Doctor Doctor Who Guide

There was, in fairness, a lot that I loved in this episode, but I'm going to start complaining...

I think RTD delights in winding people up! The pig in a space suit was initially a bit of a shock (though we had been warned about it in various interviews with Ecclestone). The explanation that followed, that aliens had grafted the pigs head onto a bipedal body and the comparison to constructing fake mermaid bodies was wonderfully creepy, disturbing and - for me - satisfying.

However - the MPs farting and chortling (another slightly more obvious wind up) was a bit too much. Like burping bins, I think it's too much to expect people to believe that aliens disguised as humans would behave like that especially when they clearly don't behave similarly out of their disguises. I think the problem is that they didn't look like aliens disguised as MPs laughing and apparently farting, they looked like actors performing for a childrens programme.

This I think is the chief problem with many aspects of the series - Christopher Ecclestone, in his worser moments, looks like an actor trying to playing a part, whereas Billy Piper (one of the best things about the series) comes over as a real and believable character. It's a little unsettling really that the performance of the companion is so much better than Doctor. There is a lot to like about the portrayal of the ninth doctor (especially the child-like excitement he sometimes gives off) but overall it misses the mark. Alot was made of Christopher Ecclestone's reputation for darker, brooding and moody roles and whether or not he'd be able to demonstrate a lighter side as the Doctor. And I think, to and extent, this concern has been justified - he looks to me like an actor to whom this kind of role doesn't come naturally and he's having to REALLY work at it. And to be honest he doesn't come anywhere near Troughton or Tom Baker - it's a completely different league.

The episode featured a lot of emotional drama, frank exchanges and even had the Doctor warning Rose not to defile the TARDIS with domestic issues. I'm all for this - I think it makes fantastic and moving drama to bring the companion back a year later and to have to face the fact opting out of your own life in that way has massive consequences for others. However (here I go) it occasionally got a bit too pedestrian and predictable, as though we were watching a thinly concealed soap opera. Much of the 'domestic' element was brilliantly woven into the narrative but occasionally it grated in that the point RTD was trying to make became a bit overdone and preachy.

'Overdone and preachy' nicely sums up another gripe of mine. The first news presenter was so ridiculously over the top, he sounded like he was reading some dramatic ancient prophesy. No BBC news reader would EVER speak like that - he sensationalised the space ship in a cringingly amateur tone of voice such that it was completely unbelievable. Andrew Marr however was very good.

The Slitheen do look wonderful though - I got twinges of that 10 year-old thrill of fear when they emerged and advanced on various parties. Their innocent baby faces contrast wonderfully with their huge frame and clawed hands making them visually jarring and really quite disturbing.

Lastly the incidental music... I've complained about this before and it was so bad this time I will again. WHY do we need puerile clarinet 'speed reading' music when the Doctor reads through the information handed out to the alien experts towards the end of the episode? It was clear from the performance what was happening - it's patronising and undermining to any seriousness on the part of the actors when the music describes what's happening on screen in the same way it does in a circus ring or on toddlers' television. I don't think children need chirpy twiddles to aid their understanding - I rather think they'd appreciate a show that treats them more like adults.

In summary, a rather harrowing episode for a nit-picker like me. The very contemporary feel and use of realistic news reports are very refreshing and lend an immediacy that's quite exciting.

Asides from the above complaints I'm obviously enjoying the series otherwise I wouldn't be watching and then ranting after every episode. I am however looking forward to some other writer's work - Mark Gatiss's contribution was by far and away the best so far and I'm very curious about Rob Shearman's 'Dalek'. Onwards!

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