Doctor Doctor Who Guide

Ah, leftovers; with the news that ‘Boom Town’ would feature a Slitheen, Mickey, the rift from ‘The Unquiet Dead’ and the return to script-writing of Russell T. Davies, I found myself wondering if it would be padding between Moffat’s two part story and the two episode season finale. In a sense I was right, but as it turns out ‘Boom Town’ feels like an attempt to provide closure before the end of the series, and in other ways feels like the calm before the storm.

‘Boom Town’ doesn’t start especially well. I’ve become increasingly disillusioned with Davies’ approach to the series, and ‘Boom Town’ exhibits many of his worst traits. With the return of Blon Fel Fotch Pasameer-Day Slitheen, the last survivor of ‘Aliens of London’/‘World War Three’, we once more get the toilet humour based flatulence associated with the creatures, and Davies outdoes himself with a scene in which Blon enters a toilet and makes even more gastric noises than before. It isn’t funny, it’s just crass and juvenile. Worse still, my fears about the addition of Captain Jack to the crew are borne out as the episode opens with ghastly sixth form flirting, Jack asking “How come I never get any of that?” when Mickey hugs Rose and the Doctor quipping, “Buy me a drink first.” We also get Mickey objecting to Rose travelling with the handsome Jack, but not the big-eared Doctor. More examples of facile would-be wit include the café scene in which Jack raucously bellows “Fifteen of us, naked!” to which the punch line delivered by Mickey might as well have been “As the Vicar said to the vestal virgin.” It really is astonishingly contrived, as is Margaret’s conversation with the reporter, as she tries to shrug off the mysterious deaths surrounding the nuclear power plant project and responds to the question about the Government’s nuclear advisor with “He slipped on an icy patch.” When the reporter points out, “He was decapitated” she replies, “It was a very icy patch.”

Then there’s the horribly choreographed scene in which Blon tries to poison the Doctor in three separate ways, which flags up the fact that there are lapses in logic throughout the episode. If she’s taking about last resorts, why not just rip off the skin suit and eviscerate him? Not to mention the ludicrous premise of building a nuclear power plant in the middle of city, which simply wouldn’t happen, regardless of whether or not London gives a toss about Wales. I should also mention the “pan-dimensional surfboard”, not because it doesn’t make sense, simply because its trite bollocks. Davies’ writing negatively impacts the regulars too, with Rose yet again having trouble with a word that she’s just heard several times (on this occasion it’s Raxacoricofallapatorius rather than Jagrafess, but even so), and the Doctor reduced to a gurning, grinning buffoon. As for Jack, when Mickey asks him, “What are you Captain of, the innuendo squad?” the answer unfortunately seems to be yes.

Nevertheless, underneath all of this twaddle, ‘Boom Town’ works rather well. The inclusion of Mickey initially seems gratuitous, but proves to be important, as his date with Rose turns sour, Mickey explaining that he’s “going out with Tricia Delaney”. Rose’s bitchy comment, “She’s a bit big” indicates that this touches a nerve (and also that Davies dislikes fat people, since he also poked fun at them in ‘Aliens of London’/‘World War Three’) and when she angrily starts to retort further, Mickey shouts at her, “At least I know where she is! You left me… I can’t even go out with a stupid girl from the shop, because you pick up the phone and I come running.” The scene works well because despite his incredibly wooden performance in ‘Rose’, Noel Clarke delivers on the promise he showed in ‘Aliens of London’/‘World War Three’ and conveys Mickey’s heartbreak extremely convincingly. At the end of the episode, when he slips away into the night, the Doctor asks Rose, “Do you want to go and find him? We’ll wait” she replies, “No need, he deserves better” looking very glum as she says it. All of which suggests that Rose and Mickey’s story is at an end and the series won’t keep getting dragged back to London council estates.

Jack gets much less to do here than he did in ‘The Empty Child’/‘The Doctor Dances’, but his role in the crew is at least well established; after he enthusiastically announces a plan for cornering the Slitheen, the Doctor glares at him and demands, “Excuse me, who’s in charge?” Jack defers without objection, and later, when Blon threatens Rose, he automatically looks to the Doctor guidance. He also spends a great deal of time helping the Doctor perform maintenance on the TARDIS, all of which suggests that he has the potential to be a useful addition, assuming that he lasts long enough.

But the best aspect of ‘Boom Town’ concerns the Doctor, as Davies explores the morality of the character. With Blon a prisoner, the Doctor announces that he’s taking her home, and Jack asks, “Isn’t that the easy option, like letting her go?” It transpires that the answer to this question is no, as she quietly informs him, “Take me home and you take me to my death.” Unexpectedly, the Doctor asks, “Not my problem”, thus raising a moral issue relevant in a time when terrorist suspects face possible extradition to countries where they might face the death penalty. Mickey tells her, “You deserve it”, a response that is easy to sympathize with considering her crimes, whereupon she replies, “You’re very quick to say so. You’re very quick to soak your hands in my blood. Which makes you better than me, how?” to Mickey’s obvious discomfort. Davies doesn’t go much deeper and the episode isn’t likely to change anyone’s mind about the death penalty whether they support or oppose it, but at least the effort is made to make the episode relevant and thought provoking. Davies also raises the always controversial question of whether or not people commit crimes as a result of a bad upbringing, with Blon informing the Doctor that she was forced to commit her first kill at the age of thirteen, and later, after she’s been regressed to an egg, the Doctor hopes that if raised by a decent family, she might turn out better next time round. Jack notes that she might turn out worse, but the Doctor decides, “That’s her choice.” Again, the issue isn’t taken to any real conclusion, and unfortunately Davies rather sabotages himself when it turns out that she’s been up to something all the time she’s been captured, which is a shame.

There is a scene early on in the episode in which Blon decides not to kill the reporter when she finds out that she has a boyfriend and is “with child”, whereupon she sadly informs her intended victim that she is all alone. It’s strangely poignant moment, especially as we get a close-up on the Slitheen’s mournful baby face and it raises the issue of redemption. What impresses me about this, is that it didn’t go the way I thought it would, as the Doctor proves that he isn’t a soft touch. When Blon tells him that she spared someone and can therefore change, he tells her, “You let one of them go, but that’s nothing new… that’s how you live with yourself, that’s how you slaughter millions. Because once in a while, on a whim, if the wind’s blowing in the right direction, you happen to be kind.” Not only was it not the response I was expecting, but Blon’s riposte to that is, “Only a killer would know that. Is that right? From what I’ve seen your funny little happy-go-lucky life leaves devastation in its wake… playing with so many people’s lives you might as well be a god.” It’s a fairly accurate assessment, and as she noted earlier, he doesn’t usually have to deal with consequences; it clearly touches a nerve, and the scene is electrifying, mainly because of a decent performance from Eccleston and a frankly astonishing one from Annette Badland. Again, it’s slightly undermined by the fact that Blon is deliberately keeping him occupied whilst her pan-dimensional surfboard is powering up in the TARDIS, but it’s a great scene nonetheless.

Finally, ‘Boom Town’ is worthy of note for one final thing; the references to “Bad Wolf” scattered throughout the series are finally mentioned by the Doctor, who ponders, “Everywhere we go, two words, following us. Bad Wolf.” It’s a very dramatic moment, utterly ruined by his flippant dismissal of it as “just a coincidence” but it sets the scene for the following episode with a promise that it we are going to get an explanation for it. We’re also apparently going to get a pastiche of reality television, which has the potential to be either blistering satire on the unimaginative nature of that most creatively bankrupt of television genres, or an unimaginative tongue-in-cheek exercise in camp extravagance. I hope it’s the former, but either way, with an entire fleet of Daleks putting in an appearance, I’ll certainly be watching it.

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