Monday, June 06, 2011

'A Good Man Goes To War'

Sorry, folks, this is a me post, with lots of spoilers.

At the end of a very unpleasant weekend of DYI, both planned and unplanned, with the day and a great deal more once again having been saved by two household implements best described as The Magic Pump and The Bicycle Lock Of The Apocalypse, I really was rather looking forward to the finale of the sixth series of the revived 'Doctor Who'. Sadly, like so many once fine pleasures, the anticipation of the event was more enjoyable than the reality.

Entitled 'A Good Man Goes To War', it ranks amongst the most pointless, disjointed pieces of television I've ever seen. The second series to star Matt Smith as The Doctor has been of a markedly lower standard than the first. Two episodes, 'The Rebel Flesh', and 'The Almost People', should have been classed as horror instead of science fiction, fit only for being broadcast after the now perhaps only notional 9pm watershed. They were not suitable viewing for young children, always proclaimed by that show's makers to be an integral, if not core, part of its audience. I found the imagery they displayed unsettling, and I'm 41 years old and have attended a murder victim's post mortem.

This series had had more loose threads than a sweatshop kilt. The second show in the run ended with a young girl undergoing a Time Lord's regeneration cycle. This was interesting, as one of the revived show's main premises is that The Doctor is the last of the Time Lords. This incident was neither explained nor resolved. In the episode 'The Doctor's Wife', written by Neil Gaiman, another horrifying episode which was doubly unsuitable for children due to the use of sexual language, reference was made to other Time Lords having been alive at some point. Admittedly, this was in the context of them having been murdered for their body parts, but no explanation was provided as to how they might have escaped from the time bubble in which the Time War was apparently locked.

'A Good Man Goes To War' proceeded on the basis that Amy Pond (Karen Gillan), the Doctor's assistant, had been kidnapped at some point and was due to give birth on an asteroid known as 'Demon's Run'. No explanation was provided regarding where or when she had been abducted. At the start of the episode, her husband Rory (Arthur Darvill) is shown confronting the recurring villains the Cybermen, and demanding to know where his wife was. No explanation was provided regarding why the Cybermen might know that. The Doctor assembles an army to recover her. The army is comprised of characters who have appeared in episodes of 'Doctor Who' starring Matt Smith. This seemed to be a reprise of the plot device used more effectively, and much more affectingly, to conclude Series 4, particularly the episode entitled 'Journey's End', and previously criticised here. In the case of 'A Good Man Goes To War', the producers might as well have had Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney getting the kids together to put on a show for all of the passion that some of these characters seemed to exhibit for the task in hand. For example, there was a Sontaran nurse that I didn't really recall from other episodes, but he did get to say that he'd had a good life, being nearly 12. Maybe I've watched too much bubblegum TV science fiction, but to me this was reminiscent of the early episode of 'Star Trek Voyager' in which an Ocampa, played by Gary Graham, announced his astonishing longevity of nearly 14. There was also what, to my mind, was an unwholeseome depiction of a quasi-lesbian relationship between a human and a Silurian (Silurians are lizards). And to cap it all, we had Hugh Bonneville. For a moment or two, at least.

Mr. Bonneville had appeared as a pirate captain in an earlier episode of Series 6 entitled 'The Curse Of The Black Spot'. That might sound like some horrific sort of venereal disease to the less cultured viewer, but that hackneyed homage to 'Treasure Island' enabled him to appear and then almost immediately disappear as a member of The Doctor's 'army' in 'A Good Man Goes To War'. For a star of his magnitude, his appearance in the latter episode was so fleeting as to be pointless, making one wonder whether he had other commitments to attend to.

But we've got to give the producers their due - they really know how to stick it to the Catholic Church!

Among the villains of 'A Good Man Goes To War' are the Headless Monks. Unsurprisingly, these are a group of monks who don't have heads. Predictably, there are two things we weren't told about them. The first was why they don't have heads. The second was why they were after The Doctor.

But hey, one of the characters was given the line that he had received a dispensation from 'the papal mainframe herself' to remove their hoods! The piece of dialogue was, to my mind, a gratuitous slap in the face to this show's Catholic fans. That might not have been the writer's intention, but that was certainly how it was perceived.

In all this has been a shoddy, crappy series, one rounded off by a particularly shoddy, crappy finale. The previous faults of the show are creeping back in, in particular unspeakable dialogue and viscous plots so densely larded on top of sound effects so loud that you have to have the subtitles on in order to keep track of the action (at this point one can only say thank goodness for the iPlayer, as an unscheduled trip to, or, after last weekend, even trip into, the bathroom would leave you bamboozled for the rest of the run, and that's even if the threads had all come together). The TARDIS is famous for being bigger on the inside than the outside. The show itself is becoming the reverse, being now very much bigger on the outside than the inside. The Doctor is able to travel across time and space at will. It seems that the show's writers are trying to perform the same trick with the rules of plot and narrative.

Why does this matter? Like all deeply unserious things, it matters a great deal. 'Doctor Who' is perhaps the only taxpayer-funded institution this country has which is held in universal affection, and I include the monarchy in that assessment. There is no point in reviving a show if you aren't going to do it well, and this series has not been done well. I loved it as a child, and I still love it. I'll love it forever, but right now I wouldn't want my own son to watch it. And that's not my fault, it's not the fault of the show or the format, but it is entirely the fault of the people making it at the moment. Right now, they seem to be angling to have their careers kicked into the nearest black hole.

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1 Comments:

Blogger Julie said...

I'm so glad someone feels the same as I do about the new Dr Who. My Dr Who friends are still in denial about how crap it is just now. I pitched in the towel after the Christmas show where we went from a shark that everyone was running from, to it pulling a carriage with a harness (eh?). As for the headless monks - well, what's new? We've always been a good source of pantomime baddies. I take it as a compliment, that people still care enough about us to hate us. It's when indifference settles in that you have to watch.

25 June, 2011 01:25  

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