Doctor Doctor Who Guide

Russell T Davies was the ideal choice to relaunch Doctor Who. There can be no doubt about it. Not only was he a fan, he was a top notch writer with experience in both genre and real-life drama.

What's becoming most interesting is that it is his real-life drama experience which seems to be working best in his latest project.

Doctor Who is never again going to be about hitting the reset button each week, having an adventure, disappearing off to find adventure somewhere else. And quite rightly. Today's audiences expect rounded characters, story arcs, teasing surprises. All of this Davis excels at. But there does seem to be a slight tension in his writing between this form of storytelling and his wish to keep Doctor Who recognisable as the show he always loved.

Alien of London was a perfect example of this. Rose returning a year later to the consequences of her departure - pitch perfect. Even Mickey the Plastic Actor gave a reasonable account of himself in this side of the show. The 'Bad Wolf' reference continues to tease, the spaceship crash was pitch-perfect, the news reporting, while at times a little melodramatic, was a great touch. The whole 'First Contact' angle was lovely. And we got a mention of UNIT into the bargain. Great.

Then we come to the problems. This is a family show. The BBC don't really need fans tuning in every week, they need families. So slapstick humour, manic grinning with 'fantastic' attached, the odd (perpetually awful) incidental music ding-a-ling I can understand and really don't mind. This aint Ultraviolet. But why did nobody at any point realise that today's children are savvy. They like dark, hard-edged stuff - take a look at Harry Potter, Lemony Snicket and the Philip Pullman novels. Have a look at the size of Buffy's audience which was preteen. Burping bins and farting aliens who giggle at their flatulence just weaken the show. There are better ways to please the target audience whilst not irritating everyone over 12 (still a sizeable proportion of the audience) who are watching.

Then there are the Slitheen. Sigh. And things were going so well. The Autons were a bit clunky, but you could see the thinking. The freak show in The End of the World was wonderful. The Gelth were absolutely, wide-eyed awesome. It looks like Ep 5's budget was splurged on the crash-landing, leaving us with rubber suits with bobble heads, horrible fake human skins and the dodgiest transformation CGI this side of Red Dwarf - which was at least a comedy at heart. Compare this to the CGI in The End of the World. You'd swear you were watching a different show.

The performances ... I seem to recall hearing that a lot of this ep was filmed at the start of the shoot, which would explain Chris Ecclestone's slight shakiness (much more reminiscent of Rose than the masterclass of the previous 2 episodes). It's ironic that Billie Piper was the casting which caused the most controversy, since she consistently steals every episode. It speaks volumes that, upon Ecclestone quitting, I was immeasurably relieved to hear that Billie would be staying.

The story could well wrap up nicely next week, we'll have to wait and see.

So, for me, Ep 2 remains the most satisfying so far. But, not to worry, for the all-conquering Dalek storylines, Simon Pegg and Paul Cornell's eps are still to come!

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