Friday, January 16, 2009

WHAT Christmas Special?

Now that the U.N. have confirmed that absolutely everyone in the world, down to every guy with no eyes chained to a cellar wall in Gaza, has seen and reviewed The Next Doctor it's safe for me to actually post something about it. In all seriousness, I did try one of my old half-arsed write-comments-as-I-watch reviews, included below, but this was heavily sabotaged by the sheer mediocrity of the special. After fifteen minutes or so I got bored and stopped. I came back, watched to the half-hour mark or so, got bored and stopped. This is, of course, the advantage of watching stuff on computer and probably sums up quite nicely the reason why this concept terrifies people who work in television like nothing else.

Put bluntly, the problem with The Next Doctor is that it just isn't enough. If this had been the Christmas special for the year before last I probably would give it a decent rating, but context is a lot.

In another way, cynicism could be said to be the problem, as this story reeks of it. The Cybermen return, but used in the sort of abritrary dismissive way that Eric Saward could never get away with. Why bring back the Cybermen? Because it's a good way to get self-propagating publicity all over the web. There is possibly another ulterior motive, seen by my paranoid Cyb-loving mind only, but it does seem that the main purpose of their appearance was to get smacked down yet again by another unimpressive and camp villainess and thus ensuring the Cybermen are always seen as inferior to... well, everything, really.

The main issue of cynicism of course is the story's title, made to be as rude in it's blatant ratings grabbing-dom as is humanly possible and, charmingly, utterly irrelevant to the story in every possible way. Apart from that the story works with panto-villainy (Cybermen kidnapping orphans and forcing them to work reeeally hard!), very transparent emotional manipulation (Jackson Lake's kid is not only cute, it's like they've looked for the cutest kid in the world, but instead found one who has cute features to the point of looking like there's something seriously wrong with him) and what Channel Ten wonderfully coined 'event bigness' (Cyber-King. Come on.)

The script is complete and utter Russell T. Davies by numbers. That's to say a solid, entertaining script that is good enough for you to say it is good but not actually good enough to make you squee. As we all know RTD is an exceptionally gifted writer, but his talents are in no real terms used here. Comparing it to The Christmas Invasion can't end well, as by now it has set in that these things are going to be watched. Every tweener is going to fucking LOVE it and log on SOMEWHERE to tell us all about it before learning how to spell. He is also tremendously busy, so it's fair enough, this isn't entirely a malaise tuned into hatred against us for levelling so much unfair and under-vocalised criticism over the years.

But it's hard to escape the feeling that the show is lacking courage. The Cyber King is quite amazingly retarded in a variety of ways. It requires a ludicrous amount of power, it is essentially impossible to obscure from an enemy aside from if you build it from scratch under a river, and in terms of practical application in a military scenario, it amounts to a large artillery piece. It hasn't been designed by a race of creatures who work purely on the concept of logic and want to trick inferior races through subterfuge into joining their ranks. It has been designed by a frustrated script writer looking for the next big special effect to put at the end of the story. The transparency, that THIS is the meteor storm, the giant spider, the floating-island spaceship scene for this year, is quite painful.

Matron Mercy Watts-Herface is another symptom of this, with "overly smug and camp woman" being the new go-to villain for RTD to use when he can't be arsed to think of anything interesting, but would like something uncommon enough in the severely limited-imagination world of television to impress gimmick-obsessed twats with no long-term memory. By the way, viewer, that is how they define YOU and all the other 10 million people who regularly tune in.

Another sign of the lack of imagination? Breaking open tubes filled with data is the new way of killing the Cybermen for the episode. Good thing they leave endless data tubes everywhere they go, isn't it? And that breaking them is so easy to do that a Victorian schoolteacher can work it out with bugger all effort. Of course, the Cybermen have had a strange knack for picking up Achilles-heels-of-the-week and leaving stuff around that could wipe them out easily, but it's always been acknowledged by fans as bad writing and this should be no different.

Not only that, of course, but, after breaking open data tubes to kill Cybermen for the whole story, HOW can the Doctor defeat the invincible Cyber King? By.... breaking open tubes of data. I can't help but read a duologue between RTD's conscience as a storyteller and his sheer frustration in the exchange between this week's Queen Bitch and the Doctor, that effectively goes like this:

THE DOCTOR: Haha, you are dead!
QUEEN BITCH: No, I am stronger than ever!
THE DOCTOR: FUCK YOU! YOU'RE DEAD, OKAY? DEAD!
QUEEN BITCH: What are you talking-
(Queen Bitch explodes suddenly)

At once the most admirable and most telling moment of the episode is when Jackson Lake comments that the destriction wreaked on London will be spoken of for many years to come, and the Doctor replies "Yeah, funny that". I like the fact that the sheer ridiculousness is being acknowledged, but at the same time it really does say something when RTD himself has given up trying to make sense of his newly-created continuity.

The thing that may amaze you after reading this review, is that I didn't mind The Next Doctor (What a fucking stupid title! It feels wrong EVERY time I write it!)
All that I have outlined here is a complete and utter lack of anything particularly outstanding, memorable or challenging. As with nearly all of RTD's scripts not written as last minute replacements for something presumably much better by Paul Abbott, this is, again, solid. There aren't any really godawful moments, nothing wrong with it that isn't uniform across the dross that infests television globally, and the stuff about Jackson thinking he's the Doctor (Ooh, first time it's been mentioned!) is done with a lot of charm and nicely clanger-devoid humour. That's why it gets 5/10.


But I'm a right bastard so MAKE ME SOMETHING BETTER!!!

Anyway, this is what I wrote for the original review. I can't be arsed to check it all through so this could be entirely comments about what to shag Rosita for all I know:




I've been quite sceptical about the new Christmas Special for a while now, partially from hearing that it was going to be a re-write of The One Doctor, and then from seeing the first two minutes, and seeing that, oh fuck, it really is a re-write of The One Doctor. Bear in mind, I've never actually heard TOD, so it isn't any hatred of that audio gearing me (Unlike, say, if it had been announced that the special would be a re-write of Hidden Persuaders) but the fact that this is meant to be a fucking CYBERMAN story. Remember those guys? The second-biggest bad arses in DW history? The guys that rock? The guys that have a more interesting backstory than a Dalek and body horror ingrained into their very being? The guys who've only really had one TV story where they've been allowed to kick major arse but it had a budget of about three pounds fifty and gets overshadowed by twats celebrating a certain characters death and a shithouse piece of claymation?

I love the Cybermen, but frankly it sometimes seems like nobody else does, least of all RTD. They need their own story to re-establish them as a serious enemy of the Doctor, but in all their new series appearances there has been a crutch - Rise of the Cybermen had a clear Davros knockoff and was a parallel world story (a shithouse one, too - why tarnish the idea when we've had Inferno?) and Doomsday... well the first half was all about Torchwood, the second part was all about Daleks. That was also shithouse. And now... erm, what's the story called?


...

Hang on a sec, I'm just putting it in the DVD drive...

...

Come on! I've been watching episodes of Ashes to Ashes that have got going quicker than this!

Hmm, why do they both say 'Allonze'? Is it meant as a challenge in that context?

Ah, so it is The Next Doctor. How wonderfully misleading. Or is it? I'm, as usual, spoiler-free. Almost.

So anyway The Next Doctor has a bogus Doctor, a pastiche-y Victorian setting AND is meant to finally do justice to the Cybermen? I doubt it. I really do. And I know Ewen will write up one of his BF guides about it and mock the Cybermen for not being worth a story on their own and being too pissweak next to the Daleks and in some ways he has a point but it almost depresses me for seeming to be so near the mark to fandom's attitude towards the Doctor's silver nemesis.




2:47 - You'd have to be pretty gullible to believe that this guy actually was the 11th Doctor, though, wouldn't you? A Victorian pastich-oid version of the 10th Doctor without the cool hair? Plus we've already had a black chick, thank you very much.

2:53 - RTD has updated the Daleks, the Cybermen, the Macra, Davros, the Master.... somehow I didn't think he'd get to the Taran Woodbeast so soon...

4:03 - So it is a comedy episode then. Hmm, I'm feeling strangely dead inside at the prospect. And I'm thinking that this is the sort of episode that really could benefit from a viewing at the Drummoyne RSL where the worst of gags are met with raucous laughter. Kind of like the sci-fi version of a Jimeoin gig.

5:10 - Yes! A black cockney version of Tegan! Just what I've always wanted for Christmas!

6:28 - Whooo! Cybermen actually getting talked up!

7:24 - I think further evidence that David Morrissey isn't the next Doctor is the fact that Doctors really shouldn't be this slow on the uptake, even when played by Nick Briggs in the 80s. I mean, come on, how obvious has David Tennant made it? Also, the performance is far too heightened for me to take it seriously. The Victoriana, the Shakespearean delivery - the bloke is a bit of a model based on the Doctors we all expected to see in years gone by, the type of classic series fare that we were weaned on, distilled into a concentrated mass of accumulate cliches and mannerisms. He is... like Paul McGann. But without the same quality of performance.

8:47 - New character I hope will die, Miranda Richardson look-alike. When I say that I think there's a real possibility that it is her. Phallic jokes to the CYbermen? Who are you trying to impress?

9:21 - Okay, I get the fact that RTD is making this a bit of a classic series tribute but, wow, didn't expect for him to go for the most blatant double entendre ever to help it along. "I shall affect an entrance through the rear. Go back to the TARDIS, this is hardly work for a woman!"

10:07 - Ah and there we go! He isn't the Doctor, he's just mentally retarded. All cleared up. Might as well stop watching this now.

11:20 - "I seem to be telling you everything... as if you have engendered.. some sort of... trust. Is this... what you humans call... 'love' ?"

11:55 - Of COURSE there was nothing in the fobwatch! Anyone suckered by that? Anyone? You're only making things worse for yourself by denying it...

12:32 - ... infostamps?

14:24 - I assumed for a moment that that had to be an empty Cyberman suit. But no, he just has impeccable comic timing. Yet another aspect to the Cyber-perfection!

14:26 - FUCK! They still say delete. Fuck it, worst episode ever. I hate everything. Especially those of you reading this right now.

17:15 - I do believe that in real Victorian times the penalty for showing up at a funeral like that was gang-rape. And twenty four hours of self-flagellation before the gouging out of ones own eyes.

They were an interesting people.

17:19 - "Dressed like a harlot!" "Oh, and you should now, Mr Coe!"

ZING! Man, the old priest hasn't been soliciting prostitutes! Now he's lost all cred in front of his posse!

17:56 - Yeah, kudos to the latest campy OTT bitch for picking the single most pissweak funeral congregation to gatecrash and announce that she murdered the deceased. It's a tricky move to pull off, but when you have a group of old men who are only willing to shuffle their feet awkwardly and stare it becomes quite easy.

18:22 - Kill her, my Cyber-homies. Kill her!

18:57 - "Okay, who were the four speaking parts? Ah, yes, stick around we've more work for you. As for everybody else, you've been terribly wooden and your facial hair is appalling. Time to die!"

19:29 - I get the feeling that this plan wasn't terribly well thought-out, somehow. "Okay, the people I've named just stand still... wait, why are you running? THAT isn't the idea at all!"

19:47 - No! Spare the Dudley Moore look-a-like! SPARE HIM!

20:12 - "It's funny, now I think of it, but in all these years not one of you has asked my first name. It's MERCY!"

"Ah, good to know. Fuck you, Mercy"

I think she's in danger of underplaying the part to its grave..

23:09 - Allow me to lol at the Tethered Aerial Release Developed In Style.

Lol.

24:44 - Yeah, those blue-tooth ear-pieces shall arouse the suspicion of nobody.

25:21 - Oh, I like the Cyber-taran coach driver! I honestly do and would like to buy one to add to my slave collection. But, also, not particularly inconspicuous in Victorian London, surely?

26:03 - Fallen through time! It's come back! God bless that buzz-phrase!

"Weren't you burnt to a crisp the last time I saw you?"
"Nah. Just fell through time."

26:55 - AGAIN with the fobwatch? Or is it just the fact that the fobwatch has 'JL' on it or something?

27:02 - ZOMG!

27:07 - "The watch is Jackson Lake's. You have the watch. You own the watch that belongs to Jackson Lake. You, being in ownership of said watch, in all probability, would have some form of connection to Jackson Lake. If I had to make supposition, I would suggest the possibility that you, yourself, in your current state of being, are actually Jackson Lake himself."

27:41 - Oh my god... ECCLESTON IS CANON! You maniacs!

Seriously, that's quite nice I think from the new series. It's been keen to acknowledge the past monsters and some events, but considerably more reluctant when it comes to other Doctors. Great to see all ten in a row like that. Yes, there's better on YouTube but THIS IN THE ACTUAL SHOW! In the Christmas Special! Ooh, I think I'll go back and watch it again..

27:44 - Oh, was about to say interesting that Tennant wasn't there but there I go again, jumping the gun like a twat. Russell Tovey, Harry Lloyd and Adrian Lester disappointingly absent, though...

29:31 - Nice twist! So David Morrissey is the Doctor in his mind, but a Doctor subconsciously playing the part of Charles Bronson in Deathwish VI: Cybermanslaughter! Go get them, mate! Rip them a new one! Let's have a three minute massacre scene set to Rage Against the Machine's Bulls on Parade!

30:49 - The Cybermen transmit a signal saying that they're on the move through their easily lost and found info-stamps? ...just to make it even HARDER to make a surprise attack, I guess..

31:17 - Hang about... shouldn't this story be called "The New Doctor"? Because by no definition imaginable is Jackson Lake the next Doctor. Tennant hasn't died and obviously by the end of the story he will not have died. Unless they mean he's, like, next in line for the position if the Doctor gets shot in the head repeatedly like David Collings at the end of this, but that's an incredibly broad definition. Whereas "The New Doctor" is in a minor way at least literally true, given the fact that Jackson Lake has only recently declared himself the Doctor and is much younger than Tennant in that regard. Even the "The Last Doctor" would have made more sense given it'd at least be a homage to "The Last Action Hero", "The Last Detective" and be a play on the desperate nature of Lake's existence.

And in the future, looking back, "The Next Doctor"'s going to be a fairly embarassing title to bring up, won't it? It's quite silly, really. It's a bit like calling Androzani "He dies at the end!" Well, actually I guess more like calling Planet of Fire "He REALLY DOES die at the end of this one!" Or calling Twin Dilemma "The best fucking story you'll ever see".

31:24 - "What is it? What's happening?"

"Oliver Twist auditions are over. As you can see, they've been as ruthless as ever!"

Considering the general cruelty of Victorians to young people, poor people and especially poor young people; the borderline slave trade of young servants; the many working houses of around, I'm not sure that a mass of flea-bitten young paupers looking miserable being marched through the streets would really be that odd a sight...

31:40 - Had to watch that three times.

"Maybe he's taking them to prayers"

"No. Nothing holy as that"

David Tennant's delivery sounds far more like "Nah, namana woonhat dat!" to me. For a moment I thought he said "Nothing as harrowing as that" but that's just the kind of line I wish the Doctor would get to say.

32:29 - I'm not sure if I'm too impressed thus far with the Cybermen's plans to destroy Christmas for all of the cutest orphans in old London Town. Bit of a step-down from global domination, perhaps?

33:02 - Okay... now they're just scaring the children for seemingly nothing but the pure 'lulz' of it. For Christ's sake Victorian kiddies just did what they are told because otherwise they got six types of shit beaten out of them daily.

3 comments:

Youth of Australia said...

Hilarious and insightful as ever. All I can say is that I think of the story a lot better without the whole Christmas Special/11th Doctor bollocks forced upon this. If this ep had been a sleepy mid-seasoner like Long Game or Doctor's Daughter, it'd be greater.

And The One Doctor's great.

Hmm, why do they both say 'Allonze'? Is it meant as a challenge in that context?
Not sure about this as it seems to be a failure to communicate betwixt writer and actors. The Doctors say it as it to rhyme with "Cowabunga" when it's clearly written to be "Bring it on!" (since Allonzee means "let's go" or "come on"). It does mean, however, that the two of them are saying their catchphrases in a completely different manner at exactly the same time...

Miranda Richardson look-alike.
Oi! Dervla Kirwin that is! I can honestly say she bigs up the subtle aspects of this character. And that should strike you as to how poorly written she is - traumatized rape victim who, er, somehow becomes best friends with robot outer space people, somehow, ah, and er, is actually with the most POWERFUL brain ever!!!

Not quite likely when you look back at it...

"I seem to be telling you everything... as if you have engendered.. some sort of... trust. Is this... what you humans call... 'love' ?"
Interesting. I had the impression it's some Dalek Empire fanwank (wherein David Tennant plays a doctor who fights Daleks but has the telepathic ability to make people trust him). It's odd, I thought we all assumed the Tenth Doctor didn't have such a pheromonal super power and was just good with people...

BTW - how come the reverend's house is full of info stamps? How did the Cybermen sneak in there? How did they know the Doctor would be there? OK, their info about the Doctor might have been corrupted but it never occured to them they were chasing a human and the guy with two hearts (cause they can notice two hearts) isn't worth investigating?

[Note: it took me weeks before these plot points turned up so respect to RTD for hiding them so well.]

Kill her, my Cyber-homies. Kill her!
See, it's dialogue like that which Matt Smith should bring to the role...

The Cybermen transmit a signal saying that they're on the move through their easily lost and found info-stamps? ...just to make it even HARDER to make a surprise attack, I guess..
I assumed that was entirely unintentional. Badly plotted but not done deliberately by the Cybermen with their stolen Dalek technology.

shouldn't this story be called "The New Doctor"?
According to RTD's tell-all memoirs that it is the name of 'Pudsey Cutaway'. Um... what?! OK, you've rejected a title because you personally use it to describe an episode and no one else even knows about it. That's like me saying "You can't call a story The Swamp, because that's what I called Full Circle before I could read!"

Anyway, great amusement and definitely going to be part of my Michaelmas Imposter spoof. Brilliant.

Jared "No Nickname" Hansen said...

If this ep had been a sleepy mid-seasoner like Long Game or Doctor's Daughter, it'd be greater.

Probably. I like to think that if it actually had it's focus on what is really the A-plot of the Cybermen, it'd have a lot less of the general untidiness in its plot that it has now.

The Doctors say it as it to rhyme with "Cowabunga" when it's clearly written to be "Bring it on!"

Ahhhh.

Hmm, is 'Allonzee' a bit of an in-joke considering that 'Come on!' has to be the most used line of all Doctors?

And that should strike you as to how poorly written she is - traumatized rape victim who, er, somehow becomes best friends with robot outer space people, somehow, ah, and er, is actually with the most POWERFUL brain ever!!!

I was a bit alarmed at the revelation that she is the most intelligent woman to ever live. Yet was still surprised when the Cybermen betrayed her...

BTW - how come the reverend's house is full of info stamps?

...yeah, I'm really not the one to ask. For a little bit the suggestion seemed to be that he was working with the Cybermen, but that clearly wasn't the case.

According to RTD's tell-all memoirs that it is the name of 'Pudsey Cutaway'.

I'm not sure that episode really warrants a title.

Is there a title for the Catherine Tate CiN sketch? (No, don't tell me - An Unseemly Brat?)

Youth of Australia said...

Probably. I like to think that if it actually had it's focus on what is really the A-plot of the Cybermen, it'd have a lot less of the general untidiness in its plot that it has now.
It's the sudden magnification on the "is he the next Doctor?" when everything seems written and directed as "WHY does this obvious fraud think so?"

Hmm, is 'Allonzee' a bit of an in-joke considering that 'Come on!' has to be the most used line of all Doctors?
Yep.

I was a bit alarmed at the revelation that she is the most intelligent woman to ever live. Yet was still surprised when the Cybermen betrayed her...
I just assumed that the Cybermen's much vaunted 'compatible' technology had screwed up. Then again, maybe women are better at resisting Cyber control - Jackie, Yvonne Hartman, Lisa, Yvone Hartley, Nikki Savage...

...yeah, I'm really not the one to ask. For a little bit the suggestion seemed to be that he was working with the Cybermen, but that clearly wasn't the case.
I dunno. We just know he was assinated to lure the others to the funeral, so he might have been involved and then considered expendable... but that doesn't explain why the infostamps were there. Where they somehow absorbing data from his books or something like in Torchwood? Then again, the Cybermen HAD been on Earth for months. You'd think they'd be up to date...

I'm not sure that episode really warrants a title.
I prefer my one anyway.

Is there a title for the Catherine Tate CiN sketch? (No, don't tell me - An Unseemly Brat?)
Doctor Who & The Face of Bovvered