Doctor Doctor Who Guide

When I gave my two penny’s worth on The End of the World a couple of weeks ago, I made the comment that the excessive comedy overtones were undermining the drama, I was particularly pleased that most of these farcial moments were absent from The Unquiet Dead which made it all the more believable, even if the whole thing played rather like a Big Finish story with vision.

Well sure enough the farce was back with a vengeance with Aliens of London. Much like the latter days of the old series, the current production team seem to have the knack for doing certain things so right, only to counteract it in the next beat by moments so inane that you want to take a sledge hammer to your tv screen.

The whole thing started off so well, the teaser was great, drama and comedy elements nicely balanced, the Alien spaceship landing, nice effect. The scenes in the hospital, subtly spooky and seriously acted. And then we get a bloody midget in a pig suit. I could scarcely believe what I was seeing, even though the resulting explanation was half feasible there is no denying that the thing looked bloody ridiculous and from there on they flushed any potential for this story down the toilet.

The flatulent alien politicians were possibly one of the most cringe inducing creations ever put into Doctor Who. This sort of humour belongs in a Doctor Who spoof, not in the proper series.

Once again the scenes with Billie and Chris shone, full of charisma, warmth & wit. This is more than enough to carry the series along without resorting to Austin Powers style lavatory humour. But as I found with Rose and the End of the World it is hard to feel any real sense of danger or excitement for these characters when the opponents they face are so lacking in menace. I never ceased to be amazed about how often a successful franchise makes a great job of creating a hero, only to pit him against a pathetic comedic villain. The Batman and Superman movies were both guilty of turning Lex Luthor and most of the Batman villains into cheap comedy turns and now Doctor Who seems to be having a go. Farting aliens are not menacing, blacmange like creatures with doe eyes are not frightening, and maybe they were not supposed to be. But why in that case play on the sinister aspects of the unzipping heads, why make the audience believe they were going to see some unspeakable monstrosity, only to be confronted by a teletubby. I am still not sure whether the cliffhanger was supposed to be taken seriously, or was sending up Doctor Who cliffhangers.

Performances were variable, Camille Coduri still seems somewhat of a cariacature in her role of Jackie Tyler, although was better than in the first story, while Noel Clarke as Mickey is growing on me, and his antagonistic relationship with the Doctor worked well, afterall he has every reason to bear a grudge. Penelope Wilton was solid as Harriet Jones, while Rupert Vansittart as Asquith proved a worthy successor to the likes of Nicholas Courtney and Simon Williams, before his alien takeover and any opportunity for the character was squandered. The alien politicians however were excreable, while admittedly the script was mostly to blame the performances were childrens BBC level, insulting and patronising to all but the very young viewer.

Now I wouldn’t attempt to argue with anyone who said Doctor Who was a childrens show, because they’d be half right, although I prefer the label family show. But the original series very rarely played down to or patronised the young viewer, when it did in the late eighties, most of its young audience turned off. I was 12 at the time of season 24 and I cringed when the Rani dressed up as Mel, when Richard Briers did his ham chief caretaker and I am not sure whether sensibilities have moved on, but this new series has been guilty of just as many if not more of these sort of moments.

I had faith in Russell T Davies and nearly everything he said about his vision for the series in the build up to transmission seemed spot on, but so far I have seen not much of this in evidence. He promised a full blooded drama, instead all his scripts so far have bordered on parody, he cites his favourite story as Ark in Space, but instead we have been getting something more akin to a cross between season 24 and the Paul McGann tv movie.

It pains me that this is the case when the Doctor companion dynamic is so good, the visuals the best the series has had, and the whole thing has an energy and sparkle that makes each 45 minute whiz by.

The Second Coming was great drama as was Russell’s New Adventure (although way too dark for the small screen), but so far the general stories have been lacking, I was initially fuming at Eccleston’s early departure but to be fair to the man he probably expected more from these scripts as well. No doubt expecting to take part in socially relevant sci fi parables, he probably found himself feeling like he’d joined the cast of Red Dwarf.

So please less of this bargain basement humour, George Lucas has been castigated for it on his Star Wars prequels, and now Russell largely seems to be getting away with it on Doctor Who. Sadly I feel viewing figures will speak for themselves and this approach may be here to stay. But ever hopeful, I wait for that Dalek story which much like Remembrance did 17 years ago, will hopefully banish burping bins and flatulent aliens to that waste bin of Doctor Who history.

Filters: Series 1/27 Ninth Doctor Television