Saturday, 16 January 2010

Series one #4: "Would you rather silent but deadly?"

Written by Russell T Davies, directed by Keith Boak, 2005

This story has always represented the elements of Davies’ writing which I really dislike (lack of logic, juvenile silliness, scatological elements, deus ex machina resolutions and general laziness), but, this time round, I actually really enjoyed it. I’m not sure it’s necessarily good, but it’s enjoyable (even if there isn’t much beyond that).

I’m done with anti-Davies rants, partly because enough time has elapsed to give me a bit of perspective, and, now The End of Time has come and gone, already none of it seems to matter any more. The Davies era is history now, it’s qualifiable, and I find that comforting. Also, part the problem I’ve had with new Who stems from the insufferably endless commentary and hyperbole that surrounds each new series. Stripped of that, it’s easier to put these stories in context with the past, and to accept them on their own terms.

On that basis I enjoy this story’s overblown-ness – now that it is separate from what it portends for the future; now, it just is. While I agree Davies’ reluctance to go ‘dark’ too often can come across as deliberate fan-baiting, I also agree it’d almost be too easy to go ‘edgy.’ It’s kind of brave to go in this direction (even if it’s really more motivated by keeping a mainstream audience, and fair enough I guess) – overblown and revelling in silliness is quite unfashionable, so it’s kind of laudable that Davies managed to make that approach accepted. I find that likeable, almost despite myself.

It’s fun. That’s good. There’s also a surprising level of gravitas and tension, while the emotional elements feel less bolted on here. (And, considering I often find fans’ dismissal of ‘silly’ stories like The Chase or Underwater Menace irritatingly po-faced, at least I’m practising what I preach!) Plus, I absolutely love Harriet Jones/Penelope Wilton, and seeing Rose as a missing person is a welcome nod toward the repercussions of the companion being whisked away.

As you’d hope from a two-parter, it feels more expansive than Rose, The End of the World, or The Unquiet Dead – and, more importantly, it feels unexpected; it doesn’t fit into a neatly predefined Doctor Who subgenre in the way those first three arguably do.

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