Doctor Doctor Who Guide

Thank goodness the budget got tight. You see, for all the rushing around and fantastic adventures we've seen throughout the season, there's seldom been time to stop and catch our breath and just chew over some good, solid conversation and character work of the type we often hear in Big Finish. This episode, set entirely in Cardiff and bringing back a single Slitheen, was obviously done in part to save some money, but in the process, we got to have this other thing that the series has been mostly missing up until now.

The lynchpin of the episode is the scenes between the wonderful Annette Badland and the fantastic Christopher Eccleston around the dinner table as the Slitheen tries to convince the Doctor not to take her back to her own people and her certain death sentence. It's very interesting that she says all the right things to pluck at the Doctor's heartsstrings, yet he doesn't back down this time from what he thinks "must be done." He clearly doesn't like it, and we don't know if he really would have done it had it come down to it, but from what we've learned of this Doctor so far, I'm inclined to think he probably actually would have taken her to her death sentence. And again I wonder if this is his "war damage" coming through in his psyche... the time he most famously balked at an execution was back on Skaro in "Genesis of the Daleks" when he had the opportunity (so he thought) of destroying the Daleks for all time, and now that decision has come back to bite and swallow Gallifrey itself. Does he wish he could go back and "get it right" now? And would he try to not make that "mistake" (if that's how he sees it) a second time here with this Slitheen?

Getting back to her, I love how she tries to off him at the table three times and yet still has the gall to tell him how much she's changed, which she hasn't of course, although we do eventually discover that she truthfully wishes that she was different or could start over. That's the wish the TARDIS grants her at the end by regressing her back to being an egg, and it was a neat solution to the problem. I've heard some complain or point out that this is a deus ex machina, and in a sense I suppose that's exactly what the TARDIS is, but this isn't something just out of the blue. The whole sequence at the end looked almost the same as the climax of the McGann TV Movie, and I was expecting the TARDIS herself to finally put in a more pro-active appearance at some point (which she hadn't in the previous 10 episodes). I didn't quite see the egg bit coming, but even that's been done before... this ending looks a whole lot like that of "The Leisure Hive," where Pangol is regressed to being an infant so he can be brought up properly this time. (and that story also featured big aliens in tiny human body suit costumes... hmmm) New viewers might be a bit confused, I suppose, but even they should've got the hint that the old girl was going to be more involved than usual when they took the time to explain police boxes and the chameleon circuit in the early going, or later point out that they're actually using the "cell" function of a police box for real once they've captured the Slitheen, and there was also the refueling business. And that says a lot to fans too... the fact the TARDIS no longer has a limitless store of energy to draw on but must be refueled with temporal energy from time to time, which follows the fact that the Eye of Harmony would've been destroyed along with Gallifrey (or at least turned back into a normal black hole again without any energy infrastructure around it anymore).

What of our other characters? I'll start with the easy one (pun intended), and that's Captain Jack. I think John Barrowman should've taken his performance down a notch or two in this one... it was at the right level when WWII was going on all around him, but here when it's just domestic-looking present-day Cardiff, it seems too loud. It's interesting to note that he's got enough know-how to help the Doctor with the TARDIS systems and the refueling process... perhaps he'll be able to pilot it as well at some point?

And then we have Rose and Mickey and their romantic sub-plot, where Rose just can't quite cut the cord that still exists between them (as her not really needing her passport shows) even though she's clearly not coming back to him. She even gets charmingly upset with him for going out with someone else they knew, to the point that she completely forgets about the fantastic alien planets she was describing and wants to talk more about that girl. Mickey on the other hand is, by episode's end, very angry indeed with her, and I wouldn't be at all surprised if this doesn't factor into the season finale somehow. Perhaps the Bad Wolf will try to turn Mickey against her and the Doctor?

This is the episode where the Doctor first really notices that the words "bad wolf" are following them wherever they go, then tries to pretend it's a coincidence, but we know it isn't, and he clearly doesn't think it is either. At the same time, some hints are dropped which may have gone unnoticed as to just how interested the Bad Wolf is in the Doctor... I'm convinced that the entire Slitheen-builds-nuclear-power-station-on-the-rift plot was the Bad Wolf's idea, and that it is the one who supplied Margaret the Slitheen with her super surf board and gave her the idea of what to name the station, though I'm guessing Margaret isn't conscious of most of this. Also, given the points the Doctor makes again in this one about how the TARDIS telepathic field gets into your head to translate things for you, I wonder if this isn't some sort of telepathic attack or surveillance of them. (though I don't think it's from a TARDIS)

The direction was as solid as I've come to expect from Joe Ahearne now. I particularly liked the chase sequence where our four heroes manage to corner Margaret and how that was staged ("she's climbing out the window, isn't she?"), and the teleporter joke that looked like Margaret was doing John Cleese as Sir Lancelot in "The Holy Grail." Also the music wasn't offensive again... it's still not terrific, but Gold's scores are at least tolerable now, which they weren't sometimes earlier in the season.

I do have one true complaint about the episode, and that's how whoever is in charge of the special sound effects is at times using some stock Hollywood sound effects that have been in use in films and cartoons since TV began. Whoever you are, cut this out. It sounds childish and like you're taking the easy way out. If you're stumped for a sound effect, ring up someone who either does or did work at Big Finish and they'll teach you how it's done. And oh, you should also not use a TARDIS in-flight hum for the interior of someone else's spaceship like you did in Captain Jack's in the previous two episodes... it only creates confusion amongst the fans.

And I want to put in a good mention for Mail Harries as Cathy Salt, who gave a very good performance, and who I think is very cute.

Overall then: 8 out of 10 for "Boom Town" Good character stuff, mostly great acting, good direction... solid all around, except some sound FX.

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