Avoiding the Center

Apr 28, 2013

Spoilers for Doctor Who: Journey to the Center of the TARDIS (interesting, fun, could have been really good)

There hasn't been a lot of exploration of the world surrounding the Doctor lately. Even River Song's romance with the Doctor didn't really reveal anything about him at all. So it was refreshing to look into the other character that has been part of him and the show since the beginning, the TARDIS.

So we have three mysterious beings all together, the Doctor, the TARDIS, and Clara. This episode teased us with revealing something about one of them and ended up giving us nothing really to chew on. That's fine, as long as we also get something interesting and hopefully surreal with the internal structure of the TARDIS.

We do get that, if textually and not subtextually. But we also get a strange family drama with three secondary characters that are brought along for the ride. And just like Dinosaurs in a Spaceship earlier this season, we're left wondering why so much attention was given to the secondary characters when our primaries are right there begging for something interesting or revealing to happen.

Still, there was something mind-catching about the burned zombie future flashes even if how they were portrayed didn't quite make sense. I just wished the show would dig a little deeper and show us the characters we want to get to know better, because right now, the show just keeps circling around the center of these characters but never really diving in.

Hiding the Plot

Apr 21, 2013

Spoilers for Doctor Who: Hide (interesting, fun, and then a mess)

It's interesting that with a straightforward and simple set (a mansion in the 1970s), a straightforward story (a haunted mansion in the 1970s), and two interesting secondary characters that just begs for a spinoff, you can end up with an interesting episode.

There's nothing I can say that would make the individual parts super interesting, but the performances and atmosphere really make up the sum. You get a peek at some hidden depth in all the characters even though we don't get enough.

Once the climax of the episode hits, however, it becomes a jumbled rush. There are a bunch of soft twists (a ghost that is not a ghost, a monster chasing the not-ghost, and the monster that isn't a monster) and an obstacle that isn't an obstacle. (Please, don't tell me that "we can't do this" because it will strand the TARDIS in 4 seconds and then say the solution is to "do this" in 3 seconds. It breaks the whole thesis-anti-thesis-synthesis structure of conflict resolution.)

What happens is that the end feels rushed. The not-ghost gets exactly one line and perhaps five not-so-meaningful looks at the camera. And you end up starting with a strong episode ending with an "er..."

Cold Reception

Apr 14, 2013

Spoilers for Doctor Who: Cold War (passable)

I don't mind British actors (or American actors) portraying Russians. The Hunt for Red October deconstructed it with a scene that took less than a minute. Enemy at the Gates played it straight. But nothing in the submarine felt Soviet, so the little meta-joke of having the professor love New Wave music felt flat.

The rest of the episode was a rather standard alien-hunting-in-a-crowded-space structure that has been around since the 70s and 80s. And playing with the reveal of the Ice Warrior but not reveal (when it sneaks out of the suit but we can't see it) but reveal (when we finally see its face) wasn't very compelling. In Alien, the terror of the creature was the slow build up of the unknown with a final reveal. That's how you do it right.

And lastly, the episode had an Ice Warrior solider in a boat full of Soviet warriors. The story cried out for a treatise on being a lone soldier cut off from their own people. Even the Doctor is a soldier cut off from his own people. The episode was even called Cold War. Why wasn't there more on the subject?

Ringing in the New Season

April 7, 2013

Spoilers for Doctor Who: The Rings of Akhaten (a mess of an episode)

This episode was all over the place. We get two outstanding monologues from Matt Smith and Jenna-Louise Coleman but they were so out of context with the plot that the episode comes off confused.

There were some really great ideas. A culture that passes memories as currency. A god that devours stories. Stories as songs sung by different species. (Early humans recorded their epics, legends, and sagas as sung poetry, so there is a lot of literary oomph this idea could mine.)

But the episode wasted its time on plotty inconsequential things. A space bike chase. A god that wasn't a god until the real god appears. The Doctor stalking Clara through time. If the writer had shaved off those moments to delve into the meaty premise, we could have had a strong conceptual episode.

Instead, we get a monster that consumes memories but the victims don't lose said memories. And can instead be sated by the "potential" of a memory. What memory doesn't contain potential? What sort of threat is a memory non-eater?