Doctor Doctor Who Guide

Aside from the very silly name - this is an episode that doesn't seem to upset me half as much as it does alot of you. As an individual episode - it's easilly the weakest story of the season. But I do think it's trying to help accentuate a bigger picture that RTD is painting. And that's where it shines a bit better, I think. You have to view it in context of the entire season to really appreciate some of its nuances.

I do feel I need to digress for a paragraph or two in order to explain this point. This will even involve me explaining a bit of my personal life to you all.

You see, I'm also a producer. Mainly of live theatre though I am dabbling more and more in T.V. One of the things I produce is an annual playfest featuring one act plays written by local playwrights. It's a two-night affair where we put on anywhere from seven to nine one act plays. It's a lot of work, but it's becoming quite the popular event in my city.

As the producer of this is event, I need to select the plays that will be mounted. It can be a tricky process as I am getting flooded with more and more submissions every year that I do this event. But then, I also put in a play or two that I've written myself. And I put them in, not so much to showcase my talents (my own work gets produced quite frequently in other contexts besides this playfest) but to help "balance out" the overall feel of the event. For instance, one year the playwrights were all submitting very "straight" material so I made sure to put in some stuff that was "fringier" so that we would appeal to a wider demographic. This caused a chain reaction of "fringier" plays the next year so my submissions had to actually be "straighter" this time around.

Do you see what I'm getting at?

Poor old RTD is lumbered with a similiar responsibility in this season. He can write more traditionally "Who adventurish" stuff like THE LONG GAME or the BAD WOLF/PARTING OF WAYS saga - but he also has to do some stuff to help balance things out in the season. To show off the series' sense of diversity. Which means, writing something a bit more simplistic to introduce the whole series like ROSE. Or even a bit more "pedestrian" like THE END OF THE WORLD or, more appropriately, BOOM TOWN.

We had just been given four really rivetting stories in a row and I think what Russell wanted to do was serve up something a little lighter. To give the TARDIS crew (which is now just absolutely fantastic with Captain Jack Harkness aboard!) a little bit of a rest. He also wanted to re-inject some comedy into the series since it had been missing quite a bit in the last four stories. And BOOM TOWN does that quite well. The actual plot conflict is very minor to the whole thing. But there's a lot of fun - especially with Mickey coming back to help in yet another adventure. Whenever Mickey's back in the mix, we know there's going to be, at least, a few cheap visual gags! This time, we get him running around with the traditional "foot stuck in the bucket" joke. A good laugh! Which is what RTD wants us to have again after five weeks of dieing fathers, menacing Daleks, morbid World War II settings and other such things.

This nice thing about BOOM TOWN though, is that it doesn't just turn into an episode of "Scoody Doo". Full of silly hijinx and comical mayhem. There's some nice "meat" to the tale too if you're willing to look for it. The aforementionned Mickey gets a great dramatic moment later as he and Rose go off for the night to get re-aquainted. The moment where he reveals he's finally started seeing someone else is great timing. We can see how tired he's getting of Rose's stories of how much better her life is now that she's with the Doctor (and, of course, not with him) and he feels the need to drop a bomb on her. So he does. And this turns the whole moment between them on its ear. It's probably the best scene of the episode and another great example of how this new series is as humanistic as it is exciting. We care as much about the problems of Rose and Mickey as we do about the fate of the world. And the fact that, through it all, Mickey is still willing to wait for Rose if she can just promise him she will come back for him when she's done adventuring added yet another gorgeous "layer" to him. Like when he admits privately to the Doctor of his cowardice in the previous Slytheen story, we see that Mickey is complex in his own right. He's not just a two-dimensional comic relief device. And I love how well RTD has used this character throughout the series. Another testament to his writing skills that so many of you seem to miss because you're so quick to jump on the "bash the current producer" bandwagon.

The scenes set against this moment with Rose and Mickey, to me, are almost but not quite as effective. We have a debate between the Doctor and the Slitheen woman about some of the Doctor's morals. Yes, the Slitheen really has no right to attack the Doctor on such points since she's so much more rotten - but that's what makes her arguments with him all the more succinct. Only someone so merciless and callous can see into your soul that well and make the points she makes about his weaknesses. That's why the confrontation makes sense. And I can see why RTD brought the character back. If it had been a "new" villain doing this, it would have been even less dramatically effective. It needed to be someone who has tangoed with the Doctor before and been burnt by him. Our familiarity with her also helped in keeping the audience's attention. The drama unfolding with Rose and Mickey at the same time would've outweighed the poignancy of this moment too greatly if this scene had been done with the Doctor and a villain we hadn't met before. This way, we're pretty well equally interested in both "dates" going on. Another great example of how RTD "balances things" in this tale.

Of course, some of the plot elements in this story are also there to help with the overall themes of the season. We needed Rose to get a glimpse of the "heart of the TARDIS" so that she can try accessing it again a few more episodes down the road. And, the "Bad Wolf" references are now really starting to get noticed by everyone. Also an important factor to the season. Again, another illustration of "the bigger picture" RTD is trying to paint for us through this story.

I also think, from the standpoint of a hardcore fan, that some of the sequences towards the end were very bold. As soon as I saw energy crackling from the TARDIS and storm clouds brewing I immediately thought: "Looks like the old 96 telemovie". The fact that we then go inside and see the heart of the TARDIS being accessed to manipulate time reminded me all the more of that particular story. After all the niggling fans have done about that plot device in the telemovie - I was amazed that RTD would go anywhere near those images. It almost seemed like he wanted to expand just a bit more on those ideas from that story without getting too deeply into it. In short, he used that device just a tad more effectively than the telemovie did. As if he were trying to balance things out on an even grander scale by getting us to see and understand this aspect to the TARDIS a bit better without getting too carried away with the idea like the telemovie did.

So, lots of nice points to this story, I think, especially when you look at it a bit more hollistically. Still, I will admit that it sticks out just a bit too much like a sore thumb in the context of the episodes around it. And that, perhaps, the storyline is a tad weak and even a bit prepostorous. But, overall, even if we view it out of context, it's really not as bad as all that. It is, in fact, a lot of fun. With a bit of nice drama thrown in between the leads and some supporting cast. And we also get a nice resolution as we see time travel giving someone a second chance at her life. All the elements a good Who story needs, if you ask me!

Sure, it's a bit weak compared to the rest of the season. But it does provide some nice "window dressing" for that season and, by no means, is it the herrendously awful story some of you are trying to make it out to be.

Filters: Series 1/27 Ninth Doctor Television