Saturday, March 03, 2012

Closing the Wedding of the Widow and the Wardrobe

OK, let's get on with this, I've got two episodes of DW and a Christmas special to write up as well as several months' books. Readers should not take the three-month delay in writing up these episodes as any sort of reflection on my current feelings towards New Who. Well, maybe they should, but let's not get bogged down in that now.

Closing Time
Lightweight but entertaining. Gareth Roberts gets to have his gently mocking self-aware cake and eat it: Craig blows up the Cybermen with love (the only officially endorsed method for defeating the New Cybermen), then points this out in exactly those terms, at which the Doctor claims he's being ridiculous before finally conceding that, fine, whatever, he did indeed blow up the Cybermen with love. And he's being stared down by Lynda Baron as he says it, which adds to the general comedy value.
Having the Doctor working in a superstore toy department is only a diminishing-returns follow-up to having the Doctor working in a call centre (The Lodger). It's tempting to claim that the entire episode is the diminished return of The Lodger, but eh, it's got a charm of its own and (just) enough fresh material to see it through. 7 out of 10, perhaps.
Note the latest awful twist in the Ballad of the Ponds: their daughter was kidnapped by evil cultists, but it's all right because the Doctor gave them a nice house and a sports car, and Amy went on to have her own range of cosmetics. And I have to wonder, is "the smell of rain on dry earth" really going to be a best-selling perfume?

The Complete Final Apocalyptic End of the Entire Universe with Stuff Blowing Up and That
No, wait a minute, that was last year's finale title.

The Wedding of River Song
40 minutes of busking before we finally get to the cop-out for the season arc. I mean, some of it's quite nice busking, and I guess it's a (small) step above the 2008 finale, but nonetheless. We don't know any more than we did before about the Silence's motives, and we still know nothing whatsoever about Blackhat McEyepatch's interest - will we ever? No time for that, we were far too busy playing electric chess with a Viking and trolling about with Winston Churchill and laying out doomy foreshadowing for next year's bloody arc with Mr Blue Severed Head to worry about a trifling thing like the story.
The cop-out was pretty much as telegraphed in Series 6 Part One, with only the small tweak that Steven Moffat walked away from the obvious set-up with the Flesh and replaced it with an equivalent obvious set-up not revealed until the start of Series 6 Part Two - the only way he could possibly salvage any claim to have kept us guessing. River Song monologuing at the Doctor about how he's pissed off the entire Universe in A Good Man Goes to War is balanced here with an opposite but equally trite scene of River Song monologuing at the Doctor about how the entire Universe loves him and wants to have his puppies. Basically, some nice visual moments, but the episode in total doesn't warrant much above a 4 out of 10.

Series 6, Aftermath
And so the Doctor fakes his death, which opens up fresh possibilities for the show. It could be a new age of whimsical weekly adventure, but with the new twist of the shadow of the Doctor's legend hanging over him. Or it could be just like 2011, but with the Doctor being all coy about his name and everybody else pretending they've never heard of him.
I have two predictions for the next series. Number one is that the in-series grapevine will continue to make its annoying presence felt. I'm referring to the unknown means by which people all across time and space in recent series have known all about the Doctor and that year's series arc and god knows what else that they shouldn't rightfully have known about at all. Expect one-off bit-part characters all through the next series to say things like "But I thought you were dead?"
Number two is that the Question That Must Never Be Answered - Doctor Who? - will be answered by the Doctor springing onto the scene and saying "Doctor Me!" Although I'm less certain about that one than about the first prediction.

The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe
Erk. I'm looking for a place to start on this, but there isn't much for me to latch on to. Bill Bailey, why not. Bill Bailey and Arabella Weir are thrown in for about two minutes of comedy cameo, and yet they serve two key plot functions: they explain the threat that's led the living forest to grow a magic dimension-jumping puffball escape pod or whatever it is, and their walking machine gets Madge from A to B. The only reason function #2 needs to happen is because they've delayed Madge with function #1, and given that they're about to bombard the forest with acid it's not clear why they're hanging about to fulfil function #1 in the first place. Apparently they can teleport from (and presumably to) the forest, but can't take their walking machine with them and thus have to abandon an expensive bit of machinery when the acid bombardment starts, which is convenient for Madge but not readily explicable.
The forest's escape pod thing needs a human pilot - why? Why would the forest trust its survival to something that it can't pilot for itself? I'm also not clear on why the forest suddenly doesn't need the escape pod once it somehow enters the time vortex and vanishes from the episode.
Well, as we know, it's all just a bit of disposable wafer-thin side material to facilitate the real story, or at least the fuzzy, sentimental, vaguely associational story-like thing that fills this hour of telly like narrative candy floss. (Which, as New Who's producers keep telling us, is what drunken bloaters want on Christmas Day when they're semi-comatose and in no fit condition to follow a story anyway, and I'm honestly not sure what to think of that. I can only point to The Christmas Invasion and go "But... but...") The Doctor does something brave on some spaceship or other and falls out of the sky, Madge doesn't tell her kids the bad news about their father, the kids lark about in the house the Doctor has kitted out with magic model planes and dancing chairs and so on, and Reg flies his Lancaster bomber through the gigantic holes in the story (echoes of Planet of the Dead's London bus, there) and lives after all. And spends the holiday season in the country with his family while his flight engineer, navigator, wireless operator, bomb aimer and rear gunner bleed to death in the plane and his superior officers prepare to court martial him for desertion. Something like that, anyway. Happy Bastard Christmas.
Of all the fluffy, passive-viewing Christmas specials, this is the least coherent yet by quite a margin. I guess the fluff is preferable to the nastier undercurrents of 2010's A Christmas Carol, but at least that one had its good points and a few stand-out moments as well. There's nothing really good that I can point to here. It's incoherent and mediocre. I'm leaning towards a 4 out of 10. I'm tempted to rate it lower, but then I'd have to go back through the previous year of DW and re-rate all of the genuinely bad episodes even lower, and that's more effort than I'm willing to spare.


Christopher Pittard said...

Lordy, it's been so long since I watched them, but anyway...

Closing Time: My, but wasn't this shit on a stick? Absolutely cringeworthy stuff; surely nobody can poke fun at Tom Baker holding a dalek embryo to this neck now that we've 'enjoyed' James Corden shaking a cybermat at his face. And to think we accused 'Silver Nemesis' of making the Cybermen feeble; here they're reduced to hiding out in the changing rooms of Debenhams. Sure, they can still convert people - unless the people involved REALLY DON'T WANT to be converted. So... all those saps who got cybered up beforehand just weren't trying hard enough? Or maybe just weren't parents (because parenthood=humanity?)? Corden's head sticking out of a cyberbody is one of this series' most nightmarish images, and for all the wrong reasons. You already mentioned the ludicrousness of Amy's fate; I'll simply say that this is perhaps the most retrograde step Who has ever taken in gender politics. Overall, a disaster, and a cute reference to The Three Doctors isn't going to change that. 1/10.

The Wedding of River Song - by contrast, I rather liked this one. Sure, the final reveals are obvious (Was "Doctor who?" ever meant to be a twist ending? I can't believe Moffat really believed it would be), but I think the real question here is how the hell he's going to cram all of that stuff shown in the trailer into anything like a coherent narrative that also, incidentally, rounds off the ongoing storyline. And, y'know, I think he just about managed it. The stuff about Amy suddenly remembering her baby is a bit off, and I'm sure there are massive problems elsewhere, but I rather liked it. A generous 8/10 for me.

John Toon said...

Hmm, I'm not sure about bad gender politics in CT (and it certainly isn't the worst example even in this year's Who), but otherwise, ya gots me. I'll say 5-towards-6 out of 10, 'cos I still liked it despite the fluff.

Re TWoRS, clearly we're in profound disagreement!