take the edge off it a bit. (Given my reaction to earlier episodes, I'm not likely to complain about it too much in this instance.)

I have two nits to pick - not exactly flaws or even bum notes, just oddities really. Number one is that 60-year-old Amy doesn't look a hell of a lot different from 20-year-old Amy, just a bit more puffy about the face. They might at least have done something with the hair, y'know? Number two is the strangely abrupt ending. The Lovely Jo considers this a good point about the episode, and fair enough, but I did wonder whether there was a second half to that scene that ended up on the cutting room floor.

So there it is, the episode of 2011 Who that I'm most likely to go out of my way to rewatch. Yet more good material for Arthur Darvill, the sleeper star of Moffat Who; another fine performance from Matt Smith, albeit there isn't much of him in this one; even (startlingly, and far too late) some solid character material for Karen Gillan to work with. Did someone mention the Melody Pond arc? Oh, wait, no they didn't, and thank Bod for that. Hurrahs all round.


Christopher Pittard said...

Hmm, I wasn't quite so enamoured of this one as you, Tooners. Yes, it's good, but isn't there a sense in which it isn't anything we haven't seen before - and, for that matter, seen quite recently? Put another way, just how many times have we had the "Amy/Rory waits *ages* for someone who doesn't turn up" scene? It effectively kicks off Matt Smith's run in "The Eleventh Hour"; it rounds off that series with Rory the Roman (and I really wanted Rory to shout "Forty years? Try two thousand!", but I haven't quite grasped if those events really happened in the end or not). We get it again in the TARDIS freakout scenes of "The Doctor's Wife"... and now here. By now I've got waiting fatigue. Likewise, the "death that isn't a death" theme is also getting a little tiresome. I'm getting bored to... well, you see.

I'm being a little harsh, I know - this is a perfectly good slice of Who. But it's not as great as it's claimed to be. Or, perhaps more accurately, maybe it would be if I hadn't seen the last two years. But I did, and it isn't. I think I'm heading for 7/10 here.

John Toon said...

Points taken - those do seem to be very persistent themes in the current permutation of Who. I think for me having the Silence openly comment on them in The Wedding of River Song is the tipping point. I stand by my 9 for this episode because the recurring elements didn't affect my enjoyment.