Doctor Doctor Who Guide

A mixed bag this one. Script wise, the best of the series so far. Mark Gatiss brings together a much sharper vision and brings out the mysteriousness of the Doctor far better than RTD has managed so far. Such things as the Doctor silently overhearing conversations, arguing with Rose over morality are some of the best moments yet. This is a Doctor, like the first, who follows his own laws. Yet this is the second time in three episodes that the Doctor has had to be rescued by someone else, Firstly Rose herself when an Auton grabs hold of him and now Charles Dickens.

First things first. Simon Callow made this episode, he blew everyone else off screen. I don't think there is another actor out there who could currently portray Dickens. Callow has the perfect attributes to do so, it was unfortunate then that this episode was a clunker for Billie and that Eccleston degenerated into the worst mugging and ham acting I have ever seen in the cab scene. Billie, who was fantastic last week, here descended into a kind of expressions by numbers type of acting, she did redeem herself in a couple of scenes, such as the seance, where she was genuinely naturally performing and I felt like I was watching Rose rather than Billie attempting to be Rose.

There are a couple of things that stand out as being repeated in each episode, like they want to drum it into us, firstly, Rose keeps going on about things only occurring once and no one being there to see them, or other comments of that ilk. it's feeling repetitive now. Also Rose, apart from always befriends someone who is going to die: Clive, blue plumber girl, Gwyneth, with the latter two all that has happened is that she has shown her inability to adapt, she keeps trying to turn the world to how she see's it rather than as it is. While this may be realistic for an inner city girl with only a gymnastics award to her name, if it continues it's going to become very predictable and boring. Even Leela adapted to time travel better than this. The assistant is there to show us the wonder of a new world with fresh eyes, not keep trying to turn it into something normal, because it's not and never will be. This is part of what this series of Doctor Who has lost.

I've worked out why this series bugs me, the cinematography is too crisp and clean. I don't know what it's shot on, digital film or what but the atmosphere just doesn't feel right. The special effects this week were again wonderful, the Geith were truly fantastic and wonderfully rendered but great effects do not a great show make if the overall atmosphere is wrong. It simply did not affect me, whereas perhaps a bit more soft focus or grain in the film, a bit of fog on the sets could have tightened things up considerably.

And yet another gripe about the format length. 45 minutes (to an hour) has established itself as the proper length for sci fi serials in the US and there, it works. It feels like 45 minutes. On Doctor Who it feels like 25 minutes. Something about the pacing, the amount of work to do closes down the time. It just doesn't seem to work. The American shows also have ad breaks which are perfect for mini cliffhangers. What I would have done for a cliff hanger after the Geith turn evil, the Doctor and Rose locked in the dungeon, Sneed dead and Charles Dickens running for his life. It was perfect.

Britain has not produced any proper sci fi in years (suddenly after Dr Who they've redone Quatermass), when was the last great piece of home grown sci fi? Neverwhere? The Tomorrow People (90's version) I think we've lost the knack which is why several aspects of Who borrow from Buffy or Star Trek and I think that's wrong, we have, or had our own way of doing things and used to be far more succesful at sci fi than America ever was.

Rant out of the way this episode was enjoyable for Mark's script, Callow's wonderful Dickens and the fantastically realised monsters, there were a few memorable scenes from Eccleston and that was it. The stage manager character was wasted, I've worked with Wayne (who played the character) and he's a fantastic actor and very funny. His first (and only) scene sets the character up and then he disappeared (see him out of focus on the right of the stage as the ghost attacks). Why did he exist in the first place? Is there a deleted scene somewhere? Surely he'd be out looking for his star. What was the point of this character being in the show, standing around for two scenes doing nothing? especially when I know Wayne is a very talented actor.

Also since when did the Doctor become Wales o phobic. Funny lines and of course tongue in cheek, but still cheap jokes and depressing to a Cardiff born Welshman. Especially considering the hospitality Cardiff has shown to the show. I should perhaps be grateful that a tv series even acknowledges the existence of the place. (Having a Welshman running the show being a huge boon)

Overall 8 out of 10. A really strong script that shines through any criticism I can make. Also Simon Callow is just a joy to watch (There's gonna be a problem if the guest stars keep outshining the regulars) I can imagine how scary this story would have been if it had been produced in a manner befitting British rather than American sci fi.

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