Doctor Doctor Who Guide

Having been slightly less then impressed with Rose, yet captivated by episodes 2 and 3, I had come to believe some aspects of the new series are fantastic, some of the best examples of Who ever to grace our screens, yet other aspects have been nothing short of abysmal. To me, Boomtown is a microcosm of the series, some brilliant moments mixed with the non-brilliant.

Here we have an episode in which not a great deal occurs. In surmation, the Doctor and his companions arrive in Cardiff, set about having a good time, discover one of those tiresome Slitheen people is not quite dead and is trying to blow up the aformentioned Welsh capital. Said Time Lord and companions then capture monster, threaten to take it home, discover home means execution, have a moral debate and then the TARDIS decides to make life easier and save everyone from having to make a moral choice.

Yet this is not to say that there is no excitement - we see some very funny banter between the new TARDIS crew, some extremely amusing scenes in the capture - Margaret Blaine [sic] climbing out of the window whilst still Mayor of Cardiff is for me the funniest moment of the series thus far - whilst the restuarant scenes are extremely intense. Also, while many Who fans have been unimpressed with the more domestic aspects of the series, I was genuinely impressed with RTD's exploration of the effects of Rose's travelling upon Mickey, in a superbly acted scene.

However, much of this episode left me cold. Firstly the set up itself seemed to me a little 'fanish', going back and revisiting plot devices that have already served their function. Although I can see the intention behind this, to show an already vanquished enemy pleading with the Dr. for mercy, I found it difficult to feel sorry for the Slitheen. This being has recently attempted genocide, has killed countless innocents and is once again intent upon reaping destruction of an entire planet. This being has already been given a chance by the Dr. to walk away, but instead laughed at the suggestion. In my mind, Blon was going to everything she deserved. Alternatively, the Dr. could surely have found an alternative punishment, handed the Slitheen over to other authorities, exiled it on an unihabited planet, yet here we are told there is only a black and white choice. Yet we do not even see the Dr. make this choice, the TARDIS does it for him.

What is more this episode follows another trend that has presided over Dr. Who in all its forms for a decade - the examination of death, the costs of the Dr.'s lifestyle. This is all very interesting, but yet again the Dr. is accused of wrong doing, of causing death, yet this is somewhat blind to the fact that the Dr. usually prevents death. Few of the people who die in the course of his adventures, die by his hands, there is often mercy for his enemies, the universe is made better by the Dr. I felt the restaurant scenes while intense missed the point - the Dr. is facing accusations from a murderous criminal whose sole motivation is profit. In contrast, for example, to the Big Finish Unbound adventure, 'Symapthy for the Devil', where the Master does a similar thing, there is the context that the Master believes in his own twisted head he is making the universe better; he accuses the Dr. of hypocracy, only helping the "right" people, failing to stop greater suffering, his evocative mention of Chairman Mao's admiration for the Dr. Boom Town misses all this. The Dr. is accused of being a murderer, by a murderer. The Dr. simply is not a murderer.

This along with the unsatisfactory ending, left me unsatisfied by this week's offering. I felt the plotting was simply not strong enough, the aspects of the story had not been properly thought through. I would have much rather seen the Dr. discover another Time Lord had survived (as earlier rumours suggested) and find out a little more about the Time War, than have watched this.

In my opinion, this episode is also an example of RTD taking on too much. Eight episodes is a vast number and the quality gap between some of the RTD episodes and those of the other writers has been very noticeable. This, I do not believe, is a symptom of RTD not being as good a writer as his hired help, I believe its a symptom of him not having the time to work on each episode properly. His skills as a writer are indeed awesome when it comes to writing dialouge and character, but his plots are often sloppy, his over reliance on magic gadgets worrying. It seems the sonic screwdriver can do anything, without explanation. I am coming to worry that RTD has underestimated the signifance of plot in action-adventure, which is what Who is. Dramas, such as those that have made him a televisual beomouth, don't need the tight plotting, but the sci-fi action adventure genre does - people will buy into virtually anything provided the fantasy coheres to itself, so long as it has its own laws that it obeys - Harry Potter, Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, all these fantasy worlds make sense within themselves. If Dr. Who does not, then the slick execution that has captivated audiences can only keep them engrossed for so long. The generally negative reaction of many fans of the new series to this episode is surely the evidence that poor plotting will not go down well with the dedicated viewer. While many people are tuning in now for the novelty, if the series is to go on, it needs to keep a big core of viewers.

Although this perhaps seems like a doom and gloom monologue as to how Who is doomed, please do not take it as such. The excellence is there, I merely worry that RTD will not learn from his mistakes and may make them again with increasing regularity. The rating and audience approval were no doubt high again, but I doubt an entire season of Boom Town's would capitvate many people. I can only hope RTD will tighten up his plotting when Series 2 comes around, as expectations will be higher and it will be harder to get away with mistakes such as this episode.

Filters: Series 1/27 Ninth Doctor Television