Monday, 11 January 2010

Series one #9: "You're pleading for mercy out of a dead woman’s lips"

Written by Russell T Davies, directed by Joe Ahearne, 2005

This story is often derided for its pieced-together format: the use of convenient, contemporary location filming; the TARDIS standing set; a monster from one earlier story and concepts from another – but it actually helps to tie the run together. This really is a coherent season, rather than an arbitrary collection of stories, and I appreciate seeing budgetary limitations being used to drive creativity.

In fact, I have quite a soft spot for this story; with its moral thorniness, it plays as the more adult flipside to Aliens of London/World War Three. These moral issues may be fudged at the end, but the Doctor’s ambiguities are fascinating exactly for their irresolvability, and I like that he doesn’t come out of Margaret’s cross-examination particularly well either (“Always moving because you dare not look back”).

In an entirely different way, it’s also lovely seeing the TARDIS crew being allowed to hang out and enjoy each other’s company – something which is all too rare, with previous notable examples being as far back as The Chase or The Romans. Mickey is surprisingly welcome for once though, undercutting the admittedly smug dynamic of their “funny little happy-go-lucky life”. (His emotional outburst to Rose, later on, is unexpectedly disarming, too, given how innocuous he’s been up to now.) As for Jack, it’s remarkable how easily he fits in, considering he didn’t really feel like a companion in only the preceding story – however, it is a shame we don’t get to see him settling in more. (What’s with his awful clothes though?)

By no means a perfect story – the comedy moments jar somewhat with the ethical concerns, the traveloguey music is particularly hideous, even for Murray Gold, and the diffuse film quality which makes all light sources glow looks particularly cheap and soft porn. Bu-ut… Overall, I can’t help but feel this is a far more decent story than fan reaction would suggest, much like The Long Game.

PS I wish they’d kept the exclamation mark in the title… Or, better still, actually used ‘What Shall We Do About Margaret?’.

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