Sunday, 17 January 2010

Series one #2: "Perhaps a man only enjoys travel when he has nothing else left"

Written by Russell T Davies, directed by Euros Lyn, 2005

As with Rose, I have always been deeply underwhelmed by this episode, as it barely feels like a full story at all. However, viewed in the context of its initial broadcast – as an introduction to and exploration of the broad canvas that Doctor Who is capable of – its slightness doesn’t seem such a negative. It doesn’t make me feel very much at all (there are no characters to speak of, no real sense of threat or conflict), but, retrospectively, it makes sense as an initial taster to the series (the first three stories comprising contemporary, future, and past settings), and seems more forgivable on those terms.

Though I suppose it works as a showcase for the series, it doesn’t actually look that great (the hotel-like tackiness and basic CG – and especially the blue-painted actors). Nevertheless, I can see why people like it (‘big concepts, bonkers – with emotion’), even if it doesn’t quite gel as far as I’m concerned. It may be more colourful and chaotic than is perhaps typical of more sterile ‘spacey’ environments, but all the elements seem to be put together in quite a contrived way; as with much of the new series, there’s a bit too much pushing of its concepts (the emotional angle, etc). It’s also not quite as funny or clever as it thinks it is, and with too many all-too-obvious illogical moments (the fan). However, I guess harping on these elements is missing the point.

Jabe is very likeable and sympathetic, and interesting too – a simple (if ridiculous) concept, like Cassandra, but I find the bipedal tree more effective. The emotion under the Doctor’s fa├žade of confidence also comes over very well, thanks to Eccleston’s understated reactions to Jabe’s comments. I also like the acknowledgement that Rose barely knows the Doctor yet.

The contrast of the generally bold, cartoony approach and the more emotional moments creates an uncertain tone, and feels as if this particular balance hasn’t been fully struck yet.

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